B.A., Wellesley College; M.Phil, St. John’s College (Oxford University); Ph.D., Harvard University
Sarah Wall-RandellAssociate Professor of English
Interests include Renaissance literature, book history, and the history and theory of literary genre.
My research has explored representations of books and reading in English literature of the late 16th and early 17th centuries, particularly in poems, plays, and fictions that are part of the heterogeneous genre known as romance. While I draw on recent archival research that examines the material evidence of Renaissance reading practices, I argue that materiality is not just a circumstance but also a major concern of these romance texts, which address the complex nature of books as objects, both physical and metaphysical, both medium and message. Focusing on Spenser, Marlowe, Shakespeare, Wroth, and early translations of Cervantes, I contend that books in these texts serve as instruments for understanding not the world outside, but worlds within—memory, the self, the space of the mind. I have also worked on the history of editing practices, women's autobiographical writing, and the afterlives of the classical Sibyls—all in the context of Renaissance English literature.
I teach a broad selection of Renaissance literatures, including Shakespeare, 16th- and 17th-century literature, and Milton; I sometimes get to reach back into the medieval period with a course on the King Arthur legend. Some of my favorite authors to teach are the pre-Shakespearean dramatists Lyly and Kyd, and the poets Spenser and Donne. I have recently led special-topics seminars on the court culture of Queen Elizabeth I and the literature and visual art she inspired, and on the idea of the garden in medieval and Renaissance literature. I also enjoy teaching Wellesley’s first-year writing course, as combined with the English department’s introductory course on critical analysis. Helping students with the intertwined tasks of closely reading and writing about poetry—as they learn to pay rapt attention to the details of lyric language and learn to transform observation into argument—is work I find deeply engaging and rewarding.
I participate regularly in meetings of the Shakespeare Association of America, the Renaissance Society of America, and the Group on Early Modern Cultural Studies, and in seminars at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C. I am an active member of Harvard Humanities Center colloquia on Shakespeare and on early modern women. At Wellesley, I am the co-founder of the Newhouse Humanities Center Working Group on Medieval and Early Modern Form, and I have been the coordinator of the Junior Faculty Research Seminar.
As a complement to my scholarly work on dramatic literature, I am also interested in the practice of theater in performance. I have served as a dramaturg (literary and historical consultant) to community and small professional theaters in Boston.