Matthew Ritger

Assistant Professor
Academic Appointments

Assistant Professor, Department of English and Creative Writing

I specialize in English literature and culture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. My book project, Objects of Correction: Literature and the Making of Modern Punishment, examines how writers such as More, Shakespeare, and Milton engaged with the early penal reform movements of their time. Articles and essays have appeared in Renaissance Quarterly, English Literary History, and The Los Angeles Review of Books, among others. In 2020-2021, I look forward to teaching courses on Shakespeare (ENGL 15), academic writing (WRIT 5), and the history of sexuality (ENGL 63.03).

Curriculum Vitae
Ph.D. Princeton University
M.A. Princeton University
M.F.A. Cornell University
B.A. Dartmouth College

Works in Progress

Book Project

Objects of Correction:
English Literature and the Making of Modern Punishment

Beginning in the 1550s, institutions called ‘houses of correction’ opened a new era in England's efforts to both punish and reform the country's poorest and most criminalized subjects, centuries in advance of the penitentiary. Although these efforts by early prison reformers were quickly and widely seen as cruel failures, nevertheless the ideas, arguments and stories they promoted about the means of changing human behavior — what I call in this study the rhetoric of correction — proved an enduring success. By examining how writers including More, Shakespeare and Milton engaged with these institutions and these ideas, Objects of Correction constructs a critical history of the making of modern punishment. Ultimately, the project proposes "correction" as a third term for Renaissance literary theory, as one of the period's most important but least studied means of literary justification, beyond the familiar commonplaces of instruction and delight.