Jonathan Sawday studied English at Queen Mary College (University of London) and University College London, where he took his PhD in Renaissance Literature. He has taught at British, Irish, and American universities, most recently at the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow, Scotland where he held the Chair in English Studies. He has held fellowships at the Huntington Library (California), the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow, and been a visiting scholar in the Centre for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry Library in Chicago. He has held awards and grants from the Fulbright Association, the British Academy, The British Council, and the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. He is a Fellow of the English Association (FEA), the Royal Society for the Arts (FRSA), and of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS). He is on the advisory board of the Journal for Literature and Science and on the editorial boards of Medical Humanities and Writing Technologies.
Jonathan Sawday is a cultural historian. His research is focused on the intersection between science, technology, and literature particularly (but not exclusively) in the early-modern period. Currently, he is working on the idea of blanks or voids in literature, art, and culture. He is also working on an intellectual biography of Robert Burton (1577-1640), the inscrutable author of The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), the first (and probably longest) psychoanalytic work published in English.
He has written and published on the visual arts (including sixteenth-century French funerary sculpture, Rembrandt, and contemporary body art); autobiography in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; Renaissance and Restoration writing (Spenser, Milton, Descartes, Robert Burton, Hobbes, Shakespeare, Marvell, Rochester, and William Harvey); forgery; cyborgs and transhumanism; madness; 'race' and 'scientific racism' in the Edwardian period; the failure of technology.
His books include: Engines of the Imagination: Renaissance Culture and the Rise of the Machine (Routledge, 2007). (co-edited with Neil Rhodes) The Renaissance Computer: Knowledge Technology in the First Age of Print (Routledge, 2000).The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture (Routledge, 1995); (co-edited with Tom Healy) Literature and the English Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 1990).
As well as his academic work, he is a regular broadcaster on UK BBC Radio 4 and BBC Radio 3, contributing to arts, culture, and history programmes.