Judith H. Anderson

Judith H. Anderson

Chancellor's Professor Emeritus, English

  • anders@indiana.edu
  • (812) 855-3821
  • Ballantine Hall 457
  • Office Hours
    By Appointment Only


  • Ph.D., Yale University, 1965
  • M.A., Yale University, 1962
  • A.B., Radcliffe College, 1961


My interests revolve around the creation, understanding, and value of imaginative thinking and writing. While I have co-edited five volumes, my single-author books best explain what I’m about. The first, on Langland’s Piers Plowman and Spenser’s Faerie Queene, engages intellectual and aesthetic relations between the late Middle Ages and the sixteenth century. Its core concern is the relation of figuration to knowing in these encyclopedic, culturally engaged poems.

My second book, Biographical Truth, is about biographical fiction as much as biographical truth. It concerns the shaping, though fiction, of history, and examines the relations of biography, history, and Shakespearean drama. Variant versions of "truth" and the relation of biographer to subject especially interest me, from the Venerable Bede and to Francis Bacon.

My next three books constitute a trilogy on language, rhetoric, and poetics. Words That Matter treats changing conceptions of language and its shaping influence on human perception. It focuses on the equivocal "thingness" of language in early modern dictionaries, as well as in grammars, logics, rhetorics, treatises, plays, poems, and sermons.

Translating Investments, a titular pun, treats the functioning of metaphor (translatio), in Tudor-Stuart culture. It also questions the position of language and rhetoric within post-structuralism and cognitive science, highlighting connections between current problems and those in the sixteenth- and seventeenth-centuries. It has chapters on language, religion, politics, literature, classical rhetoric, and economics.

Reading the Allegorical Intertext focuses on canonical narrative from Chaucer and Spenser to Shakespeare and Milton. The intertext encompasses Kristevan intertextuality and traditional relationships of influence, imitation, allusion, and citation. Intextual expressions range from deliberate emulation to linguistic free play and enable examination of individual agency and determinism. My intertext is allegorical both because Spenser’s Faerie Queene is pivotal to it and because allegory encapsulates (and magnifies) the process of making meaning.

My two most recent books are Light and Death (2017) and Spenser’s Narrative Figuration of Women inThe Faerie Queene” (forthcoming). Light and Death starts from the traditional premise that light figures being; darkness, death. It features analogy, a type of metaphor that connects the known to the unknown, the sensible to the infinite, physics to metaphysics. This study moves from figuration in Spenser to the history of analogy and light-optics from Kepler to Donne and Milton.

Spenser’s Narrative Figuration of Women explores the contribution of Spenser’s encyclopedic Faerie Queene to an appreciation of women’s plights and possibilities in the age of Elizabeth. Spenser’s women-figures range from cartoons to a fullness sharing numerous features with the Shakespearean women salient in debates about character. Taken together, Spenser’s stories of women have a meaningful tale to tell about the function of narrative in the still moving, metamorphic poem that he created.

Journal Articles and Other Publications

Other Books:
  • Ed. (with Elizabeth Kirk ), Will's Vision of Piers Plowman, by William Langland, trans. E. Talbot Donaldson (Norton, 1990)
  • Biographical Truth: The Representation of Historical Persons in Tudor-Stuart Writing (Yale UP, 1984)
  • The Growth of a Personal Voice: "Piers Plowman and The Faerie Queene" (Yale UP, 1976)
Sample of Recent Articles:
  • “Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde in Spenser’s Amoretti and Faerie Queene: Reading Historically and Intertextually,” in Reading and Re-Reading Chaucer and Spenser, ed. Rachel Stenner, Tamsin Badcoe, and Gareth Griffith (Manchester, UK: Manchester University Press, forthcoming).
  • “Rhetorics of Similitude,” A Handbook of English Renaissance Studies (Critical Theory Series), ed. John Lee (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming).
  • “Wonder and Nostalgia in Hamlet,” Studies in English Literature (spring, 2018, forthcoming).
Selected Honors and Awards:
  • Isabel G. MacCaffrey Prize: best book on Spenser and Renaissance literature (2008 and 2009)
  • NEH Fellowships (4)
  • National Humanities Center Fellowship
  • Mayers Foundation Fellowship
  • Dulin Fellowship
  • Outstanding Woman Scholar Award
  • Teaching Excellence Recognition Awards