skip to primary navigationskip to content

Esther Osorio Whewell

Department: English

Supervisor: Dr Raphael Lyne

College: Jesus

AHRC Subject Area: English

Title of Thesis: Useful Distraction and Productive Inattention in Edmund Spenser and Lancelot Andrewes


I graduated from Jesus College, Cambridge in 2015, and from Keble, Oxford (MSt English 1550-1700) in 2016. Over the course of the MSt I wrote on the closet dramatics in print and performance of Antony and Cleopatra plays by Mary Sidney, Samuel Daniel and Samuel Brandon (Shakespeare mostly on the sidelines but admittedly as an occasional centre-forward); constructions of the Cavalier in the print afterlives of Sir John Suckling—in sammelbands constructed and scrawled on by readers, and nonce-collections compiled in the print shop of Humphrey Moseley; and the contemporary American poet K. Silem Mohammad’s ‘Amograms’ and ‘Sonnagrams’—sonnets by Spenser and Shakespeare churned through an anagram machine, and reconstituted into new poems in the same form. My dissertation explored the serendipitous spaces and positive possibilities resulting from distracted and inattentive reading, singing, and hearing of different settings and translations of the psalms in early modern England.

My PhD will turn this interest in modes of attention—conscious and subconscious, cultivated and automatic—on the writing of Edmund Spenser and Lancelot Andrewes, considering how rhymes and puns, diversions, repetitions and background noises might prompt us to rethink the usefulness and productivity of versions of ‘disengaged’ mindfulness—boredom and distraction—usually deemed inapt to reading and learning. 


Other academic interests:

History of the book and material texts; history of reading; cognitive approaches to literature; modernist and contemporary poetry and poetics (particularly Geoffrey Hill and Lucie Brock-Broido), and Language poets (particularly Susan Howe and Lyn Hejinian).