Current Research

Bookshelves Full of Rare Books

Addiction and Devotion in Early Modern England (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018).

In the sixteenth century, the word “addiction” designated, according to the Oxford English Dictionary, “an inclination” or “a devotion.” By the eighteenth century, the word takes on its modern signification: “the compulsion and need to continue taking a drug,” a usage that first appears in 1779 in the work of Samuel Johnson. In accounting for these contradictory but related understandings of addiction as devotion or compulsion, this book project offers three insights. First, it uncovers an early modern understanding of addiction to alcohol, evident in medical, theological and literary texts, at least a century earlier than medical historians and lexicographers have posited. Second, and more surprisingly, this project illuminates a previously-buried conception of addiction as a form of devotion at once laudable, difficult, extraordinary, and even heroic. Surveying the sixteenth century invocations of addiction reveals that one might be addicted to study, friendship, love, or God. Finally, this project illuminates how authors, especially the playwrights Marlowe and Shakespeare, embed their own views of inspiration and creation within their interrogations of addiction, as both a form of speech and as a mode of devotion or compulsion: the authors under investigation in this project directly relate the experience of being overwhelmed by an immaterial or increasingly material form of devotion to the experience of the theatre.


King Richard III: Language and Writing (Bloomsbury Arden Shakespeare, 2018).

Shakespeare’s King Richard III presents a masterful study in the language of deception and manipulation in the character of Richard who lies, persuades and kills on his path to the throne. This study guide provides insight into the rhetoric of key speeches and pays specific attention to the changing perceptions of Richard III in history and art. The final section focuses on giving students the necessary tools and skills needed for writing effective and comprehensive essays.


Series Editor: Dympna Callaghan, William Safire Professor of Modern Letters, Syracuse University, USA.

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