Dr Lesel D Dawson

B.A.(Lond.), M.Phil.(Oxon.)

  • BS8 1TB


Research output per year

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Personal profile

Research interests

Research interests

  • Sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature
  • grief, loss and mourning in contemporary literature and over time
  • the relationship between grief and artistic creation 
  • early modern psychology
  • early modern ideas about gender
  • the history of the emotions, including shame, disgust, lovesickness and desire
  • revenge tragedy from the classical period to the present day
  • early modern intellectual and medical history
  • trauma and its relationship to visual distortions / hallucinations

My main research interests are in early modern literature (particularly drama), early modern psychology, and the history of the emotions.

My current project focuses on grief, exploring what role creativity plays in managing and processing loss and in what contexts grief can be seen as meaningful and productive. I organized the workshop 'Good Grief' with Naomi Baker and wrote the screenplay for the short fiction film, Lost Property, which was part of a wider collaborative project led by Jimmy Hay and funded by the Brigstow Institute. I am one of the organizers of Good Grief: A Festival of Love and Loss, which was funded by a Wellcome Public Engagement Grant and led by founder, Dr Lucy Selman.

I have written on trauma and hallucinations, exploring the relationship between seeing, feeling, imagining, and remembering, and organized a panel with Eric Langley (UCL) on ‘Vision and Emotion’ at the 2016 Shakespeare Association of America (SAA). I co-edited Revenge and Gender from Classical to Renaissance Literature  (Edinburgh University Press, 2018) with Fiona McHardy, and have written on a range of other topics, including: shame, misogyny, menstruation, and cruentation.

My book, Lovesickness and Gender in Early Modern Literature (OUP, 2008) analyses literary representations of lovesickness in relation to medical ideas about desire and early modern ideas about gender; it explores ideas about how desire is believed to take root in the body, how gender roles are encoded and contested in courtship, and how Neoplatonism offers an alternative construction of love to that found in natural philosophy. Focusing on writers such as Shakespeare, Beaumont and Fletcher, Middleton, Ford, and Davenant, the book considers the relationship between women's lovesickness and other female maladies (such as hysteria and green sickness), arguing that female lovesickness is a species of melancholy which can be depicted not only as a passionate illness which degenerates into madness, but also as a spiritual and cerebral affliction. 

I am on the Board of Directors for Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory in Bristol and enjoy participating in Public Engagement activities. I organized the Lewis Fry Memorial Event, ‘Remember Me: Shakespeare’s Cultural and Artistic Legacy’, and was interviewed on the BBC Radio3 Sunday Feature, ‘Still Bill’


I have experience of teaching from 1500 to the present day. I teach on the MA in English Literature, on the units Renaissance Literature: Text and Context and Intertextual Shakespeare.

I would welcome PhD proposals on any aspect of early modern drama and the history of the emotions, especially those which engage with my own research in some way.


External positions

Board of Directors, Shakespeare at the Tobacco Factory

2008 → …


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