Photo of Wendy Hyman
  • Associate Professor of English and Comparative Literature
Contact

Education

  • BA, Smith College, 1997
  • MA, Harvard University, 2000
  • PhD, Harvard University, 2005

Biography

My research and teaching interests focus on 16th- and 17th-century poetry and drama, especially in relation to intellectual history, the history of science and technology, Renaissance art and visual culture, and classical mythology. My work is most often animated by attempts to articulate how literature represents—and even creates—new forms of knowledge.

I offer a wide variety of courses. English Renaissance literature is my primary focus, but many of my classes also count toward comparative literature, theater, Classics, and gender, sexuality, and feminist studies.

Almost all of my classes include field trips and “labs” in the Allen Memorial Art Museum, Special Collections in Oberlin College Library in Mudd Center, the Clarence Ward Art Library, the Oberlin College Letterpress Studio, and or the museums, galleries, and theaters of Cleveland.

I love teaching classes that put primary sources in students’ hands, and in which knowledge is generated collaboratively, so I rely on experimental pedagogies as well as lecture and discussion. My students have transcribed 17th-century recipe books, curated a show with me at the AMAM, printed their own letterpressed sonnets, composed music to accompany Donne poems and a site-specific installation based on Ovid’s Metamorphoses, undertaken DH-supported rhetorical analyses of the Royal Society’s corpus, kept commonplace books, and more.

Every other January, I lead an iinternational winter-term trip called Shakespeare in Italy, generously subsidized by the Oberlin College Julie Taymor ‘74 Fund for World Culture.

I have just completed two book manuscripts. The first is called Impossible Desire: Seizing Knowledge and Time in Renaissance Erotic Literature, currently under review at a major academic press. In it, I demonstrate that seduction poetry, far from being merely a trivial commonplace, was a crucial instrument in early modern intellectual life. The second volume is a coedited collection called Shakespeare and the Pedagogies of Justice, also under consideration at a university press. Its two-dozen essays by a diverse range of scholars make the timely case for the liberatory value of teaching historical literature and offer a breadth of strategic pedagogies that mobilize students’ capacities to confidently remake the world.

My current projects include an essay on early microscopists’ attention to poetics, solicited for a special issue of Philological Quarterly (“Imagining Early Modern Scientific Forms”), and an essay called “The Inner Lives of Renaissance Machines,” solicited for Object Lessons in Renaissance Personhood (under contract with Edinburgh University Press).

My past work includes the widely reviewed edited essay collection, The Automaton in English Renaissance Literature (Ashgate, 2011). I have published essays on early modern mechanical birds, Spenser’s Faerie Queene, physics and metaphysics in early modern lyric, clockwork jacquemarts and Shakespeare’s Jack Falstaff, Nashe’s Unfortunate Traveller, metaphoricity and science, and the pedagogy of book history.

Courses Taught

I offer a wide variety of courses, many of which also count toward comparative literature, theater, Classics, and gender, sexuality, and feminist studies. They include:

  • Introduction to Shakespeare
  • Visuality, Materiality, and Renaissance Literature
  • Shakespeare and Metamorphosis
  • The Poetry of Love and Seduction in the Renaissance
  • Literature and the Scientific Revolution
  • Renaissance Literature
  • Shakespearean Tragedy
  • Introduction to the Advanced Study of Literature

I also teach a senior seminar on literary theory and semiotics called Words and Things, among others.

Publications

I have just completed two book manuscripts:

  • Impossible Desire: Seizing Knowledge and Time in Renaissance Erotic Literature
  • Shakespeare and the Pedagogies of Justice

Impossible Desire: Seizing Knowledge and Time in Renaissance Erotic Literature is currently under review at a major academic press. In it, I demonstrate that seduction poetry, far from being merely a trivial commonplace, was a crucial instrument in early modern intellectual life.

Among literary critics, the early modern stage has long been understood as a specialized site for “radical” thought and experimental identities. This monograph, the first on carpe diem poetry in England, recovers the role of these disregarded lyrics in imagining the forbidden and thinking the scandalous. I argue that carpe diem’s essential postulate—that time is finite and love is mortal—brought centuries of Petrarchan convention into an explosive confrontation with philosophical materialism, with the result that erotic poetry was forever changed.

