Graduate Studies

The strengths of Oxford lie not only in its diverse Faculty but also in its exceptional material resources. The Bodleian stands among the world's leading research libraries: alongside its virtually unrivalled holdings of printed books, the library contains large collections of manuscript prose and poetry which have yet to be fully charted. Manuscripts include collections in Latin, Greek, Hebrew, Irish, Arabic, Turkish, and Persian writing and autograph work by John Donne, John Milton, and Elizabeth I. In addition to the Bodleian, Oxford has many college libraries including integral collections that offer much unexplored evidence on the history of reading. The University also provides unusually generous access to electronic resources such as Early English Books On-Line, Eighteenth Century Collections On-Line, the new Oxford DNB, and databases on Shakespeare, Continental printed books, and women's history. With the 'sociology of texts' an ever more important area of study, Oxford offers unique resources and a productive culture for the emergence of new work. In addition to the Early Modern Literature Graduate Seminar, held every two weeks through the year, graduate students themselves run a Forum on early modern literature and there is a host of seminars with early modern interests throughout the university, from history to music to theology. For further information about research resources at Oxford follow this link.

Who's Here?

A list of relevant early modern postholders in Oxford can be found on the Who's Here page.

Research Interests

Faculty members have especially active interests in the following areas:

Oxford has a particular interest in the relationship between Literature and History and in Editing.

Literature and History

It was a historian, C. H. Firth, who helped to set up the Oxford English Faculty. Today, interdisciplinary approaches to literary study remain very strong, and cut across simple boundaries between 'old' and 'new' historicism. Diane Purkiss and Ros Ballaster have played leading roles in bringing the analysis of gender to traditional literary and political history. Richard McCabe’s work on Ireland engages with current debates about colonial and postcolonial discourse. Sally Mapstone’s work on medieval and early modern Scotland speaks to current interest in the 'new British history' as well as in the history of the book. Paulina Kewes and Bart van Es are exploring the relations between drama, poetry and historiography. Peter McCullough has helped to reshape our understanding of the politics of Jacobean preaching. Sharon Achinstein, David Norbrook, Tom Paulin and Diane Purkiss have intervened in current debates about the English Revolution, republicanism and the public sphere. Work by Achinstein, Ballaster and Abigail Williams is opening up new perspectives on the history and politics of the later seventeenth century.

Oxford offers superb resources for study in these areas. Take the Civil War: the city was actively involved in the struggle, whether as a royalist stronghold or the scene of Leveller mutinies. Milton presented copies of his poems and prose polemics to the Bodleian Library as a refuge for learning; outside the library his pamphlets were burned as seditious in 1683. Worcester College has the transcriptions of the 1647 Putney Debates which have influenced political debate down to the post-1945 epoch and beyond. The Bodleian’s holdings include Clarendon’s various drafts of his History of the Rebellion, Milton’s inscribed copy of his 1640s pamphlets, and the Carte collection of Irish materials. Illustrating the unusual intervention of women in public affairs at this time, there is a unique copy of a long tract by the prophetess Anna Trapnel.

Many seminars in English and in related Faculties have a strong interdisciplinary component. See for example the Centre for Early Modern British and Irish History.

Hester Biddle, 'Wo to thee, City of Oxford'

Hester Biddle, 'Wo to thee City of Oxford'.


Continuing the Oxford English Faculty’s long-standing interest in bibliography and book history, a number of important editorial projects are headed by Oxford faculty members:

  • The Oxford Edition of the Sermons of the John Donne (15 vols.), gen. ed. Peter McCullough. The first fully annotated edition of Donne’s 160 surviving sermons.
  • The Oxford Holinshed. This project will comprise (1) a complete annotated old-spelling edition of Holinshed's Chronicles, in 16 volumes; (2) a World's Classics modernised selection; and (3) The Holinshed Handbook, a volume of newly commissioned essays on the making, reception, and significance of the chronicles. The general editors of The Oxford Holinshed are Paulina Kewes (English Faculty), Ian Archer and Felicity Heal (History Faculty). The project will provide a valuable opportunity for interdisciplinary collaboration within Oxford and beyond. Faculty members who expressed interest in contributing to the edition are: Sally Mapstone, Richard McCabe, Marion Turner, and Bart van Es. Other Oxford scholars who will be involved either as volume editors or members of the Advisory Board include: Steven Gunn, John Maddicott, and John Watts (History); Diarmaid MacCulloch (Theology); and Christopher Pelling (Classics).
  • The Works of Lucy Hutchinson (4 vols., Oxford University Press), general editor David Norbrook. The first complete edition of Lucy Hutchinson’s works from their earliest sources.
  • The Complete Writings of Jonathan Swift (Cambridge University Press), general editor David Womersley

'Faculty members who have also edited or are editing volumes of major editions include: Sharon Achinstein (the Oxford Milton), Colin Burrow (the Cambridge Jonson), Katherine Duncan-Jones and John Pitcher (the Arden Shakespeare), Rhodri Lewis (the Oxford Bacon), Philip West (the Oxford Shirley).