My research into how Renaissance authors financed the printing of their books, published in Montaigne's Career (Oxford, 1998), has led to a more general interest in how historical contexts shape the forms of literary experience. This has given rise to two current projects.
The first, To Make Believe: Literature, Religion, and the Reformation,examines how personal struggles with doubt in the Renaissance formed one's personal religious culture. In particular, I am interested in how the 'suspension of disbelief' inherent in individuals' practice of faith contributed to the ways in which they read and wrote literature, and to developing the peculiarly hypothetical frame of mind that literature requires.
The second, Same River, Different Waters, undertakes a new biography of Montaigne inspired by recent studies in material culture. Extensively explored in court spectacles and theorized by the Academies that oversaw their production, the development of 'extreme' artistic techniques that appealed to irrational impulses rather than calm reason constituted the poetic, musical, and artistic avant-garde from 1570 to 1610.
In a future course, I would like to follow the migration of these techniques from court-sponsored events to, paradoxically, works that contested the Court, particularly those by d'Aubigné and Shakespeare. In addition, Cambridge University Press has commissioned me to write a new biography of Montaigne.
Recent and Selected Publications
"Doubles, Crosses (Heptameron 71)," Approaches to Teaching Marguerite de Navarre, ed. Collette Winn (New York: MLA, 2007), 102-5.
"Montaigne's Nudes: The Lost Tower Paintings Rediscovered," Meaning and Its Objects: Material Culture in Medieval and Renaissance France, ed. Margaret J. Burland, Andrea W. Tarnowski, and David P. LaGuardia, Yale French Studies 110 (2006), 122-33.
"The Investigation of Nature," The Cambridge Companion to Montaigne, ed. Ullrich Langer (Cambridge: Cambridge UP, 2005), 163-82.
"Anatomy of the Mass: Montaigne's 'Of cannibals,'" Publications of the Modern Language Association 117: 2 (2002), 207-21.
Montaigne's Career. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1998.
>>summary and reviews of Montaigne's Career
Recent graduate courses taught:
Theory and Criticism of the Secular
Marguerite de Navarre
Recent undergraduate courses taught:
Assassins and Usurpers: Ambition in the Renaissance
The Devil Within: Demonic Possession & Self-Possession
France and the New World
Turns of Life: Diversions, Conversions, Perversions
The Jealous Imagination
Betrayal and Deceit: Early Modern Masks of Sincerity