Dr Rowan C Tomlinson

BA(Oxon.), MA(Oxon.), PhD(Oxon.)

  • BS8 1TE

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Personal profile

Research interests

Rowan Tomlinson is a specialist in the cultural, literary, and intellectual history of the European Renaissance and her research is fundamentally comparative, covering French, Italian, Latin, and Neo-Latin writers. She is especially interested in the interactions during the long sixteenth century – before the creation of the ‘two cultures’ that separated the arts and the sciences – between the literary and other disciplines (natural history, the visual arts, philosophy, philology) and in the ways in which Renaissance cultures worked with the legacies of the classical past. Parallel research interests include the history and practice of liberal-arts education, in Europe and globally, and access to cultures of humanism by those outside Renaissance institutions and seats of power, be this women, auto-didacts, religious or political recusants, or writers and thinkers in colonized countries. 

Publications include essays on Rabelais, Montaigne, Poliziano, the reception of Pliny the Elder, and theories of inspiration and invention in Renaissance poetics, as well as a co-edited volume on the translation culture of England and France from 1500 to 1660. Her first single-authored book, Inventive Inventories. Literature and Natural History in Renaissance Europe, will appear with Oxford University Press. The book examines the intriguing relationship between natural history and literature across the long sixteenth century, beginning in the 1490s with the Florentine humanist Angelo Poliziano and ending in the 1620s with the Jesuit writer Etienne Binet, by way of Erasmus, Juan-Luis Vives, Jacques Peletier Du Mans, Conrad Gessner, Rabelais, and Montaigne, to name a few of the cast who make up her broad and comparative corpus. Rigorous in its faithful depiction of the cultural particularity of the Renaissance, this book at the same time, and more generally, looks to make its readers think harder about the resources on which literature draws, processes of imitation and composition, and the distinctiveness or otherwise of the literary.

In 2016 Rowan was awarded a Fellowship by the Arts and Humanities Research Council in recognition of the excellence and the impact, past, current, and future, of her distinctive scholarship. The project, 'Scholars, hacks, and gentlemen: the politics of authorship in Renaissance France', is concerned broadly with the socio-political status of different categories of writer from the early sixteenth century to the formation of the Académie française in 1635, telling a story of rival communities, divided disciplines, and the emergence of an increasingly exclusionary vocabulary of taste. The Fellowship allowed Rowan to do intensive work on single-authored publications but also to establish a network of interested scholars who met for workshops with radically creative formats, and to organize diverse public-engagement activities, from podcasts to public talks, in collaboration with scholars from across early-modern studies. The project has inspired collaborative work with Simon Park (University of Oxford), a specialist in Portuguese culture. They are currently writing a 'think-piece' on what early modern studies can do for decolonization. 

Rowan has a strong interest in exploring the methodologies that inform historical study and in developing fruitful interactions between historical studies and other disciplines. She is a member of an ongoing cross-disciplinary research project, 'Early Modern Keywords: A European Vocabulary of Culture and Society in a Global Frame, 1450-1700' and has worked with scholars in the medical humanities, offering a historical perspective on global perceptions of Chinese medicine.



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