Area contact: Elizabeth Spiller
English Department
Florida State University
321 Williams Building
Tallahassee, Florida 32306-1580
Fax: 850 644 0811
Colloquium contact: Deborah Solomon


Renaissance Literature at Florida State University

With eight faculty members specializing in different areas of the Renaissance and early modern studies, the Renaissance Studies program offers outstanding opportunities for graduate study and research. Our faculty regularly offer graduate seminars on major authors (including Shakespeare, Middleton, and Milton), as well as in all major genres and forms (including drama, lyric, and narrative poetry). Our faculty have won awards from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the National Humanities Center, and the Folger Shakespeare Library, among others. Publishing with such presses as Oxford, Cambridge, Penn, Palgrave, and Ashgate, the faculty have research strengths in such areas as book history and textual studies, early modern gender and sexuality, ethnicity and critical race studies, and ecocriticism and literature and science.

Graduate students in our program benefit from substantial research, teaching, and publishing opportunities. Students get experience in the classroom and advanced graduate students often have opportunities to teach courses in Shakespeare and other areas of British Literature. Recent students have served as editorial assistants in the award-winning Collected Works of Thomas Middleton, under general editor Gary Taylor, have been awarded internships that allowed them to study performance practices at the Globe Theatre in London, and gained editorial experience as managing editors for the Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies. Students also are able to take classes and conduct research through the interdisciplinary History of Text Technologies program, which offers students excellent training in digital humanities, editorial practice, and book history. Graduate students and faculty also meet monthly as part of the Renaissance Colloquium to workshop articles, papers, and ongoing scholarship.


Renaissance Faculty:

Bruce Boehrer (Ph.D. Penn), Bertram H. Davis Professor of English: Early modern animal studies; the history of sexuality; food studies; Milton; Shakespeare, Jonson, and early modern drama; sixteenth- and seventeenth-century neo-Latin verse. Author: Animal Characters; Parrot Culture; Shakespeare Among the Animals; The Fury of Men's Gullets; and Monarchy and Incest in Renaissance England. Editor: A Cultural History of Animals in the Renaissance.

Anne Coldiron (Ph.D. Virginia), Professor: Renaissance and late-medieval literature, history of text technologies, comparative literature, translation studies, poetry. Author: Canon, Period, and the Poetry of Charles of Orleans and English Printing, Verse Translation, and the Battle of the Sexes, 1476-1557.

Celia Daileader (Ph.D. Brandeis), Professor: Renaissance literature, feminist theory, and critical race studies. Author: Racism, Misogyny, and the Othello Myth and Eroticism on the Renaissance Stage. Editor: John Fletcher, The Tamer Tamed and Women & Others: Perspectives on Race, Gender, and Empire.

David Gants (Ph.D. Virginia), Associate Professor: Humanities computing, history of the book, history of text technologies, renaissance literature, descriptive and analytical bibliography. Electronic editor: Cambridge Edition of the Works of Ben Jonson. Project Director: Early English Booktrade Database.

James O'Rourke (Ph.D. Washington), Professor: British Romanticism, Shakespeare, poststructuralist theory. Author: Retheorizing Shakespeare through Presentist Readings; Sex, Lies and Autobiography: The Ethics of Confession and Keats's Odes and Contemporary Criticism.

Elizabeth Spiller (Ph.D. Harvard), Professor: Renaissance literature, literature and science, history of text technologies, history of reading, critical race studies. Author: Reading and the History of Race in the Renaissance and Science, Reading, and Renaissance Literature. Editor: Seventeenth-Century English Recipe Books.

Gary Taylor (Ph.D. Cambridge), George Matthew Edgar Professor of English: Renaissance literature, Shakespeare, history of text technologies, history of the book, editorial theory and practice, men's studies, critical race theory. Author: Buying Whiteness; Castration: An Abbreviated History of Western Manhood; Cultural Selection; Reinventing Shakespeare; and William Shakespeare: A Textual Companion. Editor: The Collected Works of Thomas Middleton, Thomas Middleton and Early Modern Textual Culture, and The Oxford Shakespeare, among others.


