ERC-funded research project, hosted by CRASSH and the Faculty of English, University of Cambridge. 
2014 – 2019

This project uncovers the interface between imaginative literature and epistemology in its wider sense in early modern England (1500–1700). This period of intense literary production also saw the cultural forces of humanism and the Reformation collide; crucial shifts in the law; scientific advancement; and dramatic expansion in trade and travel. At stake across the board was knowledge: its theories and technologies, its excitements and anxieties. We examine intersections between literary forms and apparently disparate areas of thinking about ways of knowing; at the same time, we remain attentive to the thresholds between these more explicitly epistemic disciplines. Research is to be organised along the four disciplinary strands in the first four years, with literary intervention as a running thread.

  • Theology
  • Natural philosophy
  • Economic thinking
  • Law

The final year will consolidate the project with specific events.

Subsequent disciplinary segregation has obscured the understood relations among these disciplines: epistemic transactions vital to the experiences of knowledge and belief which so deeply vexed and shaped the period’s thought.

Our point of entry is the specific intervention of literary texts in this conversation. What does literature know, or tell us, that other discourses cannot, or do not, because of their disciplinary investments? What aspirations to objectivity or assurance will it not share with science, religion or the law? How does it complicate economic ideas of insurance by translating them to affective notions of risk and surety? And crucially, how do these cognate practices engage with literary constitutions of knowledge? To recover the multiple frame against which this culture articulates its conceptions of knowledge, we read these fields as coeval but distinct. We grapple with the methods of each discipline; in our deployment of literary engagements, we do not posit literature as ethically superior but as methodologically productive for this enquiry. Through the thematic foci of knowing and knowingness, doubt and unknowing, we aim to recover a so-far uncharted history of the blind spots of knowledge, thereby rewriting the story of early modern epistemology.

This project, based jointly at the Faculty of English and CRASSH, was funded by an ERC Consolidator Grant, and was led by Dr Subha Mukherji, Senior Lecturer at the Faculty of English.


ERC Logo and EU Flag


This project, KNOWING, has received funding from the European Research Council (ERC) under the European Union’s Seventh Framework Programme (FP7-2007-2013). Grant agreement No. 617849.

For further information please contact crossroads@crassh.cam.ac.uk, but be aware that this project has closed and emails are not monitored frequently – we apologise for any delay in replying to you.


Principal Investigator

Dr Subha Mukherji (English, University of Cambridge)


Post-doctoral Research Associates

Dr George Oppitz-Trotman

Dr Carla Suthren

Dr Camilla Temple


Advisory Board

Professor Sukanta Chaudhuri (Jadavpur University, Kolkata)

Dr. Tania Demetriou (Lecturer in English Drama, Faculty of English, University of Cambridge, and Fellow of Sidney Sussex College)

Dr Natasha Glaysier (Department of History, University of York)

Professor Nicholas Hammond (Department of French, University of Cambridge)

Professor Jonathan Hope (Professor of Literary Linguistics and member of Digital Humanities Research Group, University of Strathclyde)

Professor Rhodri Lewis (Professor of English Literature, University of Oxford and Fellow of St Hugh’s College)

Dr Alexander Marr (Department of History of Art, University of Cambridge and Fellow of Trinity Hall)

Dr Craig Muldrew (Faculty of History, University of Cambridge and Fellow of Queens’ College)

Professor Claire Preston (Professor of Renaissance Literature, Queen Mary University of London)

Dr Jan-Melissa Schramm (Faculty of English, University of Cambridge and Fellow of Trinity Hall)

Dr Jason Scott-Warren (Faculty of English, University of Cambridge and Fellow of Gonville and Caius College)

Dr Richard Serjeantson (Faculty of History, University of Cambridge and Fellow of Trinity College)

Professor Barbara Shapiro (Emeritus Professor of Rhetoric, University of California, Berkeley)

Dr Michael Witmore (Director, Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington D.C.)

