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The University of Southampton

Dr Anthony Ossa-Richardson 

Lecturer in English Literature, 1350 - 1600

Dr Anthony Ossa-Richardson's photo

Anthony is a lecturer in English.

I received my doctorate from the obscure but beguiling Warburg Institute, London, in 2011, with a thesis about the study of the ancient Greek oracles in the Renaissance and Enlightenment (c. 1500–1800); this became my first book, The Devil's Tabernacle (Princeton, 2013). After a year at Cambridge lecturing and editing the manuscript notebooks of Sir Thomas Browne (1605–82), I accepted a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at Queen Mary, University of London. I became a lecturer at Southampton in 2015. I am also a member of the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Culture (CMRC).

I am interested broadly in the literature and culture of England and continental Europe since the Renaissance, with a special focus on problems of interpretation in poetry, rhetoric, philosophy, medicine, theology and historiography.  Much of my work explores the history and complexities of the category of the 'literary' itself as it intersects with other areas; for instance, in the last few years I've written articles on the Longinian sublime in early modern biblical criticism, the fashioning of dramatic character in Latin humanist accounts of a Tunisian monarch, and the aesthetics of Sir John Davies's philosophical poem Nosce Teipsum.

The culmination of these interests to date is a long monograph, A History of Ambiguity, due out in May 2019.  This book is an account of the ways in which Western (and some non-Western) readers from Aristotle to William Empson have posited, denied, conceptualised and argued over the existence of multiple meanings in a wide variety of texts - poetry, drama, Scripture, law, and other genres.  Among other contributions to the history of criticism, I reveal the tensions in the Renaissance theory of the pun; offer a new interpretation of the English controversy over 'equivocation' in 1606-10; read Alexander Pope (and his own contemporary readers) against early modern analyses of ambiguity in classical satire; provide the first detailed account of the invention and early elaboration (in Germany and England) of dramatic irony as a critical concept; and demonstrate the multiple genealogies of Empson's notion of ambiguity.  As the archaeology of an idea central to modern criticism, the book aims to combine literary, historical and philosophical modes of scholarship.

Following a successful conference at Cambridge in 2017, I am currently editing a volume of essays on John Taylor the Water Poet (1578-1653), a prolific but understudied pamphleteer, travel-writer, nonsense poet, polemicist and literary celebrity; this project may also give rise to a monograph and/or critical edition at a later date.


I currently teach on the following undergraduate modules:

  • ENGL1004 - Poetic Language
  • ENGL1080 - Literary Transformations
  • ENGL2099 - The Renaissance Body
  • ENGL2100 - Shakespeare Then and Now
Dr Anthony Ossa-Richardson
Faculty of Arts and Humanities University of Southampton Avenue Campus Highfield Southampton SO17 1BF United Kingdom

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