Dr Jane Partner, Trinity Hall




Biographical Information

I am a Fellow, College Teaching Officer and Part II Director of Studies in English at Trinity Hall. I also teach and examine in the Faculty of English at both undergraduate and graduate level.

My wide-ranging interests have been informed by a diverse education. I read English Literature as an undergraduate in Cambridge, before studying Art History for a year at the Courtauld Institute, University of London. Returning to Cambridge I took the MPhil in British Literature 1700-1830, and completed a PhD centered upon the seventeenth century that brought together my literary and visual interests. I subsequently held the Peter Orton Junior Research Fellowship at Trinity Hall in Cambridge and have been a Director of Studies at Fitzwilliam and Girton as well as holding a teaching position at Pembroke College.

Alongside my academic work, I have also undertaken substantial training in fine art (Slade School of Art, Royal Drawing School, Central St Martin’s, Morley College). My ongoing artistic practice intersects with my academic activities in numerous ways: my work as a printmaker informs my approach to the study of material texts and illustrated books, whilst the making of jewellery and sculpture to wear relates to my interest in fashion history and theories of embodiment. More broadly, I am interested in ideas of practice-based research, the history and theory of creativity, and the many mutual illuminations that refract between intellectual and artistic work.

The undergraduate papers for which I supervise at Part I include Literature 1500-1700, Shakespeare and Practical Criticism. At Part II, I mainly teach Visual Culture, Material Renaissance and Practical Criticism – plus early modern topics in the Lyric and Tragedy papers, as well as visual topics in Contemporary Literature (e.g. graphic novels and performance art). I supervise dissertations across all these areas and I sometimes also teach for the History of Art Tripos, particularly for the Making of Art paper.

Research Interests

My research spans the fields of English Literature and the History of Art, often concerning interdisciplinary interrelations between texts, images and objects. My first book, Poetry and Vision in Early Modern England (Palgrave, 2018), reveals the ways in which seventeenth-century English poets used ideas about vision derived from visual art, optical science, theology and philosophy to examine the emergent conceptions of the subjective and objective. The authors centrally considered in this study are Cavendish, Traherne, Milton and Marvell, who are put in dialogue with an expanded conception of early modern visual culture that encompasses the early microscopy of the Royal Society, manuals of architecture and perspective, the emergent discourse of art theory in English, and Christian treatises on the good government of the eye.

Current research includes work towards my next book, Reading the Early Modern Body. This project undertakes a major reappraisal of the commonplace idea that the renaissance body might be understood as a text. My research assembles a much-enlarged range of material ways in which the body might be made legible – including script tattoos, medicinal inscriptions, embroidered clothing, lettered jewellery, inscribed portraits and emblems. These corporeal texts are shown to be overlaid with the numerous more abstract ways in which the body was read – including rhetorical gesture, memory systems, courtly etiquette and Christian devotion. Bodily reading emerges from this analysis as a pervasive early modern habit of mind that affords new perspectives on a range of literary texts, artworks and artefacts.

I have additional research in progress on topics that include: the muses, creative inspiration and conceptions of early modern literary authorship; gems and jewellery in early modern literature and culture; the representation of Shakespeare’s work in the visual arts; the materials and aesthetics of contemporary sculpture.

Areas of Graduate Supervision

I warmly welcome all enquiries from graduate students. Areas of interest might include: relations between visual art and literature in the early modern period and beyond; emblems; illustration; graphic novels; artist’s books; performance art; sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English poetry (including Milton, Marvell, Traherne, Donne); Shakespeare and contemporary dramatists; academic drama and court masques; relations between early modern literature and science; Margaret Cavendish and early modern female authorship; anatomy and the body in early modern literature and art; clothing, fashion and textiles (both early modern and contemporary, with a particular interest in Alexander McQueen and Vivienne Westwood).

Selected Publications


  • Reading the Early Modern Body (in preparation)
  • Poetry and Vision in Early Modern England (Palgrave, 2018)


Book Chapters

  • ‘Will Power: Visualising Shakespeare’s Authority in Contemporary Culture’, in Shakespeare and Authority, ed. Katy Halsey and Angus Vine (Palgrave, 2017)
  • ‘Seeing, Reading and Knowing in the Devotional Poetry of Thomas Traherne’, in Knowing Faith: Literature, Belief, and Knowledge in Early Modern England, ed. Subha Mukherji and Tim Stuart-Buttle (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017)



  • ‘Vision and Skin Colour in the Painted Emblems at Hawstead Hall’, Word and Image, 25:2 (2009), 178-191. Commended in the Society of Word and Image Studies international Max Nani Prize, 2010
  • ‘“The Swelling Hall”: Andrew Marvell and the Politics of Architecture at Nun Appleton’, The Seventeenth Century, 24:1 (Spring 2009), 225-243
  • ‘Satanic Vision and Acrostics in Paradise Lost’, Essays in Criticism, 57:2 (2007), 129-46




  • ‘Reflections on the Mind’s Eye: John Harvey’s The Poetics of Sight’, The Cambridge Quarterly, 45:4 (Dec. 2016), 390-395


  • H.L. Meakin, The Painted Closet of Lady Anne Bacon Drury, Renaissance Studies, 31:1 (Feb. 2015), 152-154


  • Katherine Acheson, Visual Rhetoric and Early Modern English Literature, Renaissance Quarterly, 68:3 (Fall 2015), 1132-1134


  • William W. E. Slights, The Heart in the Age of Shakespeare, in Renaissance Studies, 26:2 (Spring 2012), 735-735


  • Stuart Clark, The Vanities of the Eye, in Renaissance Quarterly, 63:3 (Sep. 2010), 968-969


  • A.S.Q. Visser, Joannes Sambucus and the Learned Image: The Use of the Emblem in Late-Renaissance Humanism, in MLR, 103:3 (1 July 2008), 809-810


  • ‘Seeing Through the Text: Stuart Sillers’ Painting Shakespeare: The Artist as Critic, 1720-1820’, in The Cambridge Quarterly, 36:4 (2007), 359-361


  • ‘Artificial Eye: David Hockney’s Secret Knowledge: The Lost Techniques of the Old Masters’, in The Cambridge Quarterly, 31:4 (December 2002), 345-349