Department of English

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 Faculty Bookshelf - Alphabetical by Author's Surname
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Book CoverLeslie Thomson

From Playtext to Performance on the Early Modern Stage: How Did They Do It?
Routledge, 2022.

This book reconsiders the evidence for what we know (or think we know) about early modern performance conditions. It encourages a new recognition and treatment of certain aspects of the plays as evidence - and demonstrates the significance of the implications of that new information. This study is also an assessment of the competing narratives about the processes involved in early modern performance: about the status of manuscript playbooks, about the parts that players memorized, about the functions of the bookkeeper, about casting, about prompting, and about rehearsal practices. It investigates the bases for the interdependent beliefs that an early modern player relied only on his part to prepare for a performance, that rehearsal was minimal, and that a bookkeeper compensated for these circumstances by prompting any player who was "out of his part." By focusing on often ignored (or downplayed) requirements and challenges of early modern play texts, this study provides evidence for answers that will foster a more nuanced and thorough understanding of original performance practices. That will, in turn, influence how we read, study, and edit the plays. 

Book cover of Discovery on the Early Modern Stage L. Thomson
Leslie Thomson
Discoveries on the Early Modern Stage: Contexts and Conventions
Cambridge University Press, 2018

This study of the action of discovery as plot device, visual motif, and thematic trope on the early modern stage considers an important and popular performance convention in its cultural and religious contexts. Through close examination of a number of 'discoveries' taken from a wide range of early modern plays, Leslie Thomson traverses several related disciplines, including theatre history, literary analysis, art history, and the history of the religious practices that would have influenced Shakespeare and his contemporaries. Taking as its primary focus the performance of disguise-discoveries and discovery scenes, the analyses include considerations of how this particular device relates to genre, plot structure, language, imagery, themes, and the manipulation of playgoer expectations. With strong reference to the visual arts, and an appendix that addresses the problem of how and where discovery scenes were performed, Thomson offers an innovative perspective on the staging and meaning of early modern drama.

Walter of Châtillon, The Alexandreis: A Twelfth Century EpicDavid Townsend, trans. and ed.
Walter of Châtillon, The Alexandreis: A Twelfth Century Epic
Broadview Press, 2006

Walter of Châtillon’s Latin epic on the life of Alexander the Great was a twelfth- and thirteenth-century best-seller: scribes produced over two hundred manuscripts. The poem follows Alexander from his first successes in Asia Minor, through his conquest of Persia and India, to his progressive moral degeneration and his poisoning by a disaffected lieutenant. The Alexandreis exemplifies twelfth-century discourses of world domination and the exoticism of the East. But at the same time it calls such dreams of mastery into question, repeatedly undercutting as it does Alexander’s claims to heroism and virtue—and by extension, similar claims by the great men of Walter’s own generation. This extraordinarily layered and subtle poem stands as a high-water mark of the medieval tradition of Latin narrative literature.

Daniel Scott TysdalWriting Moment
The Writing Moment: A Practical Guide to Creative Poems
Oxford University Press, 2014

This practical guide to composing original, evocative poetry explores all aspects of the writing process-including finding inspiration, organizing ideas on paper, revising first drafts, and sharing poems with others. Accessible and encouraging throughout, this invaluable resource helps beginner poets find their voice and master the tools of the trade.

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Karina Vernon, Ed.K. Vernon Book
The Black Prairie Archives: An Anthology
Forthcoming, Wilfrid 

The Black Prairie Archives: An Anthology recovers a new regional archive of “black prairie” literature, and includes writing that ranges from work by nineteenth-century black fur traders and pioneers, all of it published here for the first time, to contemporary writing of the twenty-first century. This anthology establishes a new black prairie literary tradition and transforms inherited understandings of what prairie literature looks and sounds like. It collects varied and unique work by writers who were both conscious and unconscious of themselves as black writers or as “prairie” people. Their letters, recipes, oral literature, autobiographies, rap, and poetry- provide vivid glimpses into the reality of their lived experiences and give meaning to them.

The book includes introductory notes for each writer in non-specialist language, and notes to assist readers in their engagement with the literature. This archive and its supporting text offer new scholarly and pedagogical possibilities by expanding the nation’s and the region’s archives. They enrich our understanding of black Canada by bringing to light the prairies' black histories, cultures, and presences.