Current and Recent Graduate Course Offerings:

Art, Technology, and Knowledge: Gutenberg and the Inventions of Print (Elizabeth Spiller): This course offers an introduction to the works and ideas that defined Renaissance literature and does so from the perspective of the scientific inventions and discoveries of the early modern age. We will begin with what, more even than gunpowder or the compass, became the quintessential invention of the Renaissance, the printing press, but our ultimate focus will be on the ways in which knowledge itself became a technology, splitting the divide between the arts that Aristotle had dismissed as knowledge practices and the sciences that had not yet come into being as an intellectual category. Most importantly, though, we will see how the inventions of science and the discovery of facts also led unexpectedly to the creation of fiction. Primary emphasis will be on understanding major writers and thinkers of the period and the intellectual movements and aesthetic traditions with which they are associated.Works by: della Mirandola, Vespucci, More, Shakespeare, Bacon, Galileo, Donne, Jonson, Hobbes, Milton, Hooke, and Cavendish, among others.

Lyric Textuality, Sappho to Donne (Anne Coldiron): The course takes a long view of earlier lyric, considering how textuality and intertextuality operate in the history of Western poetry. Starting with the fragments of papyrus on which Sappho's lyrics are found, ending with the monumental scholarship of the Donne variorum, we?ll consider how lyric poems---poems of the lyre, first---change in taking silent textual forms. Materials and media are studied as essential, transformative, signifying features of the lyric text. Like a more traditional "history of poetry" course, this one will treat historical contexts, subgenres, forms, etc.; unlike a more traditional survey, this one will read poems (1) in facing-page bilingual editions so as to highlight translation as an issue particularly vexed and important for lyric, and (2) in multiple texts, watching for the mischievous play of variants and other effects of transmission. Authors to be read very selectively, for background, in the first five weeks: Sappho, Anacreon, Ovid (from Amores), Catullus, Sulpicia, the trobairritz, Dante, Petrarch, & a few Pléiade poets. Our ten weeks' time with English poets will begin with the polyglot Charles of Orleans, who wrote the first one-author book of lyric in English (c. 1440). We then consider issues of media and textuality in selected works of some earlier Tudor poets (Skelton, Wyatt, Surrey, Gascoigne), some emblematists, a middle-class woman (Isabella Whitney), some sonneteers (Anne Locke, Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare), and a pair of conceit-stretchers (Herbert, Donne) who have been variably textualized. Theorists, some of whom were also practicing poets, will be read as we go, in apt or jarring juxtapositions with the poems; e.g. Ong, Horace, Dante, Puttenham, Sidney, Daniel, Benjamin, Adorno, Derrida, Culler, Kristeva, Eco, Genette, Bourdieu. In addition to poems and theory, each week includes praxis in poetics (i.e., low-risk practice writing in the genre, mode, and/or forms of one of the week's poets). Non-poets will not be harmed, but it's a poet-friendly course. Wallet-friendly, too: more than half the readings will be on Blackboard or on reserve. Lectures, discussions, praxis, a final exam, an essay aimed at scholarly presentation/publication.

Issues in Literary and Cultural Studies: Shakespeare and the Early Feminists (Celia Daileader): Who's afraid of the big, bad, Bard? Virginia Woolf was not the first author to voice ambivalence toward Shakespeare's canonical status, endowing a fictional "Judith Shakespeare" with equal talent and ambition. In fact, proponents of gender parity both male and female critiqued his sexual politics long before the term "feminist" came into popular usage, and authors of his own age-in revisions and adaptations-sought to give more voice and agency to his heroines. This course will look at writings from the Renaissance through the early twentieth century that manifest resistance to Shakespeare's gender politics-with particular stress on Shakespeare's "sisters" Aphra Behn and Virginia Woolf. Requirements include an article-length research paper, weekly response papers, active class participation, and a conference-style research presentation.

Reading: History, Theory, and Practice (Elizabeth Spiller): This course takes as its point of departure the recognition that reading is an inherently human and a necessarily artificial achievement. Both learned and invented, reading is a historically specific cultural practice and one whose history, as Robert Darnton has argued, is as complex as the history of cognition itself. This course will focus on the history of reading in the early modern period, but it is also structured to provide an introduction to the history and theory of reading as a whole. We will think about how different technologies (the printing press, secretary hand, or new methods of engraving, for instance) enabled new kinds of reading and produced new categories of readers. We will also consider how reading itself crucially constituted a kind of technology and one that was integral to new forms of knowledge and belief in the Renaissance. The first half of the course will be devoted to topics in the history of reading; the second half will be organized as a set of case studies.

Shakespeare: This course offers a survey of the theatrical career and dramatic writings of William Shakespeare, and through the secondary course readings students will gain familiarity with the current state of Shakespeare studies (from book history to historicism to presentism) and be exposed to a range of critical perspectives. The course is intended to help prepare graduate students who might one day teach a Shakespeare course of their own. We will discuss a variety of plays (including comedy, tragedy, history, and tragicomedy), paying close attention to the specific textures of Shakespearean language while exploring broader issues of interpretation. Each play will be considered within the cultural context of its original composition and performance--early modern London, an urban society experiencing economic, political, and religious tensions that troubled and energized Shakespeare's theater. The course will culminate in the completion of a research project.

