Early Modern Literature

Early Modern Literature 1500-1750

Current research

Renaissance and early modern research within the School of English is diverse and flourishing. Currently, there are six members of staff who specialize in literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.

Current and recent research topics

  • The history of the King James Bible
  • Renaissance students
  • Reading habits and news-gathering in the Restoration
  • John Donne’s sermons
  • Robert Burton, religion and medicine
  • The restoration literary underground
  • Andrew Marvell’s prose and verse
  • Fulke Greville’s plays
  • Mariology in Medieval and Renaissance poetry

Early modernists within the School are involved in institutional, national and international research organizations.

Early Modern Research Seminar Series

Run by representatives from the Schools of English and History, the Early Modern Research Seminar Series attracts international researchers working from the sixteenth century to the eighteenth century with meetings throughout the academic year.

Colleagues from the School take an active role on the Council of the Society for Renaissance Studies, the English Association, and the Society for Neo-Latin Studies.

Staff Research

Professor Gordan Campbell

Professor Gordon Campbell
(Professor of Renaissance Studies)

Dr Anne Marie D’Arcy

Dr Anne Marie D’Arcy
(Lecturer in Medieval and Renaissance Literature and Language; Deputy Director of the Medieval Research Centre)

My forthcoming study, The Artifice of Eternity: Mariology in the English Poetic Tradition (OUP), explores the influence of Marian theology, spirituality, liturgy, and iconography on a selection of poems from the early thirteenth century to the first half of the seventeenth, taking the year 1649 as its point of termination. It examines why such poets of the Reformation as Aemilia Lanyer, John Donne and Richard Crashaw continue to draw on the rich tradition of Marian imagery found in the Middle English lyrics. While it has long been acknowledged that Ignatian, Salesian, and other forms of post-Tridentine meditative exercises may have influenced ways of seeing in English Protestant poetics, this study will bring open up new vistas concerning the impact of the visual arts on how Mary is depicted in Protestant poetics.

Professor Martin Dzelzainis

Professor Martin Dzelzainis
(Professor of Renaissance Literature and Thought)

My main field of research is the relationship between literature and thought, especially literature and politics. This necessarily means adopting a multidisciplinary approach so that, for example, my recent work on the Restoration period has taken in diplomatic and naval history, rhetoric and the history of truth-telling, censorship, and the communicative interchange between speech, manuscript, and print. The outcome is a monograph, The Flower in the Panther: Print and Censorship in England, 1662-1695, which is nearing completion for publication by OUP in 2015. My research is otherwise divided between Milton and Marvell, including en edition of the latter’s verse and prose for the Oxford 21st-century Authors series and The Oxford Handbook of Marvell.

Dr Sarah Knight

Dr Sarah Knight
(Senior Lecturer in Renaissance Literature)

The question of how classical texts and ideas affected Renaissance literature drives much of my work as editor and translator, as well as my research and teaching more broadly. I am currently editing Fulke Greville’s Alaham and Mustapha, complex plays set in the Ottoman empire which reflect Greville’s interests in philosophy, politics, and French, Greek and Latin tragedy. Much of my research concentrates on early modern students, whether at schools, Inns of Court or universities: this has led me to edit John Milton’s student speeches (the Prolusions), the visits of Elizabeth I to Oxford in 1566 and 1592 for the new edition of John Nichols’s Progresses, and the Catholic mythological play The New Moone.

Dr Kate Loveman

Dr Kate Loveman
(Senior Lecturer in English Literature, 1660-1789)

My research concerns reading behaviour and news-gathering in the later seventeenth and early eighteenth centuries. My last book, Reading Fictions: Deception in English Literary and Political Culture, 1660-1740 examined how readers of materials from political pamphlets to canonical novels distinguished fact from fiction, enjoying themselves in the process. Currently I am working on the diaries and unpublished papers of Samuel Pepys and his friends in order to understand patterns in reading behaviours and the exchange of information during a momentous time in politics and the book trade. This research is to be published as monograph Samuel Pepys and his Books: Reading, Newsgathering, and Sociability, 1660-1703.

Dr Mary Ann Lund

Dr Mary Ann Lund
(Lecturer in Renaissance Literature)

My work on Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy (Melancholy, Medicine and Reading in Early Modern England, Cambridge UP, 2010) pays attention to the activity of reading as constructed and imagined within early modern texts. By studying writers’ treatment of the reading process, and their attempts to shape it through the use of paratexts and addresses to readers, I argue that we can enrich our understanding of reading as a historically situated activity, and can complement investigations into the documentary evidence of reading habits (such as readers’ annotations on their books). My current project is an edition of John Donne’s sermons preached at St Paul’s Cathedral, Volume 12 of The Oxford Edition of the Sermons of John Donne.


Several significant research projects and collaborations are co-ordinated out of the School of English. These include 400 Years of the King James Bible; the Chapbook Research Project, covering the period 1650-1850; and the Neo-Latin Teaching Anthology. Staff regularly collaborate on teaching and research. For example, Sarah Knight and Mary Ann Lund have worked together on Richard III, and co-wrote a Times Literary Supplement commentary piece on ‘Richard Crookback’.

Leicester colleagues are involved in important editorial projects: Professor Campbell is one of the two General Editors of the twelve-volume Oxford Complete Works of John Milton; Professor Dzelzainis is editing Milton’s History of Britain and Brief History of Moscovia , Marvell’s verse and prose, and is General Editor (with Dr Paul Seaward, Director of the History of Parliament Trust), of The Works of Edward Hyde, Earl of Clarendon (all for OUP); Dr Lund is editing John Donne’s 1626 sermons for the Oxford Complete Sermons of John Donne; and Dr Knight is Associate General Editor of the new five-volume edition of John Nichols’s Progresses of Queen Elizabeth, and is editing Milton’s Prolusions and the plays of Fulke Greville (all for OUP).


The Special Collections in the University Library houses several named collection of particular interest to early modern researchers, including:

  • Incunabula relating to biblical publication
  • Scholastic philosophy and classical literature
  • The Fairclough Collection of seventeenth-century portrait prints and political illustrations
  • Several manuscripts relating to non-conformist worship and devotion
  • A large pamphlet collection featuring many relating to the Reformation and English Civil War
  • The Robjohns collection of early printed Bibles.

The Library subscribes to a range of digital resources for Renaissance and early modern researchers such as Early English Books Online, British Newspapers 1600-1900, the English Short Title Catalogue, Brepolis Latin Complete Collection, Oxford Art Online, and Patrologia Latina. Local resources include the Leicestershire, Leicester and Rutland Record Office, with its valuable seventeenth-century archival holdings, and Leicester Guildhall’s collection of early modern printed books, including continental theology.

Current and Recent PhD students

Shokhan Ahmed The Staging of Witchcraft in the Jacobean Theatre
Keith McDonald Marvell and Privacy
Sonia Suman Oral-Visual Contradiction: Seeing and Hearing in Shakespeare’s History Plays

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