‘On Difficulty in Early Modern Literature’: a symposium

Event Date: 
26 Oct 2018 to 27 Oct 2018

King’s College, London


This two-day international symposium we will trace how the concept of literary difficulty develops through the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries, following the first use of the term as meaning ‘hard to understand’. 


The event brings together literary scholars, historians, biographers, editors and translators to discuss ‘difficulty’ as an aesthetic, critical and ideological category in early modern literature and thought. We ask why authors might deliberately write works which are difficult to understand; whether difficulty is always élitist; and whether complexity-seeking scholars might create difficulty, forming a puzzle so that they can be the ones to solve it. Sessions will also address how difficulty can be understood in the work of particular authors; how the category might be debated theoretically and conceptually; how difficulty resides in considerations of form and linguistic medium; and how it motivates and complicates archival, editorial and pedagogical work in early modern studies.


Confirmed speakers include: Peter Auger, Eoin Bentinck, Gilles Bertheau, Warren Chernaik, Miles Dawdry, Daniel Derrin, Jeff Dolven, Nicholas Hardy, Islam Issa, Kevin Killeen, Mary Ann Lund, Dianne Mitchell, Joe Moshenka, Victoria Moul, Kathryn Murphy, Edward Paleit, Jennifer Richards, Elizabeth Scott-Baumann and Nigel Smith.


The symposium has been generously funded by the Society for Renaissance Studies and by the London Shakespeare Centre. It is co-organized by Sarah Knight (University of Leicester) and Hannah Crawforth (King’s College, London).  

Fees are £40/£20 (for those not in permanent employment). Please register here if you wish to attend: