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  • Julian Yates
    University of Delaware
    Department of English
    129 Memorial Hall
    Newark, DE 19716
    (302) 831-4130
    Office Hours: MoWe, 9 - 10am


    Julian Yates received his B.A. (Hons.) in English Language and Literature from St. Anne’s College, Oxford University, in 1990, and his M.A. and PhD in English Literature from UCLA in 1996. He teaches courses on Medieval and Renaissance British Literature, literary theory, and material culture studies. He is the author of two books: Error, Misuse, Failure: Object Lessons from the English Renaissance (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003), which was a finalist for the MLA Best First Book Prize in 2003; and What’s The Worst Thing You Can Do To Shakespeare? (New York and London: Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming 2013) which was co-written with Richard Burt. 

    His recent work focuses on adapting the critical language of material culture studies to deal with “things” that were once alive (plants, animals, fungi) and takes the form of a book with the working title: The Multi-Species Impression: Renaissance / Organics. Research for this project has been sponsored by, among others, a long-term NEH fellowship at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington DC (2006-2007) and a Franklin Research Award from the American Philosophical Society (2007).


  • Ph.D., English Literature, UCLA, 1996
  • M.A., English Literature, UCLA, 1993
  • B.A., English and American Literature and Language, St. Anne's College - Oxford University, 1990

Research Projects 

  • The Multi-Species Impression: Renaissance / Organics
    Yates, Julian

    According to his Table Talk (1689), English polymath John Selden was fond of enlisting the fruit and vegetables at dinner to the edification of his guests. By the pleasant disorientation provided by considering how, say, a pear might appear to itself, Selden would open a space for counter-factual thinking, whereupon he would explain some higher order of truth, such as the mysteries of divine grace.

    Renaissance Organics takes up Selden’s invitation to entertain the ‘point of view’ or ‘metaphysics’ of non-human entities but preserves the counterfactual openness of the inquiry, hearing therein a call for hospitality, for ecological thinking. Tracking the literal and figurative lives of sheep, oranges, and yeast, as they are put to imaginative use by Selden’s contemporaries, the project investigates a series of interrelated questions: What were the rhetorical uses and limits of the invitation to think variously animate things in Renaissance England? How were the rhetorical possibilities of such everyday prosopopeias (giving of face or voice to non-humans) understood, put to use? Within which somatic or psychological registers was the pull of things upon us (what sociologists today name ‘thing-power’) felt, articulated, made knowable? And what do the thought-experiments, predicaments, and puzzlements of Renaissance writers, offer readers today by way of imaginative resources at our own refashioned humanist tables?

    (Pictured: Tower of London, Reconstructed Cell of Jesuit inmate John Gerard who used oranges for all manner of purposes including invisible ink).

  • What’s The Worst Thing You Can Do To Shakespeare?
    Yates, Julian
    In collaboration with Richart Burt, University of Florida, Gainsville
    What’s the Worst Thing You Can Do To Shakespeare? The title reads like that of a reality show or game show (The ShaX-Factor) in which one might expect the direst forms of bardoclasm to run amok as contestants are dared to discover the latest degradations. Deploying this shock value in order to reclaim misreadings, missed readings, botched readings, and non-readings of Shakespeare’s plays, our book seeks to examine the frequently mooted ‘un-readability’ of Shakespeare’s texts as a peculiar symptom of their absorption into global culture as they are variously remediated. Combining close textual analysis, history of the book, media studies, with a willingness to see possibilities for enabling / enlivening responsiveness in rubbished cultural forms and a shameless sense of the fun to be had in reading, we offer our book as a guide to the way un-readability haunts Shakespeare Studies as a whole. Allied to this re-description of the field, we provide four chapter-length readings of Hamlet, Romeo and Juliet, Macbeth, and The Tempest that rethink the nature of Shakespeare’s plays as they are altered by adaptations, spin offs, and translations whose way of joining Shakespeare’s text is not reducible to ‘reading.’


  • Error, Misuse, Failure: Object Lessons from the English Renaissance
    Yates, Julian
    Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 2003.

    Drawing object lessons from failing technological devices, Error, Misuse, Failure plumbs the foundations of Renaissance culture in England, recovering a curious language of mistakes, dirt, and parasitism that associates the failures of these "things" with the figures of Rome, Catholicism, and Sodom. This book is one of the first forays into translating the philosophical insights of Michel Serres and Bruno Latour into Renaissance Studies. It does so with an eye to the potential these two thinkers have for rethinking our received histories and ways of reading.

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