History of Ideas

Alexis Chema

My scholarship focuses on the literature and aesthetic traditions of the long Romantic period. I am especially interested in teaching and thinking about sensibility and its poetic styles, theories and representations of emotion, literary reception, moral sense philosophy, and visual culture. These areas of inquiry come together for me around the larger question of how Romantic poems create figures for considering the intelligibility of extended collective belonging in the face of an increasingly abstract—spatially diffuse, technologically mediated—social world.

Zachary Samalin

My research and teaching are anchored in the literature and culture of the Victorian period, with a particular focus on the unique blend of social criticism, high art and mass entertainment that characterizes the Victorian novel. I am also fascinated by the ways in which major theoretical innovations of the 19th century, such as Marxism and psychoanalysis, have outlived their own historical moment and continue to influence critical discourse in the present, providing the contours for ongoing debates in literary, aesthetic and cultural theory.

Timothy Harrison

Timothy HarrisonI am interested in the relationship between language, history, and lived experience. My research and teaching focus on how sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literature intersects with practices of knowledge production ranging from the sciences to theology. Combining a historical focus on early modernity with the study of phenomenological philosophy, my work probes a range of verbal techniques for articulating (and perhaps inventing) modes of experience that resist comprehension.

Julie Orlemanski

Julie OrlemanskiI teach and write about texts from the late Middle Ages, a period that organized its categories of discourse very differently than we do today. I am fascinated by how medieval literature, science, and religion sometimes overlapped and at other times assumed sharp distinctions, as separate and contrasting modes of knowledge. All of my research seeks to respond to what is distinctive in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century constellations of discourse. In practice, this also demands thinking about how we come to know the past. Hence, I have a strong interest in the theory and practice of hermeneutics, historicism, criticism, and other forms of knowledge production in the humanities.

Christina von Nolcken (emerita, teaching 2015-16)

Christina Von NolckenI start the chronology in the Department, with courses on Old and Middle English language and literature, and the history of the English language. I am especially interested in Anglo-Scandinavian relations towards the end of the Anglo-Saxon period, and, in the later period, late fourteenth- and fifteenth-century devotional texts. My research has mainly been on the Wycliffite attempt to bring education, and especially religious education, to the people. My publications include an edition of a handbook for itinerant Wycliffite preachers, and essays on various Wycliffite texts, including a set of sermons in Latin, a movingly personal letter written from prison, and a startling reworking of that early Middle English guide for anchoresses, the Ancrene Riwle.

Joshua Scodel

Joshua Scodel

My major field of research is sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literary history in relation to intellectual, cultural, and political history. Special interests include early modern English literature's engagements with classical and Renaissance continental literature and philosophy; Renaissance genre theory and practice; and literary criticism's relation to literary practice, ancient to early modern.


Richard Strier (emeritus, teaching 2015-16)

Richard StrierMy passion is to bring together two modes of literary study that have, traditionally but needlessly, been seen as antagonistic: formalism and historicism. I am deeply interested in the intellectual history of the early modern period, especially theological and political ideas. I am interested in the ideas themselves but even more in the ways in which they find their way into English and American literature in the period. My book on George Herbert attempts to demonstrate how deeply the central ideas of Reformation theology are at work in the intricate tonal and structural details of the lyrics.

Eric Slauter

My scholarship focuses chiefly on transformations in political thought and behavior in the eighteenth century. My first book, The State as a Work of Art: The Cultural Origins of the Constitution, examined the relation of culture to politics in revolutionary America. I was especially interested there in how the emergent state was challenged in its effort to sustain inalienable natural rights alongside slavery and to achieve political secularization at a moment of growing religious expression.

Janice Knight

Janice KnightMy research and teaching interests are localized with respect to historical period-Early American Cultures-but broad with respect to interest in discourses, peoples and cultures of the colonial period, and with respect to scholarly method. My current research focuses on what might be called the "culture of religious emotion" in the context of women's experience in Early America. I am interested in reflecting on expressions of spiritual ecstasy, melancholy, hauntedness, and possession as they are embodied and contained within such conventional genres as narratives of conversion, captivity, revelation, and spiritual disease.

Elaine Hadley

Elaine HadleyI teach and write about nineteenth-century British culture, a period that has generously left behind a wide range of materials to examine. I've been especially committed in recent years to thinking about popular culture broadly defined (theater, journalism, cheap fiction) and political culture, especially liberalism as a social formation. My latest book, Living Liberalism, addresses Victorian political culture through political theory, theories of embodiment and the material practices of citizenship. 


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