Eric Ensley

Eric Ensley's picture
6th Year
Areas of Interest: 

book history; manuscript studies; print culture; librarianship; material theory; medieval studies; early modern studies

Dissertation Topic: 

Thomas Hoccleve’s Poetic Matter: Object, text, and the formulation of self

Advisors: Jessica Brantley, Alastair Minnis, Ardis Butterfield

B.A., Classics and History: Columbia University
M.S. in Library Science: University of North Carolina
M.A.: North Carolina State


I am a book historian who studies the intersections of matter, text, and identity. My dissertation argues that objects like books, seals, and coins served as powerful tools for constructing and doubting self in the late medieval and early modern period. Drawing upon medieval and modern critical and material theory, my research suggests that even in early periods, matter was seen as mutable and unstable, connoting stability and rupture. I have taught extensively in book history and literature, having designed and taught several times the course “What is a book?,” which questions the limits and qualities of what we mean when we talk about object and text.

United with my dissertation work, I am actively interested in librarianship, particularly in increasing accessibility to and the visibility of rare materials. Together with Professor Ian Cornelius at Loyola University, Chicago, I am the editor of Beinecke Library, Takamiya MS 23, an early modern copy of Piers Plowman, that will appear in the Piers Plowman Electronic Archive. Likewise, I have worked extensively in the Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library. I was a curator for the building-wide Making the Medieval English Manuscript exhibition in 2017, which celebrated the Beinecke’s acquisition of Toshi Takamiya’s medieval manuscripts with a conference and 150-item exhibition on the book in late medieval England (digital version: I have also worked as a cataloger to describe, digitize, and increase accessibility to the library’s numerous medieval fragments.