Dr Ayesha Mukherjee
My research interests lie in the fields of early modern English literature and cultural history.
I am currently writing my first book, based on my PhD dissertation, and provisionally titled Penury into Plenty: Dearth and the Making of Knowledge in Early Modern England. This book is an interdisciplinary study of dearth in England at the turn of the sixteenth century. It argues that dearth in this period gave crucial stimulus to knowledge-making and the formation of an experimental program of resource management, which I have termed ‘dearth science’. I broadly explore intersections between the histories of early modern science, medicine, economics and literature, but with special attention to the rarely studied manuscripts and published works of the Elizabethan scientist, medical practitioner, socio-economic analyst, trader and poet Sir Hugh Platt (1552-1608) who tried to ‘remedy’ dearth. I have published articles on Platt and am particularly interested in the relationship between literary writing, socio-economic crises, and the production and circulation of knowledge in the early modern period. My aim is to apply the conceptual framework for a cultural history of dearth and its sustainable remedies that emerges from my current project to other contexts, timeframes and economies.
I am Principal Investigator for a research network titled “Early Modern Discourses of Environmental Change and Sustainability”. The network is funded by the AHRC under the Landscape and Environment programme. Also supported by English Heritage and the Peninsula Partnership for the Rural Environment (PPRE), the network is designed to bring together scholars from across the humanities and social sciences, including specialists working on regions other than Britain, to consider the expression, negotiation and transformation of notions of environment and sustainability over time and place. The network events comprise linked workshops, focusing on the period 1500 – 1800, leading to a conference on the broad theme of ‘Environment and Identity’ which extends the geographical, chronological and political scope of the workshops by investigating the relationship between government policies and local initiatives, and by encouraging comparison between past and present.
My other research projects are: a book-length study centred on alchemical writings and remedial practices, as well as their literary manifestations, in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries; and a collaborative project (with Professor Andrew McRae) on forests in early modern literature and culture.
Research on the above has stimulated my interest in a wide range of early modern writing, whether canonical or not: I am especially keen on Shakespeare and Renaissance drama, religious poetry and prose, receipt books and casebooks, manuscript culture, early printed books, vagrancy literature, women’s writing, and radical writing. My forthcoming work also includes articles on Shakespeare’s Falstaff and on theatricality in alchemical practice and writing, as well as a series of essays (for the Blackwell Encyclopedia of English Renaissance Literature) on the controversialist Thomas Lupton, the indefatigable Scottish preacher John Dury, the Cambridge neoplatonists Benjamin Whichcote and Peter Sterry, and of course on my preferred protagonist Hugh Platt.
These seemingly eclectic research interests are bound by an approach to interdisciplinarity which consistently combines historical and literary modes of analysis and by a general enthusiasm for cultural history.
I would be happy to supervise students interested in any aspect of early modern literature and cultural history, especially in the areas of literature and science, literature and ecology, manuscript culture and book history, intellectual history, and Renaissance drama. Projects taking interdisciplinary approaches to literature within and/or beyond the established literary canon would be very welcome.
"Interpretation, narratives and representation in historic records", AHRC/British Library workshop on South Asian Historical Records and Climate, Centre for Contemporary Studies, Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore (2011)
"In Vulcano Veritas: The Manuscripts of Hugh Platt", Society for Renaissance Studies Conference (2010)
"Nature, landscape, and community in the works of Peter Sterry", Durham University Centre for Seventeenth-Century Studies, 13th International Conference, Durham Castle (2010)
"Imagining Shakespeare's Falstaff in the context of dearth", English Research Seminar, University of Exeter (2009)
“Dearth and the Making of Knowledge in Early Modern England: The Case of Sir Hugh Platt”, Leicester Early Modern Seminars, University of Leicester (2008)
“The Secrets of Hugh Platt”, “Secrets and Knowledge: Medicine, Science, and Commerce, 1500-1800”, Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences and Humanities, University of Cambridge (2008)
"Dreams of Plenty: Domestic Economy in Early Modern England”, Early Medicine and Natural Philosophy Seminar, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge (2007)
“Dearth science 1580-1608: The Writings of Hugh Platt”, The Thomas Harriot Seminar, St John’s College, Durham University (2006)
"Food and Dearth in Early Modern England” (Plenary session), International Colloquium on “Food: Representations, Ideology, and Politics”, Centre for Advanced Studies, Jadavpur University, Calcutta (2006)