Dr Rowan Williams (Master of Magdalene College and former Archbishop of Canterbury)

Professor Nicolette Zeeman (Faculty of English, University of Cambridge and Fellow of King’s College)


Ex-officio Member

Professor Peter De Bolla (Professor of Cultural History and Aesthetics and Chair of the Faculty Board of English, University of Cambridge; Fellow of King’s College)


Exhibition Advisor

Dr Jane Partner (Trinity Hall)


Project Alumni

Dr Tim Stuart-Buttle (University of York/JRF Clare Hall, Cambridge)

Dr Koji Yamamoto (University of Tokyo)

Dr Rebecca Tomlin (The Society of Antiquaries)

Dr Rachel E. Holmes (University College London)

Dr Elizabeth Swann (University of Durham)

Dr Joseph Jarrett (Magdalene College, University of Cambridge)


Crossroads of Knowledge in Early Modern England: the Place of Literature
Crossroads of Knowledge: Literature and Theology in Early Modern England
14 Feb 2015 All day, Trust Room, Fitzwilliam College

Literature and Theology in Early-Modern England is a one-day colloquium to mark the launch of Crossroads of Knowledge in Early Modern England: the Place of Literature, a five-year interdisciplinary research project, funded by the European Research Council. The colloquium will look from a variety of perspectives at the intersection of theology and literature in early modern England, with a particular alertness to the project's overall thematic foci (doubt and unknowing, knowing and knowingness).

Knowledge, Belief and Literature in Early Modern England
7 May 2015 - 8 May 2015 All day, Graham Storey Room, Trinity Hall
Interdisciplines: Drama, Economics and Law in Early Modern England
17 Oct 2015 All day, Trust Room, Fitzwilliam College
Knowledge is Power – or is it? The View from Renaissance England
24 Oct 2015 12:00pm - 1:00pm, S2, Alison Richard Building
Change and Exchange
29 Apr 2016 - 30 Apr 2016 All day, Graham Storey Room, Trinity Hall
Matter at the Crossroads: Literature and Natural Philosophy in Early Modern England
25 Nov 2016 All day, Graham Storey Room, Trinity Hall

This conference explores the intersections between Natural Philosophy and Literature. Part of Crossroads of Knowledge in Early Modern England: the Place of Literature, a five-year ERC-funded project.

Crossroads of Knowledge: Early Modern Literature and Natural Philosophy
3 Mar 2017 - 4 Mar 2017 All day, SG1, Alison Richard Building
Law and Poetics in Early Modern England and Beyond
2 Jul 2018 - 4 Jul 2018 8:30am, Graham Storey Room, Trinity Hall

Law and Literature has evolved from the vexations of the early 1990s into a thriving field across periods, with the English Renaissance still a major locus. Our 3-day conference on Law and Poetics will address the trends and urgencies in the field now, with a view to teasing out their implications for the methods and motives of knowing, and considerations of knowability. It will raise new questions about the remit of legal, poetic or artistic knowledge.

Law and the Arts
3 Jul 2018 2:30pm - 5:30pm, Main Lecture Theatre, Old Divinity School, St John's College

A three-part public event embedded in the conference, Law and Poetics in Early Modern England and Beyond (2-4 July, 2018). This event, involving actors, visual artists and legal professionals comprises:

  • a professional performance event directed by Adele Thomas. Her previous credits include: Shakespeare's Globe/Sam Wanamaker Theatre, The Oresteia (2015) and The Knight of the Burning Pestle (2014).
  • a talk and demonstration by multi-media visual artist Carey Young (The Slade School of Fine Art, University College, London; creator, Before the Law, Legal Fictions, and Palais du Justice)
  • a widely interdisciplinary, inter-professional Round Table on Law and the Arts featuring: Farah Karim-Cooper (Shakespeare's Globe), Subha Mukherji (University of Cambridge), Nicola Padfield, QC (Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge), Richard K. Sherwin (New York Law School), Adele Thomas (Freelance Director)

This event is part of the research project Crossroads of Knowledge in Early Modern England: the Place of Literature, a five-year project funded by the European Research Council, based at the Faculty of English and CRASSH, University of Cambridge. 