Germaine Warkentin
Pierre-Esprit Radisson: The Collected Writings, Volume 1: The Voyages, Volume 2: The Port Nelson Relations, Miscellaneous Writings, and Related Documents.
McGill-Queen's University Press, 2012, 2014.


Pierre-Esprit Radisson was many men: a teenager captured, tortured, and adopted by the Mohawk, a youth relishing the freedom of the wilderness, the French-born servant of an ambitious English trading company, a hapless petitioner at the court of Louis XIV, a central figure in the tug of war between France and England over Hudson Bay, a pretender to aristocratic status defending his actions before James II, a retired “sea captain” trying to provide for his children, and despite the pension he had fought for, the “decay’d Gentleman” described in his burial record. Radisson’s writings provoke many questions. Was he a semi-literate woodsman? Are his accounts of Native life ethnographically reliable? Can he be trusted to tell the truth about himself? How important were his explorations? 

All these questions are raised in this new edition of the explorer’s writings in English and French – Voyages, Relations, letters and petitions – plus two previously unknown documents, all edited to a high scholarly standard. Radisson is a Canadian icon, his signature in lights on a great hotel chain, central figure of a French comic-book series, his name on a Canadian Coast Guard icebreaker, a vast converter station on the Nelson River, a territory on James Bay, a suburb of Syracuse, New York, a town in Saskatchewan, and a walking trail in rural Minnesota. Who in fact was Radisson? This richly annotated new edition brings us closer to knowing this “mercurial genius.”

Edited by Germaine Warkentin, Joseph L. Black and William R. Bowen
The Library of the Sidneys of Penshurst Place circa 1665
University of Toronto Press, 2013


For two centuries (1540-1740) the Sidney family of Penshurt Place, Kent, produced poets, courtiers, collectors, and at least one revolutionary. Increasingly aware of the cultural ideal of the learned nobleman and of libraries as representations of that ideal, the Sidneys amassed one of the largest gentry libraries in England of their period. This edition of their library catalogue provides a vivid portrait of the birth, growth, and eventual demise of the distinguished family’s library collection.

Comprised of nearly 5000 entries, the catalogue is presented with a full introduction describing the Sidneys’ intellectual world and life, their reading and collecting, the women collectors of the family, and the dispersal of the library in 1743. The editors employ all the resources of contemporary bibliography, print and digital, to identify the titles in the catalogue, and where possible to locate the Sidneys’ own copies still extant, as well as architectural analysis to identify and describe the library room at Penshurst, now lost to nineteenth-century renovations.  

Decentring the RenaissanceGermaine Warkentin
Decentring the Renaissance
University of Toronto Press, 2001

Much has been written about the effect early European discoverers and explorers had on Canada, but little on the effect Canada and its Native peoples had on the discoverers and explorers. Decentring the Renaissance contemplates that reversal of perspective from north of the border, where Spanish influence was thin and Britain and France contended for hegemony. It brings together essays by Natalie Zemon Davis, Selma Barkham, Denys Delage, Réal Ouellet, Anne Lake Prescott, Olive Dickason and others, from a ground-breaking 1996 conference organized by Germaine Warkentin.

Christopher Warley
Reading Class through Shakespeare, Donne and Milton

Cambridge University Press, 2014Reading Class through Shakespeare (Forthcoming)

Why study Renaissance literature? Reading Class through Shakespeare, Donne, and Milton examines six canonical Renaissance works to show that reading literature also means reading class. Warley demonstrates that careful reading offers the best way to understand social relations and in doing so he offers a detailed historical argument about what class means in the seventeenth century. Drawing on a wide range of critics, from Erich Auerbach to Jacques Rancière, from Cleanth Brooks to Theodor Adorno, from Raymond Williams to Jacques Derrida, the book implicitly defends literary criticism. It reaffirms six Renaissance poems and plays, including poems by Donne, Shakespeare's Hamlet, and Milton's Paradise Lost, as the sophisticated and moving works of art that generations of readers have loved. These accessible interpretations also offer exciting new directions for the roles of art and criticism in the contemporary, post-industrial world.

