Stephanie Elsky

Stephanie Elsky
Assistant Professor
7167 Helen C. White Hall
E-mail Stephanie Elsky
Renaissance poetry and prose, law and literature, Shakespeare, poetics, reception of classical antiquity, history of the material text, early modern women writers, colonialism

Degrees and Institutions

B.A. Columbia University

M.A. University of Pennsylvania

Ph.D. University of Pennsylvania

Selected Publications

“Common Law and the Commonplace in Thomas More’s Utopia,” ELR 43.2 (Spring 2013)


“‘Wonne with Custome’: Conquest and Etymology in the Spenser-Harvey Correspondence and A View of the Present State of Ireland,” Spenser Studies XXVIII (forthcoming, Fall 2013)


“Lady Anne Clifford’s Common-Law Mind,” Studies in Philology (forthcoming, Summer 2014)

Current Project

My current book project focuses on the relationship between literary and legal authority in sixteenth-century England and Ireland. I argue that custom, the basis of England’s common law, also had a profoundly poetic life, one sparked by the figurative and imaginative appeal of its existence since “time immemorial.”  Sixteenth-century writers pursued custom’s fictive potential in multiple genres, perceiving its value in justifying a range of poetic experiments.  Long before custom played a crucial role in the parliamentary debates of the seventeenth century, these writers explored its radical potential to reconfigure the sources and contours of authority.


I teach courses on Shakespeare and early modern literature and culture.  In Fall 2013, I will teach ENG 417 (Shakespeare pre-1600), focusing on love, friendship, and other political problems in Shakespeare’s early plays and poems.  I will also teach a course entitled “Gender, Place, and Power in Renaissance England (ENG 426), which explores how plays, poems, and prose works construct gender in relationship to a range of different spaces in the early modern period, from the household to the city to the New World, and even outer space.