Objects of Knowledge
5 Jul 2019 10:00am - 7:00pm, Fitzwilliam Museum, Trumpington St, Cambridge, CB2 1RB

Workshop – Crossroads of Knowledge

Migrant Knowledge, Early Modern and Beyond: an Event at the Crossroads
15 Sep 2019 - 17 Sep 2019 All day, Kettle's Yard, Cambridge (Sunday 15) and Fitzwilliam College, Cambridge (Monday 16 and Tuesday 17)

Migrant Knowledge Conference, Crossroads Project

Trade Winds, an installation by Susan Stockwell
15 Sep 2019 - 15 Oct 2019 All day, St Peter's Church, Castle Hill, Cambridge, CB3 0AJ (next to Kettle's Yard Gallery)

Trade Winds Exhibition, Crossroads of Knowledge project

Other and/or External Project Events

Prayer and Poetry Workshop, Magdalene College – Tuesday the 17th of April 2018

Law and the Visual Imagination, Fondazione Premio Napoli, Italy – Friday the 11th of May 2018

Knowledge at the Crossroads: a Crossroads team panel at the RSA’s annual meeting in Toronto, 19 March 2019

Knowing Encounters: Law, Legibility, and the Rhetoric of Presence in the Early Modern Imagination, 20 March 2019

Scientiae: Early Modern Knowledge: a Crossroads team panel at Scientiae, Belfast, 12 – 15 June 2019

Visiting Fellows

2014 – 2015 Theology Strand

Professor Debora Shuger (UCLA) 

Professor Shuger’s interests range across a number of fields: Tudor-Stuart devotional poetry and prose, theology and biblical exegesis, legal history, political thought, rhetoric, life writing (biography, memoirs, diaries, etc.). Under the right circumstances, she also shows interest in gender, sexuality, colonialism, Classics, and Shakespeare. Along with the books listed above, she is the co-editor of Religion and Culture in Renaissance England (1997) and contributed the essay on early Stuart religious literature to the new Cambridge History of Early Modern English Literature (2002); she has also published articles on Spenser, Shakespeare, Sidney, Milton, Donne, Jonson, Middleton, rhetoric, hagiography, and mirrors. She has been a fellow at the Liguria Study Center, the National Humanities Center, the Huntington Library, and the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin, as well as recipient of Guggenheim, NEH, and UC President’s fellowships. Recent graduate seminars have focused on political theory from antiquity through the late Middle Ages, 17th-century life-writing, Elizabethan religious prose, the sacred literature of the Jacobean era, early modern English law, Saint Augustine, and Renaissance commentaries on Paul’s Epistle to the Romans.

Professor Brian Cummings (University of York)

Professor Cummings was appointed at York in October 2012 as one of sixteen Anniversary Professors appointed across the arts and sciences to promote the University’s international research profile in its 50th year. Before moving there he was Professor of English at the University of Sussex, where he co-founded the Centre for Early Modern Studies in 2004. In Spring 2014 he was Distinguished Visiting Scholar at the University of Toronto, based at the Centre for Reformation and Renaissance Studies. He has also held Visiting Fellowships in Los Angeles, Munich, and Oxford, and he was previously Fellow of Trinity College, Cambridge. Among a number of academic honours he has given the Shakespeare Birthday Lecture in Washington D.C. in 2014, the Clarendon Lectures in Oxford in 2012-13, and the British Academy Shakespeare Lecture in 2012. From 2009-2012 he held a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship, and in 2007 he was a British Academy Exchange Fellow. He is a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries, one of the oldest learned societies in the world.


2015 – 2016 Economic History Strand

Professor Valerie Forman (NYU Gallatin)

Professor Forman’s research and teaching interests lie in the literature and culture of 16th- and 17th-century England and Europe, the early modern Caribbean, early modern drama, early modern women writers, early modern economic history and political theory, and Marxist theory. She received a PhD in literature from UC Santa Cruz, where she specialized in Renaissance and 17th-century English literature and culture and 16th-century French literature. Before coming to Gallatin, Professor Forman taught in the Department of English at the University of Colorado, Boulder. Her first book, Tragicomic Redemptions:  Global Economics and the Early Modern English Stage (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), explores the relationship between innovations in the theatre and new economic practices necessary to the beginnings of global trade, including that among England, the East Indies, and the Ottoman Empire. Her second book project, which turns to trade and cultural relations in the Caribbean, is entitled Developing New Worlds: Property, Freedom, and the Economics of Representation in Early Modern England and the Caribbean. She teaches courses on theatre and politics, labour, and global markets, and the rise of globalization in the early modern period.