Christopher Warley
Sonnet Sequences and Social Distinction in Renaissance England, Cambridge Studies in Renaissance Literature and Culture 49
Cambridge University Press, 2005sonnetseq

Why were sonnet sequences popular in Renaissance England? In this study, Christopher Warley suggests that sonneteers created a vocabulary to describe, and to invent, new forms of social distinction before an explicit language of social class existed. The tensions inherent in the genre - between lyric and narrative, between sonnet and sequence - offered writers a means of reconceptualizing the relation between individuals and society, a way to try to come to grips with the broad social transformations taking place at the end of the sixteenth century. By stressing the struggle over social classification, the book revises studies that have tied the influence of sonnet sequences to either courtly love or to Renaissance individualism. Drawing on Marxist aesthetic theory, it offers detailed examinations of sequences by Lok, Sidney, Spenser, Shakespeare and Milton. It will be valuable to readers interested in Renaissance and genre studies, and post-Marxist theories of class.

Singing in a Foreign Land
Karen A. Weisman
Singing in a Foreign Land Anglo-Jewish Poetry, 1812-1847
University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018

In Singing in a Foreign Land, Karen A. Weisman examines the uneasy literary inheritance of British cultural and poetic norms by early nineteenth-century Anglo-Jewish authors. Focusing on a range of subgenres, from elegies to pastorals to psalm translations, Weisman shows how the writers she studies engaged with the symbolic resources of English poetry—such as the land of England itself—from which they had been historically alienated.

Karen A. WeismanThe Elegy
The Oxford Handbook of the Elegy
Oxford University Press, 2010

Mourning and memorialization are at the very centre of literary culture. They take on forms deeply resonant of the sundry traditions of poetic elegy even when those elegiac conventions are displaced, concealed, or plainly unintentional. For all of its pervasiveness, however, the "elegy" remains remarkably ill-defined: sometimes used as a catch-all to denominate texts of a somber or pessimistic tone, sometimes as a marker for textual monumentalizing, and sometimes strictly as a sign of a lament for the dead. This Handbook is the single most comprehensive study of its subject. It provides both a historical survey and a thematic engagement with the relevant issues in elegy. It is responsive to a pressing need for clarification of the relevant issues, and to the exciting developments currently under way in elegy studies. Such a volume is especially timely, since in recent years there has been a veritable explosion in interest in elegies about AIDS, cancer, and war; various reconsiderations of the role of women in the history of elegiac writing; and readings of elegy in relation to ethics, philosophy and theory, and political structure. With 38 chapters by leading specialists, ranging from Gregory Nagy's reconsideration of Ancient Greek elegy through Stuart Curran's novel engagement with Romantic elegiac hybridity, and on to Elizabeth Helsinger's consideration of elegy and painting, this Handbook offers groundbreaking scholarship and remarkable historical breadth

Imageless TruthsKaren A. Weisman
Imageless Truths: Shelley's Poetic Fictions

University of Pennsylvania Press, 1994

In Imageless Truths, Karen A. Weisman offers a new reading of Shelley's work in the context of the poet's changing constructions of poetic fictions. Shelley's understanding of language in general, and of the fictions and their rhetorical trope in particular, evolved throughout his career, and Weisman argues that it is in his self-consciousness over these transformations that we can find the primary motivating factor in the poet's philosophical and literary development.


Ira WellsIra Wells
Fighting Words:  Polemics and Social Change in Literary Naturalism
The University of Alabama Press, 2013

Ira Wells, countering the standard narrative of literary naturalism’s much-touted concern with environmental and philosophical determinism, draws attention to the polemical essence of the genre and demonstrates how literary naturalists engaged instead with explosive political and cultural issues that remain fervently debated today. Naturalist writers, Wells argues in Fighting Words, are united less by a coherent philosophy than by an attitude, a posture of aggressive controversy, which happens to cluster loosely around particular social issues. To an extent not yet appreciated, literary naturalists took controversial—and frequently contrarian—positions on a wide range of literary, political, and social issues.

Frank Norris, for instance, famously declared the innate inferiority of female novelists and frequently wrote about literature in tones suggestive of racial warfare. Theodore Dreiser once advocated, with deadly earnestness, a program of state-run infanticide for disabled or unwanted children. Richard Wright praised the Stalin-Hitler agreement of 1939 as “a great step toward peace.” While many of their arguments were irascible, attention-seeking, and self-consciously inflammatory, the combative spirit that fueled these outbursts remains central to the canonical texts of the movement.

