MARY GRACE ELLIOTT, PhD.
I am a Marion L. Brittain Fellow at the Georgia Institute of Technology. My research focuses on early modern English literature–particularly on William Shakespeare and John Milton–and early modern grammar school education and rhetoric. I am particularly interested in how early modern humanism is reflected, subverted, and reinforced in popular writing and drama of the time. As I am concentrating on the adaptation of early modern schoolwork into literary works, I am further interested in how early modern literature is taught in our contemporary classrooms. I also research American adaptations of Shakespeare’s and Milton’s works, specifically with regards to the creation of New Orleans's Mardi Gras.
My dissertation, “Educating Early Modern England: Transforming Grammar School Practice in Shakespeare and Milton,” explores how John Milton and William Shakespeare each adapt humanist grammar school pedagogies into their works in order to both subvert the standards of teaching they had experienced as boys as well as to better reach their audiences through familiar educational methods. While many critics have produced scholarship interrogating the intersection of either Milton’s or Shakespeare’s educational experiences with their works, there is a significant gap in research when it comes to exploring the similarities between how the two authors apply their parallel experiences in primary school to their writing. However, the continuity in grammar school practices throughout the early modern era ties their formative experiences together: the fact remains that the two authors’ schoolroom curricula were remarkably similar. By focusing on Shakespeare’s and Milton’s similar primary school educations and shared disappointment in the same, I demonstrate that comparisons between the two authors reveal important but hitherto largely unappreciated insights into the crosscurrents not only between their two oeuvres but also between the Tudor and Stuart periods. My dissertation demonstrates how scholars who consider these authors, these centuries, and these sociopolitical histories congruently can discover a new level of cohesion in early modern English culture: a two-century period of political and cultural shift and distrust, and a population looking for progress through its national literatures.
In addition to this project, I have also concentrated on Milton in the past through the lens of ecocriticism, completing my MA thesis, “‘Nature gave a second groan’: The Decay of Nature in Paradise Lost and Seventeenth-Century Discussion,” at Georgia State University in 2013. My other early modern interests include gender studies, body theory, and trans-national adaptation–particularly the creation of New Orleans’ Mardi Gras through the borrowing of classical, renaissance, and romantic texts.
I teach undergraduate literature, Women’s Studies, and first-year writing courses where I concentrate on argumentative interpretations of texts by focusing on how we may best use rhetoric to reach an intended audience. I have taught first-year writing courses since 2011, often invoking themed syllabi on such topics as Remix Pedagogy, the City of Atlanta, Modernist American literature, and Issues of Higher Education. In addition to my experience in the freshman composition classroom, I have also TAed for three British/Irish Modernism upper-level undergraduate courses at Georgia State University as well as guest lectured on topics ranging from the MA Thesis Prospectus Composition, to James Joyce, to Cavalier poetry, to Shakespeare, to Milton, and even to 20th-century American poetry.
I have presented my work at various conferences, such as the Renaissance Society of America, the Shakespeare Association of America, the College English Association, the South Atlantic Modern Language Association, and the Conference on John Milton, among others.