Helen Smith



A graduate of Glasgow and York, Helen taught at St Andrews and Hertfordshire before returning to join the York department in 2004. Helen's research interests are wide-ranging, embracing history of the book, feminist literary history and theory, the social and cultural uses of religious experience, and materiality.

Helen has published extensively on the material text and the book trades. Her monograph Grossly Material Things: Women and Book Production in Early Modern England (Oxford University Press, 2012) won the Roland H. Bainton Literature Prize, awarded by the Sixteenth-Century Society and Conference, and the DeLong Book History Prize, awarded by the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading and Publishing, in 2013.

With Simon Ditchfield (History), Helen co-directed the AHRC-funded project Conversion Narratives in Early Modern Europe.  She is Principal Investigator for the AHRC Research Network Imagining Jerusalem, c. 1099 to the Present Day.  Her current monograph project aims to uncover ideas about matter and their material incarnations in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries, and is supported by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship.



Helen is currently working on a book-length project investigating early modern understanding of matter and materiality, and their expression in texts ranging from plays and poem to philosophical treatises and music books. She is also continuing to pursue her interests in conversion and the effects of religious change. Helen is one of the editors of The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in England, c. 1530-1720, and, with Simon Ditchfield, is editing a volume on the theme of Gender and Conversion. Her current research ranges from women in the livery guilds to animals in the household, and kitchen techniques in the printing house.


Helen would be delighted to receive proposals for doctoral research on most areas of Renaissance literature and culture, particularly on book history, women's writing and social and cultural labour, and materiality. She is interested in questions of sociability, embodiment and environment, and intermediality.

Helen works with a very strong group of doctoral candidates. Recent and current theses she has supervised include:

  • waste paper
  • narratives of needlework
  • taste in early modern England
  • ballads and history
  • women writers and masculine identity
  • the paper stages of the civil wars
  • Catholic objects



Helen teaches across the Renaissance and early modern period, including the early and later Renaissance period modules. Her special module 'Women and Words in Early Modern England' explores women's relationship to language across a broad range of literary and historical texts. She frequently contributes to the dedicated English-History bridge module, 'Texts and Histories'. In 2009 she received a Vice-Chancellor's Teaching Award in recognition of her innovative teaching.


At MA level, Helen offers a ground-breaking course on 'Objects and the Early Modern', and contributes to the core courses for both the MA in Renaissance Literature and the Renaissance and Early Modern Studies MA.

Detail from Bruce Krebs, De Generation en Generation, La Rochelle

Contact details

Dr Helen Smith
Department of English and Related Literature
University of York
Y010 5DD

Tel: 44 1904 323353