Rachel Eisendrath

Assistant Professor of English
Chair of Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Rachel Eisendrath specializes in sixteenth-century poetry. Her work on Renaissance poetry explores problems of aesthetics, the history of poetic forms, and the intersection of literary and visual arts. Her forthcoming book, Poetry in a World of Things: Aesthetics and Empiricism in Renaissance Ekphrasis (University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2018), is a study of elaborate literary descriptions, or ekphrases, against the background of the early modern rise of objectivity. Drawing on Adorno, the book explores the fraught relation between aesthetic form and an increasingly empiricist understanding of the historical world. Eisendrath received a B.A. from Harvard, M.A. from St. John’s College, M.A. and Ph.D. from the University of Chicago. She also studied painting and sculpture at the New York Studio School.

Academic Focus: 

Renaissance literature
Aesthetics
Classical traditions
Poetics
Epic
Rhetoric

Courses: 

English Colloquium: Order & Disorder in the Renaissance
Shakespeare I
Renaissance Drama
Renaissance Epic
Elizabethan Renaissance: The Lyric
English Colloquium: Reason & Imagination in the Enlightenment
Critical Writing
Words and Pictures: Intersections of Literary and Visual Art 

Awards & Honors: 

Gladys Brooks Faculty Excellence in Teaching Award, 2015

Fellowship (Short-Term), Folger Institute, 2015

Franklin Research Grant (for three months at the Huntington Library), American Philosophical Society, 2015

Barnard SAPL Grant, 2015

Barnard Mini-Grant, 2014

Andrew W. Mellon Foundation Dissertation-Year Fellowship, University of Chicago, 2010-2011

Nonfiction Writing Fellowship, New York Foundation for the Arts, 2005

Presentations / Recent Lectures: 

"Ekphrasis and Aestheticism: Marlowe’s Hero and Leander," Sixteenth Century Society Conference, Bruges, August 2016 

Sidney and Spenser roundtable on "How to Delight and Instruct," Sixteenth Century Society Conference, Bruges, August 2016 

"Swine before Pearls: On Ugliness," New School for Social Research, October 2015 

"'Beholding it from farre': the 'real' city in proportion," Fifth International Spenser Society Conference, Dublin, June 2015 

"A History of the Ugly," Barnard Center for Research on Women, April 2015 

"Miniature Cities," Renaissance Society of America, Berlin, March 2015 

"Not Waving but Drowning: At the Seaside of Passion with Spenser," Roundtable on Spenser, Sixteenth Century Society and Conference, New Orleans, October 2014

"Who Was Simone Weil," Panel on Weil organized by Mary Gordon, Barnard College, September 2014

"The Aesthetics of Going Outside," conference on Chaucer and Spenser, University of Bristol, England, July 2014 

"'Gaudy Toys': Aesthetic Thingliness in Marlowe's Hero and Leander," Seminar in the Renaissance, Columbia University, May 2014 

"Fairer Parts, Nether Parts: Behind the Veil in Spenser's The Faerie Queene," Sixteenth Century Society and Conference, Puerto Rico, October 2013 

"Ekphrasis," introductory presentation for Ekphrazein: A Meeting of Poetry and Image, a reading of contemporary ekphrastic poetry, New York, NY, September 2013

"Ekphrasis and the Encounter with Historical Materiality: Shakespeare's The Rape of Lucrece," conference on ekphrasis sponsored by International Association of Word and Image Studies, University of Hull, England, July 2013 

"Whenever Where: The Problem of Conceptual Reification in Shakespeare's Sonnets," Shakespeare Association of America, seminar on exceptionalism in the sonnets, Toronto, March 2013

“What It Feels Like to Be a Thing: Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece,” Renaissance Workshop, University of Chicago, February 2012

“Spenser and Objectification,” Renaissance Colloquium, Harvard University, November 2011

“Petrarca’s 1341 Letter from Rome: Inarticulacy and Historical Contingency,” Early Modern Interdisciplinary Conference, University of California, Berkeley, November 2011

Publications: 

Book

Poetry in a World of Things: Aesthetics and Empiricism in Renaissance Ekphrasis (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, forthcoming 2018).

Articles / chapters in edited collections

"'Lamentable objects': ekphrasis and historical materiality in Shakespeare’s The Rape of Lucrece," in Ekphrastic Encounters: New Interdisciplinary Essays on Literature and the Visual Arts, eds. David Kennedy and Richard Meek (Manchester University Press, forthcoming 2017)

“Object Lessons: Reification and Renaissance Epitaphic Poetry,” in The Insistence of Art: Aesthetic Philosophy after Early Modernity, edited by Paul Kottman (Fordham University Press, 2017).

"Going Outside: Aesthetics and Human Subjectivity in The Faerie Queene, Book III," special issue of Spenser Studies 30, guest eds. Ayesha Ramachandran and Melissa Sanchez (December 2015), pp. 343-68.

"Carl Phillips: After the Afterlife of the Epic Tradition," Literary Imagination 17.1 (Oxford Journals, March 2015), pp. 11-15.

“Art and Objectivity in the House of Busirane,” Spenser Studies 27 (2012), pp. 133-61.

Review

Katherine Acheson, Visual Rhetoric and Early Modern English Literature (Burlington, VT: Ashgate, 2013), Sixteenth Century Journal, Vol. 45, No. 3 (Fall 2014), 710-11. 

Creative nonfiction

“Household Objects,” fictional essay, The Threepenny Review, No. 102 (Summer 2005), 34-35.

Contact: 

401A Barnard Hall
212-854-2109
reisendr@barnard.edu

Office Hours: 

Fall 2017
TBA

Education: 

Ph.D., M.A., University of Chicago
M.A., St. John’s College
B.A., Harvard and Radcliffe Colleges

In the News

A Conversation with Pulitzer-Prize-Winner Hisham Matar