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Professor Diane Purkiss

Fellow and tutor in English

Professor of English Literature


I am an English faculty member, but I’m also a published historian.

How can that be? Much of my research is about fitting texts together to make the picture of the past more complex; some of the fragments count as literature, others don’t.

Ongoing interests include early modern witchcraft and the English Civil War, on which I’ve published my two most recent books. But my current research project is on the history of food in Britain and how it affects and is affected by everything else that happens here.

I’m also one half of a published children’s author called Tobias Druitt. The other half is my daughter Alice, who is now twenty-two years old. As a result I have a renewed interest in both classical myth and in British children’s literature, especially the influence of folklore.

Because I believe very strongly that academics have a responsibility to communicate with a public beyond the walls of the university, I review regularly for the broadsheet press, and make frequent radio and occasional tv appearances. But I’d rather be in the Bodleian.

Research Interests

The history of food in England; the dissolution of the English monasteries, the court of Henry VIII and sixteenth-century religious orders; witches, wizards, fairies and ghosts; the English Civil War; writer's block; folklore; Shakespeare and other Renaissance drama; Milton; women's writing; Classical Greek influences on Renaissance literature; historiography and theorisations of history; psychoanalysis; popular culture; feminism and feminist theory; folktales and folklore; writing for children in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries; writer's block and the writing process.

Future projects include a book on the writing process, from Homer to David Foster Wallace, and a series of articles on masculinity and the circulation of manuscripts in the seventeenth century, the first of which is now complete; I am also working on a microhistory of the Scottish witch, Andro Man, executed in 1597.

I also review for the TLS, the Times, the Sunday Telegraph, the Telegraph, the Independent and the Guardian, and have appeared on BBC Radio 4's Woman's Hour, In Our Time and on BBC and other TV.

Current Projects

Undergoing final revisions: Food in English History, ancient to present, HarperCollins, due 2017.

