Photo of Donald Beecher

Donald Beecher

Degrees:B.A., M.A. (University of California, Santa Barbara), Ph.D. (Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 2305
Office:1908 Dunton Tower

Research Interests

  • Early English prose fiction
  • English and continental Renaissance drama
  • The implications of the cognitive sciences for the production and reception of literature
  • The Renaissance folktale and the Piacevoli notti of Straparola

Current Research

Much of my long-term research has been caught up with scholarly editing, a way of realizing the joys and conquests that come with restoring deserving authors from the Renaissance through critical and historical editions. Currently I am translating and editing a selection of stories from Boccaccio’s Decameron. Past projects include the 73 stories of Francesco Straparola’s Piacevoli notti (1550), and works by George Gascoigne, Barnabe Riche, Thomas Lodge, John Dickenson, and Sir Thomas Overbury (among the English), and Caro, della Porta, Turnèbe, Calderon, de Sommi, and Bernini (among the continental dramatists). My critical writing is eclectic, vacillating between the history of ideas and cognitive approaches to literature. For a number of years I explored the medico-literary relationships arising from lovesickness—intellectual history almost entirely—as well as diseases of the imagination, nostalgia, witchcraft, and invective. This work includes editions of Jacques Ferrand’s Treatise on Lovesickness (1623) in both French and English. But when, in more recent years, I found myself writing about laughter, memory, contagion, suspense, spiritual conversion, mind theatres, the self, bioethics, and the theatrical dimensions of folk psychology, perspectives from the cognitive philosophers began to appear with increasing frequency. A new collection of twelve essays should soon be heading to press, entitled: Adaptive Minds and Imaginative Worlds: Studies in Cognition and the Literature of the English Renaissance.

Honours and Awards

Montaigne Prize from the Canadian Society for Renaissance Studies 2017

Distinguished Visiting Professor, Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, UCLA 2011

Marston LaFrance Research Fellowship 2010

Senior Research Fellow, Institute for Advanced Studies, University of Bologna 2010

Carleton University, Chancellor’s Professor 2008

Carleton University, Research Achievement Award 2008

Lifetime Achievement Award, Canadian Society for Renaissance Studies 2003

Lansdowne Lectures, University of Victoria 2001


Annibale Caro, The Scruffy Scoundrels, a new translation in a bi-lingual edition (with Massimo Ciavolella). New York: Italica Press, 2017.

Giovanni Boccaccio, The Decameron, Selected Tales. Trans. with Intro. and Notes (with Massimo Ciavolella) for Broadview Press, Peterborough and Calgary, 2017.

Adapted Brains and Imaginary Worlds: Cognitive Science and Renaissance Literature, Montreal: McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2016

Giovan Francesco Straparola, The Pleasant Nights. Two volumes. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2014.

Ferrand, Jacques. Traite sur la maladie d’amour (1623). Ed. with introduction and annotations in French by Donald Beecher. Paris: Garnier Classique, 2010.

Ars Reminiscendi: Mind and Memory in Renaissance Culture. Eds. Donald Beecher and Grant Williams. Toronto: CRRS Publications, 2009.

Renaissance Comedy: The Italian Masters. Volume II. Lorenzo da Ponte Library. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2009.

Dickenson, John. Greene in Conceit. Ed. with introduction and annotations by Donald Beecher and David Margolies. Barnabe Riche Society Publications No.19. Toronto: CRRS Publications, 2008.

Renaissance Comedy: The Italian Masters. Volume I. Lorenzo da Ponte Library. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008.

Recent Publications

“Timothy Bright’s Dilemma: Materializing the Wrath of God.” Mirrors of Melancholy. Ed. Hélène Cazes. Turnhout: Brepols, 2010.

“Suspense is Believing: The Reality of Ben Jonson’s Alchemist.” Seeing is Believing, Or Is It? Ed. André Lascombes and Richard Hillman. Collection THETA Vol. 8, Centre d’études Superièure de la Renaissance (2009): 3-14.

The Fables of Bidpai from the Middle Ages to the Renaissance.” Renaissance Medievalisms. Ed. Konrad Eisenbichler. Toronto: CRRS Publications, 2008. 94-106.

“‘Folk Psychology’ and the Reality of Theatrical Characters: The Case of John Marston’s The Fawn.” Outsiders Within: Figures of Mediation in Tudor Drama. Ed. André Lascombes and Richard Hillman. Collection THETA Vol. 8, Centre d’études Superièure de la Renaissance (2007): 273-90.

Recent Graduate Courses

5304: Masterpieces of Jonsonian Comedy

5308: Milton and the Intellectual Tradition

5301: Early English Prose Fiction

5306: Shakespeare’s Problem Comedies