My research focuses on two broad, overlapping areas: the history of seventeenth-century dissent, and the relationship between literature and history. In this work I have been engaged in uncovering the social depth of politics, and the importance of nonconformist print culture. In 2012 I published a three-volume edited collection of nonconformist verse. I have also produced, alongside my friend and colleague Dr Grant Tapsell, a broader study of the late seventeenth century, which uses visual and literary materials alongside the more conventional sources of political history. As this suggests, I am committed to demonstrating the benefits of interdisciplinary approaches, and I remain involved in the debates about the methodological and theoretical issues that arise from the study of literature in a historical context. Please see the research and publications tabs for more details.
Almut Suerbaum, George Southcombe and Benjamin Thompson (eds), Polemic: Language
as Violence in Medieval and Early Modern Discourse (Farnham: Ashgate, 2015).
If terms are associated with particular historical periods, then ’polemic’ is firmly rooted within early modern print culture, the apparently inevitable result of religious controversy and the rise of print media. Taking a broad European approach, this collection brings together specialists on medieval as well as early modern culture in order to challenge stubborn assumptions that medieval culture was homogenous and characterized by consensus; and that literary discourse is by nature ’eirenic’. Instead, the volume shows more clearly the continuities and discontinuities, especially how medieval discourse on the sins of the tongue continued into early modern discussion; how popular and influential medieval genres such as sermons and hagiography dealt with potentially heterodox positions; and the role of literary, especially fictional, debate in developing modes of articulating discord, as well as demonstrating polemic in action in political and ecclesiastical debate. Within this historical context, the position of early modern debates as part of a more general culture of articulating discord becomes more clearly visible. The structure of the volume moves from an internal textual focus, where the nature of polemic can be debated, through a middle section where these concerns are also played out in social practice, to a more historical group investigating applied polemic. In this way a more nuanced view is provided of the meaning, role, and effect of ’polemic’ both broadly across time and space, and more narrowly within specific circumstances.
‘The Polemics of Moderation in Late Seventeenth-Century England’, in Southcombe,
Suerbaum and Thompson (eds), The Uses of Polemic.
I have most recently published an essay on late seventeenth-century English polemical
writing in a book, of which I am one of the editors, on medieval and early modern uses of
polemic. I am now in the process of finishing a monograph on Restoration nonconformity. In this book I investigate the experiences of a variety of religious dissenters, and point, in particular, to the ways in which they used printed works as a form of political action. I have co-supervised four graduate students working on aspects of English witchcraft, and
I am currently co-supervising doctoral students working on Quaker theology, and Anglo-Japanese relations.
Dissent and the Restoration Church of England
English nonconformist poetry
Shrews in Pamphlets and Plays’
Restoration Politics, Religion and Culture
‘“A Prophet and a Poet Both!”: Nonconformist Culture and the Literary Afterlives of Robert Wild’