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I specialize in English literature and culture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I am particularly interested in connections between historical literature and its wider world, especially moments when renaissance poetry or drama helped to articulate alternative political ideas. I am currently working on a book about what writers such as William Shakespeare and John Milton had to say about England's houses of correction, which were some of the early modern period's first reformist prisons.
Objects of Correction: Literature, Humanism, and the House of Correction
Beginning in the 1550s, institutions called houses of correction opened a new era in English efforts to 'set the poor on work,' by introducing hard labor and work-training as punishments for minor crimes. Centuries in advance of the penitentiary, these new 'correctional' workhouses were quickly seen as cruel failures, and yet the ideas, arguments and stories they promoted about the means of reforming human behavior have had long-lasting effects. By examining how writers including More, Shakespeare, and Milton engaged with these institutions and their ideas, Objects of Correction constructs a cultural history of the humanist prison in its earliest form. At the same time, the project revives "correction" as a term for renaissance literary theory, as one of the period's important but least studied means of justification, beyond the familiar commonplaces of instruction and delight.