• Associate Professor of English
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Education

  • B.A., Smith College, 1997
  • M.A., Harvard University, 2000
  • Ph.D., Harvard University, 2005

Biography

My research and teaching interests focus on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century poetry and drama, especially in relation to the history of science and technology, Renaissance art and visual culture, and classical mythology. My work is most often animated by ontological and epistemological questions, and by attempts to articulate how poetry represents--and even creates--new forms of knowledge.

I offer a wide variety of courses, including Shakespeare (topic varies yearly), Renaissance literature (surveying poetry, prose, and drama), The Poetry of Love and Seduction in the Renaissance, The History of the Printed Book in the West, a freshman seminar on cyborgs and robots in literature, a theory-based senior seminar called Words and Things, and another comparative course, Visuality, Materiality, and Renaissance Literature. Almost all of my classes include field trips and "labs" in the Allen Art Museum, Mudd Library Special Collections, the Clarence Ward Art Library, the Oberlin College letterpress studio, and/or the museums, galleries, and playhouses of Cleveland. I very much enjoy classes that put primary sources in students' hands, and in which knowledge is generated collaboratively, and so I rely on experimental pedagogies as well as lecture and discussion. This coming winter term, I will offer the first of what I hope will be many trips to Italy, for an intensive course called "Shakespeare in Rome," generously subsidized by the Oberlin College Julie Taymor '74 Fund for World Culture.

I am currently writing a book called Carpe Diem: The History of a Renaissance Impossibility. In it, I demonstrate that seduction poetry, far from being merely a trivial commonplace, was a crucial instrument in early modern intellectual life. 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. 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. In particular, 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. Carpe Diem relies upon a comparative methodology, bringing the history of philosophy and science as well as the history of art into productive conversation with erotic lyric—uncovering the influence of European vanitas images and macabre verso paintings upon poetic invitations to "seize the day." From these diverse sources, I argue, poets uncover strategies for representing abstractions like time, for correlating the hymen and atom as conceptual vanishing points, and for imagining such "impossibilities" as nothingness and godlessness.

I am the editor of the essay collection The Automaton in English Renaissance Literature (Farnham, Surrey; Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2011), which also contains my essay, "'Mathematical experiments of long silver pipes': The Renaissance Trope of the Mechanical Bird." Two other published essays treat literature in relation to the history of science and technology: "Physics, Metaphysics, and Religion in Lyric Poetry," Blackwell Companion to British Literature, vol. 2 (1450-1660), ed. Robert DeMaria, et al. (2014): 197-212, and "'For now hath time made me his numbering clock': Shakespeare’s Jacquemarts," Early Theatre 16.2 (2013): 145-58. I also have an in-progress essay on early modern science and metaphorical language, coming out in the Palgrave Handbook of Early Modern Literature, Science, and Culture, eds. Evelyn Tribble and Howard Marchitello. I am the author, with Laura Baudot, of "Building a Book Studies Program at a Liberal Arts College," Past or Portal: Teaching Undergraduates Using Special Collections and Archives, ed. Peggy Seiden, Eleanor Mitchell, and Suzy Taraba (ACRL, 2012): 206-11. My article on Spenser's The Faerie Queene, "Seizing Flowers in Spenser’s Garden and Bower," appeared in English Literary Renaissance 37.2 (2007): 193-214. I have also published an article on Thomas Nashe, "The Unfortunate Traveller and Authorial Self-Consciousness," Studies in English Literature 1500-1900 45.1 (2005): 23-41.

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.