Dr Ceri Sullivan (Cardiff University)

Dr Sullivan’s first career was in the City of London as a senior chartered accountant and banking analyst and her second as a Finance Director through VSO. She now teaches early modern literature and modern political drama and her research interests deal with whether one may persuade oneself in devotion, focusing on  Catholic texts in her publication (Dismembered Rhetoric: English Recusant Writing 1580-1603).  Further publications explore how a merchant represents himself and reads others’  representations in the real and dramatic markets (The Rhetoric of Credit:  Merchants in Early Modern Writing). and whether, if the conscience is structured as a language, the consequence of the divine I am is You aren’t  (The Rhetoric of the Conscience in Donne, Herbert and Vaughan). Her next book will be Private Prayer in Shakespeare’s Histories. Imagine a society where every single adult was trained in – and practised – composing short original texts, every single day. This project asks an audacious but compelling question: at the turn of the seventeenth century, did changes in writing private prayers underlie major developments in drama? Required to pray independently, convinced their private prayers had an impact on the course of events, the laity developed literary – indeed, specifically dramatic – skills: in characterisation, in counter-factual narrative, and in striking verbal forms. Playwrights interested in experiments in form, particularly Shakespeare, gleefully seized on this novel expertise in their audience.


2016 – 2017 Natural Philosophy Strand

Professor Jonathan Sawday (Saint Louis University)

Professor Jonathan Sawday studied English at Queen Mary College (University of London) and University College London, where he took his PhD in Renaissance Literature. He has taught at British, Irish, and American universities, most recently at the University of Strathclyde, in Glasgow, Scotland where he held the Chair in English Studies. He has held fellowships at the Huntington Library (California), the Russian State University for the Humanities in Moscow, and been a visiting scholar in the Centre for Renaissance Studies at the Newberry Library in Chicago. He has held awards and grants from the Fulbright Association, the British Academy, The British Council, and the UK Arts and Humanities Research Council. He is a Fellow of the English Association (FEA), the Royal Society for the Arts (FRSA), and of the Royal Historical Society (FRHistS). He is on the advisory board of the Journal for Literature and Science and on the editorial boards of Medical Humanities and Writing Technologies. Professor Sawday is a cultural historian. His research is focused on the intersection between science, technology, and literature particularly (but not exclusively) in the early-modern period. Currently, he is working on the idea of blanks or voids in literature, art, and culture. He is also working on an intellectual biography of Robert Burton (1577-1640), the inscrutable author of The Anatomy of Melancholy (1621), the first (and probably longest) psychoanalytic work published in English.

Dr Michael Witmore (Folger Shakespeare Library)

Dr Witmore was appointed the seventh director of the Folger on July 1, 2011. Upon his arrival, he worked with the Board of Governors to draft a Strategic Plan for the institution, adopted in June 2013. He was formerly professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, and before that, he served as associate professor of English and assistant professor of English at Carnegie Mellon University. The recipient of numerous fellowships, he has held an Andrew Mellon Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of California, Los Angeles, a research fellowship and a curatorial residency fellowship at the Folger, and a predoctoral fellowship at the Max-Planck-Institut für Wissenschaftsgeschichte in Berlin. He was awarded (but declined) an ACLS Digital Innovation Fellowship for the academic year 2011-12. Dr. Witmore earned an A.B. in English at Vassar College, and an M.A. and PhD in rhetoric at the University of California, Berkeley. Among his more recent projects, he launched the Working Group for Digital Inquiry at the University of Wisconsin-Madison and organized the Pittsburgh Consortium for Medieval and Renaissance Studies. His publications include numerous articles, website resources, and book chapters, and he has published five books: Landscapes of the Passing Strange: Reflections from Shakespeare, with Rosamond Purcell (2010), Shakespearean Metaphysics (2009), Pretty Creatures: Children and Fiction in the English Renaissance (2007), Childhood and Children’s Books in Early Modern Europe, 1550-1800 (2006), and Culture of Accidents: Unexpected Knowledge in Early Modern England (2001). In addition, he has given scores of presentations and been invited to serve on numerous academic panels. He currently has several books in progress, including a study of early modern wisdom literature and a book on the nature of digital inquiry in the humanities.

