Prof Gavin Alexander, Faculty of English



Biographical Information

Gavin Alexander is Professor of Renaissance Literature in the Faculty of English.

Research Interests

English literature of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries.  Particular research interests include Philip Sidney and related writers; poetry and music in the Renaissance; lyric; rhetoric; poetics; the history of literary criticism; textual studies; classical receptions; versification; literature and the visual arts; literature and material culture.  Published work includes a book on the literary response to Sidney, a Penguin Classics edition of Renaissance literary criticism, an edition of an important, late Elizabethan treatise on poetics, which was discovered in manuscript only recently, and edited collections on early modern English rhetoric and early modern European criticism.

Currently completing a book on English Renaissance poets and music, starting one on lyric, and editing Fulke Greville's Caelica and miscellaneous poems for the new Oxford University Press edition of Greville's complete works. 

Video of keynote at York in 2013 on 'The proportions of early modern poetics' here.  Audio of talk about modernisation at a conference on editing in Newcastle in 2014 here.  Details, keynote, and a storify summary of a conference convened at CRASSH on 'The places of early modern criticism' in 2015 here.

Areas of Graduate Supervision

Current and recent doctoral student topics:

  • Music and space in late C16 and C17 literature
  • The early modern reception of Boethius
  • Rest and Pause in The Faerie Queene
  • Discordant Poetics in Early Modern England
  • The Stranger Mathematics of The Faerie Queene
  • Mathematics and Elizabethan drama
  • Logic and Miscellaneity in Late Sixteenth-Century Literature
  • The Herbert family and music
  • Literature and the visual imagination, 1580-1630
  • Elizabethan prose fiction and print
  • Sidney's Arcadia and the early modern reader
  • Shakespeare and the rhetoric of the far-fetched
  • Donne and hermeneutics
  • Early modern romance
  • Elizabethan music printing and copyright

Teaching for the MPhil in English Studies includes 'Material Text' research frameworks seminars. MPhil palaeography teaching led to English Handwriting: An Online Course, a collaboration with colleagues Raphael Lyne and Andrew Zurcher, and many of the Faculty's graduate students.

Selected Publications


  • The Places of Early Modern Criticism, ed. Gavin Alexander, Emma Gilby, and Alexander Marr (Oxford: O.U.P., 2021)
  • ed., William Scott, The Model of Poesy (Cambridge: C.U.P., 2013)
    blog    amazon    CUP
  • Renaissance Figures of Speech, ed. Sylvia Adamson, Gavin Alexander, and Katrin Ettenhuber (Cambridge: C.U.P., 2007)
    amazon    CUP
  • Writing After Sidney: The Literary Response to Sir Philip Sidney, 1586-1640 (Oxford: O.U.P., 2006)
    amazon    OUP    sample chapter at OUP
  • ed., Sidney's 'The Defence of Poesy' and Selected Renaissance Literary Criticism (London: Penguin Classics, 2004)
    amazon    Penguin


