Legible Ecologies: Animals, Vegetables, and Readers in Early Modern England


Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowships




This dissertation traces the rhetorical value of flora and fauna in the production of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English texts. Reniassance readers lived close to the natural resources used to make paper, ink, and bindings. Literary metaphors and puns suggest that these readers recognized the presence of animal and plant ingredients visible in their books and that this “textual ecology” inflected reading practices and literary interpretation. This project examines original texts from Renaissance England and, through unique collaboration with book conservators and rare book librarians, recovers a working understanding of the textual ecology that was legible to Renaissance readers. It then re-examines the literary and material roles of nature in works including Shake-speare’s sonnets (1609), revealing the rhetorical interplay of words and matter in Renaissance texts.