Milton and Shakespeare; the reception of the classics, especially Virgil and Ovid, in the Renaissance; the poetry of Abraham Cowley; Renaissance European literature, classical literature; the gothic novel; cannibalism.
Milton’s Poetical Thought (Oxford University Press, 2021)
Milton and the Metamorphosis of Ovid (Oxford University Press, 2012)
Recipient of the 2012 James Holly Hanford Award given by the Milton Society of America for a distinguished monograph on Milton.
The Rise of the Gothic Novel. (Routledge, 1995)
From Communion to Cannibalism: An Anatomy of Metaphors of Incorporation. (Princeton University Press, 1990)
Dantean Dialogues: Engaging with the Legacy of Amilcare Iannucci, co-edited with Elena Lombardi (University of Toronto Press, 2013)
Articles and Chapters
“On First Looking into Milton’s Shakespeare,” Milton Studies 65.1 2023:7-31.
“Shakespeare and Classical War,” in The Cambridge Companion to Shakespeare and War. Ed. David Loewenstein and Paul Stevens (Cambridge University Press, 2021)
"The Pleasure of Milton,” Milton Studies 63.1 2021: 1-10.
“Harnessing Angels: The Patterns of Rhyme in Milton’s Nativity Ode.” Milton Quarterly 54.1. 2020: 41-53.
“In the Sibyl’s Cave: Vergilian Prophecy and Mary Shelley’s Last Man.” Walking Through Elysium: Aeneid 6 and the Poetics of Tradition. Eds. Bill Gladhill and Micah Young Myers. Cambridge University Press, 2020: 62-76.
“Cowley’s Epic Experiments,” in Royalists and Royalism in 17th-Century Literature: Exploring Abraham Cowley. Philip Major ed. Routledge, 2019: 93-123.
“Growing Up with Virgil.” With Wandering Steps: Generative Irresolution in Milton’s Poetry. Ed. Mary Fenton and Louis Schwartz. Duquesne University Press, 2016: 132-58.
“Virgilianisms and Ovidianisms.” The Oxford History of Classical Reception in English Literature Volume 2. Ed. Patrick Cheney and Philip Hardie. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015: 517-38.
“Importing the Ovidian Muse to England.” The Afterlife of Ovid (BICS Supplement 130). Ed. Peter Mack and John North. London: Institute of Classical Studies, 2015: 181-202.
“Odd Coupling: Hercules and Oedipus in Paradise Regain’d and Samson Agonistes.” Milton Studies 56, 2015, 75-114.
“The Poetics of Time: The Fasti in the Renaissance.” A Handbook to the Reception of Ovid. Ed. John F. Miller and Carole E. Newlands. Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2014: 217-31.
“Classical Models.” The Cambridge Companion to Paradise Lost. Ed. Louis Schwartz. Cambridge University Press, 2014: 57-67.
“Dante’s Ovidian Doubling,” in Dantean Dialogues: Engaging with the Legacy of Amilcare Iannucci. pp. 174-214.
“Satanic Envy and Classical Emulation” in Their Maker’s Image: New Essays on John Milton. Ed. Louis Schwarz and Mary Fenton, Susquehanna UP, 2011: 46-62.
“New Spins on Old Rotas: Virgil, Ovid, Milton,” in Classical Literary Careers and their Reception. Ed Helen Moore and Philip Hardie: Cambridge UP, 2010: 179-96.
"Satan and the Wrath of Juno." English Literary History 75: 2008:653-71.
"Heroic Contradictions: Samson and the Death of Turnus." Texas Studies in Literature and Language. 50.2: 2008: 201-34.
"Changing Ovid" in Metamorphosis: The Changing Face of Ovid in Medieval and Early Modern Europe. Ed. Alison Keith and Stephen Rupp., 2007: 267-83.
"'One Immortality': The Shaping of the Shelleys in The Last Man." European Romantic Review 16.5. 2005: 563-88.
"'Thy perfect image viewing': Poetic Creation and Ovid's Narcissus in Paradise Lost." Studies in Philology 102.3, summer 2005: 307-39.
"Eve and Flora" (Paradise Lost 5.15-16), Milton Quarterly 38:1, 2004: 1-17.
"Writing on Water," ELR 29.2, 1999: 282-305.
