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Stephanie Shirilan

Stephanie Shirilan

Stephanie Shirilan

Associate Professor


410 Hall of Languages


Jewish Studies Minor / Modern Jewish Studies
Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Social/Academic Links

Recent Undergraduate Courses

  • ETS 410 Reading, Breathing Shakespeare 
  • ETS 353/REL 300 Jews and Judaism in the Early Modern Christian Imagination 
  • ETS 420 Shakespeare and the Natural World 
  • ETS 305 Performance Studies 
  • ETS 420 Shakespeare’s Other Worlds 
  • ETS 410 Early Modern Travel and Fantasy Literature 
  • ETS 430 Ovid in Early Modern Translation and Transformation 
  • ETS 430 Early Modern Knowledge and Experience 
  • ETS 430 Early Modern Madness, Meaning, and Melancholy 

Recent Graduate Courses

  • ENG 730 Shakespearean Ecologies 
  • ENG 630 Introduction to Early Modern Studies 
  • ENG 730 Early Modern Travel Literature 
  • ENG 730 Early Modern Bodies and Minds in Contact 
Biographic Overview

Stephanie Shirilan joined the English department at Syracuse in 2009 after completing her doctoral studies at Brandeis University. She earned previous degrees at the University of British Columbia and the Liberal Arts College of Concordia University in Montreal – a trajectory that maps her intersecting interests in cultural critique and canonicity. Shirilan is the author of Robert Burton and the Transformative Powers of Melancholy(Ashgate, 2015/Routledge, 2016) and has written articles on scholarly melancholy, the historiography of prose style, early modern skin, and the mobility of wonder in early modern travel literature. With Kathleen Long (Cornell), She is co-director of the CNY Humanities Corridor Working Group on The History of Scientific Norms and Ideas of the Normal. Check for updates on events. She is an active member of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program and is on the faculty of Jewish Studies, for which she taught a new course in 2019 on Jews and Judaism in the Early Modern Christian Imagination.


Shirilan, Stephanie. "Exhilarating the Spirits: Burtonian Study as a Cure for Scholarly Melancholy." Studies in Philology, vol. 111 no. 3, 2014, pp. 486-520. Project MUSE, doi:10.1353/sip.2014.0022

Stephanie Shirilan (2012) The Forbidden Pleasures of Style, Prose Studies, 34:2, 115-128, DOI: 10.1080/01440357.2012.701075

Research Interests

I am currently working at the intersections of literary criticism, medical and environmental history, performance theory, sound studies, new (and old) materialisms and (eco)philology to write The Breathing World: A Natural History of Air in Shakespeare. This book, which expands upon the pneumatic themes of my earlier work, aims to illuminate the ecological, psychological, spiritual, and political implications of air for Shakespeare’s audiences and to show how the evacuations of these meanings and implications constitutes a prominent if under-examined theme in his work.

I am also working closely with acting and performance pedagogies to study the breath in performance. Collaborating with VPA’s Celia Madeoy, Shirilan offered a new course in 2019, “Reading, Breathing Shakespeare,” aimed at of discovering what sustained and serious attention to voice and breath work makes possible for literary research and vice versa. Designed for Drama, English, and Education majors, the course proceeded from the premise that voicing the text facilitates not only greater comprehension but that the plays themselves draw on and mimetically draw attention to voice and breath as a means of commenting on the broader social, religious/philosophical, and environmental concerns to which they are key. Check here for future talks, events, and publications related to this course, which will be offered again in 2020.

Areas of Supervision

I welcome inquiries from students with broad interests in early modern literature but especially those pursuing projects in theater studies, history of medicine, ecology, travel, empire, rhetorical and performance theory, cognitive and affect theory, dis/ability studies, Global Renaissance studies, religion, Jews and Judaism. Do feel free to contact me if your interests lie outside these named fields. Research is a living, breathing thing whose shapes are prone to shifting.

Recent Events/Presentations
  • “Shakespeare and a Natural History of the Breath.” Life of Breath, Bristol, June 14, 2019
  • “Breathing Uneasy.” Workshop on Early Modern Pneumatics with Alison Calhoun, Cornell University, Oct 10, 2019 (contact organizer, Kathleen Perry to RSVP and request materials)
  • “Attending to Aural Inattention in Hamlet.” RSA Toronto, March 18, 2019
  • “The Matter of Form and Forms of Matter.” Seminar co-leader with Dympna Callaghan, RSA Toronto, March 19 2019
  • “Listening as Moral Aesthesis.” Early Modern Songscapes, Toronto, February 9 2019.
  • “Air and (errand/errant) poetic matter and old/new materialisms.” MLA Chicago, 2018
  • “The Breathing World: Towards a Natural History of Air with Shakespeare, Roundtable “Sciences of Nonmodernity, Now.” MLA Chicago 2018
  • “Arousing Respiratory Sympathy, Shakespeare and the Performance of the Breath-in-Extremis.” ASTR San Diego, November 2018
  • “Breathing (un)easy: Precarious Pneumatic Community in Shakespeare’s Theater,” Cultural Histories of Air and Illness, University of Warwick, June, 2018.
  • “Air and Homonymy” Roundtable: “Eco-philology: Early Modern Environmental Words and Worlds,” RSA New Orleans, March, 2018.
  • “‘Breathless’ Bodies and Pneumatic Community in Shakespeare,” RSA New Orleans, March, 2018.
  • “Air and Honor in the Henriad,” SLSA,” Phoenix, Nov 2017.
  • “Commodity Conversion: New World Bioprospecting in the English Protestant Imagination,” Transforming Bodies, Cornell, April 2017.
  • “Apollo’s “Others”: Crises of Christian Medical Identity in Early Modern English Literature,” RSA Chicago, 2017.
  • “Shakespeare’s Climatology,” Panelist. MLA, Philadelphia, January, 2017.
  • “Things of Earth and Insubstantial Airs: Noise, Music, and Commodity in Shakespeare’s Epistemological Contact Zones,” Shakespeare Across the Divide, Miami, February, 2016.
  • “European Occultism and the Consumption of Indigenous Knowledge.” Scientiae: Disciplines of Knowing in the Early Modern World, Toronto, May, 2015.
A Fresh Look at Seventeenth-Century Understanding of Melancholy

(Dec. 16, 2016)

Stephanie Shirilan’s book wins CNY Book Award