Matthew Ritger

Assistant Professor
Academic Appointments

Assistant Professor, Department of English and Creative Writing

In my research and teaching, I focus on English literature and culture of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. I am particularly interested in connections between historical literature and its wider world, especially moments when Renaissance poetry and drama helped to articulate alternative political ideas. I am currently working on a book about what writers including Thomas More, Shakespeare and Milton had to say about England’s houses of correction, which were some of the early modern period’s first reformist prisons.

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My publications speak to some of my broader interests, from queer theory to the history of books and reading. My article in English Literary History has to do with the sexual politics of seventeenth-century poetry. My article about Utopia in Renaissance Quarterly focuses on the text’s famous ideas about penal reform, but also examines how some early readers responded to those ideas in the margins of their books. Reviews and other writings have appeared in The Los Angeles Review of Books and elsewhere.


I received my Ph.D. from Princeton University in 2020, where my dissertation research was supported by several grants including the Porter Ogden Jacobus Fellowship, Princeton’s highest honor for a graduate student. While at Princeton I also lived and worked in the undergraduate colleges as a residential fellow. Prior to the Ph.D., I taught as a lecturer at Cornell University, where I earned my MFA. At Cornell I studied contemporary poetry, but I also disovered my fascination with the early modern period when I began teaching composition courses about Shakespeare.


At Dartmouth in 2020-2021, I look forward to teaching courses on Shakespeare (ENGL 15), academic writing (WRIT 5), and the history of sexuality (ENGL 63.03).

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Ph.D. Princeton University
M.A. Princeton University
M.F.A. Cornell University
B.A. Dartmouth College

Works in progress

Book Project

Objects of Correction:
English Literature and the Making of Modern Punishment

Beginning in the 1550s, institutions called ‘houses of correction’ opened a new era in England's efforts to punish and reform the country's poorest and most criminalized subjects, centuries in advance of the penitentiary. Although these efforts by early prison reformers were quickly seen as cruel failures, nevertheless the ideas, arguments and stories they promoted about the means of changing human behavior — what I call in this study the rhetoric of correction — proved an enduring success. By examining how writers including More, Shakespeare and Milton engaged with these institutions and ideas, Objects of Correction constructs a critical history of the making of modern punishment. Ultimately, the project proposes "correction" as a third term for Renaissance literary theory, as one of the period's most important but least studied means of literary justification, beyond the familiar commonplaces of instruction and delight.