Professor Cathy Shrank

Photo of Professor Cathy Shrank.

School of English, The University of Sheffield

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Cathy’s research focuses on 16th and early 17th century literature. Her interest in this area dates back to her undergraduate degree at the University of Cambridge. She stayed on at Cambridge to do an MPhil in Renaissance Literature, during which she found a particular enthusiasm for Tudor writing, which she developed during her PhD on 16th century humanism and national identity.

Her publications are mainly on 16th century literature before Shakespeare, a period during which there were less obvious divisions between ‘fictional’ and ‘non-fictional’ forms, and the authors on whom she has worked include medical writers such as Thomas Elyot, William Bullein (accused of murdering his patron and patient), and Andrew Borde (a former Carthusian monk, turned physician and sometime spy, who renounced his teetotal vegetarian lifestyle and noisily advocated good English ale, great quantities of red meat, and the remedial power of laughter). The early modern period also inherited Galenic ideas of medicine, whereby both temperament and physical well-being were determined by the regulation of the four bodily humours, the balance of which was influenced by external factors such as diet and climate. The fluid and often almost beleaguered sense of self that results from this understanding of the human mind and body consequently pervades the writing of that period.