Sophie Butler

Sophie Butler


  • 1.24 Registry And Council House

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Personal profile


I came to UEA in 2017 from the University of Oxford. I am originally from a small village just outside the Cathedral City of Lichfield in Staffordshire, and I had a somewhat unusual educational journey towards university. I became ill with M.E. in my early teens, which meant that I had to leave my state secondary school and be tutored at home for my GSCEs. I then returned to school for sixth form – this time to a small all-girls’ boarding and day school – meaning that I ended up experiencing a range of learning environments, all of which in varied ways helped to prepare me for different aspects of university life both as a student and as a tutor.

Professional Activities

I have recently been appointed as the incoming Co-Editor of the Bulletin for the Society of Renaissance Studies, a role I will be taking up at the start of 2019. 

Teaching Interests

I teach on a range of pre-1789 undergraduate modules within LDC, including 'Seventeenth Century Writing' and 'Reading and Writing in Elizabethan England', as well as contributing lectures to both these courses and other modules within the School, such as Literature in History. I have recently supervised dissertations on women and eighteenth-century theatre and early-modern women's life-writing, and would be keen to hear from students who would like to pursue an early-modern dissertation topic, particularly those with an interest in the history of the book, women's writing, or life writing.

I contribute towards the teaching on the MA in Medieval and Early-Modern Textual Cultures, including classes on Montaigne and humanistic culture and on the history of the book. 

Research Group or Lab Membership

I am a member of the Medieval and Early-Modern Research Group within LDC.

Key Research Interests

My research focuses primarily on the literary essay in early-modern England and on the ways in which the literary form of the essay is shaped by material forms of reading and writing, intersecting with transformations in humanistic culture and the development of life-writing across the period. I am currently working on a project about the early-modern essay and its relationship to the 'draft', and I recently delivered a keynote paper on this topic at the conference 'Literary Form After Matter, 1500-1700', held in Oxford in June 2018.

My work focuses heavily on archives and the history of reading and of the book, drawing upon many unpublished manuscript sources and annotated books from libraries around the world. I am interested in different modes of cirulation in manuscript and print in the early-modern period, and am currently preparing an article about the manuscript circulation of The Encomium of Richard III by the early-modern essayist Sir William Cornwallis the Younger (c.1579-1614) -- the writer who formed the focus of my doctorate -- in the late sixteenth and early seventeenth centuries. My work on the English essay has led me to work on the French writer Michel de Montaigne (as well as on readers' responses to the first printed English translation of Montaigne's essays in 1603) and on the Continental contexts of English literary writing and culture more broadly. 

I am also particularly interested in women as writers, readers, and patrons in the early-modern period, and am currently preparing an article on early-modern noblewomen as patrons of English essays, with a particular focus on Lucy Russell, Countess of Bedford, and her familial networks. I am also bringing together my interests in women's writing and life writing in an ongoing side project to edit a manuscript diary written by a woman called Mary Woodforde in the late 1680s and 1690s.

External Activities

Along with colleagues in the School of Literature, Drama and Creative Writing, I run 'Unlocking the Archive': a partnership between UEA and the Norfolk Heritage Centre and Blickling Estate (National Trust), and in collaboration with Darren Leader Studio (Norwich). 

The UTA project was established in 2015 with the aim of increasing public awareness and appreciation of the wonderful collection of Renaissance books held in the Norfolk Heritage Centre in the centre of Norwich – one of the city’s greatest, but least-known, cultural treasures. Over the past few years, we have worked closely with librarians at the NHC to develop a series of ongoing initiatives to show the different ways in which these publicly-owned books can still be living sources of inspiration and use today, and in 2018 we formed a new partnership with the National Trust's Blickling Estate, based around their incredible library of 12,500 early-modern books. 

You can follow UTA's activities on twitter to find out more: @archiveunlocked.