My research focuses on the intersections of early modern literature (primarily Shakespearean), medicine, and philosophy, with a particular interest in emotion and embodiment. More specifically, I am interested in the ways that literature and medicine participates in the formation of early modern conceptions of the mental interior and philosophical models of subjectivity, particularly in regard to distracted, emotional, and disturbed states.
My current book project, provisionally titled Ecstatic Subjects: Ecstasy in the Work of Shakespeare and his Contemporaries, considers how ecstatic experience captured the early modern imagination. Informed and intrigued by ‘ecstasy’ as a word and state that encompasses a wide range of senses, this study explores what it meant to ‘suffer ecstasy’ in early modern culture, and what is at stake for the Shakespearean subjects who encounter this altered state of consciousness. A connected research project on experiences at the edge of consciousness is also underway, which has been supported by The Huntington Library (California), the Osler Library of the History of Medicine (Montreal), and TORCH (Oxford).
I am also interested in issues of affect, environment, and embodiment in modern Shakespeare performance. Work on this topic underpins my recent book, This Distracted Globe: Attending to Distraction at Shakespeare’s Theatre, as well as an interdisciplinary project exploring the phenomenon of fainting and illness in this theatre, in collaboration with colleagues in the department of Biology.
Other ongoing work includes projects on medicine in performance, and Shakespeare’s narrative poems, including a new introduction to the Oxford World’s Classics edition.
I teach papers on English Literature from 1550-1760, including Shakespeare.