Helen Wilcox, BA, DPhil, FRSL, FEA

Helen Wilcox
01248 382109
Room 306, New Arts

Enjoys teaching

Renaissance and early modern literature, contemporary writing (especially recent prize-winning texts and issues of literary taste), and interdisciplinary courses across the boundaries between literature and music, theology and the visual arts.  I am happy to supervise postgraduates in all these areas, particularly those working on early modern literature and questions of genre, gender, and the contextualising and editing of early modern texts.

Research profile

My research concentrates on three main areas of early modern English literature: devotional writing, particularly lyric poetry; Shakespeare, particularly the tragicomedies; and women’s writing, particularly poetry and autobiography.

My work on devotional writing focuses on the religious poetry and prose written in English in the seventeenth century, a time of intense dilemmas over devotional identity. I have published many articles on the work of writers such as John Donne, Aemilia Lanyer, George Herbert, An Collins, Henry Vaughan, ‘Eliza’ and their contemporaries. My annotated edition of Herbert’s poems was published by Cambridge in 2007. To be followed by a monograph on the seventeenth-century religious lyric. Find out more about this new edition. Meanwhile, my Shakespeare studies centre on his tragicomedies: that is, his so-called ‘problem plays’ and the romances. These plays are particularly fascinating for their alternative solutions to the challenges of tragedy and comedy, and for their female roles. I have published several essays in the field of gender and genre in Shakespeare, and my Arden 3 edition of All’s Well That Ends Well is due out in 2015. I also have a long-standing interest in early modern women’s writing, and one of my first books was the co-edited anthology of seventeenth-century women’s autobiographical writings, Her Own Life (1989), now seen as a pioneering work in the field. Since then I have published Women and Literature in Britain, 1500-1700 (1996) and numerous articles on seventeenth-century women authors, raising questions of identity, voice, wit and religion. I have contributed the chapter on the early modern period to the Cambridge History of Feminist Literary Criticism.

It will be clear that these three main areas of interest overlap considerably, since the women’s writing on which I work includes many devotional texts, and my focus on Shakespeare highlights issues of gender. They are also linked by certain recurring issues: the definition of genres (lyric, tragicomedy, autobiographical writing); the nature of early modern communities (held together by religious belief, literary allegiances, gender, or family), and the prevailing question of identity in the early modern period. Since none of this research can be carried out on literary works in isolation, the relationships between literature, history, religion, music and the visual arts form the vital interdisciplinary context of my work.  This inter-relation of literature (by women and men), music, devotional experience and political contexts is central to my most recent book, 1611: Authority, Gender and the Word in Early Modern England (Blackwell, 2013).

Selected publications

1611: Authority, Gender and the Word in Early Modern England (Blackwell, 2013)

‘Measuring up to Nebuchadnezzar: Biblical Presences in Shakespeare’s Tragicomedies’, in Adrian Steele (ed), Early Modern Drama and the Bible (Palgrave Macmillan, 2011) 48-67

‘" Jove’s Great Priviledge”: Identity and Mortality in Early Modern Women’s Writing’, in I Ghose and D Renevay (eds), The Construction of Textual Identity in Medieval and Early Modern Literature (Tubingen: Gunter Narr, 2009) 177-97

‘In the Temple Precincts: George Herbert and Seventeenth-Century Community Making’, in R Sell and A W Johnson (eds), Writing and Religion in England, 1558-1689 (Ashgate, 2009) 253-72

‘Needy Nothing Trimmed in Jollity’, in James M Dutcher and Anne Lake Prescott (eds), Renaissance Historicisms (University of Delaware Press, 2008), 313-29

George Herbert: The English Poems (fully annotated edition) (Cambridge:  Cambridge University Press, 2007).

‘Selves in Strange Lands: autobiography and exile in mid-seventeenth century England’, in Early Modern Autobiography: Theories, Genres, Practices, ed. Ronald Bedford, Lloyd Davis, and Philippa Kelly (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 2006).

co-ed. Transforming Holiness: Representations of Holiness in English and American Literary Texts (Leuven and Paris: Peeters, 2006).

‘The Character of a Footnote ... or, Annotation Revisited’, in In Arden: Editing Shakespeare, ed. Ann Thompson and Gordon McMullan (London: Thompson/Arden Shakespeare, 2003), pp. 194-208.

‘Literature and the Household in the Civil War and Commonwealth Era’, in The Cambridge History of Early Modern English Literature, ed. David Loewenstein and Janel Mueller (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2002), pp. 737-762.

‘“My hart is full, my Soul dos overflow”: Women’s Devotional Poetry in Seventeenth-Century England’, Huntington Library Quarterly 63.4 (2000), pp.1-21.

co-ed. Betraying Our Selves: Forms of Self-Representation in Early Modern English Texts (London: Macmillan, 2000)

‘“If I prove honey-mouthed, let my tongue blister”: Women’s Language in Shakespeare’s Tragicomedies’, Shakespeare Jahrbuch 134 (1998), pp.97-107.

ed. Women and Literature in Britain, 1500 - 1700 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1996).

co-ed.George Herbert: Sacred and Profane (Amsterdam: Free University Press, 1995).

‘Gender and Genre in Shakespeare’s Tragicomedies’, in Reclamations of Shakespeare, ed. Ton Hoenselaars (Amsterdam: Rodopi / DQR Studies in Literature, 1994), pp. 129-138.    

‘“Curious Frame”: the seventeenth-century religious lyric as genre’, in New Perspectives on the Seventeenth-Century Religious Lyric, ed. J. R. Roberts (Columbia, U.S.A.: University of Missouri Press, 1994), pp. 9-27.

co-ed. Her Own Life: Autobiographical Writings by Seventeenth-Century Englishwomen (London: Routledge, 1989; reprinted 1994.      
‘Herbert’s Musical Contexts: Countrey-Aires to Angels Musick’, in Like Season’d Timber: New Essays on George Herbert, ed. E. Miller and R DiYanni (New York: Peter Laing, 1987), pp. 37-58.


Current Support for Others' Research

Co-editor of English, the journal of the English Association. If you wish to contact the editors please email Englishjournal@bangor.ac.uk.

Leader (with Diane Watts, Aberystwyth) of research group ‘Women and the Sacred’ in the Institute for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (2006-)

International advisory council, Renaissance English Text Society (2000-)

Assessor, AHRC Research Centre schemes

Peer recognition

Fellow of the Royal Society of Literature

Fellow of the English Association