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Indiana University Bloomington

Penelope Anderson

Penelope Anderson

Email | 812-855-4529

Associate Professor

Affiliate Faculty in Gender Studies, Renaissance Studies, and WEST European Studies

Ph.D. in English, University of California, Berkeley, 2007
A.B. in English, Bryn Mawr College, 1998, summa cum laude

I write and teach about early modern British literature, especially that of the English Civil Wars. Working at the intersection of literary studies, gender, and political theory, my scholarship investigates how stories of societies’ origins and histories solidify into seemingly inevitable versions of why things are the way they are. My interest lies not only in the grip of certain political fictions upon our imaginations, but also in the central role literature plays in originating, circulating, and – crucially – challenging those accounts. The historical flux of the late Renaissance offers the chance to reimagine our received accounts of political organization as not fixed but contingent, one possible story among many.

My first book, Friendship’s Shadows: Women’s Friendship and the Politics of Betrayal in England, 1640-1705 (Edinburgh University Press, 2012), tells one such story. It argues that women writers, especially the royalist Katherine Philips and the republican Lucy Hutchinson, use the classical and Renaissance discourse of friendship, or amicitia, to provide an alternative to other accounts of state formation. By insisting upon a version of humanist friendship in which the friends’ goals contribute to but also potentially challenge the state, women writers refashion themselves as central, rather than marginal, to civic life.

My second book project, Humanity in Suspension: Gender and International Law in Seventeenth-Century Literature, begins with two concepts important to my first book: law’s formative effect on women’s subjectivity and war’s transformative impact on ideas of what constitutes the human. It aims to show the longstanding historical intersections between the legal and conceptual frameworks of political prisoner, slave, and subjected woman, in order to reveal a new genealogy of human rights articulated in their suspension. While claims to nationality often constitute a source of persistent belonging for those torn from their communities (like prisoners of war), the entanglements of prisoner, slave, and woman also redefine political subjectivity in the interstices between and outside the nation-state. What constitutes political personhood outside national borders, or for a subject whose country no longer exists, or for a woman whose marriage purports to refigure her national identity?

Both projects draw together my interests in queer, feminist, and gender studies; early modern political theory; law; and manuscript studies and history of the book. My teaching includes all these areas, as well as canonical authors such as Shakespeare and, especially, Milton.

Recent Courses

L663: Feminist and Queer Temporalities
L731:  Milton
L631:  Gender and Writing in Early Modern England

L389: Feminist and Queer Theory: Amazons, Cross-dressers, and Hermaphrodites
L317: Early Seventeenth-Century Poetry
L314:  Lame Reports:  Theatre and Disbelief in the Later Plays of Shakespeare
E302:  Literature in English, 1600-1800:  The Lure of the New
L202:  Literary Interpretation: Real and Imagined Places

Research Highlights (click images for more information)


Humanity in Suspension: Gender and International Law in Seventeenth-Century Literature (book manuscript in progress).

Friendship's Shadows: Women's Friendship and the Politics of Betrayal in England, 1640-1705 Friendship’s Shadows: Women’s Friendship and the Politics of Betrayal in England, 1640-1705 (Edinburgh University Press, 2012).

“The Absent Female Friend:  Recent Studies in Early Modern Women’s Friendship.”  Literature Compass, April 2010.

“‘Friendship Multiplyed’:  Royalist and Republican Friendship in Katherine Philips’s Coterie.”  Discourses and Representations of Early Modern Friendship, 1500-1700.  Eds. Lorna Hutson, Daniel Lochman, and Maritere López.  Aldershot, England:  Ashgate Press, 2011.


“‘Thy Prisoner, but not thy Slave’: Translating Civil and International Wars in the Plays of Katherine Philips,”Modern Language Association Annual Convention, January 2012.

“War Within and War Without: Civil and International Wars in the Writings of Katherine Philips,” University College London Centre for Early Modern Exchanges Launch Conference, London, England, September 2011.

“Early Modern Friendship: Recent Work and New Directions,” Roundtable participant and organizer, Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, Montreal, Canada, March 2011.

“Royalist Lucretias:  Refiguring Monarchy in Hester Pulter’s Writings.”  Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, Venice, Italy, April 2010.

“Political Resistance and the Right to Conscience in Women’s Religious and Literary Writing.”  Workshop co-organizer, Society for the Study of Early Modern Women Meeting, University of Maryland, College Park, MD, November 2009.

“‘The strict bond of friendship’:  Lucy Hutchinson’s Elision of the Marital Contract in De rerum natura and Order and Disorder.”  Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, Los Angeles, CA, March 2009.

“‘A Strange Increase’:  Rhetorical Excess and Lesbian Consequences in Katherine Philips’s Poetry.”  Group for Early Modern Cultural Studies Conference, Philadelphia, PA, November 2008.   

“‘They imagine that they are made slaves thereby’:  Marital Slavery and the Resistant Captive in Samson Agonistes.”  Ninth International Milton Studies Conference, University of London, England, July 2008.

“‘Hardly got, and quickly lost’:  The Political Meanings of Katherine Philips’s Poems in Manuscripts and Miscellanies.”  Manuscripts and Miscellaneity 1450-1720 Conference, University of Cambridge, July 2008.

“Katherine Philips reads Milton reading the King’s Book:  Women’s Friendship, Pamela’s Prayer, and the Politics of Royalist Representation.”  Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, Chicago, IL, March 2008.

Selected Honors and Awards

American Council of Learned Societies Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship, announced Spring 2013
Folger Library Seminar, “Law as Politics in England and the Empire,” Spring 2013
Indiana University College Arts and Humanities Institute Conference Grant, Spring 2013
Newberry Renaissance Consortium Grants, 2008, 2009, 2011, 2012, 2013
Indiana University Trustees’ Teaching Award, 2011
Indiana University WEST Faculty Research Grant, Summer 2010
Indiana University WEST International Conference Travel Grant, Spring 2010
Indiana University College Arts and Humanities Institute Travel and Research Grant, Fall 2009
Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences Summer Faculty Fellowship, 2008
Overseas Conference Fund Grant, Indiana University Office of the Vice President for International Affairs, Summer 2008
Center for British Studies Anglo-California Foundation Fellowship, Spring 2005
Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities, 2000-2001