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Jonathan Sawday, Ph.D.

Walter J. Ong, S.J., Chair in the Humanities


  • B.A. (Hons) in English Literature and Language, Queen Mary College, University of London.
  • Ph.D. in Renaissance Literature, University College London.

Research Interests

  • Renaissance literature and culture. Early modern British literature.
  • Intellectual and cultural history 1500-1700.
  • Book and print history. The history of reading.
  • Computational approaches to literary study.

Publications and Media Placements

Sawday’s occasional essays and reviews have appeared in: The Times Literary Supplement, The Times Higher Education Supplement, The Lancet, The London Review of Books, The Collation, The Daily Telegraph, Renaissance Quarterly, Bulletin of the History of Medicine, Shakespeare-Jahrbuch, Social History of Medicine, Magic Ritual and Witchcraft, The American Historical Review, Emblematica, The Scottish Historical Review, The Journal of the History of Medicine, Medical History, The English Historical Review, Isis, The London Quarterly, Prose Studies, Poetry Ireland Review, ‘Merica Magazine, The St. Louis Beacon, Independent on Sunday Review, The Architects’ Journal.

In the UK, Sawday has been a regular broadcaster on BBC Radio, presenting features and contributing to discussions on a wide variety of topics including: Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy; technology and culture; the human genome; the history of syphilis; the passing of Concorde; fear in the modern world; spontaneity (with Malcolm Gladwell); the heart; Renaissance magic and alchemy; technophobia; materialism; the brain; superheroes; blood; the great fire of London; privacy; vulgarity (with comedian Alexei Sayle and novelist Andrew O’Hagan). His five-part Radio series The King Returned was first broadcast on BBC Radio 3 in the UK in 2010, and he has also been a regular presenter of the BBC Freethinking Festival (Liverpool and Newcastle). His UK TV work includes writing, presenting, and contributing to programs on Renaissance anatomy (Channel 4 / Union Films); the photography of Lennart Neilson (Channel 4); student finance (BBC1); Contemporary Body Art (LWT).

His chief academic and scholarly publications are as follows:

Forthcoming Publications

  • Contributing editor, the Oxford edition of the Collected Works of Sir Thomas Browne.
  • “Monsignore Agucchi Reads a Letter: Sunspots, Secrecy, and Scientia in the Early Seventeenth Century,” in Subha Mukherji and Elizabeth L. Swann (eds.), Devices of Fancy: The Poesy of Scientia in Early Modern England (Palgrave).
  • “Reflections on The Geraghty Colloquium, John Milton, Race, Gender and Power at the 2022 Conference on John Milton at Saint Louis University” Milton Quarterly.


  • Blanks, Space, Print and Void in English Renaissance Literature: An Archaeology of Absence (Oxford and New York, Oxford University Press, 2023).
  • Engines of the Imagination: Renaissance Culture and the Rise of the Machine (London and New York, Routledge, 2007).
  • (ed.) with Neil Rhodes, The Renaissance Computer: Knowledge, Technology in the First Age of Print (London and New York, Routledge, 2000).
  • with Ulrich Loock, Smith/Stewart (Edinburgh, Fruitmarket Gallery, 1998).
  • The Body Emblazoned: Dissection and the Human Body in Renaissance Culture (London and New York: Routledge, 1995).
  • (ed.) with Thomas Healy, Literature and the English Civil War (Cambridge: CUP, 1990).

