Associate Professor of English
University of Maryland, College Park

My research and teaching focus on early modern poetry, drama, and music, as well as media studies and performance theory. My first book, Unwritten Poetry: Song, Performance, and Media in Early Modern England is now available from Oxford University Press -- at 30% off with discount code AAFLYG6.

The book studies the role of vocal music in the poetic and theatrical cultures of the English Renaissance. Virtuosic actor-singers redefined the theatrical culture of William Shakespeare and his peers. Composers including William Byrd and Henry Lawes shaped the transmission of Renaissance lyric verse. Poets from Philip Sidney to John Milton were fascinated by the disorienting influx of musical performance into their works. Musical performance was a driving force behind the period’s theatrical and poetic movements, yet its importance to literary history has long been ignored or effaced.

Unwritten Poetry reveals the impact of vocalists and composers upon the poetic culture of early modern England by studying the media through which—and by whom—its songs were made. In a literary field that was never confined to writing, media were not limited to material texts. I argue that the media of Renaissance poetry can be conceived as any node of transmission from singer’s larynx to actor’s body. Through my study of song, I outline a new approach to Renaissance poetry and drama that is grounded not simply in performance history or book history but in a more synthetic media history.

I have additional research interests in early Tudor culture, Renaissance pageantry, theories of lyric poetry, gender studies, formalism, and the digital humanities. I am currently collaborating with Katherine Larson (English, University of Toronto) and Sarah Williams (Music History, University of South Carolina) on Early Modern Songscapesan interdisciplinary web project on the musical performance of English Renaissance poetry. My work has been published in Shakespeare Quarterly, Studies in Philology, the Map of Early Modern London, and edited collections. Click here to view my publications and here for a list of recent and upcoming presentations.

My research in media studies plays out in my teaching, where I ask students to draw connections between early modern literature and our own historical moment. My courses are grounded in close readings of literary texts, but I incorporate music, film, and television into the classroom, and I use course blogs to ask how online interfaces relate to the mediascape of the early modern period, when the printed book remained a “new” medium.

My essay "An Organ for the Seraglio: Thomas Dallam's Artificial Life" is now forthcoming from Renaissance Studies. It focuses on a travel narrative from the late 1590s, when Elizabeth I and the Levant Company hoped to advance their diplomatic and mercantile agendas in the Mediterranean with the gift of a splendid mechanical organ to the Ottoman Sultan Mehmed III. Thomas Dallam, who was charged with installing this fully automated instrument in the Ottoman court, wrote a lively narrative of his journey, including his personal encounter with the Sultan. My article argues that Dallam is more complex and suggestive writer than scholars have acknowledged, producing not a plainspoken account of his journey but a suggestive sense of belonging among the humans and machines in the Ottoman seraglio. Fueled by a combination of artisan class identity, technological wonder, anxieties about cultural difference, and an expanding sense of personal vulnerability, Dallam imagines a new life at the Topkapı Palace, integrated within an exquisite system of mechanical artifice.

Tenure and promotion

I'm pleased to say that I have been promoted to associate professor with tenure! I am very fortunate to have the assurances that tenure affords -- intellectual freedom, job security, and the privilege to be able to determine my own agenda in research, teaching, and service to campus and the profession. We live in a world full of bias and misinformation, and it is crucial for scholars to be able to pursue their work on their own terms. I'm grateful to the many friends and colleagues who have supported me toward this goal.

Songscapes conference and beta site launch

The Early Modern Songscapes conference was a smashing success, with 34 wonderful papers and the official launch of -- our website exploring Henry Lawes's 1653 songbook Ayres and Dialogues. The site features digital editions of the songs including musical notation and lyrics, plus audio performances and high-resolution images of primary sources for selected songs and variants. Please have a look at the site and let us know what you think by filling out this survey.

I came away from the conference with a warm feeling of esprit de corps among scholars on English Renaissance song. I heard many good ideas for new directions for the study of musico-poetic intersections, including new ways of describing song's migration through texts and cultural contexts -- not just intertexuality or allusion but remixing, sampling, "snatching," and reveling in musical marvel and wonder. One collective conviction that emerged was the need for close and ongoing dialogue between scholars and performers. Another was the importance of an expanded conception of the history of texts, with special attention to fragmentation and gaps in the archive. See the Twitter stream here, and stay tuned for video recordings of the three keynote talks, which we will post on Warm thanks to all conference contributors.