"The Function of Cannibalism at the Present Time," in Cannibalism and the Colonial World, 1998: 238-60.
"Vampiric Arts: Bram Stoker's Defence of Poetry," in Bram Stoker: History, Psychoanalysis and the Gothic, 1998: 47-61.
"Dr. Frankenstein Meets Dr. Freud," American Gothic: New Interventions in a National Narrative, 1998: 40-57.
"On Cannibals and Critics: An Exploration of James de Mille's Strange Manuscript." Mosaic 30.1, 1997.
"Comus's Wood of Allusion." University of Toronto Quarterly 61.3, 1992: 316-33.
Reviews and Outreach
I am member of the editorial boards in the two journals in my field, Milton Quarterly and Milton Studies, for which I regularly review submissions. As part of the review board also for McGill-Queen’s Press, I read reports on manuscripts on everything from Presbyterian Church history through studies of land management in 19th-century Germany to classics of queer cinema. I find this work stimulating; it keeps me up to date in developments in the larger world of scholarship. As someone who grew up loving nursery rhymes and children’s verse, I am a passionate advocate for literature, above all poetry. The humanities are too easily attacked these days as irrelevant, “low-value” subjects compared to STEM or business (according to the current British PM), that lead to dead-end careers. But literature is a precious form of knowledge, a way of seeing and understanding the world around us, others, and indeed ourselves. It is even more needed today in a world which dangerously measures things by reductive standards of relevance and economic value. Today all teachers and indeed lovers of literature must stand up for the importance of poetic truth. I have organized a blog and discussions, written op-eds for the Montreal Gazette, as well as a book on the value of poetry as a form of knowing: Milton’s Poetical Thought (OUP 2021).
Teaching in Italy!
- Visiting Fellow Commoner, Trinity College, Cambridge, 2022
- Visiting Fellow, All Souls College Oxford, 2017
- Royal Society of Canada Fellow, 2015
- James Holly Hanford Prize, Milton Society of America
- Principal’s Prize for Excellence in Teaching
- Louis Dudek Award for Excellence in Teaching
- SSHRC Research Grants
- SSHRC Postdoctoral Fellowship
Although I have also supervised a number of graduate theses on the gothic and 19th-century writers, my current research projects mean that I especially welcome students working on Milton or 17th-century writers, including the long-neglected Abraham Cowley for whom I have great affection. I also work with students interested in classical reception, especially the legacy of the fantastic Ovid.
Though my intellectual development has taken many odd twists and turns, my work explores questions of identity, creativity, literary history, and the concept of tradition. In my books and essays I have traced the representation of the cannibal from the ancient world to the present, and followed the reception of ancient literature through the 17th to 19th centuries. I have written on classical literature, contemporary film, the 18th century- and contemporary gothic, 16th-century drama and 17th-century poetry. I find changing directions and orientation stimulating and intellectually renewing. At the same time, I always find myself returning to the writings of John Milton, in many ways the pivotal figure in English literature. Milton fulfills and reinterprets the classics in a way that prepared the way for almost all literary developments since: the novel, Romantic poetry, gothic literature, sci fi, drama, children’s literature, even graphic novels. He is at the centre of an English creative tradition which is not fixed and monumental but is always being remade and pushed in new directions. After more than 30 years of reading him I find him endlessly exciting and, for a dead guy, astonishingly surprising.
My most recent book was a polemic aimed at a general audience on Milton’s Poetical Thought (OUP 2021), in which I used Milton to defend the value of literature today. While finishing a chapter for a collection on the classical hero Hercules, I am working on two more major Milton projects: a new edition of the poetry and selected prose of Milton for Oxford University Press, and a SSHRCC-funded monograph on Milton and Shakespeare and their role in literary history, Milton After Shakespeare. Although the writers are often paired as the two giants of English Renaissance literature, their relation has been surprisingly unexplored. In literary history, however, Shakespeare and Milton have come to represent contrasting models of the author: the natural genius vs. the learned craftsman, the playwright vs. the epic poet. My research questions this opposition, showing its distorting effect on our understanding of both authors and also on the development of English literature. I examine how Milton draws on Shakespearean language, images, and concepts, and creates a modern epic full of realistic characters who are as dramatic and dynamic as Hamlet. The exciting identification of Milton’s copy of the first folio in 2019 makes this timely work.