Articles and Book Chapters

  • “A Rhapsody of Rags Revisited: Kevin Jackson, Robert Burton, and The Anatomy of Melancholy” in Juni Kvarving, Claire Preston, Robert Peett (eds), Kevin Jackson 1955- 2021 (London: Holland House Books, 2022), 161 – 173.
  • “Emptiness in Seventeenth Century Poetry, Politics, and Natural Philosophy” Shakespeare Studies 49 (2021) 82-93.
  • ‘’They Shall No More be Remembered by Their Name:” Anatomy, Cartography, and the Renaissance Eponym’ Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 48 (January 2018) 48 (2018) 11-40.
  • “Marvell’s ‘Bermudas’ and the History of the Eleutherian Republic” English Literary Renaissance 48 (2018) 60-97.
  • ‘I Feel Your Pain: Some Reflections on the (Literary) Perception of Pain’ in Tomas Macsotay, Karel Vanheasbrouck, Cornelius van der Haven (eds.), Performing and Beholding Pain 1600-1800 (Manchester: MUP, 2017) 97-114.Paperback edition December 2019.
  • The Fabrica Remade: A New Translation of the De Humani Corporis Fabrica Libri Septem (1543, 1555) of Andreas Vesalius’ Isis 106 (2015) 677-683. Review Essay.
  • “John Wilmot and the Writing of ‘Rochester’” in Mathew Augustine and Steven N. Zwicker (eds.), Lord Rochester in the Restoration World (Cambridge: CUP, 2015 rpt. 2017) 17- 39.
  • ‘The Heart and Monarch Reign Supreme: William Harvey’s An Anatomical Exercise on the Movement of the Heart and Blood (1628)’ in Michael Sappol (ed.), Hidden Treasures in the National Library of Medicine (Bethesda Maryland, and New York: National Library of Medicine / Blast Books, 2012), 86-7.
  • “Technology and Magic in the Renaissance” in Imagining Magic and Witchcraft in Medieval and Early Modern Literature: Proceedings of the International Conference co-hosted by The Medieval and Early Modern English Studies Association of Korea and The Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Seoul National University (Seoul: Seoul National University, 2011), 1-13
  • ‘The Failure of Technology’ in Nicholas Temple, Jane Lomholt, Renée Tobe, Soumyen Bandyapodhyay (eds.), The Humanities in Architectural Design: A Historical and Contemporary Perspective (London and New York: Routledge, 2010), 57-70.
  • ‘Upgrading Humans: Re-grading People?’ A Transhumanist Reply to Kevin Warwick’, 19: Interdisciplinary Studies in the Long Nineteenth Century, 7 (2008) 1 - 11
  • ‘Technologies of Writing in the Renaissance’ Writing Technologies 1.1 (May, 2007), online journal: []
  • “’The Chief Mystery of the Seminall business’: Andrew Marvell, William Harvey, Abraham Cowley and the Politics of Fertility in the Seventeenth Century” English: Journal of the English Association 56 (2007) 1 – 19. Reprinted in: Katherine Baxter and David Walker (eds.), English: Shared Futures Virtual Issue (June 2017)
  • ‘The Fortunes of Babel: Technology, History, and Genesis 11:1-9’ in Kevin Killeen and Peter Forshaw (eds) The Word and the World: Biblical Exegesis and Early Modern Science (Basingstoke, Palgrave Macmillan, 2007), 191 – 214.
  • ‘The Paradoxes of Interiority: Anatomy and Anatomical Ritual in Early Modern Culture’ in Andrew Patrizio and Dawn Kemp (eds.), Anatomy Acts: How we Came to Know Ourselves (Edinburgh: Birlinn Ltd., 2006), pp. 1 – 16. Winner of The Royal Society of Medicine Library Prize for Medical Book of 2007 and for the Non-Clinical Medical Book, 2007.
  • “Robert Burton” in David Scott Kastan et al., (eds.) The Oxford Encyclopaedia of British Literature 5 vols. (London and New York: Oxford University Press, 2006). I. 338-341.
  • “In Search of the Philosopher’s Stone: Montaigne, Interiority and Machines” The Dalhousie Review: Special Issue: Early Modern Interiority 85 (2005) pp. 195 – 220.
  • “Rematerializing the Subject: The Body in History” in Ewan Fernie, Ramona Wray, Mark Thornton Burnett, Clare McManus (eds.), Reconceiving the Renaissance: A Critical Reader (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2005) 292-3.
  • “The Renaissance Body: From Colonization to Invention” in Tiffany Atkinson (ed.), The Body: A Cultural Reader (Basingstoke and New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) 12 – 26.
  • `”Still Keep Thy Sword Erect”: Marvell and the Phallic Republic’ Ecloga (On-line Working Papers Journal) 2 (Spring 2002) []
  • `”Forms such as never were in Nature”: The Renaissance Cyborg’ in Erica Fudge, Ruth Gilbert, Susan Wiseman (eds.), At the Borders of the Human: Beasts Bodies and Natural Philosophy in the Early Modern Period (London and New York: Macmillan / St. Martin’s Press, 1999, rpt. 2002) 171-195.
  • `The Transparent Man and the King’s Heart’ in Diane Watt and Claire Jowitt (eds.), The Arts of Seventeenth-Century Science: Representations of the Natural World in European and North American Culture (Aldershot: The Ashgate Press, 2002) 12-21.
  • `Towards the Renaissance Computer’ in Rhodes and Sawday (eds.), The Renaissance Computer: Knowledge Technology in the First Age of Print (London and New York: Routledge, 2000) 29-44.
  • (with Neil Rhodes) `Paperworlds: Imagining the Renaissance Computer’ in Rhodes and Sawday (eds.), The Renaissance Computer: Knowledge Technology in the First Age of Print (London and New York: Routledge, 2000) 1-17.
  • ‘”New Men, Strange Faces, Other Minds:” Arthur Keith, ‘Race’, and The Piltdown Affair (1912-1953)’ in Bernard Harris and Waltraud Ernst (eds.), Race, Science, and Medicine 1700-1960 (London and New York: Routledge, 1999) 259-288.
  • `Grabmode: Das Grabmal von Katharina von Medici und Heinrich II’ in Heide Wunder and Gisela Engel (eds.), Geschlechtperspektiven: Forschungen zur Frühen Neuzeit (Königstein / Taunus: Verlag, 1998) 425-440.
  • `”Shapeless Elegance”: Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Knowledge’ in Neil Rhodes (ed.) History, Language and the Politics of Renaissance Prose (Tempe, Arizona: Medieval and Renaissance Text Society, 1997) 173-202.
  • `Self and Selfhood in the Seventeenth Century’ in Roy Porter (ed.), Rewriting the Self: Histories from the Renaissance to the Present (London: Routledge, 1997) 29-48.
  • `”Poison and Honey”: The Politics of the Sacred and the Profane in Edmund Spenser’s Fowre Hymnes’ in Helen Wilcox, Richard Todd, Alistair MacDonald (eds.), Sacred and Profane: Secular and Devotional Interplay in Early-Modern British Literature (Amsterdam: VU University Press, 1996) 79-92.
  • Mastering the Deviant Will: Rembrandt, Descartes, and the Creation of Social Identity in the Seventeenth Century’ in Conny Lösch (ed.), Nationalismus and Subjectivität (Frankfurt: Zentrum zue Erforschung der Frühen Neuzeit, 1995) 125-150.
  • `Das Um-Schreiben einer Revolution’ in Helmut Berding (ed.), Nationales Bewußstein und kollektive Identität (Frankfurt, Suhrkamp, 1994) 323-341.
  • `Re-writing a Revolution: History, Symbol and Text in the Restoration’ The Seventeenth Century 7 (1992) 171-199.
  • ‘“Mysteriously Divided”: Civil War, Madness and the Divided Self’ in Healy and Sawday (eds.), Literature and the English Civil War (Cambridge: CUP, 1990, rpt. 2011) 127-143.
  • (with Thomas Healy) `“Warre is All the World About”’ in Healy and Sawday (eds.), Literature and the English Civil War (Cambridge: CUP, 1990, rpt. 2011) 1-20.
  • `Reading Renaissance Poetry’ in Wynne-Davies (ed.), The Bloomsbury Guide to English Literature (London: Bloomsbury Press, 1989, 2nd ed. 1995) 201-222. Re-printed in Wynne-Davies (ed.), The Renaissance from 1500-1660 (London: Bloomsbury Press, 1992), 15-36.
  • `The Fate of Marsyas: Dissecting the Renaissance Body” in Lucy Gent and Nigel Llewelyn (eds.), Renaissance Bodies: The Human Figure in English Culture (London: Reaktion Books, 1990) 111-135.
  • `Milton’s Dreams of Identity’ Milton Quarterly 22 (1988) 99.
  • Contributions to Crawford (et al.) eds. The Europa Biographical Dictionary of British Women (London: Europa Publications, 1983) 67-68, 104-105, 141-2, 430-431.
  • `The Leiden Anatomy Theatre as a Source for the “Cabinet of Death” in Gondibert’ N&Q 30 (1983) 437-9.
  • `The Mint at Segovia: Digby, Hobbes, Charleton and the Body as a Machine in the Seventeenth Century’ Prose Studies 6 (1983) 21-35.
  • ‘Unattributed Manuscript Corrections to a Poem by John Davies of Hereford’ N&Q 28 (1981) 40-41.

