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Joel Davis

Professor of English

People sometimes ask me, 'who is this Philip Sidney guy you write about?' And I have to say: Philip Sidney is the paragon of the Elizabethan Age, that's who. Though Sidney lived only 32 years, he changed the course of English literature and a lot more. Research updates are being published here on Restoring Sidney's Arcadia. Sidney's unfinished Arcadia is an epic romance and rhetorical tour de force unmatched in any language and was the most popular work of secular literature in English for nearly two centuries after its publication in 1590. His sonnet sequence, Astrophil and Stella, started the Elizabethan sonnet craze and is arguably the greatest sequence in English (Shake-speares Sonnets come nowhere near the formal variety and intricate design of Sidney's sequence). And Sidney's Defence of Poesy is the first full-bodied statement of literary aesthetics in English, a fascinating ethics of writing, and a subtle, urbane, witty rhetorical paradox. If anything, Sidney was more admired on the Continent than in England. The Dutch revere him to this day for all he did in their revolt against Spanish rule: he died of wounds suffered in a raid on Spanish supply lines outside Zutphen. Everybody should read some Sidney - he's nourishment for the soul.


  • Ph.D., English, University of Oregon, 1999
  • M.A., English, University of Wyoming, 1994
  • B.A., English, University of Puget Sound, 1989

Course Topics

  • Women Writers of the Renaissance
  • Poetry and Poetics
  • Renaissance Literature
  • Vengeance and Paranoia
  • Reading Lyric
  • Introduction to Film
  • Writing and Rhetoric
  • College Writing

Research Interests

  • Sir Philip Sidney and the Sidney Circle
  • Shakespeare
  • English Renaissance
  • Literary and print culture
  • Poetics
  • Rhetoric
  • Gender theory

Selected Publications

  • Davis, Joel; Biferie, William. “Philip Sidney.” In Oxford Bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation. Ed. Margaret King. New York: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.
  • Political Theory and the Prose Works of the Tudor Sidneys, in The Ashgate Research Companion to the Sidneys, 1500-1700, vol. 2: Literature, eds. Margaret P. Hannay, Mary Ellen Lamb, and Michael G. Brennan (Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publishing, 2015) 153-174.
  • The Countesse of Pembrokes Arcadia and the Invention of English Literature, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011).
  • "'Thus I restless rest in Spayne': Engaging Empire in the Poetry of Sir Thomas Wyatt and Garcilaso de la Vega," Studies in Philology 107.4 (2010): 493-519.
  • "Multiple Arcadias and the Literary Quarrel between the Countess of Pembroke and Fulke Greville." Reprinted n Mary Sidney, Countess of Pembroke, Ashgate Critical Essays on Women Writers in England 1500-1700 series, vol. 2. ed. Margaret P. Hannay (Burlington, VT: Ashgate: 2009), pp. 285-14. 
  • "Paulina's Paint and the Dialectic of Masculine Desire in the Metamorphoses, Pandosto, and The Winter's Tale." Reprinted in Shakespearean Criticism, ed. Michelle Lee. Vol. 101. (Detroit: Gale, 2006). Literature Resource Center. Print and Web. 
  • "Robert Sidney’s Copy of Tacitus and Leicester’s Campaign in the Low Countries, 1585-86." The Sidney Journal 20.2 (2006): 1-19. 
  • "Multiple Arcadias and the Literary Quarrel between the Countess of Pembroke and Fulke Greville." Studies in Philology 101 (2004): 401-429. 
  • "Paulina’s Paint and the Dialectic of Male Desire in the Metamorphoses, Pandosto, and The Winter's Tale." Papers on Language and Literature 39 (2003): 115-143. 
  • "'Presidents to themselves’: A Letter to an Honorable Lady, Merciful Commentary, and Ethical Discourse." The Sidney Journal 19.1-2 (2001): 161-182.

Joel Davis

Faculty Expert

  • Shakespeare
  • Elizabeth I (of England)
  • Mary I (of England)
  • Renaissance Literature and Culture
  • Poetry

Contact Information