Elizabeth B. Bearden

7147 Helen C. White Hall
E-mail Elizabeth B. Bearden
Early modern prose and poetry, Reception of Antiquity, Comparative Literature, formal and philosophical approaches to literary study, Disability Studies

Degrees and Institutions

Ph.D. (2006), Comparative Literature, NYU

A.B. (1998), Comparative Literature, Princeton


Complete CV

Bearden’s first book, The Emblematics of the Self: Ekphrasis and Identity in Renaissance Imitations of Greek Romance, was published by the University of Toronto Press in 2012. She has published articles in PMLA, JEMCS, Ancient Narrative Supplementum, and Arizona Journal for Hispanic Cultural Studies. She has also directed a digital humanities project documenting the funeral of Sir Philip Sidney. 

Her next book project, titled Monstrous Kindes: Body, Space, and Narrative in Early Modern Literary Representations of Disability, theorizes physical disability in Renaissance conduct books and treatises, travel accounts and plays, the picaresque, wonder books, essays, and early novels. The cross-section of texts is comparative, putting canonical European authors such as Castiglione and Cervantes into dialogue with transatlantic and Anglo-Ottoman literary exchange. Its methodology takes a neoformal and philosophical approach to premodern formulations of monstrous bodies, spaces, and narratives, which continue to shape our understandings of disability today.

Research and Teaching Interests

Bearden’s interests include early modern literature; the reception of antiquity; early modern genre debates; hermeneutics; Neolatin, Siglo de Oro and transatlantic literatures; translation studies; travel writing; the history of rhetoric; natural law, the beginnings of international human rights law, and Neostoic cosmopolitanism; the history of science and medicine; digital humanities; as well as theoretical approaches including New Formalism, narratology, New Historicism, visual culture studies, cultural studies, queer and gender studies, and New Philology. Bearden teaches a variety of grad and undergrad classes on early modern literature, rhetoric, the reception of antiquity, poetry and prose, word-image relations, and disability studies. She teaches graduate seminars on the Sidney Circle, Ekphrasis: word and image from antiquity to the Renaissance; Travel Writing, and disability in early modern literature. She also enjoys postmodern novels, science fiction and fantasy, the OuLiPo, cooking, fine wine, tandem cycling, Latin dancing, and Bolero, though she doesn’t claim to have expertise in these categories.

Recent Books

  • The Emblematics of the Self: Ekphrasis and Identity in Renaissance Imitations of Greek Romance

    Elizabeth Bearden

    University of Toronto Press


    The ancient Greek romances of Achilles Tatius and Heliodorus were widely imitated by early modern writers such as Miguel de Cervantes, Philip Sidney, and Mary Wroth. Like their Greek models, Renaissance romances used ekphrasis, or verbal descriptions of visual representation, as a tool for characterization. The Emblematics of the Self shows how the women, foreigners, and non-Christians of these tales reveal their identities and desires in their responses to the ‘verbal pictures’ of romance.