Our staff members have various research interests. Below is a short description of the different research activities of our professors and their teams.
We are a dedicated group of teacher-scholars who enjoy preparing future high school teachers and aspiring academics in our field. Our course offerings reflect our areas of specialization including American poetry, Modernist women writers, and Southern and Western regional literature. We also offer classes in environmental, Native American, African American, and postcolonial studies. We see teaching and research as closely interconnected.
We contribute to the international scope of American studies by regularly inviting guest lecturers, welcoming Fulbright visitors and writers as well as organizing international colloquia. Prof. Austenfeld and our doctoral students regularly present conference papers and publish in journals in our discipline. We encourage our students to study abroad and to write their BA or MA thesis on the subject that has most captivated their imagination. We emphasize creative thinking and analytical writing skills. If you are passionate about American Studies, we look forward to welcoming you.
Professor Elisabeth Dutton heads the Early Drama at Oxford project, which looks at plays written and performed in Oxford Colleges between 1485 and 1642. It is the first project to look at these plays, which comprise one of the most significant bodies of drama written and performed before the professional playhouses were built, and which continued parallel to the early professional playhouse drama (most notably Shakespeare, of course). EDOX researchers employ archival, literary and performance-based approaches in order to illuminate the nature of Oxford plays and their range of historical functions. Our project has received funding from the British Academy, the John Fell Fund of the University of Oxford, and most recently from the Swiss National Science Foundation. In Prof. Dutton's graduate seminars, students can look at some of these plays, many of which have not been read, and certainly not staged, for centuries.
Prof. Dutton is also Principal Investigator for the SNSF-funded project ‘Medieval Convent Drama’, working with Co-Investigator Dr Liv Robinson. This project explores important but academically neglected evidence of female performance in the medieval period: plays written and performed by nuns. This tradition existed in England but limited material survives: there is more evidence, including scripts, from France and the Low Countries, and the project examines this, and seeks new evidence, to illuminate the English medieval tradition. Plays are again studied and staged, with attention to the use of sacred space and song: performances will be held in the convents of Fribourg as well as in the UK.
Prof. Dutton also heads the multilingual Shakespeare project that gets students involved in translation, performance, backstage management, publicity. The performances of ’Swiss Shakespeare' have been very popular and successful and students have performed in Fribourg, Lausanne (at the Lausanne Shakespeare Festival) and London, where they presented to great acclaim at Senate House, and at the King’s College, London, as part of the Shakespeare 400 Festival. Graduate students have also presented academic papers about multilingualism and Shakespeare at the European Shakespeare Research Association.
To sum up: perhaps the most distinctive thing Prof. Dutton and her team can offer to graduate students is the opportunity to work on the drama which happened before Shakespeare, and in institutions other than theatres during Shakespeare’s career — and to all students including undergraduates the opportunity to be involved in exploring early drama on the page but also in performance.
Early Modern English Literature
Our research on early modern literature encompasses a wide variety of different approaches and fields, such as the history of political thought, science, religion, book history, translation, and gender studies. However, the common denominator in our work is a deep interest in the richness of literary texts and the ways in which meaning is produced in interaction with specific cultural, political, and material contexts.
Prof. Kilian Schindler’s research on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literature is grounded in intellectual history, the history of political thought (resistance theory, constitutionalism, etc.), religious dissent, and the religious conflicts of post-Reformation England. His recent monograph, entitled Religious Dissimulation and Early Modern Drama: The Limits of Toleration (Cambridge University Press 2023), investigates the dramatic representation of Nicodemism, that is, dissembling one’s religious faith in order to avoid persecution, in the dramatic works of Shakespeare and his contemporaries. He is also co-editor a new critical edition of Sebastian Castellio’s De haereticis an sint persequendi (On Heretics and Whether They Are to Be Persecuted) (Schwabe 2023), a milestone in the history of religious toleration, first published in 1554. Further research interests include translation and the politics of literary form, on which Kilian Schindler has written in essays on translations of Niccolò Machiavelli’s Il Principe and John Milton’s Paradise Lost, respectively.
Dr. Honor Jackson’s research in early modern English literature, with a particular interest in seventeenth-century texts, is characterised by a focus on gender studies and political history, as well as an interest in adaptation, genre and the malleability of generic boundaries. Her PhD thesis, ‘Gender, Politics and the Utopian Impulse in Late Seventeenth-Century English Literature' investigated utopian texts produced between 1660 and 1686 and demonstrated the insight they can provide into relations between the sexes, the position of women in politics and society, the hopes and fears of contemporary authors and citizens, and the development of the genre of utopian literature. Her other research interests include female authorship, book history, travel writing, and early modern scientific discourse. She has published articles related to her research interests in venues such as Shakespeare Jahrbuch and Cahiers Élisabéthains.
English Linguistics: PragLab (Pragmatics Lab)
Looking at real English data drawn from a variety of sources, we specialise in the scientific study of meaning production and interpretation. Our scientific focus is on the cognitive processes involved in the elaboration of meaning in everyday uses of the English language(s).
We are particularly interested in deceptive and persuasive communication. We also conduct research on the way people construct and evaluate arguments to negotiate standpoints, in the way they talk about space, or the way they use the language figuratively for instance in humorous exchanges. A further line of investigation looks at meaning elaboration in English as a foreign language (EFL).
Our students learn how to build theories about linguistic processes involved in the calculation of meaning and they learn how to assess these theories experimentally through the systematic collection of empirical data using controlled experimental designs.
Our expertise lies in the fields of pragmatics, semantics and argumentation theory / rhetoric and we combine experimental as well as discourse analytic approaches to evaluate our models against real English data.
Modern English Literature
The field of Modern English Literature is led by Prof. Dr. Julia Straub, who joined the Department of English in August 2020. Julia Straub’s current research focuses on the relationship between contemporary English literature and digital technologies, but among her many other research topics are text/image relationships (especially in the 19th century), the Victorian reception of Dante Alighieri’s works, transatlantic literary studies, melodrama as an intermedial mode of expression, theories of cultural memory and canon formation, print and media history in the early Atlantic world, and theories of authenticity.
All these topics have in common that they reflect just how porous literature is when it comes to other media and forms of artistic expression, new technologies, intercultural translation and geographic circulation.