Professor Lorraine Daston (Max Planck Institute for the History of Science)

Professor Daston has published on a wide range of topics in the history of science, including the history of probability and statistics, wonders in early modern science, the emergence of the scientific fact, scientific models, objects of scientific inquiry, the moral authority of nature, and the history of scientific objectivity. Recent books include (with Paul Erikson et al.) How Reason Almost Lost Its Mind: The Strange Career of Cold war Rationality (2014)  and (co-edited with Elizabeth Lunbeck), Histories of Scientific Observation (2011), both products of MPIWG Working Groups. Her current projects include a history of rules, based on her 2014 Lawrence Stone Lectures at Princeton University, the emergence of Big Science and Big Humanities in the context of nineteenth-century archives, and the relationship between moral and natural orders. She is the recipient of the Pfizer Prize and Sarton Medal of the History of Science Society, the Schelling Prize of the Bavarian Academy of Sciences, the Lichtenberg Medal of the Göttingen Academy of Sciences, the Luhmann Prize of the University of Bielefeld, and an honorary dotorate of humane letters from Princeton University. In addition to directing Department II of the MPIWG, she is a regular Visiting Professor in the Committee on Social Thought at the University of Chicago and Permanent Fellow of the Wissenschaftskolleg zu Berlin.

2017 – 2018 Law Strand

Professor Kathy H. Eden (Columbia University)

Professor Eden began teaching at Columbia in 1980. She studies the history of rhetorical and poetic theory in antiquity, including late antiquity, and the Renaissance, within the larger context of intellectual history and with an emphasis on the problems of reception. Her books include Poetic and Legal Fiction in The Aristotelian Tradition (Princeton,1986), Hermeneutics and the Rhetorical Tradition: Chapters in the Ancient Legacy and its Humanist Reception (New Haven, 1997), and Friends Hold All Things in Common: Tradition, Intellectual Property and the ‘Adages’ of Erasmus (New Haven, 2001). Her articles appear in Journal of the History of Ideas, Rhetorica, Yale Journal of Law and the Humanities, Studies in the Literary Imagination, Erasmus of Rotterdam Society Yearbook and Traditio. Her current project explores epistolary theory and the construction of letter collections in antiquity and the Renaissance. In 1981-82 she received a fellowship from the Center for Hellenic Studies in Washington, D.C. and in 1998-99 a Guggenheim fellowship. In 1998 she won the Great Teacher Award from the Society of Columbia Graduates and in 2001 the Mark Van Doren Award and the Award for Distinguished Service to the Core Curriculum.

Professor Lorna Hutson (Merton College, University of Oxford)

Professor Hutson’s interests are in the relationship between literary form and the formal aspects of non-literary culture. Most recently, she has been interested in legal-literary relations (for example, in how legal techniques of proof can become, in fiction, modes of vividness). She currently holds a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship for a project entitled Shakespeare’s Scotland, which looks at Anglo-Scots literary and legal imagining in the century leading up to Shakespeare’s great tragedies. Professor Hutson has written on Thomas Nashe (1989); on gender in sixteenth-century English literature, The Usurer’s Daughter: Male Friendship and Fictions of Women in Sixteenth-Century England (1994); on drama and participatory justice in The Invention of Suspicion (2007), which won the Roland Bainton Prize for Literature in 2008, and on theatrical ‘unscene’ in Circumstantial Shakespeare (2015) based on the Oxford Wells Shakespeare Lectures, 2012. Edited collections include Feminism and Renaissance Studies (1999) and, with Victoria Kahn, Rhetoric and Law in Early Modern Europe (2001). For the Cambridge Complete Works of Ben Jonson (2012), she edited Jonson’s Discoveries (1641). Forthcoming is the Oxford Handbook of English Law and Literature, 1500-1700.


2018 Digital Humanities

Professor Anupam Basu (Washington University in St. Louis)

Professor Basu was a Visiting Fellow on the Crossroads project in July and August 2018 to support project work using Digital Humanities techniques.

Affiliated Scholars

Associate Scholars

Dr Boyd Brogan (Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Cambridge/JRF Wolfson College, Cambridge)

Dr Rachel E. Holmes

Dr Elizabeth L. Swann

Dr Joseph Jarrett

Dr Rebecca Tomlin 

Dr Tomlin is project alumni, having worked as a research associate on the project between February 2016 and January 2018.

