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In my research and teaching, I focus on 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 and drama helped to articulate alternative political ideas. I am currently working on a book about what writers including Thomas More, Shakespeare and 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:
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 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 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 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.