Leverhulme Trust Fellowship 

Professor Cathy Shrank

Professor Cathy Shrank (School of English) has been awarded a three-year Major Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust, beginning in September 2015, for a project on ‘Conversation and Community: English Dialogues, 1475-1675’.


Dialogue – work written as a purported conversation – was a vital form for disseminating knowledge and ideas throughout late medieval and early modern Europe. It was used as an instructional mode of writing, teaching skills as diverse as archery, medicine, and music; it was a form for philosophical reflection, religious polemic, and for focused debate about urgent and very specific political problems; it was put to both pornographic and devotional uses; and it was deployed to propound new ideas as well as to preach established beliefs.

Conversational forms consequently lie at the very heart of how late medieval and early modern Europeans talked to and argued with each other across cultural and national boundaries. The decision to write in dialogue was also ideologically freighted, owing to the influence of Roman republican dialogue and the emphasis on debate and counsel as the proper means of deciding policy.

English dialogues 

Nevertheless, dialogue remains a critically neglected genre within the Anglophone tradition. This project will be the first major study of dialogues written in English, or by English people in other languages, from the late medieval period to final decades of the seventeenth century. As such, it will address a significant lacuna in our understanding of an important literary tradition and trace its impact on a culture of political participation and emergent sense of citizenship.

Further information 

For further information about the project, contact c.shrank@shef.ac.uk.

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