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Dr Vladimir Brljak

Associate Professor

Associate Professor in the Department of English Studies+44 (0) 191 33 43370
Member of the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 


I joined the Department in 2018, having previously studied at the Universities of Zagreb (BA) and Warwick (PhD), and held the Thole Research Fellowship at Trinity Hall, Cambridge. I have held visiting fellowships and grants at the Bodleian Libraries' Centre for the Study of the Book (2017), Huntington Library (2018), Durham University (Seedcorn Fund Award, 2022), and the Warburg Institute (2022-23), and given invited talks at Birmingham, Budapest, Cambridge, Stanford, NYU, the Warburg Institute, Warwick, York, and Zagreb.


I work mainly on English literary and intellectual history, c.1500-1700, with wider interests in the long history of poetics and hermeneutics, and the literary and cultural history of outer space and the cosmological imagination. Topics of particular interest include:


My doctoral work was on on allegory in English literature and literary theory, c.1500-1700, and I have published a number of articles and chapters on the subject; edited Allegory Studies: Contemporary Perspectives (Routledge, 2022); and organized Allegory Studies? (Warwick, 2013), Rethinking Allegory (Warburg Institute, 2015).

History of Literary Criticism

Another long-term project seeks to provide a new account of English literary criticism of the early to mid-seventeenth century (c.1605-75). This is a 'lost' age in the history of the subject, typically presented as a dormant interlude between a waning Renaissance and a dawning Restoration, rather than a productive epoch in its own right. Based on targeted archival research conducted since 2017, the project recovers this lost age and reassesses its contribution to literary and intellectual history. This work has identified a corpus of over a hundred items, trebling that collected in the previous anthologies combined (Spingarn, Tayler, Vickers), and including nearly twenty unpublished works in manuscript. Far from being a critical backwater, this corpus reveals the seventeenth century as an age of critical experiment, in which established modes of literary thought collided with new configurations of knowledge radically transforming the European intellectual landscape. Of particular interest here is the growing interaction between literary and scientific thought, and the work of authors - Bacon, Digby, Kinder, Hobbes, Cavendish, among others - who straddle both domains, and whose work sheds light on the emergence of poetic modernity as well as our current assumptions and debates. Our age is marked by a growing sense of crisis in literary studies and deepening divide between the human and natural sciences ('two cultures', 'STEM' and 'SHAPE', etc.). What can we learn from a very different age, in which poetry and philosophy, experimental science and experimental criticism, walked hand in hand?

In addition to single-authored research on the subject, this work also contributes to Literary Criticism of the English Renaissance, a multi-volume edition of primary sources I am editing for OUP with Gavin Alexander, Catherine Bates, Sarah Knight, and Micha Lazarus.

I am co-founder of Poetics before Modernity (2016-), a collaborative project exploring broader perspectives in the history of early literary thought, which I convene with Micha Lazarus and an international team of colleagues. The project organizes events in the field and publishes Sources in Early Poetics (Brill). Other publications emerging from the project include two collections co-edited with Dr Lazarus: 'Artes poeticae': Formations and Transformations, 1500-1650, a special issue of Classical Receptions Journal (2021), and Poetics before Modernity: Literary Theory in the West from Antiquity to 1700 (OUP, under contract).


Much of my interest in the work of John Milton research revolves around the idea of Paradise Lost as a work of seventeenth-century science fiction, an interest which also informs the special topic module 'Paradise Lost' as Science Fiction (ENGL3731) and a forthcoming MA module on 'Early Modern Science Fiction' (ENGL46330), to be introduced in 2024-25. My article 'The Satanic "or": Milton and Protestant Anti-Allegorism' was awarded the Review of English Studies Essay Prize (2015), and was included in the journal's virtual issue celebrating the 350th anniversary of the first publication of Paradise Lost (1667).

When did space turn dark?

A new project, which I developed as a Frances A. Yates Long-Term Fellow at the Warburg Institute (2022-23), explores the shift in the Western cosmological imagination from a bright to a dark universe. Several publications, including an eponymous monograph, are in various stages of preparation. Relating to this work, I co-organized the conference Space in Time (Warburg Institute, 2023), and co-editing a collection emerging from the event with Veronica della Dora, Stamatina Mastorakou, and John Tresch.

I have also published on other topics: Old English poetry; references to religious doctrine and controversy in Shakespeare's work; the formation of the Faust legend; modern authors drawing on 'medieval' sources and traditions (Borges, Tolkien).


I convene the following modules: What Is Literature? Literary Thought from Antiquity to Modernity (L2), 'Paradise Lost' as Science Fiction (L3), and Early Modern Science Fiction (MA, forthcoming 2024-25). I also lecture across the pre-1900 syllabus (L1-3), tutor on Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature (L2), and supervise BA, MA and PhD dissertations in the medieval and early modern periods.

PhD Supervision

I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students interested in any aspect of English literary and intellectual history, c.1500-1700, especially those indicated above.

Esteem Indicators


Book review

Chapter in book

Edited book

Journal Article

Other (Digital/Visual Media)


Supervision students