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Heather  Meakin

Heather Meakin

Heather Meakin
Research Associate Professor


Office: CPR
Phone: 519-709-7835


H. L. Meakin, DPhil (Oxon)
Research Associate Professor

As a Research Associate Professor in the English Department at USF, my interdisciplinary research program focuses on the early modern period in western culture and letters with an emphasis on John Donne, women’s writing and other cultural productions, and, increasingly, John Milton.



Other Interests



I began my college career as a piano performance major but switched to English literature, earning a B.A. and M.A. from the University of Toronto and a D.Phil. from Oxford University under the supervision of Julia Briggs and John Carey. I was invited by Clarendon Press to publish my dissertation in the Oxford English Monographs series as John Donne’s Articulations of the Feminine. The book is a feminist re-reading of some of Donne’s constructions of gender in poetry other than his Songs and Sonnets and in some of his sermons.

My second monograph, The Painted Closet of Lady Anne Bacon Drury, was published by Ashgate Press. This 150,000-word book examines the closet, or study, of one of John Donne’s patronesses, the wealthy and well-connected Lady Anne Bacon Drury (1572-1624). It was on the occasion of the death of Lady Drury’s only child, Elizabeth, that Donne wrote his famous Anniversaries. He then accompanied Lady Drury and her husband, Sir Robert, on a tour of France and the Low Countries in 1611/12.

Lady Drury’s closet reveals her to be worthy of John Donne’s intellectual companionship. It consists of dozens of painted panels of images accompanied by Latin mottos beneath Latin sentences. Together they constitute a profound meditation on the disappointments of life and the consolations of philosophy and religion. This interdisciplinary book provides the biographical, intellectual and aesthetic contexts for the closet, and a close reading of each of its panels. The research for and publication of the book was assisted by grants from the Paul Mellon Center for Studies in British Art, by a New Researcher Grant from the University of South Florida, and by a USF College of Arts & Sciences Research and Scholarship grant.

Here are two brief comments from reviews of The Painted Closet:

"[Meakin's book] is an analysis of profound scholarship. Like her subject, Meakin demonstrates a sure command of both the classics and contemporary theological texts....[T]his study must be welcomed with enthusiasm, not just for its exemplary scholarship, but also for making this extraordinary survival more widely known." -- Renaissance Quarterly

"This [research] has implications not only for art-historical methodology (in areas of iconography, emblematics, representation), but also for architectural history, literary studies, the development of emblem studies, and above all for our understanding of the literary, Latinate, and humanist education of women in early seventeenth-century England. These achievements ought to secure a wide readership for this book and ensure its status as an influential starting point and model for further research in a variety of fields." – Emblematica

I am at work on my third monograph: a second book on the Drury Closet, tentatively titled Reading Spaces: The Drury Painted Closet in Context. It considers the closet and its panels in comparative and theoretical contexts that complement the first book’s biographical and interpretive focus on this “architext.” If the questions at the heart of the first book are “What is this thing and who is Lady Anne Bacon Drury?”, the question at the heart of this second book on the closet is “Why is this a room and not a book?” It begins by using Montaigne’s recommendation of an arrière-boutique in his Essais to set up the questions driving my inquiry. Using the recent scholarship that has arisen out of “the spatial turn” in early modern literary and cultural studies, as well as classic thinkers on space such as Bachelard, Lefebre, and Irigaray, I theorize the ways in which early moderns inhabited space, and their habits of seeing and reading—especially text and image together—in both two-dimensional and three-dimensional contexts. Lady Drury’s painted closet has much to offer us as we grapple with the enduring questions of how we dwell, alone and in community; how we dwell in the external universe of the natural world and in the internal universe of our own minds and memories; how we use the category of space to define relationships of all kinds.

Also well advanced is my transcription of and critical essay on a 17thc. manuscript of poetry in praise of a gentlewoman’s embroidered Life of Christ. While on an NEH Summer Seminar I came upon this manuscript as I conducted research on another project in the Bodleian at Oxford, and I think it worthy of attention. We’ll see.

My other work in progress includes an article on the art of diagnosis in Donne’s Devotions and Margaret Edson’s play, W;t, and articles on John Milton’s concept of bliss, his imagining of Edward King’s drowning in Lycidas, Lucy Hutchinson’s reading practices, and Margaret Cavendish’s reworking of the concept of literary immortality.

I have presented my work at national and international conferences such as the Annual Meetings of the Renaissance Society of America, the International Conference of the Society for Emblem Studies, the International Margaret Cavendish Society’s conference, the Society for the Study of Early Modern Women’s conference, the South Atlantic Modern Language Association Annual Conference, and the Annual Meeting for the Society of Literature and Science. She has also participated as a Summer Scholar in a National Endowment of the Humanities Summer Seminar in Antwerp, London, and Oxford (2012) on “Tudor Books and Readers 1485-1603.”



"And gladly wolde [s]he lerne and gladly teche."