Recent Publications

  • 'Dining with the Tudors' in TLS - The Times Literary Supplement, 32 (2016)
  • 'Enchanting' in TLS - The Times Literary Supplement, 5 (2016)
  • '“As like Hermione as is her picture”: the shadow of incest in The Winter’s Tale' in Maternity and Romance Narratives in Early Modern England, ed. Naomi Miller and Karen Bamford (Ashgate, 2015)
  • 'Women beware women' in TLS - The Times Literary Supplement, 24 (2015)
  • 'Body crimes: The witches, Lady Macbeth and the relics' in Female Transgression in Early Modern Britain: Literary and Historical Explorations, ed. Richard Hillmann and Pauline Ruberry-Blanc (Ashgate, 2014)
  • 'What Do Men Want? Satan the Rake, and Masculine Desire' in Milton Now, ed. Erin Murphy and Catharine Gray (Palgrave, 2014)
  • 'The masque of food; staging and banqueting in Shakespeare's England' in Shakespeare Studies, 42 (2014), 91-105
  • 'Charming Witches: the ‘Old Religion’ and the Pendle Trial' in Preternature, 3 (2014), 13-31
  • 'Witchcraft in early modern literature' in The Oxford Handbook of Witchcraft in Early Modern Europe and Colonial America, ed. B Levack (Oxford University Press, 2013)
  • C Larrington and D Purkiss, Magical Tales: Myth, Legend and Enchantment in Children's Books (Bodleian Library, 2013)
  • 'Books of Magic' in Magical Tales: Myth, Legend and Enchantment in Children's Books, ed. C Larrington and D Purkiss (Bodleian Library, 2013)
  • 'The Undomestic Witch' in Gramarye, 1 (2012), 21-36
  • 'Marvell, boys, girls, and men: should we worry?' in Gender and early modern constructions of childhood, ed. Naomi Yavneh and Naomi J Miller (Ashgate, 2011)
  • 'Thinking of gender' in The Cambridge Companion to Marvell, ed. Steven Zwicker and Derek Hirst (Cambridge University Press, 2010)
  • 'Anna Trapnel’s Literary Geography' in The Intellectual Culture of Puritan Women 1558-1680, ed. Johanna Harris and Elizabeth Scott-Beauman (Palgrave, 2010)
  • 'Fractious: girls tell tales of witchcraft' in Shakespeare and Oral Culture, ed. Mary Ellen Lamb (New York: Ashgate, 2008)
  • with A. Druitt, Corydon and the Siege of Troy (London: Simon and Schuster, 2007)
  • The English Civil War: A People's History (HarperCollins, 2006)
  • with A. Druitt, Corydon and the Fall of Atlantis (London: Simon and Schuster, 2006)
  • Literature, Gender, and Politics during the English Civil War (Cambridge University Press, 2005)
  • with A. Druitt, Corydon and the Island of Monsters (London: Simon and Schuster, 2005)
  • 'The ghost of popular culture' in Shakespeare and Popular Culture, ed. Stuart Gillespie (Arden Critical Readers, 2003)
  • 'History and psychoanalysis' in History and Theory, ed. Garthine Walker and Edward Arnold (2003)
  • 'Losing babies, losing women: attending to women's stories in Scottish witchcraft trials' in Attending to Women in Early Modern England, ed. (University of Delaware Press, 2002)
  • At The Bottom of the Garden (New York: New York University Press, 2001)
  • 'Medea in the Renaissance' in Medea in Performance, ed. Edith Hall, Fiona Macintosh and Oliver Taplin (Legenda, Oxford University Press, 2000)
  • 'Old Wives' Tales Retold: The Fairy Queen in Drama and Popular Culture' in The Double Voice, ed. Danielle Clarke and Elizabeth Clarke (Macmillan, 2000)
  • 'Sounds of Silence: Fairies and Incest in Scottish Witchcraft Stories (pp.81-99)' in Languages of Witchcraft, ed. Stuart Clark (2000)
  • Troublesome Things: a history of fairies and fairy stories (Allen Lane/Penguin, 2000)
  • 'Blood, sacrifice, marriage and death: why Iphigeneia and Mariam have to die' in Women and Writing, Special Issue, Volume 6 No. 1 (1999)
  • 'Dismembering and Remembering: The English Civil War and Male Identity' in The English Civil Wars in the Literary Imagination, ed. Claude Summers and Ted-Larry Pebworth (Columbia and London: University of Missouri Press, 1999)
  • 'The Children of Medea: Euripides, Louise Woodward and Deborah Eappen' in Cardozo Law Review (1999)
  • 'Three Tragedies by Renaissance Women, edition of Iphigeneia in Aulis, by Lady Jane Lumley, The Tragedie of Antonie, by Lady Mary Sidney, The Tragedie of Mariam, by Elizabeth Cary, Viscountess Falkland' in Penguin Renaissance Dramatists Series, ed. John Pitcher (1998)
  • 'The queen on stage: Marlowe's Dido, Queen of Cathage and the representation of Elizabeth I' in Representing Dido, ed. Michael Burden (London: Faber, 1998)
  • 'Invasions: female prophecy and female bewitchment in the case of Margaret Muschamp' in Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature, 17 (1998), 235-53
  • The Witch in History: Early Modern and Late Twentieth Century Representations (London and New York: Routledge, 1996)
  • 'Desire and its deformities: fantasies of witchcraft in the English Civil War' in Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 27 (1996), 103-32
  • 'Women's stories of witchcraft in early modern England: the house, the body, the child' in Representations of the Self in Early Modern Britian, 7 (1995), 408-32
  • Women's Renaissance: Elizabeth Cary's Tragedie of Mariam and Edward II and Aemilia Lanyer's Salve Deus Rex Judaorum in Edition of Elizabeth Cary's Tragedie of Mariam and The History of the Life, Reign and Death of Edward II and Aemilia Lanyer's Salve Deus (London: William Pickering, 1994)
  • 'The lecherous professor revisited: Plato, Padogogy and the scene of harrassment' in Rethinking Sexual Harrassment, ed. Clare Brant and Yun Lee Too (London: Sage, 1994)
  • 'Public Disturbances and Public Speaking: Mary Astell' in Baetyl: The Journal of Women's Literature, 1 (1993), 32-58
  • Women, Texts and Histories 1575-1760
  • 'Producing the voice, consuming the body: subjectivity, fasting and reproduction in seventeenth-century women's prophetic writings' in Women/Writing/History, ed. Isobel Grundy and Susan Wiseman (London: Batsford, 1992)
  • 'Minding the story' in Women, Texts and Histories 1575-1760, ed. Clare Brant and Diane Purkiss (Routledge, 1992)
  • 'Material Girls: the seventeenth-century woman debate' in Women, Texts and Histories 1575-1760, ed. Claire Brant and Diane Purkiss (Routledge, 1992)
  • 'Women's Rewritings of Myth in Contemporary Poetry' in The Feminist Companion to Mythology, ed. Carolyne Larrington (London: Pandora, 1992)

Academic Biography

  • Professor of English Literature (2014 - present)
  • Fellow and Tutor of English, Keble College (2000 - present)
  • Professor of English, Exeter University (1998 - 2000)
  • Lecturer in English, University of Reading (1993 - 1998)
  • Lecturer in English, University of East Anglia (1991 - 1993)

College Contact Details

Professor Diane Purkiss
Keble College
Telephone: 01865 272766
Fax: 01865 272705