Photo of Grant Williams

Grant Williams

Degrees:B.A., M.A. (McMaster University), Ph.D. (University of Western Ontario)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 2334
Office:1905 Dunton Tower
By appt only

Research Interests

  • Early Modern Rhetoric, Literature, and the Psychology
  • The Memory Arts and Book History
  • Fantasy, Imagination, and Interiority
  • Cultural Theory, Psychoanalysis, Actor Network Theory

Current Research

Generally speaking, my research examines the early modern social imaginary—that is, the production of subjective and collective identities, desires, and anxieties in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature and culture.

Crucial to my research is understanding how texts constructed not only various subjectivities, but also different modes of interiority, especially types of thinking, remembering, and imagining. For the early modern period, these modes of interiority are mediated, on the one hand, by the principles of rhetoric, which dominated the spheres of education, the institutions of law, the printing press, and the court, and, on the other hand, by faculty psychology, which wove together multiple discourses on mentation and interiority, including Aristotelian natural philosophy, Galenic medicine, and Aquinian theology.

By tracing the social imaginary in English writers, such as Spenser, Sidney, Shakespeare, and Burton, my research reveals the extent to which early modern rhetorical practices and knowledge of the body could structure something as private and intimate as a person’s beliefs, thoughts, and fantasies. It also highlights the vast conceptual distance existing between modern notions of interiority and early modern ones. My most recent projects on remembering explore the ways in which the memory arts — from scholarly practices, mnemonic devices, and rhetorical strategies to emblems, monuments, and the memento mori tradition — extended the early modern mind into social situations.

Honours and Awards

  • SSHRC Standard Research Grant 2006
  • Research Achievement Award, Nipissing University 2003
  • Short-Term Research Fellowship, Folger Shakespeare Library 2001

Recent Books

The Memory Arts in Renaissance England: A Critical Anthology. Coedited with William E. Engel and Rory Loughnane. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016. (July 2016)

Taking Exception to the Law: Materializing Injustice in Early Modern English Literature. Coedited with Donald Beecher, Travis DeCook, and Andrew Wallace. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015. 288 pp.

Recent Chapters

“Law and the Production of Literature: An Introductory Perspective.” Taking Exception to the Law: Materializing Injustice in Early Modern English Literature. Ed. Donald Beecher, Travis DeCook, Andrew Wallace, and Grant Williams. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2015. 3-43.

“Double Exposure: Gazing at Male Fantasy in Shakespearean Comedy.” Staging the Blazon in Early Modern English Theater. Ed. Deborah Uman and Sara Morrison. Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013. 13-24.

Recent Presentations

“The Frontispiece and the Art of Memory: Constructing the Scholarly Imaginary.” Emblematic Negotiations: Redressing the Betrayal of Meaning in Late Renaissance Visual Culture. Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society. Renaissance Society of America Conference. Boston MA. 2 April 2016.

“The Rhetoric of the Monumentalizing Impulse in Shakespeare’s Sonnets.” Rhetoric, Poetics and Early Modern Memory. Sixteenth Century Studies Conference. Vancouver BC. 23 October 2015.

“The Self-Betrayal of Thought in FQ Book II.” The Place of Spenser / Spenser’s Places. The Fifth International Spenser Society Conference. Dublin, Ireland. 20 June 2015.

“Spenser’s Paranoia of Interiority and Intemperate Remembering.” ‘A Young Conception’: Theatres of the Mind in the Works of Shakespeare and his Contemporarie. Conference of the Canadian Society for Renaissance Studies. University of Ottawa, Ottawa ON. 31 May 2015.

“The Art of Memory and Early Modern Interiority.” Cogito, Ergo Shakespeare?: Cognitive Literary Studies from the Medieval Mind to Milton’s. Association of Canadian College and University Teachers Conference. The Learned Societies Conference. University of Ottawa, Ottawa ON. 31 May 2015.

“Early Modern Fantasies of the Heroic Mnemonist.” Renaissance Studies of Memory I. Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society. Renaissance Society of America Conference. Humboldt University, Berlin. 28 March 2015.

Recent Graduate Courses

2013–ENGL 5303: Objects of Phantasy in Early Modern Literature

2013–ENGL 5303: The Force of Phantasm and Phantasy in Spenser, Marlowe and Shakespeare

2011–ENGL 5308: Know Thyself in Early Modern Literature

2010–ENGL 5909: Slavoj Žižek and His Interlocutors

2010–ENGL 5901: Shakespearean Comedy and Fantasy

My Current Supervisions

Right now, I have started supervising one PhD student, Melissa Pullera, whose topic covers the connections between psychology and the supernatural in Renaissance drama. I would be pleased to supervise more students at the PhD level and students at the MA level too.