Fellow of the Volkswagen Stiftung and the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation
August 2015 – June 2016
Time Out of Mind: The Poetics of Custom and Common Law in Renaissance England
Stephanie Elsky received her Ph.D. from the University of Pennsylvania and is an Assistant Professor of English Literature at the University of Wisconsin, Madison. Her current book project, tentatively entitled “Time Out of Mind: The Poetics of Custom and Common Law in Renaissance England,” focuses on the relationship between literary and legal authority in sixteenth-century England and Ireland. It argues that custom, one of the foundations of England’s common law, also had a profoundly poetic life, one sparked by the figurative and imaginative appeal of its existence since “time immemorial.” Sixteenth-century writers pursued custom’s fictive potential in multiple genres, perceiving its value in justifying a range of poetic experiments, and in doing so they shed light on urgent political and legal questions that center on custom, including the source of sovereign authority both within and beyond the boundaries of their native land and the possibilities of indigenous resistance. Long before custom played a crucial role in the parliamentary debates of the seventeenth century, these writers explored its radical potential to reconfigure the sources and contours of authority.
Stephanie Elsky's work has appeared or is forthcoming in a number of journals, including English Literary Renaissance, Spenser Studies, Studies in Philology, and Law, Culture and the Humanities. Her research interests include sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English and European literature; law and literature; the Renaissance reception of the classical past; the early history of colonialism; and medieval and early modern women writers. At UW-Madison, Stephanie teaches courses on Renaissance poetry and poetics; Shakespeare; early modern law and literature; and gender in early modern literature.