School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics

Staff Profile

Professor Jennifer Richards

Joseph Cowen Professor of English Literature



I completed my first degree (1st class, BA honours) in English Literature at the University of London in 1987. After two years in Poland, teaching English at the University of Silesia, Gliwice from 1988, and the Polish Academy of Science, Warsaw, from 1989 until 1990, I returned to the UK to take up British Academy funding to write a PhD thesis on Rhetoric and sixteenth-century writing at the University of Edinburgh, graduating in 1995.  

Internal Roles

Member of Newcastle University Promotions Committee. 

External Roles

Chair of English Association Higher Education Committee (2015-18). 

Chair of AHRC's Strategic Theme Advisory Group, 'Care for the Future'.

Chair of the AHRC's Research Careers and Training Advisory Group (RCTAG)  

Member of AHRC's Commons Oversight Group

Editor of Renaissance Studies, and a member of Council for the Society of Renaissance Studies (2012-2017).  

External examiner for English Literature at Oxford University (2014-16). 




I have broad interests in early modern literature and culture, but I specialise on the writers of the mid to late sixteenth century, including Thomas Nashe and Shakespeare. I work across several fields: the history of ideas (and political thought), the history of reading, the history of rhetoric and the medical humanities. 

Main Projects

I have three main projects, all of which are interlinked through the topic of orality/vocality:

I. The Thomas Nashe Project

I am one of the four General Editors of 'A New Critical Edition of the Complete Works of Thomas Nashe' (6 volumes; contracted with Oxford University Press, 2021) along with Joe Black (Massachusetts), Andrew Hadfield (Sussex) and Cathy Shrank (Sheffield), and I am the lead of 'The Thomas Nashe Project' (awarded an AHRC Research Grant, 2015-20), working closely with Kate De Rycker. For updates on 'The Thomas Nashe Project' please visit our website.

With Professor Michael Rossington (English Literature), Professor Magnus Williamson (Music), and Professor Paul Watson of the Digital Institute, I have been awarded a grant of £476,132 by Newcastle University to develop a new field of study, Digital Technology and the Humanities, to support scholarly editing projects like 'The Thomas Nashe Project'. 

This project is titled Animating Texts at Newcastle University (AtNU). Over three years we will be exploring how the digital can complement rather than replace the print edition, exploring different ways of understanding, explaining, and experiencing text as mobile, variable, adaptable, performable, while also helping us to re-imagine the reading experience 

II. Voices and Books

I was awarded a Leverhulme Trust Major Research Fellowship (2013-15) for my new book project: 'Voices and Books in the English Renaissance: A New History of Reading'. This book has two aims: first, to explore the evidence we might use to recover the history of reading aloud; second, to explore how this evidence affects the histories we tell about Renaissance books and their readers/hearers as well as how we might read and interpret Renaissance literary texts. Topics I am researching include: the limits of the concept of 'orality'; the sound of print; the role of the voice in humanist education; the lost faculty of rhetoric, pronuntiatio; the dramatic potential of Tudor prose writing, and the performance of closet drama by women. 

In 2014-16 I led the AHRC Research Network 'Voices and Books in Early Modern England, 1500-1800' with Professor Richard Wistreich, Royal College of Music, London, along with Matthew Grenby, Arnold Hunt, Elspeth Jajdelska, Bob Owens, Abigail Williams.

In 2014-15 I ran a pilot oral histories project on reading experiences in the North East with Sue Bradley and Dr Emma Short. Listen here for the results! 

III. Critical Medical Humanities

I was an Associate Editor of the Edinburgh Companion to the Critical Medical Humanities (Edinburgh University Press) with Sarah Atkinson and Jane Macnaughton of the Centre for Medical Humanities at the University of Durham. The general editors are Anne Whitehead (Newcastle) and Angela Woods (Durham).

With Richard Wistreich (RCM) I contributed an essay on 'The Anatomy of the Renaissance Voice'.

See here for an article I have just published (open access) on reading and hearing Thomas Raynolde's The Womans Book in a special issue on 'Communicating Reproduction' in The Bulletin of the History of Medicine.

Postgraduate Supervision

I welcome research proposals from students interested in any aspect of early modern reading and writing.

Current postgraduate students include:  (with Cathrine Degnan, GPS) Jane Nolan, (with Kate Chedgzoy) Thongrob Ruenbanthoeng; with (Mike Pincombe) Zhen Gong. 

My past PhD students include: Peter Adegbie; Grace Jones (AHRC); Jessica Jung (AHRC); Robin Kirschbaum; Lorraine McNeill, Fahimeh Naseri.  

Esteem Indicators

Chair of English Association Higher Education Committee, 2015-18 

Member of the Review Group for the Subject Benchmark Statement for English, 2014 

Member of the AHRC Advisory Board, 2012-16.

Editor of 'Renaissance Studies', 2012-17

General Editor with Professor Claire Jowitt of the English Association's Monograph Series

Council Member, Renaissance Society, 2012-17

Chair of the AHRC Advisory Group for the 'Care for the Future' strategic theme.


CRASSH Research Fellowship, Cambridge University, 2006

Harry Ransom Center Research Fellowship in the Humanities, University of Austin, Texas, US,  2016-2017


I spoke about 'Rhetoric' and John Hart, the Tudor spelling reformer on Fry's English Delight, Radio 4 (August 26th 2013 and September 2nd 2013). 

I also spoke on the topic of The University Wits for 'Scenes from Student Life, The Wits', Radio 4 (April 20th, 2016).

I was interviewed by Elizabeth Day for her article on 'Storytelling: how reading aloud is back in fashion', which was published in the Observer, 6th January, 2013.  

I chaired Michael Rosen at the London School of Economics Literary Festival in March 2014 and David Crystal at the same Festival in February 2015. 


Co-lead with Michael Rossington, Magnus Williamson and Paul Watson of 'Animating Text at Newcastle University' (AtNU), an award from Newcastle University's Research Investment Fund (2016-2019)

PI for AHRC Research Grant (2015-20) 'The Thomas Nashe Project'

PI for AHRC Research Network Grant (2014-15) 'Voices and Books 1500-1800'

Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship (2013-15) for 'Useful Books: Reading and Talking in the English Renaissance'.

PI for British Academy/Leverhulme Small Research Grant (2012-13) for 21st-Century Oxford Authors: Thomas Nashe.

Wellcome Trust Small Research Grant (2012-13), for a research project on the reading aloud of Thomas Raynalde's The Woman's Book (1545). 

Leverhulme Research Fellowship (2009) for 'Diet, Dialogue and the Early Modern Body Politic'.

British Academy Small Research Grant (2007) for 'Reading the Medical Regimens'.



In 2016-17 I will be teaching:

Writing the Renaissance (sem. 1; stage 2)

I am on research leave in semester 2.