Current Research Projects

Elizabethan and Early Jacobean Praises of Music, edited collection under contract with Routledge

This edited collection, co-edited with Katherine Butler, examines the “praise of music” literature prominent in late sixteenth- and early seventeenth-century England: writings defending music (and especially church music) from those who opposed it on moral and theological grounds, The book presents essays and critical editions to enable sustained thematic analysis of the genre as a whole. Most notable among its editions is the anonymous early Jacobean Praise of musick manuscript (BL Royal MS 18.B.xix), not currently available as a critical edition, alongside new editions of several shorter “Praise of Music” texts currently available separately in out-of-print texts. Accompanying the editions are nine essays by musicologists and English literature scholars which offer a broad range of perspectives on the praise of music genre, including political function, social ethics, humanist philology, medical philosophy, Protestant theology, and connections with medieval music theory, thus giving insight into the state of early modern English musical thought and its primary debates.

“The ‘Ballad Controversy’ Revisited: Anti-Ballad Sentiment and Praises of Music,” book chapter for Elizabethan and Jacobean Praises of Music, ed. Samantha Arten and Katherine Butler

Hyder Rollins wrote in 1919 of a ‘ballad controversy’ of the early 1560s, in which a current of cultural anxiety surrounded ballads, producing attacks on music in general as immoral. This so-called ‘controversy’ was made up of a single antagonist (Thomas Brice) and four ‘praise of music’ writings (three of them literally called ‘commendations of music’) by Henry Spooner, Thomas Churchyard, Nicholas Whight, and Richard Edwards, which were published in response to Brice’s anti-ballad sentiment. These works continue to be discussed as a group in the scholarly literature. This essay problematizes the straightforward narrative of a 1561-63 ‘ballad controversy’ and shows that moralizing debate regarding ballads was located not in the laus musicae topos but instead in printed collections of metrical scriptural paraphrase, and that this controversy originated not in the 1560s but dates back to c. 1535. Two ‘waves’ of published metrical scriptural paraphrase can be identified, the first of which (c. 1535-67) called for the replacement of ballads with psalmody, and the second of which (1578-99) markedly did not demonstrate antagonism toward ballads. Meanwhile, praises of music in this period seem to have been altogether uninvested in defending ballads, instead advocating for music generally.

“Performing Religious Reform in the Tudor Parish Church,” co-authored with Anne Heminger, book chapter for Early Modern Performance Beyond the Public Stage: Extra-Theatrical Forms and Spaces, ed. Jennifer Wood and Amrita Sen (under contract with Bloomsbury Arden)

In addition to the significant changes wrought by the English Reformations on theology and music, the soundscape of Tudor parish churches evolved over the course of the sixteenth century, as those across the confessional spectrum made alterations to almost every audible element of communal worship. Using the lengthy career of composer Thomas Tallis, who famously composed “under fower sovereygnes,” as a lens, this chapter will trace the sounds of worship during the various stages of the English Reformation, seeking to understand the experience of a generation who lived through the liturgical upheavals under Henry VIII, Mary I, Edward VI, and Elizabeth I. Examining professional choral singing, congregational psalm-singing, bells, and the spoken aspects of liturgical and paraliturgical practices as they were altered over time, we will demonstrate that the sonic performance of theological change depended not only on the religious inclination of a given sovereign, but also on local theological, liturgical, and cultural influences within each monarch’s reign.

Reading The Whole Booke of Psalmes

In this monograph, I examine the English Reformation’s primary hymnal from the perspective of book history and the history of reading, considering how this popular book was read, what readers were instructed to learn from paratextual materials, and what we can learn about Elizabethan publishers and typesetters by reading it closely ourselves. My methodology draws on book history and paratextual studies: at the heart of the project is the investigation of variability across editions. I have attempted to view as many Elizabethan editions and book-copies of the WBP as possible. From 34 libraries across the United States, England, Scotland, and Wales, and one private collection, and additional consultation of materials found on Early English Books Online, I have viewed 265 individual book-copies of the WBP, spanning 133 editions. (In this period from 1562-1603, the English Short-Title Catalog lists 141 editions; I have discovered two additional unlisted editions.) This survey of book-copies has allowed me to track publishers’ choices in prefatory and paratextual material across Elizabeth’s reign, and enable me to evaluate reader use, manuscript annotations and corrections, and typesetting errors.