My teaching and research focus on early modern book history, poetry, and drama, including Milton and Shakespeare. After leaving Oxford, where I attended on a Rhodes Scholarship, I became a writer for Time magazine, and I continue to write for both scholarly and popular publications. My first book, The Poetics and Politics of Youth in Milton’s England, argues that concepts of youth and childhood crucially inform seventeenth-century debates over political and poetic voice. To be an infant implies silence, from the word’s Latin root infans – and as English authors embraced or resisted the idea of government by consent it became necessary to ask when silence ended and authoritative voice emerged. For authors such as Ben Jonson, Thomas Hobbes, and John Milton, I argue, this made coming of age the consummate political act.
My current research project continues to investigate the ways that writers and citizens form meaningful voices, but this time using the tools of network theory and analysis. Working with information scientists and software engineers, I’ve helped build Shakeosphere, an online tool that is mining and mapping nearly every written record in English before 1800, including major print and manuscript catalogues like the English Short Title Catalogue, OCLC-WorldCat, and EEBO-TCP. My book in progress, “Shakespeare’s Social Network,” will show how this networked approach reshapes our understanding of early modern literature, making it possible to understand the strength of weak ties and the role of displaced agency in authorship, influence, and the experience of reading.
I’m always happy to talk to students about scholarship opportunities, books, cultural politics, and basketball. You can find my articles for The New Republic, which sometimes include cameos by current students or colleagues, at my author page.