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Seth Lerer

B.A. (Wesleyan University, 1976)
B.A. (Oxford University 1978 (MA 1986))
Ph.D. (University of Chicago, 1981)

Distinguished Professor

Primary Office: Contact Department
Primary Phone: Contact Department
Quarterly Office Hours


Recipient: 2014 Outstanding Teaching Award
Guggenheim Fellow
Recipient of National Book Critics Circle Award

Seth Lerer joined the Literature Department in January 2009 as Distinguished Professor and as Dean of Arts and Humanities. His teaching and research address Medieval and Renaissance Literature, the History of the English Language, Children’s Literature, and the history of the book. Most recently, he has been working on Shakespeare

Selected Publications:

Boethius and Dialogue: Literary Method in the Consolation of Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton  University Press, 1985). [Honorable Mention, John Nicholas Brown Prize. Medieval Academy of America, 1989]

Literacy and Power in Anglo-Saxon Literature (Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press, 1991).

Chaucer and His Readers: Imagining the Author in Late-Medieval England  (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1993; paperback, 1996). [Beatrice White Prize, The English Association of Great Britain, 1995]

Courtly Letters in the Age of Henry VIII: Literary Culture and the Arts of  Deceit (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1997; paperback 2006).

Error and the Academic Self: The Scholarly Imagination, Medieval to Modern (New York: Columbia University  Press, 2002). [Harry Levin Prize, American Comparative Literature Association, 2005]

Inventing English: A Portable History of the Language (New York: Columbia University Press, 2007).

Children’s Literature: A Reader’s History from Aesop to Harry Potter (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2008). [National Book Critics Circle Prize in Criticism, 2009; Truman Capote Prize in Literary Criticism, 2010; translated into Spanish and Korean]

The Wind in the Willows: An Annotated Edition (Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, 2009).

Prospero’s Son: Life, Love, Books, and Theater (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2013).

Tradition: A Feeling for the Literary Past (Oxford University Press, 2016).

Shakespeare's Lyric Stage (Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2018).

Selected recent articles and book chapters:

“Devotion and Defacement: Reading Children’s Marginalia,” Representations 118 (2012): 126-53.

“Auerbach’s Shakespeare,” Philological Quarterly 90 (2011): 21-44.

“Literary Prayer and Personal Possession in a Newly-Discovered Tudor Book of Hours,” Studies in Philology 109 (2012): 409-28.

“Cultivation and Inhumation: Some Thoughts on the Cultural Impact of Tottel’s Miscellany,” in Stephen Hamrick, ed., Tottel’s Songes and Sonettes in Context (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate Press, 2013), pp.147-161.

“What Chaucer Did to Shakespeare: Books and Bodkins in Hamlet and The Tempest,” (with Deanne Williams), Shakespeare, The Journal of the British Shakespeare Association 8 (2012): 1-13.

Sir Orfeo, Line 285: An Emendation,” Notes and Queries n.s., 59 (2012): 320-22.

“Hamlet’s Poem to Ophelia and the Theater of the Letter,” ELH 81(2014): 841-63.

“Children’s Literature,” in Michael Saler, ed., The Fin-de-siècle World (New York: Routledge, 2015): 691-705.

“Bibliographical Theory and the Textuality of the Codex: Towards a History of the Pre-Modern Book,” in Michael Van Dussen and Michael Johnston, eds., The Cultures of the Medieval Manuscript Book (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015), pp.17-33.

“’The Tongue’: Chaucer, Lydgate, Charles D’Orléans and the Making of a Late Medieval Lyric,” The Chaucer Review 49 (2015): 474-98.

“What Was Medieval English?” in Tim W. Machan, ed., Imagining Medieval English (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), pp.15-33.

“Hamlet’s Boyhood,” in Deanne Williams and Richard Price, eds., Childhood,  Education and the Stage in Early Modern England (Cambridge University Press, 2017), pp.17-36.

“Anthologies: Kenneth Grahame and the Landscapes of Children's Verse,” in Louise Joy and Kate Wakely-Mulroney, eds., The Aesthetics of Children’s Poetry (London: Routledge, 2017), pp. 243-55.