Department of English
Ph.D., English, Pennsylvania State University
Ashley Marshall specializes in British literature of the long eighteenth century, and is especially interested in studying that literature in its historical and political contexts. Before coming to Nevada she spent a year in Baltimore as an ACLS New Faculty Fellow at Johns Hopkins. She considers herself a “contextual historicist” scholar and critic whose work is devoted mostly to asking what we think we know and why we think we know it.
Dr. Marshall’s first book project, The Practice of Satire in England, 1658-1770, focuses on poetry but also covers plays, novels, and non-fiction prose. The book is a new and thoroughly researched answer to this question: How was satire conceived and understood by writers and readers from the mid- seventeenth century to 1770? A lot has been written about 18th-century satire, but scholars have focused almost exclusively on a tiny number of canonical works, such as Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels. They have also looked for continuity over time or paid little attention to the importance of chronology. By reading some 3,000 works, in all genres and all years, Dr. Marshall found that English satire of the 18th century turns out to be messy, confused, and discontinuous, changing radically and radically across this period. This represents a drastic revision of the standard literary history of satire.
While The Practice of Satire is a breadth study, Dr. Marshall’s second research project will be a depth study, dealing with one highly productive writer whose work cannot be understood without considerable grasp of a variety of socio-political contexts across a half-century. She is now at work on a short book about Jonathan Swift and history, which she sees as a stepping-stone towards a larger book on Swift as propagandist and controversialist.
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