Catherine Nicholson

Assistant Professor of English

Address: LC 414
Phone: 203-432-2243
CV | Office hours

Ph.D., University of Pennsylvania, 2008
M.Phil., Cambridge University, 2002
B.A., Williams College, 2000

My teaching focuses on Renaissance literature—especially the poetry, prose, and drama of sixteenth-century England.  I love the teaching I do in the two semesters of “Major English Poets,” but I have a perverse attraction to writers who, for a variety of interesting and complicated reasons, aren’t part of the mainstream of literary tradition—which is why I’m now offering a junior seminar called “Minor English Poets.”  The same attraction to excess and oddity is behind my book, Uncommon Tongues: Eloquence and Eccentricity in Sixteenth-Century England (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014).  Uncommon Tongues looks at the so-called “triumph of English” in the late sixteenth-century through the eyes of contemporary readers, writers, and critics—many of whom saw in the new vernacular literature not the dawning of national identity and linguistic community but the alarming (and exciting) estrangement of English from itself.  My current book project, Reading and Not Reading The Faerie Queene, explores the powerfully disorienting effect of Edmund Spenser’s poem on readers in the sixteenth century and throughout history.  It’s a study of how one poem turns hermeneutic failure into a precondition of readerly satisfaction—and, by doing so, calls into question the ideals of attention and understanding on which the discipline of modern literary criticism is founded.  I’m also at work on an essay on Renaissance pastoral and an essay on Francis Meres’ Palladis Tamia.


Uncommon Tongues: Eloquence and Eccentricity in Sixteenth-Century England (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2014); awarded Yale’s Heyman Prize for Outstanding Publication by a Junior Faculty Member

“‘Working Words’?: Marlowe and the Limits of Rhetoric,” Marlowe in Context, ed. Emily Bartels and Emma Smith (Cambridge University Press, 2013).

“Englishing Eloquence: Vernacular Rhetorics and Poetics,” The Oxford Handbook of Renaissance Prose, ed. Andrew Hadfield (Oxford University Press, 2013)

“Commonplace Shakespeare: Value, Vulgarity, and the Poetics of Increase in Shake-speare’s Sonnets and Trolius and Cressida,” The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare’s Poetry and Poetics, ed. Jonathan Post (Oxford University Press, 2013)

Othello and the Geography of Persuasion,” English Literary Renaissance 40:1 (Winter 2010); awarded the 2010 prize for best article in ELR

“Pastoral in Exile: Spenser and the Poetics of English Alienation,” Spenser Studies 23 (2008)

UNDERGRADUATE COURSES: Major English Poets, Early Modern Theaters of Strangeness, Ovid’s English Renaissance, Spenser, Minor English Poets, Shakespeare: Comedies and Romances.

GRADUATE COURSES: Spenser and the Sixteenth Century.