English & Creative Writing
B.A., Wellesley College; M.Phil, Oxford University (St. John's College); Ph.D., Harvard University
Sarah Wall-RandellProfessor of English; Faculty Director, Pforzheimer Learning and Teaching Center
Interests include Renaissance literature, book history, and the history and theory of literary genre.
I work on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century literature, the history of media, and the ways in which texts and their contents have been handed down through time. I’m currently studying women as transmitters of texts, specifically the sixteenth-century writer Mary, Countess of Pembroke. The sister of the celebrated poet Sir Philip Sidney, she’s been recognized for her work as a translator and as a faithful curator of her brother’s legacy, but I’m interested in her original writing and in the ways she may have changed, rather than simply preserved, the works of Sidney that she edited and published. An essay from this project has appeared in Women’s Labour and the History of the Book in Early Modern England, ed. Valerie Wayne (Bloomsbury, 2020).
My first book, The Immaterial Book: Reading and Romance in Early Modern England, examined how the print revolution was filtered through fiction, in scenes of reading by Spenser, Shakespeare, Cervantes, and Mary Wroth. I’ve also published essays on editing early modern women’s writing, reading as introspection, Renaissance indexes, the Bible as a stage-prop, and paper ghosts. I am editing Christopher Marlowe’s translation of Lucan’s Imperial Roman war poem De Bello Civili for the forthcoming Oxford Marlowe: Collected Works. I’m also interested in the history of student Shakespeare societies and early student performance of Renaissance drama at historically women’s colleges, such as Wellesley.
One of my favorite things about teaching at Wellesley is that I get to cover so many different areas: poetry, prose, and drama; Shakespeare, Spenser, and Milton; the sonnet craze of the 1590s, the fluid gender expressions of romantic comedy, the evolution of forms like epic, pastoral, and elegy; the Arthurian legend and twenty-first century Shakespeare films. I’ve created courses such as “Renaissance Literature and the History of Media” (Eng 222, special topic) and “Nonbinary Gender on the Renaissance Stage” (Eng 325, special topic). I also frequently teach, and love, first-year writing.
An important part of my academic life at Wellesley is collaborating with other faculty, especially in the Book Studies Initiative. Some of my most vivid learning experiences here have happened while making paper, setting type, deciphering Renaissance handwriting, or learning what kinds of security devices sixteenth-century letter-writers used to protect their data. I’m also part of Medieval & Renaissance Studies, an interdisciplinary program focused on understanding the history and culture of the world from roughly 500 to 1700 CE, and how we are still, in the present, interpreting and building on the legacy of that time.
When not researching or teaching, I am sometimes serving as a stage manager or dramaturg for community and small professional theatres in the Boston area, and always trying to instill my own love of books and reading in my two daughters.