Dr Michael Hetherington

My research mainly focuses on non-dramatic literature of the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. I am particularly interested in the relationship between literary writing and the philosophical and pedagogical cultures of the period.

I am currently working on a book entitled The Coherence of the Text: The Logic of Literary Experience in Early Modern England. This explores the ways in which sixteenth-century readers and writers thought about the unity or wholeness of literary works, using concepts that were borrowed from the disciplines of rhetoric and logic as much as from literary theory or poetics. This work offers new perspectives on a range of Elizabethan writers (including George Gascoigne, Gabriel Harvey, Edmund Spenser, Abraham Fraunce and Sir Philip Sidney, as well as more minor literary and intellectual figures); it also contributes to the longer history of literary hermeneutics and engages with questions about form, unity, coherence, structure, meaning and value that have preoccupied literary theory and practice since Plato and Aristotle.

The other main strand of my current work builds on my interest in literature and logic, this time focussing not on hermeneutics but on poetics. I am interested in the role played in the early modern period by the very idea of poetics as a distinct and unified discipline of thought. Was literary writing something that could be reduced to a system of rules and norms? What was the relationship between literary rules and natural talent? What is the role of rationality in poetic invention and composition? These questions were asked in different ways throughout the early modern period, and remained important for centuries to come: in the longer term I am planning to write a book on this subject that will trace the evolution of these ideas, and the philosophical assumptions that went with them, from the fifteenth century to the eighteenth. 

English Literature 1550-1760; Shakespeare.


  • Gascoigne, Miscellaneity, and Aesthetic Satisfaction

  • Places of Form in Early Modern Poetics: Art, Mind, and Voice

  • Indecorous Thinking: Figures of Speech in Early Modern Poetics. Colleen Ruth Rosenfeld. New York: Fordham University Press, 2018. 308 pp. $35.

  • CATHERINE BATES. On Not Defending Poetry: Defence and Indefensibility in Sidney’s Defence of Poesy

  • “The Coherence of the Text” in Sixteenth-Century England: Reading Literature and Law with Abraham Fraunce

  • More
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