Piers Brown arrived at Kenyon in 2014, having taught at West Virginia University and the University of York. He is currently at work on projects such as John Donne's reception of early modern astronomy, motion and emotion in Shakespeare's drama, and the reception and circulation English Renaissance poetry.

Areas of Expertise

Renaissance poetry and poetics; theories of metaphor; book history; the history of science; and science fiction and fantasy.


2009 — Doctor of Philosophy from University of Toronto

2001 — Bachelor of Arts from Simon Fraser University

1992 — Bachelor of Arts from Univ of Kent at Canterbury,Eng

Courses Recently Taught

The course is team-taught by two faculty members from English and MLL. It explores what it means to read world literature by focusing on a single theme or problem common to many cultures that takes different forms in each local environment. For example, the course might focus on the problem of migrations to see how global literary forms have found different ways to represent what happens when people move from place to place. Or the course might focus on the different ways of representing coming of age. Yet another theme that the course might explore centers on the Anthropocene and how the environment is figured across cultures. Earlier iterations of the course have focused on travel, print cultures and book history, and global poetry; consequently, readings may include “Gilgamesh,” Laila Lalami’s “The Moor’s Account,” Aphra Behn’s “Oroonoko,” Marco Polo’s “The Travels” and Thomas Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49.” This course paired with any CWL course counts towards the Humanities diversification requirement. These courses must be taken at Kenyon. Prerequisite: CWL 220 or permission of instructor. Offered every other spring.

Each section of these first-year seminars approaches the study of literature through the exploration of a single theme in texts drawn from a variety of literary genres (such as tragedy, comedy, lyric poetry, epic, novel, short story, film and autobiography) and historical periods. Classes are small, offering intensive discussion and close attention to each student's writing. Students in each section are asked to work intensively on composition as part of a rigorous introduction to reading, thinking, speaking and writing about literary texts. During the semester, instructors will assign frequent essays and may also require oral presentations, quizzes, examinations and research projects. This course is not open to juniors and seniors without permission of the department chair. Offered every year.

From basic techniques of critical analysis to far-reaching questions about language, literature, culture and aesthetics, this course will introduce students to many of the fundamental issues, methods and skills of the English major. Topics will range from the pragmatic (e.g., how do you scan a poem? what is free indirect discourse? how do you use the MLA bibliography, OED, JSTOR?) to the theoretical (how does a genre evolve in response to different historical conditions? what is the nature of canons and canonicity? why are questions of race, class, gender and sexuality so important to literary and cultural analysis?). Students will be given many hands-on opportunities to practice new skills and analytic techniques and to explore a range of critical and theoretical paradigms, approaches which should serve them well throughout their careers as English majors. Our discussions will focus on representative texts taken from three genres: drama (Shakespeare's "The Tempest"), the novel (Shelley's "Frankenstein", Woolf's "Mrs. Dalloway"), and lyric poetry (a variety of poems representing four centuries and several traditions). This counts toward the approaches to literary study or methods requirement. Open only to first-year and sophomore students and is strongly recommended for anyone contemplating an English major. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104.

This study of the Renaissance poem opens up a delicate world of intensely structured language. We will develop strategies of micro- and macro-reading for understanding how sparks of meaning lattice across a poem to create a whole effect: we will see how a single letter can change everything, how much a single word can do, a single line, a stanza within a poem, an entire sonnet within a series of sonnets. We will explore ways poems draw us into their worlds by transforming us into the "I" of the lyric speaker, by articulating our own emotions in a beautiful and intricate arrangement of words designed to amplify or soothe. In the light of early modern poetic studies as well as contemporary methodologies (e.g., George Puttenham, Roman Jakobson), this course examines the major Renaissance poetic movements and poetics of the 16th and early 17th centuries, including the works of sonneteers, popular ballad writers, the Cavalier Poets, the Metaphysical Poets and others. This counts toward the approaches to literary study or the pre-1700 requirements for the major. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104. Offered every year.

