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I received my PhD. from Birkbeck, University of London and, before coming to York, lectured at Birkbeck, London, the University of Reading and the University of Leeds. I have research interests in early modern science and intellectual history, the uses of the Bible in the seventeenth century and poetics and rhetoric, and am currently working on a study of the early modern apophatic. My most recent book, The Political Bible in Early Modern England (Cambridge, 2016), looks at the political uses of the biblical kings and the Old Testament in the renaissance, and I have published work on this topic in The Journal of the History of Ideas and The Huntington Library Quarterly, as well as editing, with Helen Smith and Rachel Willie, The Oxford Handbook of the Bible in Early Modern England, c. 1530-1700 (Oxford, 2015) which won the Roland H Bainton Prize, 2016. I co-edited with Liz Oakley-Brown a volume of The Journal of the Northern Renaissance 2017, Scrutinizing Surfaces.
I am the author of Biblical Scholarship, Science and Politics in Early Modern England: Thomas Browne and the Thorny Place of Knowledge (Ashgate, 2009), which won the CCUE Book Prize and which was shortlisted for the US History of Science Society Watson Davis Prize, and co-editor, together with Peter Forshaw (Amsterdam), of Biblical Exegesis and the Emergence of Science in the Early Modern Era (Palgrave Macmillan, 2007).
I have edited a one-volume work of Sir Thomas Browne: Oxford 21st Century Authors (Oxford, 2014) and am one of the editors of the new eight-volume Complete Works of Thomas Browne, commissioned by Oxford University Press and supported by an AHRC grant, under the general editorship of Claire Preston (Queen Mary). This involves editing Browne’s labyrinthine and encyclopaedic Pseudodoxia Epidemica, together with Jessica Wolfe (North Carolina) and Harriet Phillips (Queen Mary).
I am the organiser of the Thomas Browne Seminar, an annual symposium which examines mid seventeenth-century the history of science and scholarship, religious and antiquarian thought, natural history and the history of trivia. Previous meetings have been held at Birkbeck and Leeds. I have organised conferences on Poetics and Prose theory, on Time in Early Modern thought, Technology and Invention in the seventeenth century, Biblical Exegesis and a large scale event on The Bible in the Seventeenth Century. I am on the council of the Society for Renaissance Studies
My research looks at English Renaissance literature and the intellectual climate of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It focuses on the religious cultures of the period and the centrality of the Bible in early modern thought, in the history of reading and in the political language of the era. I came to York with a Leverhulme fellowship, to research a work entitled The Political Bible in Early Modern England, which looks at the cultural uses of the biblical kings and the Old Testament in the Renaissance. The work explores the scriptural ambivalence to and suspicion of monarchy and constitutes a reception history of the biblical texts on kingship across the seventeenth century. The study also provides an account of the biblical idiom of politics in the era.
Earlier work has addressed the religious, philosophical and political landscape of mid-century England, centred on the writings of Thomas Browne, a scholar and scientist with a bewildering range of interests. The book pays particular attention to his encyclopaedia of error, Pseudodoxia Epidemica (1646), and traces the intellectual conditions in which such disparate subject matter could cohere. I am the co-editor of The Word and The World: Biblical Exegesis and Early Modern Science (Palgrave, 2007), which addresses the curious engagement between biblical interpretation and natural philosophy in the intellectual history in the early modern era.
I teach courses in the Early Renaissance, Later Renaissance and Restoration Literature, on Milton, on Poetry and Poetics, and the Bible and Literature. At MA level I teach early modern Humanism, Shakespeare, and a module of intellectual history, Theories of Everything in Early Modern England, which addresses science and religion, encyclopaedism, the diffusion of the classical philosophy in early modern thought and a good deal of poetry (along with the hubris of doing all these things at once).
I would be happy to supervise research on: