Before coming to Aberdeen, I studied at Oxford and Princeton and taught at Leeds. My research focusses on the Renaissance reception of classical literature, and particularly how C16th and C17th English poets used classical imitation and allusion to reflect on contemporary events and the political issues of their day. Of the books I have published so far, the first and last explore these questions in relation to Edmund Spenser, the epic poet commonly viewed as an 'arse-kissing' propagandist for Elizabeth I (in Karl Marx's memorable phrase). They show that Spenser’s persistent imitation of the irreverent love poet and political exile Ovid, and his nuanced and revisionary engagement with the Augustan laureate Virgil, reveal far more critical political views, and a radically independent sense of poetry's social role and relation to power. The most recent of these books, Spenser and Virgil: The Pastoral Poems, was awarded the Isabel MacCaffrey Award by the International Spenser Society.
In between these publications, my book on Herrick and Fanshawe investigates the different ways in which two royalist lyric poets used classical imitation for political ends in the period leading up to the Civil Wars in the following century. I have also published articles on Gascoigne, Sidney, Spenser, Jonson, Herrick and Fanshawe, as well as chapters in several volumes in the Oxford Handbook series and the Cambridge 'In Context' series. While my past work focusses mainly on English imitation of Roman poets, I am currently working on various aspects of the reception of Greek literature, with ongoing projects on Shelley's Hellenism, Euhemeristic approaches to Greek myth from Boccaccio to Milton, and Renaissance ideas about Orpheus and Orphism.
Together with my colleague David Wheatley, I direct the Herbert Grierson Research Centre, which has hosted several international conferences on classical reception in recent years. Beyond the University of Aberdeen, I am the Scottish Representative for the Society for Renaissance Studies and contributing editor for the online journal Spenser Review.
I welcome enquiries from students interested in postgraduate research on Renaissance poetry, especially anyone interested in focussing on poetry and politics, or classical imitation and intertextuality.