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Karen Nelson

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Director, Center for Literary & Comparative Studies, English

(301) 405-3185

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Research Expertise

Comparative Literature

Curriculum Vitae

Karen Nelson is Director for Research Initiatives in the Center for Literary & Comparative Studies. She also oversees departmental communications and alumni relations. Nelson currently serves as Director for the Medieval & Early Modern Field Committee at the University of Maryland and as Editor for the Sixteenth Century Journal.

Recent courses include: English 460: Researching the Archive: Imagining America, Spring 2020 | English 305: Early Drama, Fall 2019 |  English 379N : Multimedia Shakespeares, online, Summer 2019 and Summer 2018 | English 403: Shakespeare: The Early Works, Spring 2018 and Fall 2016 |   English 404: Shakespeare: The Later Works, Fall 2017 | English 304: Major Works of Shakespeare, Fall 2015 | English 350: Monsters, Knights, and Lovers: the Poetics of Edmund Spenser, Spring 2013 (at UMBC) | English 377: Medieval Myth & Modern Narrative, Spring 2012 | English 408C: Literature by Women before 1800: Geographies & Worlds, 1400-1700, Fall 2011 | NEH Summer Seminar: Re-Mapping the Renaissance: Exchange between Early Modern Islam & Europe, Summer 2010.

Presentations for 2019-20 include papers for the Durham (UK) Early Modern Studies Conference, 22-24 July 2019, for the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference, 17-20 October 2019, and for the Renaissance Society of America, 2-4 April 2020.

Recent Awards: Nelson received a lifetime achievement award from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women, October 2014, and a service to the department award, September 2014, from the College of Arts and Humanities.

Publications include Interrupted Sojourns: Women’s Rhetorical Interventions from the Sixteenth Century to the Present (under contract 2018 with Parlour Press; co-edited with Jessica Enoch and Danielle Griffin); Re-Mapping the Renaissance: Exchange between Early Modern Islam and Europe: Proceedings of the 2010 NEH Summer Institute (online, multimedia, in process, with Adele Seeff, Julia Schleck, E. Nathalie Rothman and others, as part of SERAI: Pre-Modern Encounters, at University of Toronto Scarborough);  Attending to Early Modern Women: Conflict, Concord (University of Delaware Press, 2013); Masculinities, Violence, Childhood: Attending to Early Modern Women--and Men: Proceedings of the 2006 Symposium, edited with Amy E. Leonard (New Jersey: Associated University Presses, 2011); Women, Writing, and the Reproduction of Culture in Tudor and Stuart Britain, edited with Jane Donawerth, Mary Burke, and Linda Dove (Syracuse, NY: Syracuse University Press, 2000); various articles, bibliographies, reviews, and biographical entries. Nelson served as book review editor for Early Modern Women: An Interdisciplinary Journal from its inception in 2006 through its 2010 move to the University of Miami.

Nelson served as associate director for the Center for Renaissance & Baroque Studies at the University of Maryland from 1999 through 2010. During that time, the Center organized a variety of interdisciplinary programs and publications for scholars, teachers, and students, including the Attending to Early Modern Women symposium series. Nelson was part of the grant-writing teams that secured funding from such agencies as the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Maryland Humanities Council, the Maryland State Department of Education, the Delmas Foundation, and the Kress Foundation.

Foldable Banneker Almanac, generated for ENGL 460, spring 2020.


Ph.D., University of Maryland, College Park, May 1998. Major: English Literature. Specialties: Renaissance; Women's Writing
M.A., University of Maryland, College Park, 1992. Major: English Literature
A.B., College of William & Mary, Williamsburg, Virginia, 1987. Major: English Literature. Minor: German


Circulating Feminist Rhetorics: An Introduction

Contributors include Jane Donawerth, Jessica Enoch, Danielle Griffin, Nabila Hijazi, Shirley Logan, Elizabeth Ellis Miller, Karen Nelson, Michele Osherow, Ruth Osorio, Erin Sadlack, Adele Seeff, and Lisa Zimmerelli.


Lead: Karen Nelson, Jessica Enoch, Danielle Griffin
Article Flyer

The scholars in FEMINIST CIRCULATIONS: RHETORICAL EXPLORATIONS ACROSS SPACE AND TIME work at the nexus of gender, power, and movement to explore the rhetorical nature of circulation, especially considering how women from varying backgrounds and their rhetorics have moved and have been constrained across both space and time. Among the central characters studied in this collection are early modern laborers, letter writers, petitioners, and embroiderers; African American elocutionists, freedom singers, and bloggers; Muslim religious leaders; Quaker suffragists; South African filmmakers; nineteenth-century conduct book writers; and twenty-first-century pop stars. To generate their claims, contributors draw from and make use of a breadth of archival and primary documents: music videos, tweets, petitions, letters, embroidery work, speeches, memoirs, diaries, and made-for-television movies. Authors read these “texts” with scrutiny and imagination, adding distinction to their chapters’ arguments about circulation by zeroing in on specific rhetorical concepts that span from rhetorical agency, cultivation of ethos, and development of rhetorical education to capacities for social networking, collective and collaborative authorship, and kairotic interventions.

Attending to Early Modern Women: Conflict and Concord

This volume considers women’s roles in the conflicts and negotiations of the early modern world.


Lead: Karen Nelson
Essays explore the ways gender shapes women’s agency in times of war, religious strife, and economic change. How were conflict and concord gendered in histories, literature, music, and political, legal, didactic, and religious treatises?

Masculinities, Childhood, Violence: Attending to Early Modern Women--and Men. Proceedings of the 2006 Symposium.

This interdisciplinary volume includes essays and workshop summaries for the 2006 Attending to Early Modern Women—and Men symposium.


Lead: Karen Nelson
Essays and workshop summaries are divided into four sections, “Masculinities,” “Violence,” “Childhood,” and “Pedagogies.” Taken together, they considers women’s works, lives, and culture across geographical regions, primarily in England, France, Germany, Italy, the Low Countries, the Caribbean, and the Islamic world and explore the shift in scholarly understanding of women’s lives and works when they are placed alongside nuanced considerations of men’s lives and works.

Women, Writing, and the Reproduction of Culture in Tudor and Stuart Britain

Winner of the 2000 Award for Best Collaborative Project from the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women.


Lead: Karen Nelson
In Tudor and Stuart Britain, women writers were shaped by their culture, but they also helped to shape and reproduce culture through their writing, their patronage, and their networks of family and friends. Through the lens of cultural studies, the editors explore women's material culture, women as agents in reproducing culture, popular culture and women's pamphlets, and women's bodes as inscriptions of culture.