Studies in the Renaissance: Focus on Milton (Bruce Boehrer): This course will focus upon a close reading of Milton's work in light of such issues as the domestic politics of the early Stuart and Interregnum periods; available ideologies of family structure and gender relations; humanism, euhemerism, and the classical tradition; and the theology of radical Protestantism in the seventeenth century. Most of the course will be devoted to studying the entirety of Paradise Lost; however, we will also consider such briefer works as Comus, Lycidas, and (time permitting) Samson Agonistes. Thomas Middleton: Our Other Shakespeare (Gary Taylor): Last November Oxford University Press published The Collected Works of Thomas Middleton, the result of 20 years of work by 75 scholars in 12 countries. Middleton--the most modern of the early modernists, England's Caravaggio, the first great poet of urban life, the first English "realist", the "bard of sex" (Time Magazine), the most politically subversive writer of his time, who also wrote the greatest box-office hit of early London--is the only English playwright who wrote masterpieces in as many different genres as Shakespeare (including tragedy, comedy, history, and tragicomedy), but unlike Shakespeare he wrote for many different companies and playing spaces, in a very different stylistic and aesthetic register. This course assumes no previous knowledge of Middleton; it will introduce you to a great writer your parents and your high school teachers didn't want you to know about.

Women in Early Print Culture (Anne Coldiron): This course examines first how women are represented in printed works between Caxton's press (1476) and the charter of the Company of Stationers (1557), and second, how they involve themselves more and less directly with the means of production. The thematic focus of the course will be on how the new printers handle questions of sexuality, love, marriage, and gender roles. These questions were clearly important in a rapidly changing society, and the new technology spread texts about gender to a readership that was both expanding and changing in composition. To treat questions of gender in terms of early media means also to explore early print culture more generally; our focus will be on literary culture (that is, literary history, poetics, and aesthetics), and will necessarily involve print literacies, class mobility, internationalism, education, etc.. We'll read secondary work from (e.g.) Johns, Chartier, Darnton, MacKenzie, Hellinga, Driver, McCloud, Ong, and Walter Benjamin. We'll examine the sometimes vivid scholarly disagreements about early media, and apply them to our gender questions. For instance, Eisenstein famously wrote about the press as "agent of change," but we might ask if, where gender is concerned, the new technology simply amplified old ideologies. Early typefaces and mise-en-page imitated manuscript aesthetics, but how well did innovative content about gender issues come across in such visibly nostalgic formats? Since many of the primary works we'll read about and by women have not been canonized, reception theory and the long history of literary institutions will also come into play; we won't ignore the 18-21st centuries' revisions, reappropriations, suppressions of early printed works on gender questions.

Related Course Offerings:

Editorial Theory from Jerome to JSTOR (David L. Gants and Gary Taylor): Editorial theory is a version of critical theory that, in addition to asking the fundamental critical questions--what is a text? is there a difference between a text and a work? what is the relationship of the author to the text? how do you determine the value of a text/work/author?--applies or modifies those questions/answers in relation to the practical problems of preserving and transmitting past texts to contemporary readers, often in media or languages different than those in which the text/work was originally composed. Editorial theory therefore affects every text you have ever read, and if you become an important writer it will eventually affect every text you ever write. This course begins with St Jerome, whose edition of the Latin Bible was the basis for European culture for more than a 1000 years, and concludes with the new theoretical and practical issues raised by digital technologies.

Introduction to Humanities Computing (David L. Gants): This class is an introduction to the field of humanities computing, with an emphasis on the techniques, tools and theoretical underpinnings as they apply to the analysis of literary works. While the syllabus includes a substantial amount of reading, the primary pedagogical focus of the course will be hand-on learning. Students will work both in and out of class on a series of exercises designed to familiarize them with: the UNIX operating system and the principles of systems administration; electronic text creation, mark-up and manipulation (including some rudimentary computer language instruction); digital image creation and the basics of graphic design; hypertext and hypermedia publication; digital pedagogies, and on-line discursive communities (such as blogs and Second Life). Work over the semester will lead to a final collaborative project where students will have the opportunity to concentrate on an area of special interest. This course does not presume any prior experience with electronic text, mark-up or UNIX, although students should have some familiarity with at least one operating system and supply their own laptop computer with an ethernet or wireless connection.