Megan Heffernan

This page reflects a scholar's association with the Folger Institute.

Long-term fellowship

"Willing Minds: Gathered Writing, Material Epistemology, and the Early Modern Poetic Imagination" (Mowat Mellon Research Fellowship, 2016-2017)

This project recovers the formal dimensions of handpress-era books by tracing the development of the poetry collection in early modern England. Gathered poetry draws attention to the rift between poets’ imaginative work and the books that contain their writing. Particularly in volumes from the sixteenth century, lyric abundance and variety trumped textual coherence. Known to us as “miscellanies,” these editions are now so familiar that, as Gérard Genette remarks, they “proclaim their nature only because in any case it jumps out at us the minute we glance at a page of text.” But that flash of recognition was not yet conventional in the handpress era, when professional and amateur compilers more freely mingled lyrics from diverse authors— at times with little explanation for unwieldy juxtapositions of theme, occasion, and style. Books that now strain expectations of design and organization record a series of experiments with the formal, poetic affordances of collected writing, as well the process through which modern readers have forgotten this early history. Identifying an active poetic practice in commercial habits of arranging lyrics, Willing Minds argues that gathered poetry reflects a creative struggle with the contingencies of textual production. Legible as capacious assemblages, yet irreducible to material objects, poetry collections urge us to reconsider early modern writing as a process of compilation that drew non authorial features into the most elemental workings of poetic form.

Short-term fellowship

“Each Part Together: Form‚ Collections‚ and the Poetic Imagination in Tottel’s England” (2014–2015)

Scholarly Programs

Participant, English Paleography (Seminar, 2014)