Dr Helen Smith

HelenMy interest in the reception and reinvention of Jerusalem during the early modern period sprang from two different sources. For the past three years (2010-2013), I’ve been Co-Investigator on the AHRC-funded project Conversion Narratives in Early Modern Europe, blogging at www.europeanconversionnarratives.wordpress.com. Jerusalem crops up in various ways in tales of religious change: as  the destination for an armchair pilgrimage, a lost personal or national past, or a thinly-veiled version of early modern London. Jerusalem has also been cropping up time and again in my teaching and reading, whether as the setting for Elizabeth Cary’s biblical drama The tragedy of Mariam, the ironically displaced location of Henry IV’s death in Westminster’s Jerusalem Chamber in Shakespeare’s Henry IV, Part II, or Thomas Nashe’s bizarre erotic pilgrimage in his ‘Choice of Valentines’ (in which his ‘little pilgrim’ dies before he can reach ‘Jerusalem’).
My work to date has been centrally concerned with questions of the materiality of books, and the encounters between texts and their users. My book, Grossly Material Things: Women and Book Production in Early Modern England, was published by Oxford University Press in 2012, and won the 2013 SHARP DeLong Book History Book Prize. Renaissance Paratexts, the collection I co-edited with Louise Wilson, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2011. I also have a long-standing interest in the intricacies of religious writing, identity, and transformation. With Simon Ditchfield, I am putting together a collection on Conversion and Gender in Early Modern Europe, and I am co-editor, with Kevin Killeen and Rachel Willie, of the forthcoming Oxford Handbook of the Bible in England, c. 1530-1720. I’m currently working on a book-length project on early modern ideas about matter and their material expression, and am keen to bring my interests in the materiality of books, in reproduction, and in reception to bear on a rich range of cultural reimaginings of Jerusalem.

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