I specialize in English Renaissance literature, especially Shakespeare. I also have research interests in ecotheory, plant studies, queer studies, and disability studies.
My first book, Wooden Os: Shakespeare’s Theatres and England’s Trees (University of Toronto Press, 2013), brings into view the forest and the trees of Renaissance drama: it explores the surprising connections among Shakespeare’s theatre, drama set “in the woods,” and an environmental crisis that propagandists claimed would lead to an eco-political collapse – an unprecedented scarcity of wood and timber. I propose that, in performance, the material woodenness of theatre could have activated such environmental anxiety and temporarily mitigated it. The Society for Theatre Research short-listed it for the 2013 Theatre Book Prize.
Degrees: BA (Penn.), PhD (Duke)
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My current project, “Marvellous Vegetables in Renaissance Poetry,” explores wondrous representations of plant life in Renaissance poetry, especially in the verse of the seventeenth-century English poet Andrew Marvell. I use vegetable as an umbrella term for all forms of plant life, and each chapter begins in the poetry of Marvell and then extends out to other figures that have surprising vegetable connections. The vegetable figures explored in them are classical in origin (Ovid’s Daphne and the Virgilian shepherd whose seated posture renders him plant-like); featured in Judeo-Christian religious discourses (Cain); depicted in Renaissance art (Giuseppe Arcimboldo’s paintings) and practical manuals (grafting texts and herbals); and appear in twentieth-century science fiction (Brian Aldiss and Ursula K. LeGuin). In the manuscript, which is under contract with the University of Toronto Press, I develop a method for comprehending these vegetable figures that combines the reception in the Renaissance of classical texts and new directions in literary ecocriticism, especially critical plant studies. My approach leverages seventeenth-century vegetable figures to articulate fundamentally new questions about the surprising array of vegetable capacities, deprivations, desires, essences, and materialities that shaped ideas of humanness in Renaissance poetry and the visual arts.
With Stephen Guy-Bray and Will Stockton, I have edited Queer Renaissance Historiography: Backward Gaze (Ashgate, 2009), and, with Jean E. Feerick, I have co-edited The Indistinct Human in Renaissance Literature (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012). With Tiffany Jo Werth, I am co-editing a volume of essays, Oecologies: Engaging the World, from Here, and, with Robert W. Barrett Jr., I am co-editing a special issue of postmedieval called “Premodern Plants.” With colleagues at UBC and Simon Fraser University, I co-convene “Oecologies: Inhabiting Premodern Worlds.”
I was awarded a Killam Teaching Prize in 2011 and was in residence at the Peter Wall Institute for Advanced Studies in 2014-15. I have received research funds from the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Henry E. Huntington Library, the Shakespeare Association of America, and the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (Insight Development, Connection, and Insight Grants).