A Sample of Comments from Student Evaluations:

  • “Professor Meakin is absolutely brilliant. I’d recommend this class to anyone. She always worked with her students to make sure they got the best education possible. She is truly an asset to USF.”
  • “Stellar teacher. Stellar teacher. Some may not like that she teaches intelligently and demands actual interpretation of material over rote memorization. I find it to be a breath of fresh air. USF should consider itself lucky to employ a mind like hers.”
  • “Dr. Meakin deserves to know that by the largest margin of comparison, she is the most incredible professor I have ever had the pleasure of learning under. She is so sincere and wonderfully intelligent that it is hard not to catch her contagious love of the material. I admire and profoundly respect her and regret not being able to take more of her classes. I also regret this is my only way of telling the university of her wonderful effect on my USF experience.”
  • “Since there are no ‘ ∞ ‘ options for ratings, let me tell you this. Prof. Meakin is always available, she’s always charismatic, helpful, funny, knowledgeable and most importantly, GREAT! An understanding professor, compassionate and kind. One of the Best Professors in the USF system for SURE.”
  • “Professor Meakin has been the best professor I have had at USF and I am a senior this year. She has a genuine desire for her students to succeed and it is obvious in her teaching style. It was a privilege to be in her class.”
  • “Best teacher I’ve had at USF and this is my 7th semester! Loved this teacher. I would take any class she teaches.”
  • “I will regret graduating so soon. She really is a wonderful addition to the USF English Dept.”
  • “Great professor, a true asset to the department!”
  • “She is a true jewel in the English Department.”
  • “Professor Meakin is one of the most engaged and dynamic instructors I have had the pleasure of studying with. Even if I retain only a third of what I’ve learned in this course, I’ll still have a better understanding of Shakespeare than if I had watched a hundred documentaries. Thanks!”
  • “Honestly, I thought early Brit Lit was kind of drab before this course. However, you managed to change my mind. This class was more intensive than others I’ve had, but the requirements to work harder helped me delve deeper into the material. I respect your intelligence very much and appreciate your ability to help your students outside of class so much. I also love John Donne a lot more now than I did in high school. He’s awesome.”
  • “She brought Milton to life.”
  • “She re-ignited my passion for learning.”
  • “This biblio class was highly practical and very illuminating. Dr. Meakin is brilliant yet approachable!”
  • “I’ve never given straight 5s to any professor before for a reason: they never deserved it. You have been a great inspiration in discipline as well as in facilitating my learning experience. I sincerely hope you continue to teach other classes so I may study under you again. Thank you.”
  • “Once again I have learned more from Dr. Meakin in six weeks than I have in any other class I’ve taken in six YEARS at USF. She is always willing to assist her students and is genuine in her attempts to help them succeed. I would take her for every course if I could—she makes me want to learn and challenges me to do better.”
  • “Without a doubt you have challenged me more than any other professor at this university; I feel that the challenge was worthwhile. Had the seminar not occurred during my final semester, I am confident that I would seek out your classes and your assistance many times over.”
  • “I feel the feedback for research and writing were amazing! The best I’ve had in my academic career. Cheers! to Dr. Meakin.”
  • “Meakin is an excellent professor. She really knows what she is talking about and speaks with authority. At the same time she respects her students’ ideas. She is a tough grader who provides a lot of feedback. She tries hard to engage her students in the learning experience.”
  • “The most valuable gem we have in the English department. The way she reaches out to students by helping with research is second to none. Her critical feedback makes us better writers...[S]he creates a class where we can share our findings and refine them further—a perfect balance of the communal and individual.”
  • “I think Dr. Meakin is an excellent professor of literature. She is so knowledgeable about English literature and how it all connects, and she is so passionate about her work. It is obvious she puts far more time into her course preparations than other instructors. This was my second class with her and I’d take a dozen more!”
  • “Dr. Meakin is perhaps the most valuable member of USF’s English Department. She is tough, and expects a lot of her students, yet has shown a genuine concern, the most genuine I’ve ever seen, in the welfare of her students.”
  • “This class was the best Lit class I have ever taken. The reading material was outstanding and inspiring. The course schedule itself was perfect in intertwining the reading with the assignments. The assignments were enjoyable and challenging but well worth. Professor Meakin could not have done a greater job teaching the material than she did. Great professor!”
  • “Somehow you managed to get a class of college kids to care again. You were always available for questions, listening to our concerns, helping us understand the world just a little bit more.”

Undergraduate Courses:

Early Modern:

  • Shakespeare from An Historical Perspective
  • Early Shakespeare
  • Early Modern Women Writers
  • Milton
  • Renaissance Literature
  • Seventeenth-Century Literature

Literature Surveys:

  • British Literature to 1616
  • British Literature to 1800
  • Introduction to Literature
  • Major British Writers

Women’s Studies:

  • Feminist Literary Theory
  • Introduction to Gender Studies


  • Life of the Mind
  • The Muse in Literature
  • Re-cognizing Beauty

Graduate Courses:

  • Bibliography for English Studies
  • Research Methods
  • Introduction to Graduate Studies
  • Early Modern Women Writers
  • John Donne’s Poetry and Prose
  • Milton
  • Seventeenth-Century British Literature: “Nutshells, Bowers, Doggeholes, and Closets: Reading Space(s)”
  • Seventeenth-Century Poetics: Making (Sacred and Profane) Love
  • Rhetoric and Poetics of Immortality

Other Interests

My beloved dachshunds are always nearby and can coax me away from my desk for a game of fetch or a walk. They love nature, music, laughing, and baking as much as I do.

In addition to academic writing, I am at work on a mixed-genre performance piece about the women in John Donne’s life. It is titled, “No Man is an Island, Or, Quantum Entanglement Explained.” Benedict Cumberbatch, if you are reading this, I’d love it if you’d play John Donne. I am also writing a novel called Divining Comedy that combines academic satire and stand-up comedy, and is inspired by Dante’s Inferno. Finally, I am tinkering with a mixed-media piece inspired by Milton’s Comus and Wallace Stevens’ poetry called Bliss Reconciled to Conscience. It’s terrific fun getting my hands dirty with paint and glue and glitter.