Beatrice Bradley

Humanities Teaching Fellow
Research Interests: Early Modern Literature | Critical Theory | Gender and Sexuality Studies | Greek and Latin Literatures | Medical Humanities


My research and teaching interests include early modern poetry and drama; critical studies of gender, disability, and race; classical reception; and histories of medicine and the body. In my work, I focus on the relationship between waste, bodies, and identity in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literature. I explore in particular how early modern authors make meaning out of and assign value to human waste.  

My current book project, Sweat: Residues of Embodiment in the Early Modern World, uncovers the literary aftermath of the Sweating Sickness, a plague that exploded across England throughout the sixteenth century. Following multiple outbreaks, early modern authors turn attention not only to the moral status of sensible perspiration but also the inherent intimacy of illness. Writers in the period—from Spenser to Shakespeare to Milton—struggle with sweat’s ethical implications: the fluid is repeatedly invoked in theological debates, with “the sweat of the brow” understood as the primary evidence of embodied postlapsarian life. And yet the substance emerges in their writing as a rarefied ornament, what Spenser glosses as an “Orient perle.” This process of aestheticization elides the realities of living and laboring in a body by insisting that the body in crisis can have erotic appeal: poets and prose writers, I argue, turn to sweat to redescribe a narrative of what bodies are desirable and how identity is made legible. 

Before coming to Chicago, I received my BA in English Literature and Classical Languages from Vanderbilt University and my MA in English Literature from Brooklyn College. My research has been supported by the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Mellon Foundation, and the Nicholson Center for British Studies. I am the 2020 recipient of the University of Chicago’s Steiner Memorial Prize for outstanding work by a graduate student in the study of drama or criticism.  

More information, including recent publications, is available on my page.