Professor Lorna Hutson

I work on the literature of the early modern period partly because I like it and partly because I want to understand more about the relationship between that period’s literary achievements and its ‘early modernity’. My first book was on relations between economics, festivity and rhetorical copiousness in the prose of Thomas Nashe (Thomas Nashe in Context, 1989). In The Usurer’s Daughter (1994), I turned my attention to the representation of women within the changing relations of credit, patronage and friendship between men who write. This work led me towards legal history. In 2000, I collaborated with Professor Victoria Kahn at UC Berkeley to edit Rhetoric and Law in Early Modern Europe, a collection that began to open out this new interdisciplinary field of study.

Connections between literary and legal writing in the early modern period are particularly illuminating because of the dependence of both law and poetics on forensic rhetoric – that is, on techniques of proof and evidence. I have written about these connections in a number of articles in the journal Representations The Invention of Suspicion: Law and Mimesis in Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama (2007). My work in forensic rhetoric has led to a new interpretation of Shakespeare’s innovations with offstage space and time in Circumstantial Shakespeare (2015). I have edited the Oxford Handbook of English Law and Literature, 1500-1700, an interdisciplinary collection that aims to re-integrate the study of literary, legal and political writing in the early modern period.

I have always been interested in women’s writing as well as in the cultural work of gender. I have written on Aemilia Lanyer, Isabella Whitney and Katherine Phillips. In 1999 I edited the collection Feminism and Renaissance Studies (OUP). I have also written quite a bit on Ben Jonson and have edited his notebook, Discoveries (1641), for the Cambridge Complete Works. At the moment, I am working on a Leverhulme-funded project, Shakespeare’s Scotland, which involves thinking about Anglo-Scots literary, legal and historical imagining of the two realms throughout the sixteenth century. Here I am interested in the way in the Anglo-Scots ‘wars of historiography’ mutate in the course of the sixteenth century, both in English drama and Scots poetry. 

I would be very keen to supervise DPhil students in any of the areas outlined here.

I teach all genres of literature 1500-1700.

In 2016-17 I am convener, with Professor Emma Smith, of the MSt in English Literature 1550-1700.

Previous Positions Held

2004-2016 Berry Chair of English Literature, University of St Andrews

2000-2004 Professor of English Literature, University of California at Berkeley

1998-2000 Professor of English Literature, University of Hull

1994-1998 Reader in Renaissance Studies, Queen Mary University of London

1986-1994 Lecturer in English Literature, Queen Mary University of London


Fellowships, Learned Societies, Prizes, Service

2016 Elected Fellow of the British Academy

2013-17 Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship, ‘Shakespeare’s Scotland, 1503-1616’

2008-2011 Head of School of English, University of St Andrews

2008 Roland Bainton Prize for Literature for The Invention of Suspicion

2004-5 Guggenheim Fellowship

2002 Humanities Research Fellowship, UC Berkeley

1995 Research Fellow, Folger Institute, Washington DC

1995 Research Fellow, Huntington Library, San Marino, CA


Advisory Boards, Editorships, Directorships

Director, with Adam Smyth, of CEMS, the Centre for Early Modern Studies at Oxford

Co-founder and director of CMEMLL, the Centre for Mediaeval and Early Modern Law and Literature, University of St Andrews

Corresponding editor of the journal, Representations

Advisory board of the Thomas Nashe Project

Editor of monograph series, Edinburgh Critical Studies in Renaissance Culture


  • Rhetoric and Law

  • The Shakespearean unscene: Sexual phantasies in A Midsummer's Night's Dream

  • Circumstantial Shakespeare

  • ‘ “I will conclude / Out of the circumstances”: Proof and Probability in The Devil is an Ass’

  • '"Lively Evidence”: Legal inquiry and the Evidentia of Shakespearean Drama’

  • More
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