Joshua Calhoun

Position title: Resident Fellow (2015-2016)

English, UW-Madison

Image of Joshua Calhoun examining a bronze sculpture outdoors

The Nature of the Page in Renaissance England

Toward a Natural History of the Book: Animals, Vegetables, and Media in Renaissance England, my in-process first book, explores the rhetorical interplay of words and matter in media, particularly sixteenth- and seventeenth-century printed books and manuscripts on paper and parchment. Made of recycled clothes, slaughtered animals, and felled trees, media in Renaissance England are filled with visible traces of ecological matter. The project traces the natural history of sixteenth- and seventeenth-century media objects while asking broader questions—questions that often go unasked in media scholarship—about ecology, poetics, and the “raw materials” that fund the history of book making. The period-focused research of this book offers just one example of the intriguing, poetic, and vital stories a natural history of media can reveal. The questions I ask of paper and parchment might be just as productively asked of millennia-old Eastern palm-leaf books or the newest iPhone.

Joshua Calhoun is an Assistant Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison who specializes in Shakespeare, sixteenth- and seventeenth-century poetry, and the history of media. As a Faculty Affiliate at the Nelson Institute’s Center for Culture, History, and Environment (CHE), he also teaches courses in the environmental humanities. His work has been published in PMLAShakespeare Studies, and Environmental Philosophy. He is currently writing a book about poetry, papermaking, and ecology titled The Nature of the Page in Renaissance England. Drawing on original archival research, environmental history, and the poetry of Shakespeare and his contemporaries, the book tells a vibrant natural history of the ecological negotiations and technological contrivances used to store and transmit human ideas.