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Mary Morrissey

photograph of mary morrissey

Areas of interest

I am on the Admissions Team in the department, and am happy to discuss your application to study English Literature at Reading: email

Postgraduate supervision

I have supervised PhD thesis on early modern women's writing and on Catholic Recusant literature. I welcome postgraduates interested in undertaking research on John Donne, on the impact of the Reformation on English Literature, or on London civic culture in the early modern period.


Within the department I teach primarily in Early Modern and Old English.  

I convene:
  • EN2OEL: Introduction to Old English Literature
    This module explores English Literature from before the Norman Conquest, at a time when England was culturally linked to Northern Europe and Scandinavia. We study the texts in translation, including Seamus Heaney's now-famous translation of Beowulf, and consider the impact of Old English Literature on modern authors, like J.R.R. Tolkien.
  • EN2RTC: Renaissance Texts and Cultures
    In this module, we examine Renaissance literature against the background of the cultural, social and religious upheavals of Tudor and early Stuart England. We consider the challenge to assumptions about gender that Queen Elizabeth's long reign created, and how poets and writers responded to it. We look at Renaissance writers engagement with the Classical and Christian past, and their exploration of the 'new world'.
  • EN3JD: John Donne and his Contemporaries
    This module gives students (and teachers!) the chance to puzzle their way through some of the most intricate and intriguing poems produced during the English Renaissance, by John Donne, Ben Jonson, Andrew Marvell and John Milton. We think about the social usefulness of poetry in the early modern period, and the role of literature in representing and facilitating the changes wrought by the Civil War.
  • EN3JM: John Milton
    This module does what it says on the tin: we look at Milton's works, beginning with his shorter poems, moving on to his prose writings (and particularly his political tracts) written during the Civil War. We spend some time on Paradise Lost (of course) and then finish with a consideration of Samson Agonistes. We consider the literary and political influences on Milton, and the literary and political influence of Milton. And we take time to enjoy the grace and grandeur of Milton's verse.

I also teach on:

  • EN2LV: Lyric Voices, 1340-1650.

Research projects

My primary research subject is Reformation literature, particularly from London. I am particularly interested in Paul's Cross, the most important public pulpit in sixteenth and seventeenth-century England. I retain an interested in early modern women writers, with a particular focus on women writers' use of theological arguments.

Early Modern Research Centre

I have been working in collaboration on a three-year project on 'Paul Cross and the Culture of Persuasion: Tudor Origins of the Early Modern Public Sphere', PI Professor Torrance Kirby, Faculty of Religious Studies, McGill University, Montreal. This project was funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

I have organised a series of one-day colloquia, called 'Seminars in Early Modern Preaching', with Dr. Hugh Adlington, University of Birmingham. To date, three successful events have been held, on 'Uses of Secular Language' (2007); 'Regional and Parochial Preaching' (2009); and 'King David' (2010).

I am also a member of the Advisory Board, 'Virtual Paul's Cross' Project, funded by the NEH, PI: Professor John Wall, NC State University.

Academic qualifications

  • Member of International Association of University Professors of English (IAUPE)
  • Member of the Society for Renaissance Studies.
  • Fellow of the Royal Historical Society

Selected publications

  • Politics and the Paul's Cross Sermons, 1558-1642 (Oxford University Press, 2011), ISBN: 0199571767.
  • 'What An Collins was reading', Women's Writing iFirst, 2012, pp. 1-20, ISSN 0969-9082 print/ISSN 1747-5848;
  • 'Paul's Cross: Context, Occasion, Significance', in English Past and Present: Selected papers from the IAUPE Malta Conference in 2010 ed. Wolfgang Viereck (Frankfurt-am-Mein: Peter Lang, 2012), ISBN: 09783631638958, pp. 49-56.

Public engagements


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