My primary research interests are in literature religion and medicine of the early modern period. My interest in prose writing religion and medicine began with my monograph on The Anatomy of Melancholy, which analyses the author Robert Burton's claim that his work is designed to have curative effects on the reader afflicted with melancholy. I have since written a second book: A User's Guide to Melancholy, coinciding with the 400th anniversary of Burton's masterpiece.
I also work on John Donne: My current research project is a scholarly edition of volume 13 of The Oxford Edition of the Sermons of John Donne. I previously edited volume 12 and my work has been supported by an AHRC Leadership Fellowship. A defining characteristic of this new edition is that sermons are arranged not simply by chronology but rather by place of preaching. By presenting these sermons in the framework of their place of delivery, the edition pays close attention to the nature of Donne's auditory and shows how Donne engages closely and directly with political and doctrinal debate. My work on Donne has led me to a wider interest in English cathedrals and their place in spirituality and religion.
A User's Guide to Melancholy (Cambridge University Press, 2021). 'Delightfully written and brilliantly informative' (Philip Pullman)
The Oxford Edition of the Sermons of John Donne, Vol. 12: Sermons Preached at St Paul's Cathedral, 1626 (Oxford University Press, 2017) ISBN: 9780199578580. Online access (subscriber only) at Oxford Scholarly Editions Online, The Sermons of John Donne, Vol. 12: Sermons Preached at St Paul's Cathedral, 1626
Melancholy, Medicine and Religion in Early Modern England: Reading 'The Anatomy of Melancholy' Cambridge University Press, 2010) [shortlisted for the CCUE Book Prize 2011]
Journal articles and book chapters
'The Prose Style of John Bunyan', in The Oxford Handbook of John Bunyan, ed. by Michael Davies and W. R. Owens (Oxford University Press, 2018): pp. 397-412. DOI: 10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199581306.013.22
'Without a Cause: Fear in The Anatomy of Melancholy', in Fear in the Medical and Literary Imagination, Medieval to Modern: Dreadful Passions, ed. Daniel McCann and Claire McKechnie-Mason (Palgrave, 2018), 37-54
'Donne's Convalescence', Renaissance Studies 31 (2017), 532-48. DOI: 10.1111/rest.12246. John Donne Society Award for Distinguished Publication, 2017.
'Being Dead in Shakespearean Tragedy', in Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Mortality and its Timings: When is Death?, ed. Shane McCorristine (Palgrave Macmillan, 2017): 17-31
'Reading', in A Handbook of English Renaissance Literary Studies, ed. John Lee (Wiley Blackwell, 2017), pp. 324-336. https://doi.org/10.1002/9781118458747.ch22
'Robert Burton, Perfect Happiness and the visio dei', in The Renaissance of Emotion: Understanding Affect in Shakespeare and his Contemporaries, ed. by Richard Meek and Erin Sullivan (Manchester University Press, 2015): 86-106
'Richard's Back: Death, Scoliosis and Myth Making', Medical Humanities, 41 (2015): 89-94 http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/medhum-2014-010647
I regularly contribute to the media and am happy to be contacted by journalists on subjects including: the history of mental health melancholy and medicine; 16th- and 17th-century English literature and history; and the history of religion. I have been a contributor to several radio programmes: Start the Week (BBC Radio 4 2021) discussing my book A User's Guide to Melancholy; the series A History of Delusions (BBC Radio 4 2018); The Glass Delusion (BBC Radio 4 2015); and In Our Time (BBC Radio 4 2011); on The Anatomy of Melancholy, which is featured in the programme's 'Top 10 Culture' episodes. I have written articles for History Today BBC History Magazine Aeon Magazine and The Church Times.
Along with my colleague Professor Sarah Knight, I was press contact for English for the University's 'Search for Richard III' and have given many public talks on Richard, as well as interviews to local national and international media in connection with the reinternment events in Leicester in March 2015.