Dan White
From Little London to Little Bengal: Religion, Print, and Modernity in Early British India, 
Johns Hopkins University Press, 2013londonbengal

From Little London to Little Bengal traces the traffic in culture between Britain and India during the Romantic period. To some, Calcutta appeared to be a "Little London," while in London itself an Indianized community of returned expatriates was emerging as "Little Bengal." Circling between the two, this study reads British and Indian literary, religious, and historical sources alongside newspapers, panoramas, religious festivals, idols, and museum exhibitions. Together and apart, Britons and Bengalis waged a transcultural agon under the dynamic conditions of early nineteenth-century imperialism, struggling to claim cosmopolitan perspectives and, in the process, to define modernity.

Daniel E. White shows how an ambivalent Protestant contact with Hindu devotion shaped understandings of the imperial mission for Britons and Indians during the period. Investigating global metaphors of circulation and mobility, communication and exchange, commerce and conquest, he follows the movements of people, ideas, books, art, and artifacts initiated by writers, publishers, educators, missionaries, travelers, and reformers. Along the way, he places luminaries like Romantic poet Robert Southey and Hindu reformer Rammohun Roy in dialogue with a fascinating array of lesser-known figures, from the Baptist missionaries of Serampore and the radical English journalist James Silk Buckingham to the mixed-race prodigy Henry Louis Vivian Derozio.

In concert and in conflict, these cultural emissaries and activists articulated national and cosmopolitan perspectives that were more than reactions on the part of marginal groups to the metropolitan center of power and culture. The British Empire in India involved recursive transactions between the global East and West, channeling cultural, political, and religious formations that were simultaneously distinct and shared, local, national, and transnational.

Early Romanticism and Religious DissentDan White
Early Romanticism and Religious Dissent
Cambridge University Press, 2007

Religious diversity and ferment characterize the period that gave rise to Romanticism in England. It is generally known that many individuals who contributed to the new literatures of the late eighteenth century came from Dissenting backgrounds, but we nonetheless often underestimate the full significance of nonconformist beliefs and practices during this period. Daniel White provides a clear and useful introduction to Dissenting communities, focusing on Anna Barbauld and her familial network of heterodox "liberal" Dissenters whose religious, literary, educational, political, and economic activities shaped the public culture of early Romanticism in England. He goes on to analyze the roles of nonconformity within the lives and writings of William Godwin, Mary Wollstonecraft, Samuel Taylor Coleridge, and Robert Southey, offering a Dissenting genealogy of the Romantic movement.

Ian WilliamsDisorientation
Disorientation: Being Black in the World
Random House Canada, 2021

With that one eloquent word, disorientation, Ian Williams captures the impact of racial encounters on racialized people—the whiplash of race that occurs while minding one's own business. Sometimes the consequences are only irritating, but sometimes they are deadly. Spurred by the police killings and street protests of 2020, Williams realized he could offer a perspective distinct from the almost exclusively America-centric books on race topping the bestseller lists, because of one salient fact: he has lived in Trinidad (where he was never the only Black person in the room), in Canada (where he often was), and in the United States (where as a Black man from the Caribbean, he was a different kind of "only").

Inspired by the essays of James Baldwin, in which the personal becomes the gateway to larger ideas, Williams explores such things as the unmistakable moment when a child realizes they are Black; the ten characteristics of institutional whiteness; how friendship forms a bulwark against being a target of racism; the meaning and uses of a Black person's smile; and blame culture—or how do we make meaningful change when no one feels responsible for the systemic structures of the past. With these essays, Williams wants to reach a multi-racial audience of people who believe that civil conversation on even the most charged subjects is possible. Examining the past and the present in order to speak to the future, he offers new thinking, honest feeling, and his astonishing, piercing gift of language.


Unfixable Forms: Disability, Performance, and the Early Modern English Theater
Cornell University Press, 2021

Unfixable Forms explores how theatrical form remakes—and is in turn remade by—early modern disability. Figures described as "deformed," "lame," "crippled," "ugly," "sick," and "monstrous" crowd the stage in English drama of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. In each case, such a description distills cultural expectations about how a body should look and what a body should do—yet, crucially, demands the actor's embodied performance. In the early modern theater, concepts of disability collide with the deforming, vulnerable body of the actor. Reading dramatic texts alongside a diverse array of sources, ranging from physic manuals to philosophical essays to monster pamphlets, Katherine Schaap Williams excavates an archive of formal innovation to argue that disability is at the heart of the early modern theater's exploration of what it means to put the body of an actor on the stage.

  Daniel Wright D. Wright
Bad Logic: Reasoning about Desire in the Victorian Novel 
Johns Hopkins University Press, March 2018

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