Shankar Raman


Shankar Raman is a Professor in the Literature Section. His research focuses on late medieval and early modern literature and culture. He received his PhD in English Literature (with a minor in German) from Stanford University in 1995, switching fields and careers after receiving both a master’s (U. C. Berkeley) and a bachelor’s (MIT) degree in Electrical Engineering (along with a second bachelor’s at MIT through the Department of Architecture).


Subjects taught the current academic year:
On Leave through Fall 2023

21L.017 The Art of the Probable (Fall 2024)

Subjects taught in recent years:

21L.009 Shakespeare: The Comedies (Spring 2024)

21L.015 Children's Literature (Fall 2020)

21L.451 Literary Theory (Spring 2024)

21L.451 Literary Theory (Spring 2022)

Research Interests
Over the first half of my career, my study of the relationship between colonialism and literature in sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Europe led to two monographs. Framing ‘India’: The Colonial Imaginary in Early Modern Culture (Stanford 2002) compared Portuguese, English and Dutch colonial activity to explore the role of India as a figure through which these diverse European powers imagined and defined themselves. Against a dominant paradigm that placed English engagement with Americas at the centre, I emphasised the need to incorporate the very different dynamics of Europe’s eastward expansion into our understanding of the sharp mutations that early modern colonialism had introduced into our world and into how we imagine ourselves. Renaissance Literature and Postcolonial Studies (Edinburgh University Press 2011) developed this work in new directions by challenging the preponderant focus on identity politics in contemporary colonial/post colonial criticism. It advocated instead an attention to the differential: while recognising the persistent power of binary oppositions — as, for instance, that between `the West and the rest’ — I insisted that such oppositions only exert their force in fluid, fluctuating fields of differences and multiplicities. The book revealed the extent to which we have in a sense always been postcolonial: the dynamics of our colonial pasts become recognisable in the present precisely because of how modern colonialisms repeated and continue to repeat anterior models — albeit distinctively and differently. As a result of my work on these topics, I was invited to be a founding board member for a new doctoral college of Intersectionality Studies, inaugurated in 2022 at the Universität Bayreuth, Germany.

While colonialism and postcolonialism remain enduring interests, more recently I have turned to explore the interrelationships obtaining between literature and science in early modernity. This research has occasioned a special Forum on the topic in Shakespeare Studies (2022) and led as well to a co-edited collection (with Lowell Gallagher) entitled Knowing Shakespeare: Senses, Embodiment, Cognition (Palgrave Macmillan 2010). I am currently completing a monograph on the relationship between literature and mathematics in early modern Europe, tentatively entitled Before the Two Cultures, portions of which have appeared in print as standalone essays. In its early phases, these explorations were sustained by my participation in Making Publics: Media, Markets and Associations in Early Modern Europe, 1500 – 1700 [MaPs], a major five-year interdisciplinary research initiative funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada.

2011 Renaissance Literatures and Postcolonial Studies, Edinburgh U.K.: Edinburgh  University Press (approx. 224 pp.).

2010 Knowing Shakespeare: Senses, Embodiment and Cognition co-edited with  Lowell Gallagher). New York: Palgrave Macmillan (270 pp.)

2002 Framing “India”: The Colonial Imaginary in Early Modern Culture. Stanford: Stanford University Press (389 pp.).

Special Issue
2021 Proposed, curated, and edited a Forum of 11 essays on Literature and Science for  Shakespeare Studies XVLIX (133 pages).

Selected Articles
2017 “Milton, Leibniz, and the Measure of Motion,” inPalgrave Handbook of Early  Modern Literature and Science, ed. Howard Marchitello and Evelyn Tribble. New  York: Palgrave MacMillan, pp. 277-294.

2017 “‘Thou single wilt prove none’: Counting, Succession and Identity in  Shakespeare’s Sonnets,” in Arden State of Play: Shakespeare’s Sonnets, ed.  Hannah Crawforth and Elizabeth Baumann. London: Boomsbury, pp. 157-182.

2015 “Interrupted Games: Pascal, Hamlet, Probability,” in Shakespeare Studies XLIII,  ed. James R. Siemon and Diana E. Henderson, pp. 179-207.

2011 “Learning from de Bry: Lessons in Seeing and Writing the Heathen,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 41 (1): pp. 13-66.

2005 “Marking Time: Memory and Market in Shakespeare’s The Comedy of Errors,”  Shakespeare Quarterly 56 (2): 176-205.

2004 “Performing Allegory: Erwin Panofsky and Titian’s Allegory of Prudence,”  Emblematica 13: 1-38.

2001 “Back to the Future: Forging History in Luís de Camões’ Os Lusíadas,” in Ivo  Kamps and Jyotsna G. Singh, eds., Travel Knowledge: European “Discoveries”  in the Early Modern Period. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 127-147.

2001 “Can’t Buy Me Love: Money, Gender, and Colonialism in Donne’s Erotic Verse,”  Criticism. 43 (2): 135-168.

2023 Fellow, Institute of Advanced Studies/SEARCH research group, University of Strasbourg, France
Fall 2022 Fellow, French Institute of Advanced Study, Fondation IMéRA, University of Aix-Marseilles, France
MacVicar Teaching Fellow (2018-28)
Levitan Prize, MIT (2012-13)
Beatrice Shepherd Blaine Fellow, Radcliffe Institute (2010-11)
Jeptha H. and Emily V. Wade Award, MIT (2002-03)