Honors and Awards

  • Summer Fellowship, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC (USA)
  • Fellow, Saint Louis University Research Institute (USA)
  • Visiting Fellow, Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CRASSH), Cambridge University (UK)
  • Chancellor’s Distinguished Visitor, University of Missouri (USA)
  • Visiting Faculty, NEH / Folger Institute, Washington, DC. (USA) in Digital Humanities
  • Visiting Scholar, Centre for Renaissance Studies, Newberry Library Chicago (USA)
  • Travel awards: British Academy (Australia, Italy); The British Council (India)
  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS) (UK)
  • Fellow of the English Association (FEA) (UK)
  • AHRB Research Leave Award (UK)
  • Fellow of the Royal Society for the Arts (FRSA) (UK)
  • Visiting Fellow, Russian State University for the Humanities, Moscow (USSR)
  • British Academy / Myers Foundation Fellow, Huntington Library (USA)
  • Visiting lecturer, Rutgers University, NJ (USA)
  • Fulbright Award (USA)
  • Major State Postgraduate Studentship (UK)

Professional Organizations and Associations

  • Editorial Boards of Journal of Literature and Science, Writing Technologies, Medical Humanities (BMJ) (2000-2012)
  • Folger Shakespeare Library, Mellon Award Advisory Committee: “From Farm to Table” 2017-2021
  • Advisory Board: Academia Scientiae ( 2014-
  • Executive Committee, Andrew Marvell Society (2016-19)
  • University of Michigan, Institute for the Humanities Executive Committee (2019-20)
  • Judging Panel, Book Award: British Society for Literature and Science (2012)
  • “Expert Group” for the Exhibition “Anatomy Acts” (City Art Centre, Edinburgh / Royal College of Surgeons of Edinburgh, 2006)
  • Scottish Council of Professors of English (2001-2009)
  • Standing Advisory Committee, Associated Examining Board, UK (1992-1994)