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Stephanie Shirilan

Stephanie Shirilan

Stephanie Shirilan

Associate Professor


410 Hall of Languages


Jewish Studies Minor / Modern Jewish Studies
Medieval and Renaissance Studies

Social/Academic Links

Recent Undergraduate Courses

  • ETS 410 Reading, Breathing Shakespeare 
  • ETS 353/REL 300 Jews and Judaism in the Early Modern Christian Imagination 
  • ETS 420 Shakespeare and the Natural World 
  • ETS 305 Performance Studies 
  • ETS 420 Shakespeare’s Other Worlds 
  • ETS 410 Early Modern Travel and Fantasy Literature 
  • ETS 430 Ovid in Early Modern Translation and Transformation 
  • ETS 430 Early Modern Knowledge and Experience 
  • ETS 430 Early Modern Madness, Meaning, and Melancholy 

Recent Graduate Courses

  • ENG 730 Shakespearean Ecologies 
  • ENG 630 Introduction to Early Modern Studies 
  • ENG 730 Early Modern Travel Literature 
  • ENG 730 Early Modern Bodies and Minds in Contact 
Biographic Overview

Stephanie Shirilan was born in Montreal to non-English speaking parents whose families migrated to Canada by way of Latin America and Western Europe just before and after World War II. This history of migration imprinted on the subjects of her research and the institutional and disciplinary travels through which she pursued them. Her training in theater/performance, classical rabbinic literature, and postcolonial, trauma, and Holocaust studies forged her critical engagements with the Western canon, from the “great books” curriculum of her undergraduate major to the ongoing work of reckoning with the “Renaissance” and its historical inclusions, exclusions, inheritances, and legacies.

Shirilan teaches and publishes on a wide range of topics, including early modern science and medicine, drama and performance, ecology, religion, travel, and empire. Her first book, Robert Burton and the Transformative Powers of Melancholy (Routledge 2016), intervened in the historiography of early modern melancholy by challenging its readings and uses of Burton’s important work. She is currently working on a series of articles on hidden and/or forgotten histories of respiratory medicine. She is also completing a book tentatively titled The Breathing World: A History of Air and Shakespeare which engages with environmental, performance, and disability studies, respiratory, atmospheric, and speculative philosophy, sensory studies (especially sound), critical human geography, religious history, and critical race and ethnic studies to investigate the ecological, psychological, spiritual, and political implications of air for Shakespeare’s audiences and to show how the erasure of such implications constitutes a prominent theme in his work.

Shirilan is an active member of the Global Premodern Studies and Jewish Studies programs at Syracuse University. She is co-director of the Mellon-funded CNY Humanities Corridor Working group on Practice-Based Performance Studies and has co-directed the History of Scientific Norms and the Concept of the Normal with Kathleen Long (2018-2021). She has been the recipient of numerous grants and fellowships including those from the Folger and Huntington Libraries, and she was a year-long fellow at the Israel Institute for Advanced Studies as a member of Sensing the Truth: Changing Conceptions of the Perceptual in Early Modern and Enlightenment Europe.

Recent Articles

Shirilan, Stephanie. “Impressions of Liveness in Shakespeare, At a Distance.” Early Modern Liveness: Mediating Presence in Text, Stage and Screen, edited by Danielle Rosvally and Donovan Sherman, Bloomsbury Publishing, 2023, pp. 38–60.

Shirilan, Stephanie. “Shakespeare’s Rabbinic Virtues: A Listening Ear.” Shakespeare and Virtue: A Handbook, edited by Julia Lupton and Donovan Sherman, Cambridge University Press, 2023, pp. 279-90,

Shirilan, Stephanie. “Respiratory Sympathy and Pneumatic Community in Shakespeare.” Shakespeare’s Audiences, edited by Matteo Pangallo and Peter Kirwan, Routledge, 2021, pp. 27–44,

Shirilan, Stephanie. "Exhilarating the Spirits: Burtonian Study as a Cure for Scholarly Melancholy." Studies in Philology, vol. 111 no. 3, 2014, pp. 486-520. doi:10.1353/sip.2014.0022.

Stephanie Shirilan (2012) “The Forbidden Pleasures of Style.” Prose Studies, 34:2, 115-128, DOI: 10.1080/01440357.2012.701075.

