Matthew Ritger

|Assistant Professor
Academic Appointments

Assistant Professor, Department of English and Creative Writing

I specialize in 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 such as William Shakespeare and John Milton had to say about England's "houses of correction," which were some of the early modern period's most controversial prisons. 

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Sanborn, Room 014
HB 6032


English and Creative Writing


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

Works In Progress

Book Project

The Amending Hand: Humanism, the House of Correction, and Early Modern Literature

Beginning in the 1550s, institutions called houses of correction opened a new era in English efforts to 'set the poor on work,' by introducing hard labor and training as punishments for minor crimes. Centuries in advance of the penitentiary, these new 'correctional' workhouses were quickly seen as cruel failures, and yet the ideas, arguments and stories they promoted about the means of reforming human behavior have had long-lasting effects. By examining how writers including More, Shakespeare, and Milton engaged with these institutions and their ideas, The Amending Hand constructs a cultural history of the humanist prison in its earliest form. At the same time, the project examines aspects of the early modern culture of correction more broadly, including print correction and reader's correction, as the material basis for an overlooked topos within renaissance literary theory.