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University of Oregon

Brent Dawson

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I work on Renaissance literature, science, and philosophy. I'm interested in issues around matter, nature, and the early modern transatlantic. 

My current book project, Worldly Muck: The Matter of Universality in English Renaissance Literature, is about how Renaissance authors imagine universality in volatile matter. Whether crumbling to pieces, out of joint, or wearing apart at the seams, authors like Spenser, Shakespeare, and Cavendish describe a world whose common ground is coming undone. This sense of the world responds to an era in which colonial violence and mercantile exchange lead to profound questions of whether any unified world exists at all. Yet rather than abandoning the concept, these texts find cosmopolitan sameness in mutable stuff. All bodies share a matter that makes them porous and unstable; this muck cuts across the boundaries drawn by religious, colonial, and national ideologies. Articles related to the project have been published in New Literary History, Renaissance Drama, and the collection This Distracted Globe: Worldmaking in Early Modern Literature.