Penelope Anderson

Penelope Anderson

Associate Professor, English

Affiliate, European Studies

Affiliate, Gender Studies

Affiliate, Renaissance Studies

  • (812) 855-4529
  • Ballantine Hall 442
  • Office Hours
    By Appointment Only


  • Ph.D., English, University of California, Berkeley, 2007
  • A.B., English, summa cum laude, Bryn Mawr College, 1998


Working at the intersection of literary studies, gender, and political theory, my scholarship and teaching investigate how stories of societies’ origins and histories solidify into seemingly inevitable versions of why things are the way they are. I write and teach about early modern British literature, especially that of the English Civil Wars. My interest lies not only in the grip of certain political fictions upon our imaginations, but also in the central role literature plays in originating, circulating, and—crucially—challenging those accounts. The historical flux of the late Renaissance offers the chance to reimagine our received accounts of political organization as not fixed but contingent, one possible story among many.

My first book, Friendship’s Shadows: Women’s Friendship and the Politics of Betrayal in England, 1640-1705 (Edinburgh University Press, 2012), provides an alternative account of state formation in which women writers refashion themselves as central, rather than marginal, to civic life. My current book project, Humanity in Suspension: Gender and International Law in Seventeenth-Century Literature, shows that gender plays a crucial, under-studied role in the origins of human rights in international law. Articulations of human rights that assert universal human equality often collapse under the pressure of differences of ethnicity, gender, and religion. Writers from Shakespeare to Aphra Behn answer this problem not in the expected way, by telling stories about the self, but rather by amplifying literary conventions, so that literary history itself does the work of creating belief in individual rights.

Both projects draw together my interests in queer, feminist, and gender studies; early modern political theory; law; and manuscript studies and history of the book. My teaching includes all these areas, as well as canonical authors such as Shakespeare and, especially, Milton. Most recently, my students have been exploring the archives, researching everything from Helen Mirren’s Excalibur breastplate (and what it tells us about gender politics) to four-hundred years’ worth of London maps (including a gate to the city that vanished, reappeared in the countryside, and came back to St. Paul’s Cathedral).  

Journal Articles and Other Publications


“Feminist Queer Temporalities in Aemelia Lanyer and Lucy Hutchinson.” Co-authored with Whitney Sperrazza. Gendered Temporalities in the Early Modern World. Ed. Merry E. Wiesner-Hanks. Amsterdam University Press (forthcoming 2018).

“Can a woman deserve the name of enemy? Gender, War, and Law in Katherine Phillips’s Corneille Translations.” Special Issue: Katherine Philips and Other Writers. Eds. Marie-Louise Coolahan and Gillian Wright. Women’s Writing 23.4 (2016): 425-444. Reprinted in Katherine Phillips: Form, Reception and Literary Contexts (Routledge, forthcoming 2018). 

“Lucy Hutchinson’s Sodom and the Backward Glance of Queer Feminist Temporality.” Special Issue: Lucy Hutchinson. Ed. David Norbrook. The Seventeenth Century 30.2 (10 August 2015): 249-264.

“‘Friendship Multiplyed’: Royalist and Republican Friendship in Katherine Philips’s Coterie.” Discourses and Representations of Early Modern Friendship, 1500-1700. Eds. Lorna Hutson, Daniel Lochman, and Maritere López. Aldershot, England: Ashgate Press, 2011.

“The Absent Female Friend: Recent Studies in Early Modern Women’s Friendship.” Literature Compass, April 2010.

Recent Talks

“The Gendered Lacunae of International Law: The Case of Cymbeline”
- Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Wellington, New Zealand, February 2017

“The Perils of Equality: Just War Doctrine in Margaret Cavendish’s Assaulted and Pursued Chastity and Love’s Adventures
- Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, Boston, MA, March 2016

“Women’s Political Writing: The Way Forth” (roundtable)
- Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, Berlin, Germany, March 2015

“‘Looked upon in the nation as a slave’: Captivity and International Law in the Romances of Hester Pulter and Margaret Cavendish”
- Romance Transformations Conference, Chawton House Library, England, July 2014

“Can a woman deserve the name of enemy? Gender, War, and Law in Katherine Philips’s Corneille Translations”
- Katherine Philips 350 Conference, Dublin, Ireland, June 2014

“Translating Resistance: Echoes of Seneca’s Thyestes in the Seventeenth Century”
- Renaissance Society of America Annual Meeting, New York, NY, March 2014

“Lucy Hutchinson’s Sodom and the Backward Glance of Queer Historiography”
- Lucy Hutchinson Conference, University of Oxford, England, November 2013

“‘Thy prisoner but not thy slave’: Translating Civil and International Wars in the Plays of Katherine Philips”
- Modern Language Association Annual Convention, Seattle, WA, January 2012

“War Within and War Without: Civil and International Wars in the Writings of Katherine Philips”
- University College London Centre for Early Modern Exchanges Launch Conference, London, England, September 2011

Selected Honors and Awards
  • Indiana University Primary Source Immersion Grant, for teaching with archival materials, 2017
  • American Council of Learned Societies Supplementary Summer Fellowship, 2014
  • American Council of Learned Societies Charles A. Ryskamp Fellowship, 2013
  • Folger Library Seminar, “Law as Politics in England and the Empire,” Spring 2013
  • Indiana University Institute for European Studies Conference Grant, Spring 2013
  • Indiana University College Arts and Humanities Institute Conference Grant, Spring 2013
  • Indiana University Emergency Grant-in-Aid, Spring 2012
  • Indiana University Trustees’ Teaching Award, 2011
  • Indiana University Institute for European Studies Faculty Research Grant, Summer 2010
  • Indiana University College of Arts and Sciences Summer Faculty Fellowship, 2008
  • Center for British Studies Anglo-California Foundation Fellowship, 2004-2005
  • Bancroft Library Study Award, Summer 2004
  • Mellon Fellowship in the Humanities, 2000-2001