Dr Joe Moshenska, Trinity
After receiving my BA from Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, I spent a year at Princeton as the Eliza Jane Procter Visiting Fellow. I stayed in Princeton to complete my PhD, and was elected as a fellow of Trinity College in 2010. I am one of the Directors of Studies in English at Trinity, where I mostly teach Renaissance literature with some forays into earlier and later periods. I often supervise dissertations on Spenser and Milton, and on connections between literature, science and theology. I also teach various literary and philosophical topics for the Tragedy and English Moralists papers.
My first book, Feeling Pleasures: The Sense of Touch in Renaissance England, explored the varied and contested importance of touch in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I combined sustained analyses of specific figures - particularly Edmund Spenser, Lancelot Andrewes, and John Milton - with explorations of a variety of contexts: the touching of relics and the Eucharist, of paintings and sculptures, the role of touch in faith healing and experimental science, the philosophical history of tickling, and the early reception of Chinese medicine in England.
My current research has two strands. The first of these concerns the seventeenth century polymath Kenelm Digby (1603-65), whose correspondence I am editing (under contract with Oxford University Press, projected publication 2018). I am also writing a book about Digby’s voyage around the Mediterranean in 1628 (under contract with William Heinemann, projected publication 2016) during which he fought a sea-battle near Turkey, freed English slaves from Algiers, collected Arabic manuscripts, stole ancient statues, and wrote criticism on Spenser’s poetry and a romance autobiography on a Greek island. The second strand is a book provisionally titled Iconoclasm as Child’s Play, which begins with the fact that, during the Reformation, holy things were sometimes given to children as toys rather than being broken or burned. In it I consider the conceptual intersections between iconoclasm and play in the sixteenth century, in later philosophical writing, and in the poetry of Spenser.
My research has been supported by the Leverhulme Trust, the British Academy, the Cambridge Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities (CRASSH), the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies.
I enjoy finding ways of communicating my research to a wide and varied audience. In 2015 I was selected as one of the ten BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinkers, and I will be presenting aspects of my work on Radio 3 during 2015-16. My first appearance, a special edition of Free Thinking recorded at the Hay Festival, can be heard at http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b05w8135 .
- Feeling Pleasures: The Sense of Touch in Renaissance England (Oxford University Press, 2014).
- ‘Why Can’t Spenserians Stop Talking About Hegel? A Response to Gordon Teskey,’ Spenser Review 44.1.2 (Spring-Summer 2014).
- ‘“A sensible touching, feeling and groping”: Metaphor and Sensory Experience in the English Reformation,’ in Passions and Subjectivity in Early Modern Culture, ed. Brian Cummings & Freya Sierhuis (Ashgate, 2013).
- ‘The Forgotten Youth of Allegory: Figures of Old Age in The Faerie Queene,’ Modern Philology 110.3 (February 2013), pp. 389-414. (Awarded the Isabel McCaffrey Prize by the International Spenser Society for best essay on Spenser, 2013-14).
- ‘“Spencerus isthic conditur”: Kenelm Digby’s transcription of William Alabaster,’ Spenser Studies 27 (2012), pp. 315-28.
- ‘“Transported Touch”: The Sense of Feeling in Milton’s Eden,’ English Literary History 79.1 (Spring 2012), pp. 1-31.