  • ‘Between Rhetoric and Poetics:  Ancient and Early Modern Lyric Theory’, in Poetics Before Modernity, ed. Vladimir Brljak and Micha Lazarus (O.U.P., forthcoming)
  • ‘Lyric’, in The Oxford Handbook of Philip Sidney, ed. Catherine Bates (OUP, forthcoming)
  • ‘Song’, in The Oxford Handbook of Philip Sidney, ed. Catherine Bates (OUP, forthcoming)
  • ‘“La cuisse rompue”: Reading Amyot’s Plutarch with Sidney and Greville’, Sidney Journal, 40 (2022), 145-71
  • ‘Grammar, Prosody, and the Place of Accent in Elizabethan Criticism’, in The Places of Early Modern Criticism, ed. Alexander, Gilby, and Marr (Oxford: O.U.P., 2021), pp. 81-96
  • (with Emma Gilby) ‘Introduction: Placing Early Modern Criticism’, in The Places of Early Modern Criticism, ed. Alexander, Gilby, and Marr (Oxford: O.U.P., 2021), pp. 1-21
  • 'Writing and the Hermeneutics of Posthumous Publication: Greville's Afterlives', in Fulke Greville and the Culture of the English Renaissance, ed. Russell J. Leo III, Katrin Röder, and Freya Sierhuis (Oxford: O.U.P., 2018), 279-93
  • 'The Problems with Old-Spelling Editions', in A Handbook of Editing Early Modern Texts, ed. Claire Loffman and Harriet Phillips (Abingdon: Routledge, 2018), 97-102
  • '"The conjunction cannot be hurtful?": Sidney's Arcadia and Mingled Genres', in The Oxford History of the Novel in English, Volume I: Prose Fiction in English from the Origins of Print to 1750, ed. Thomas Keymer (Oxford: O.U.P., 2017), 212-26
  • 'Martin Peerson and Greville's Caelica:  From Lyric Sequence to Songbook', Sidney Journal, 35 (2017), 1-20
  • 'Loving and Reading in Sidney', Studies in Philology, 114 (2017), 39-66
  • 'Gascoigne and Practical Music: Playing Loath to Depart', Review of English Studies, 67 (2016), 42-61
  • 'The Classics in Literary Criticism', in The Oxford History of Classical Reception in English Literature, Vol. 2 - 1558-1660, ed. Patrick Cheney and Philip Hardie (Oxford: O.U.P., 2015), 87-101
  • 'Spenser in Music', in Spenser in the Moment, ed. Paul J. Hecht and J. B. Lethbridge (Madison: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press, 2015), 137-52
  • 'Sidney, Scott, and the Proportions of Poetics', Sidney Journal, 33.1 (2015), 7-28 [special issue on Scott]
  • 'The Sources of the Verse Examples in Gascoigne's Certayne Notes of Instruction', Notes and Queries, 62 (2015), 52-3
  • 'On the Reuse of Poetic Form: The Ghost in the Shell', in The Work of Form: Poetics and Materiality in Early Modern Culture, ed. Ben Burton and Elizabeth Scott-Baumann (Oxford: O.U.P., 2014), 123-43
  • 'Song in Shakespeare: Rhetoric, Identity, Agency', in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespeare's Poetry, ed. Jonathan Post (Oxford: O.U.P., 2013)
  • 'Sir Philip Sidney's Arcadia', in The Oxford Handbook of English Prose 1500-1640, ed. Andrew Hadfield (Oxford: O.U.P., 2013)
  • 'William Scott and the Dating of George Wyatt's Sonnets', Notes and Queries 59.1 (2012), 58-60
  • 'Final Intentions or Process? Editing Greville's Caelica', in SEL 52.1 (2012), 13-33
  • 'Of Pattern and Proportion', in Elizabethan and Jacobean England: Sources and Documents of the English Renaissance, ed. Arthur F. Kinney (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 595-602
  • 'Rhetoric', in A New Companion to English Renaissance Literature and Culture, ed. Michael Hattaway, 2 vols (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), I, 38-54
  • 'Seeing through Words in Theories of Poetry: Sidney, Puttenham, Lodge', in A Companion to Tudor Literature, ed. Kent Cartwright (Chichester: Wiley-Blackwell, 2010), 350-63
  • 'Prosopopoeia: The Speaking Figure', in Renaissance Figures of Speech (2007; see above), 96-112
  • 'The Musical Sidneys', John Donne Journal, 25 (2006), 65-105; special issue on literature and music, ed. Richard S. Peterson
  • 'The Elizabethan Lyric as Contrafactum: Robert Sidney's "French Tune" Identified', Music and Letters, 84 (2003), 378-402
  • 'Sidney's Interruptions', Studies in Philology, 98 (2001), 184-204
  • 'A New Manuscript of the Sidney Psalms: A Preliminary Report', Sidney Journal, 18.1 (2000), 43-56
  • 'Fulke Greville and the Afterlife', Huntington Library Quarterly, 62 (1999), 203-231
  • 'The Triumph of Death: A Critical Edition in Modern Spelling of the Countess of Pembroke's translation of Petrarch's Trionfo della Morte', Sidney Journal, 17.1 (1999), 2-18 [and]
  • 'Mary Sidney Herbert: The Psalmes, the Triumph, and the Scribes', Sidney Journal, 16.2 (1998), 16-30
  • 'Constant Works: A Framework for Reading Mary Wroth', Sidney Journal, 14.2 (1996/97), 5-32