Research Interests

Literary histories of science and medicine, early modern theater and performance studies (especially practice-based), Shakespeare, Jewish studies, environmental/ecological humanities, critical health studies, respiratory and atmospheric humanities, disability studies, race and religion, sound and sensory studies, early modern travel, nation, and empire, inclusive pedagogy, practice-based, public-facing, creative and non-traditional forms and genres of scholarly research, writing, and publication.

Areas of Supervision

I welcome inquiries from students with broad interests in early modern literature but especially those pursuing projects in theater studies, histories of medicine, ecology, travel, empire, rhetorical and performance studies, cognitive and affect theory, disability studies, religion, and/or Jews and Judaism. Feel free to contact me if your interests lie outside of these named fields. Research is a living, breathing thing that shifts shape and focus as we go and often does so most generatively through distant cross-fertilizations.

Recent Events/Presentations

  • McElroy Shakespeare Lecture, Loyola University, Chicago, October 2023.
  • Roundtable participant, Inclusive Futures: Race, Religion, and PCRS, ACMRS, July, 2023.
  • “Mere Breath? Sensing Respiratory Spirit after the Reformation,” Ben Gurion University, June 1, 2022
  • Air, Breath, Atmosphere: On Theory and Method” Panel Organizer and Presider/Chair, MLA 2022
  • “Atmospheric Aesthetics ‘Under Pressure’: Race, Labor, Nation, Climate.” Panel Organizer and Presider/Chair, MLA 2022.
  • “Sensing Atmosphere: Air as Archive,” Sensing the Truth, IIAS, Jerusalem, June 14-15, 2022.
  • “Forgetting History, Remembering Air,” Dublin, RSA 2022
  • “Breath as Resource in Shakespeare’s Henriad,” RSA 2021, online (postponed from 2020).
  • “Pneumatic Enargeia and Zoom Proxemics,” SAA, 2021.
  • “Respiratory Debility and the Classed Poetics of Grace,” MLA, Toronto (online), January 2021.
  • “Breathlessness and Faithlessness in Shakespeare’s History Plays,” ASTR, November 2020.
  • “Shakespeare In-spired”: An Interdisciplinary Collaboration in Performance-based Pedagogy,” Blackfriars Shakespeare Conference, October 2019.
  • “Attending to Aural Inattention in Hamlet,” RSA, Toronto, 2019.
  • “Listening as Moral Aesthesis in the Tempest,” Early Modern Songscapes, Toronto, February 2019.
  • “Air and/errand/errant poetic matter and old/new materialisms,” MLA, Chicago, 2019.
  • “Sciences of Nonmodernity, Now,” Roundtable participant. MLA, Chicago, 2019.
  • “Breathing (un)easy: Precarious Pneumatic Community in Shakespeare’s Theater,” Cultural Histories of Air and Illness, University of Warwick, June 2018.
  • “Eco-philology: Early Modern Environmental Words and Worlds,” Roundtable discussant and organizer. RSA New Orleans, March 2018.
  • “‘Breathless’ Bodies and Pneumatic Community in Shakespeare, RSA New Orleans, March 2018.
  • “Air and Honor in the Henriad,” SLSA,” Phoenix, Nov 2017.
  • “Commodity Conversion: New World Bioprospecting in the English Protestant Imagination,” Early Modern Conversions, Cornell, April 2017.
  • “Apollo’s “Others”: Crises of Christian Medical Identity in Early Modern English Literature,” RSA Chicago, 2017.
  • “Shakespeare’s Climatology,” Panelist. MLA, Philadelphia, January 2017.
  • “Things of Earth and Insubstantial Airs: Noise, Music, and Commodity in Shakespeare’s Epistemological Contact Zones,” Shakespeare Across the Divide, Miami, February 2016.
  • “European Occultism and the Consumption of Indigenous Knowledge.” Scientiae: Disciplines of Knowing in the Early Modern World, Toronto, May 2015.
  • “Imperial Conquest and 17th c. Medical Contest in Abraham Cowley’s Plantarum.” History of Science Society Annual Meeting, Chicago, 2014.
  • “The Sound and Science of Sympathy: Cosmic Harmony and Royalist Natural Philosophy.” RSA, San Diego, 2013.
A Fresh Look at Seventeenth-Century Understanding of Melancholy

(Dec. 16, 2016)

Stephanie Shirilan’s book wins CNY Book Award