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Dr Lesel D DawsonBA(Lond), MPhil(Oxon)

Senior Lecturer

Lesel Dawson

Dr Lesel D DawsonBA(Lond), MPhil(Oxon)

Senior Lecturer

Member of

External positions

Board of Directors, Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory

2008 → …

Research interests

  • Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature
  • early modern psychology
  • gender
  • the history of the emotions
  • revenge tragedy from the classical period to the present day
  • early modern intellectual and medical history

My main interests are in early modern literature (particularly drama) and early modern psychology / the history of the emotions. My current project explores vision, cognition, and emotion in early modern literature and thought. In particular, I aim to put contemporaneous medical and philosophical ideas about vision and emotion into dialogue with literary texts, in order reveal the complex and highly nuanced ways in which early modern writers conceptualise the relationship between seeing, feeling, imagining, and remembering. As part of this interest, I organized a panel with Eric Langley (UCL) on ‘Vision and Emotion’ at the 2016 Shakespeare Association of America (SAA).

I am interesting in revenge tragedy across time (from Aeschylus to Tarantino). I organized the international two-day conference, ‘Revenge and Gender from Classical to Renaissance Literature’ and am editing a book with Fiona McHardy, Revenge and Gender from Classical to Renaissance Literature (Edinburgh University Press, forthcoming). I have also written on a range of other topics, including articles on misogyny, menstruation, revenge, and cruentation.

My book, Lovesickness and Gender in Early Modern Literature (OUP, 2008) analyses literary representations of lovesickness in relation to medical ideas about desire and poses wider questions about gender and identity; it explores the different ways that desire is believed to take root in the body, how gender roles are encoded and contested in courtship, and how Neoplatonism offers an alternative construction of love to that found in natural philosophy. Focusing on writers such as Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, Middleton, Ford, and Davenant, the book considers the relationship between women's lovesickness and other female maladies (such as hysteria and green sickness), arguing that female lovesickness is a species of melancholy which can be depicted not only as a passionate illness which degenerates into madness, but also as a spiritual and cerebral affliction. 

I am on the Board of Directors for Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol and enjoy participating in Public Engagement activities. I organized the Lewis Fry Memorial Event, ‘Remember Me: Shakespeare’s Cultural and Artistic Legacy’, and was interviewed on the BBC Radio3 Sunday Feature, ‘Still Bill’. I also write an occasional blog for the Huffington Post.


I have experience of teaching from 1500 to the present day. I currently teach Approaches to Poetry, Approaches to Shakespeare, Literature 2: 1500-1700, and two second year special subjects: Revenge Tragedy and Gender, Desire and the Renaissance Stage.

I teach on the MA in English Literature, on the units Renaissance Literature: Text and Context and Intertextual Shakespeare.

I would welcome PhD proposals on any aspect of early modern drama and the history of the emotions, especially those which engage with my own research in some way.

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Postal address:
3-5 Woodland Road
United Kingdom