When T. S. Eliot declared that there had been a disassociation of sensibility that set in after the early 17th-century metaphysical poets, he was deliberately claiming a connection between his own work and the writing from this earlier period that he admired. This course will investigate this affinity between early modern literature and the literature of the 20th century. In the process, we will consider the importance of early modern literature in forming the critical taste and formalist methods of reading that were central to the New Criticism. This counts toward the pre-1700 and post-1900 requirements for the major. Open only to first-year and sophomore students. Prerequisite: ENGL 103 or 104.

History of the Book is an introduction to the history of material texts. It investigates the production of writing from scribal manuscript to modern digital media, with a focus on the hand-press era (c.1450-1830). Our goal is to become proficient at reading material forms in conjunction with the texts they contain and to place these materials in historical context. During the course, we will examine topics including: shifting notions of authorship and audience; the processes of manuscript and print production; the economics of printing and bookselling; libraries and organization of knowledge; methods of illustration; mise-en-page, and paratexts; and textual editing. This counts toward the approaches to literary study requirement, the pre-1700 or 1700-1900 requirements for the major. Prerequisite: junior standing, or ENGL 210-291 or permission of instructor.

As a genre, fantasy has seen a sudden leap in popularity over the last two decades, primarily as a result of novels for children, such as those by J. K. Rowling and Philip Pullman, and of film or television adaptations, such as those of "Lord of the Rings" and "Game of Thrones". Despite these events it remains one of the most marginalized genre categories in fiction, both in academia and in culture more generally -- a marginalization that is all the more striking considering the general acceptance of magic realist novels as part of literary culture. In this course we will reread the genre of fantasy for continuities with the wider history of the novel, focusing particularly on allegory, the bildungsroman, children's literature and historical narratives. This counts toward the approaches to literary study requirement or the post-1900 requirements for the major. Prerequisite: junior standing or ENGL 210-291 or permission of instructor.

Individual study in English is a privilege reserved for senior majors who want to pursue a course of reading or complete a writing project on a topic not regularly offered in the curriculum. Because individual study is one option in a rich and varied English curriculum, it is intended to supplement, not take the place of, coursework, and it cannot normally be used to fulfill requirements for the major. An IS will earn the student 0.5 units of credit, although in special cases it may be designed to earn 0.25 units. To qualify to enroll in an individual study, a student must identify a member of the English department willing to direct the project. In consultation with that faculty member, the student must write a one-to two page proposal for the IS that the department chair must approve before the IS can go forward. The chair’s approval is required to ensure that no single faculty member becomes overburdened by directing too many IS courses. In the proposal, the student should provide a preliminary bibliography (and/or set of specific problems, goals and tasks) for the course, outline a specific schedule of reading and/or writing assignments, and describe in some detail the methods of assessment (e.g., a short story to be submitted for evaluation biweekly; a thirty-page research paper submitted at course’s end, with rough drafts due at given intervals). Students should also briefly describe any prior coursework that particularly qualifies them for their proposed individual studies. The department expects IS students to meet regularly with their instructors for at least one hour per week, or the equivalent, at the discretion of the instructor. The amount of work submitted for a grade in an IS should approximate at least that required, on average, in 400-level English courses. In the case of group individual studies, a single proposal may be submitted, assuming that all group members will follow the same protocols. Because students must enroll for individual studies by the seventh class day of each semester, they should begin discussion of their proposed individual study well in advance, preferably the semester before, so that there is time to devise the proposal and seek departmental approval before the established deadline.

This seminar, required for students in the Honors Program, will relate works of criticism and theory to various literary texts, which may include several of those covered on the honors exam. The course seeks to extend the range of interpretive strategies available to the student as he or she begins a major independent project in English literature or creative writing. The course is limited to students with a 3.33 GPA overall, a 3.5 cumulative GPA in English and the intention to become an honors candidate in English. Enrollment limited to senior English majors in the Honors Program; exceptions by permission of the instructor. Undertaken in the fall semester; students register with the Senior Honors form as well as the individual study form. Permission of instructor and department chair required.