About Bill Engel

(View My Full CV here)                                        [updated: 2019 Sept 5]

I am the Nick B. Williams Professor of Literature at the University of the South in Sewanee, Tennessee, where I specialize in Chaucer, Shakespeare, the Roots of Western Literature, and Literary Theory and Criticism. It is also my pleasure periodically to take on the Anglo-Saxon world, medieval literature, 16th century English poetry, Renaissance drama, Miton, 19th century American fiction, modern British poetry, and contemporary American drama. For many summers I was Assistant Director at Camp Horseshoe, overseeing the fishing, fencing, and wilderness programs.

In addition to contributing to collections of essays in early modern literary and cultural studies and publishing a variety of encyclopedia entries, I am the author of five monographs: four on intellectual history and literature, Mapping Mortality: The Persistence of Memory and Melancholy in Early Modern England (University of Massachusetts Press, 1995), Death and Drama in Renaissance England: Shades of Memory (Oxford,  2002), Chiastic Designs in English Literature from Sidney to Shakespeare (Ashgate, 2009 [Routledge paperback, 2016]), and Early Modern Poetics in Melville and Poe: Memory, Melancholy, and the Emblematic Tradition (Ashgate, 2012 [Routledge paperback, 2016]), which was named a Yankee Book Peddler Literary Essentials Title for 2013; and also a book on teaching and learning, Education & Anarchy (University Press of America, 2001). Most recently I was a co-author (along with Rory Loughnane and Grant Williams) of The Memory Arts in Renaissance England: A Critical Anthology (Cambridge, 2016). My reviews have appeared with some regularity in journals such as Sixteenth Century Journal, Seventeenth-Century News, Renaissance Quarterly, The Sewanee Review  (first series), and Carmina Philosophiae: Journal of The International Boethius Society.

I carried out several years of intensive dissertation research, primarily at the Warburg Institute in London (supervised by Charles Schmitt and J.B. Trapp), and at the Huntington Library in San Marino, California (where I was thoroughly if informally tutored by John Steadman and Fredson Bowers). In 1987 I earned my Ph.D. from the University of California at Berkeley, with a dissertation (directed by Jonas Barish) on "Emblems and sententiae in Seventeenth-Century Prose: Mystical and Literary Design in Robert Burton and Thomas Browne" (DAI 48 (1988) no. 9:2193A). I went on to teach Humanities, English literature, and graduate seminars in early modern intellectual history at Vanderbilt, where I won the Ernest A. Jones Award for excellence in undergraduate advising and, in 1995, coordinated the Early Modern Studies Group at the Robert Penn Warren Center for the Humanities (‘Visual Representation and Material Culture’).

Beginning in 1996, at Harvard University’s Philosophy of Education Research Center (working with Israel Scheffler), I developed a program using "literary touchstones" for executive leadership seminars that resulted in my providing Continuing Legal Education credits in Ethics and Professionalism for attorneys in the American Bar Association as well as offering a series of trustee education seminars for professional  organizations in the mid-South. I was an Educational Consultant for the Tennessee Commission on Holocaust Education and subsequently the Nashville Holocaust Memorial for which I wrote the Program Notes "About the Holocaust." I have also worked as a design team consultant on a variety of projects ranging from middle school math and life-skills programs to integrating arts-based curriculum system-wide. I have served periodically as an adjudicator for Geiko Life Fellowships and the Golden Key Honor Society through Internatinal Scholaship and Tuition Services.  

Among the professional organizations with which I am affiliated are The International Congress on Medieval Studies, International Boethius Society, Sixteenth Century Studies ConferenceRenaissance Society of AmericaMilton Society of AmericaPoe Studies Association,  World Association for Case Method Research and Application, and the Modern Language Association in which I served a three-year term on the Delegate Assembly. I have been on the executive boards of the National Coalition of Independent Scholars, the Sixteenth Century Studies Conference, The Poe Studies Association, and served two terms as Chair of the Bainton Book Prize for SCSC, as well as have been several times on the adjudication committee for both the Quinn and
Gargano awards for PSA. I served a three-year term for the Harper Award to fund graduate students to attend the annual SAMLA conference. I am in my second three-year term serving as the Discipline Representative of Emblems for the Renaissance Society of America, and am on the Editorial Board of Renaissance Quarterly. I have read and assessed books in manuscript for presses such as Palgrave-Macmillan, Oxford University Press, and HarperCollins.

A life-long fencer (a few years back ranked nationally in epee), I am a certified foil instructor and an approved director of foil, epee, and sabre through the United States Fencing Association. I am currently in charge of the fencing program at Sewanee. I have led workshops for the Nashville Shakespeare Festival and choreographed stage combat for productions including All's Well that Ends Well, Macbeth, Romeo and Juliet and Calderon's Life is a Dream. More recently I served as the dramaturge for the Alabama Shakespeare Festival's  production of Hamlet and led workshops for regional teachers; and, in May 2019, supervised Sewanee students in a one-hour version of John Ford's 'Tis Pity.

Born in Texas and raised in central Alabama, I continue to have an abiding interest in Southern regional literature and history, especially the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Mark Twain, the Fugitives ("Agrarians"), Kate Daniels, and Wendell Berry. As the father of three grown children, I became quite expert at outdoors games, drivers' education, and enforcing curfews (sometimes not so successful at the latter). For fifteen years with my trusty Irish terrier, Albie, by my side, I discovered many a deer trail, frog hollow, possum lair, and skunk den in Rhinelander, WI and Sewanee, TN; and, beginning July 2013, the adventures continue with Rory Killian ("Rory, the dog"). While I enjoy cultvating a suburban enclosed-garden in Nashville, as often I take pleasure in wandering old cities (most memorably Jerusalem and Rome, Tallinn and Munich, Krakow and Amsterdam, Kyoto and Prague, Toledo and Tubingen) and taking in theatre, opera, chamber concerts, and the odd gallery. I have been told I shoot a passable game of pool; and I can still tie a fly, read a river, and navigate by the stars.