My research interests are interdisciplinary and lie in the areas of the literature, drama and history of early modern London, with a particular interest in the spaces of commerce and charity.

I am currently working on a monograph provisionally entitled Neighbourhood, Charity, and Identity in Late- Sixteenth-Century Drama, which examines ideas of neighbourhood in early modern London. In it, I ask what it meant to be a good neighbour and how early modern thinking on this question was bound up with ideas about charitable giving and receiving. Using two forms of story-telling as evidence, the first being charitable petitions heard in the church of St Botolph’s, Aldgate, and the other, the drama contemporary with those petitions, I show how these forms of story-telling worked alongside each other in a common cultural discourse to shape ideas of neighbourhood in early modern London. Charity and neighbourhood are shown to be geographically, socially, and spiritually inter-connected, with beggars defined as neighbours, and with obligations towards them tested under the social disruption arising from London’s rapid expansion. The research that I will be carrying out at the Huntington will be based on primary evidence and will contribute towards my discussion of contemporary attitudes towards begging in this volume.

In a separate but aligned interest, I also work on sixteenth and seventeenth-century double-entry book-keeping manuals as pedagogical texts which attempted to present an essentially practical applied technique as an art, and how authors variously fashioned themselves as scholars, practitioners and teachers within the commercial and pedagogical communities of early modern London.

In March and April 2018 I will be a Francis Bacon Foundation Fellow at the Huntington Library, San Marino, California, carrying out research towards my monograph project. In addition to my research activities, I am employed (part-time) as Governance Officer at the Society of Antiquaries of London.

Recent Publications

  • ‘ “Her tongue hath guilded it”: speaking economically in Thomas Heywood’s Edward IV’: chapter for the Change and Exchange volume in the Crossroads of Knowledge Series, co-edited with Subha Mukherji (Palgrave).
  • ‘Alms Petitions and Compassion in sixteenth-century London’ for inclusion in Compassion in Early Modern Europe: A Cultural History ed. by Katherine Ibbett and Kristine Steenbergh (CUP, under review).
  • ‘Trajectories of Neighbourhood’, invited submission for special edition of Early Theatre (2017).
  • ‘Sixteenth-century humanism, printing and authorial self-fashioning: the case of James Peele’ for the Journal of the Northern Renaissance (‘JNR’) Issue 6 (2014).
  • ‘Editorial’ as Joint Guest-Editor of ‘Numbers’ edition of JNR Issue 6 (2014).
  • ‘A New Poem by Arthur Golding?’, Notes and Queries, 2012 (3).


Visiting Scholar

Professor Richard Sherwin (Wallace Stevens Professor of Law and Director of the Visual Persuasion Project, New York Law School)

Professor Sherwin is a CRASSH Visiting Fellow from January to July 2018 and is affiliated to the Crossroads of Knowledge project.

His scholarly writings explore the rich and varied relationship between law and culture, focusing in particular on legal narrative, visual communication, the legitimation process, and the genealogy of law’s sovereignty. Recent books include: A Cultural History of Law in the Modern Age (with Danielle Celermajer) (Bloomsbury forthcoming); Visualizing Law in the Age of the Digital Baroque: Arabesques & Entanglements (Routledge 2011); and Law, Culture and Visual Studies (Springer 2014).

In 2013, Professor Sherwin was awarded the Fulbright Canada Visiting Research Chair in Law and Literature at McGill University under the auspices of McGill Law School and the Institute for the Public Life of Art and Ideas where he was in residence during the spring 2014 semester. He received a Humanities Research Centre Fellowship and served as Visiting Research Fellow at the Research School of Humanities and the Arts, College of Arts and Social Sciences at Australia National University in Canberra, Australia during the summer of 2014. He is a member of the Board of Trustees and International Consultative Board Member of the International Journal for the Semiotics of Law (Springer). Professor Sherwin has served as a frequent commentator on television, radio, and in print media, and was featured in director Jeremiah Zagar’s acclaimed documentary film “Captivated: The Trials of Pamela Smart” (HBO 2014).


Tel: +44 1223 766886
Email enquiries@crassh.cam.ac.uk