I show how carpe diem invitations conflate eroticism, metaphysical speculation, and Lucretian physics to startling effect: challenging accepted constructions of morality, faith, embodiment, and time. Impossible Desire thus argues that this poetic trope whose classical form was an expression of pragmatic Epicureanism became, during the upheaval of the Reformation, an unlikely but effective vehicle for articulating religious doubt and probing the limits of human knowledge.

Shakespeare and the Pedagogies of Justice, also under consideration at a university press, is a coedited collection. Its two dozen essays by a diverse range of scholars makes the timely case for the liberatory value of teaching historical literature and offer a breadth of strategic pedagogies that mobilize students’ capacities to confidently remake the world.

Current Projects

My current projects include an essay on early microscopists’ attention to poetics, solicited for a special issue of Philological Quarterly (“Imagining Early Modern Scientific Forms”), and essay called “The Inner Lives of Renaissance Machines,” solicited for Object Lessons in Renaissance Personhood (under contract with Edinburgh University Press).

I have begun a second monograph about myth and mimesis in Shakespearean and Spenserian romance. With Henry S. Turner (Rutgers) and Jen Waldron (University of Pittsburgh), I am coediting a special 2019 issue of English Literary Renaissance called “Theorizing Fiction in the Early Modern Period.”

Additional Publications

My past work includes the widely reviewed edited essay collection, The Automaton in English Renaissance Literature (Ashgate, 2011). I have published essays on early modern mechanical birds, Spenser’s Faerie Queene, physics and metaphysics in early modern lyric, clockwork jacquemarts and Shakespeare’s Jack Falstaff, Nashe’s Unfortunate Traveller, metaphoricity and science, and the pedagogy of book history.

Notes

  • Wendy Hyman 2015-16 Academic Year Update

    May 11, 2016

    Associate Professor of English Wendy Hyman has spent the 2015-16 academic year on research status, working at the Folger Shakespeare Library, the Harry Ransom Center at UT Austin, and the Huntington Library, completing a book manuscript entitled Carpe Diem: Desire, Impossibility, and Renaissance Poetry.

    A recent article, “‘Deductions from metaphors’: Figurative Truth, Poetical Language, and Early Modern Science,” appears in The Palgrave Handbook of Early Modern Literature, Science, and Culture (forthcoming, 2016). Hyman also contributed an essay, “Embodying Rome,” for the Luminary Digital Media edition of Julius Caesar. She has given two invited talks this year, at Rutgers University and Case Western University, and presented papers at the Modern Language Association and Shakespeare Association of America.

    In the fall of 2015, she and the students of her senior seminar, Words and Things, curated an exhibit, “The Body: Looking in and Looking Out,” at the Allen Memorial Art Museum. Wendy Kozol, professor of comparative American studies, also provided curatorial assistance. This was the first time students in an English literature class at Oberlin curated a show at the museum, and Hyman would like to acknowledge the invaluable help of the museum staff, as well as a Mellon-funded Curriculum Development Grant, to expand the museum’s place in this seminar and her teaching more broadly.

  • Wendy Hyman Publishes and Presents

    June 3, 2014

    Associate Professor of English Wendy Hyman recently published two essays: “‘For now hath time made me his numbering clock’: Shakespeare’s Jacquemarts," in Early Theatre and “Physics, Metaphysics, and Religion in Lyric Poetry,” in the Blackwell Companion to British Literature. Her work in literature and the history of science has also resulted in several talks, including “A Bawd for Figure: Form and Motion in Poetic Making,” at the 2014 Modern Language Association (MLA), and“Arcimboldo’s Post-human Assemblages,” at the Society for Literature and Science in the Arts in October 2013. She gave an invited talk, “Breaking the Sonnet,” at the Hiram College Bissell Symposium in February 2014, participated in the Visual Studies and the Liberal Arts Symposium at Smith College in May 2014, and led a seminar called "Words and Things" at the Shakespeare Association of America in March 2014, inspired by an Oberlin course she teaches by the same title.