Stephanie Elsky, Renaissance woman

In her professional life, Stephanie Elsky sifts through Renaissance literature and teases out the relationship between law and literary form. So, naturally, when she gets some free time, she’s apt to crack open a good book.

“I know that sounds exactly like what I do for my job, but I love murder mysteries,” the recently-hired assistant professor of English says.

Elsky, who just completed a postdoctoral research appointment in Amherst College’s Department of Law, Jurisprudence, and Social Thought, also enjoys cooking and baking — madeleines, the small French sponge cakes, are her specialty — and yoga.

We quizzed the native New Yorker on her research, teaching approach and the rave review of Madison she received from a friend.

Elsky

Elsky

Q: Tell us about your research interests.
A: My current book project focuses on how 16th-century English writers justified their experiments with poetic and prose forms, as well as with the English language itself. I’m interested in the way that the legal realm provided literary writers with a model for thinking about the past, specifically the way political and legal change takes place over time. I’m also at work on a second book project that looks at how women writers during the 16th and 17th centuries related to, and adapted, legal structures to their own ends in often surprising and counter-intuitive ways.

Q: What courses will you teach?
A: This year I’m teaching courses on Shakespeare (English 417 and 418), as well as a topics course called “Gender, Place, and Power in Renaissance England.”

Q: What can students expect in the classroom?
A: I have found that students often come to class with really interesting and complex impressions of the materials we read together, but need guidance articulating and developing them. An important part of what I do in the classroom is help students explore how these impressions and reactions emerge from a text and provide them with a vocabulary for building arguments. Since I teach in an early period, it’s also crucial for me that the materials we read don’t remain distant and alien, or intimidating and unapproachable.

Q: Why are you most excited about being at UW-Madison?
A: I’m extremely excited about the different institutes and programs devoted to interdisciplinary research, including the Center for the Humanities and the Institute for Research in the Humanities, as well as the Institute for Legal Studies.

Q: What did you know about Madison before coming here?
A: While I had never been to Madison before this past year, I had long heard of the wonderful farmer’s market by the Capitol (perfect for a foodie like me!) and the Memorial Union Terrace. One of my friends, a former graduate student at UW-Madison, told me that if she ever won the lottery, she’d move back to Madison, and that seems like a very strong recommendation to me.

To meet more new faculty members, see our full list of Q&As.

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