Professor Rosalind Smith

DPhil (Oxon)
Professor of English and Head of Discipline
College Arts & Social Sciences

Areas of expertise

  • British And Irish Literature 200503
  • Australian Literature (Excl. Aboriginal And Torres Strait Islander Literature) 200502

Research interests

My key contributions in the field of early modern studies focus on the ways in which early modern women used their writing to intervene in the literary, social, political and religious cultures of sixteenth and early seventeenth century England, Scotland and France. I have a particular interest in the forms in which women made such interventions, and am a leading international expert on the sonnet, the sonnet sequence, marginal annotation and complaint, as well as on the reception of early modern women’s writing from the sixteenth century to the present. This work is at the forefront of what is known as the material turn in early modern studies, scholarship that attends to the material forms in which early modern writing was produced, circulated, transmitted over time, and read. My research projects always combine formal, material and theoretical approaches with digital methods, exploring how digital forms can make us view the past in new ways. I am interested in the intersection of digital humanities with traditional literary scholarhip, and my current research includes scholarship on digital editing, archival longevity, and new bibliographical tools for the digital age.



Professor Rosalind Smith is the Professor of English at the Australian National University, Her primary research area focuses on the intersection of form, politics and history in early modern women’s writing, examining women’s participation in large formal categories in order to rewrite literary histories of genres (the sonnet), modes (complaint) and textual practices (marginalia), Her secondary research area focuses on true crime, specifically true crime in Australia and women and true crime in the English Renaissance.

She has a sustained record in academic leadership, including as Acting Pro Vice Chancellor Research and Innovation (2019), Assistant Dean Research and Research Training (2013-17), Director of the Centre for 21st Century Humanities (2018) and Deputy Head of School Teaching and Learning (2012).In 2008, Ros co-founded the Early Modern Women’s Research Network (EMWRN) with Dr Patricia Pender. Under their leadership EMWRN has become a internationally renowned centre for innovative early modern research, using methods combining theoretical, material and digital scholarship. 

She has served on the HCA panel of the ARC College of Experts (2015-17) and has over $3 million in external research funding, including a current Future Fellowship (2019-23).  She is also the lead CI on a 2019 ARC Linkage Project grant with State Library Victoria, lead CI on a current ARC Discovery Project, and CI5 on an ARC LIEF project. In 2012 she led a large international team examining the material cultures of early modern women's writing, also funded by the ARC Discovery scheme. She has also been awarded funding from the Marsden Trust and is currently a Senior Common Room Fellow at Merton College Oxford. In 2019, Ros was appointed general editor of the Palgrave Online Encyclopaedia of Early Modern Women’s Writing, the largest project of its kind in the world, with over 400 entries, 15 section editors and a million plus words. 




Researcher's projects

Funded research:

2019-22: FT180100371: Marginalia and the Early Modern Woman Writer, 1530-1660. $1066079 (CI1)

2019-21: LP180100704: Transforming the Early Modern Archive: The Emmerson Collection at State Library Victoria. $247000 (CI1)

2019-20: LE190100019: Time-Layered Cultural Map of Australia. $420000 (CI5)

2017-20: DP170103439: Early Modern Women and the Poetry of Complaint, 1540-1660: $116000 (CI1)

2012-15: DP Material Cultures of Early Modern Women's Writing, 1540-1660. $211000 (CI1) 


Available student projects

PhD Scholarship: Marginalia and the early modern woman writer, 1530-1660

$32,282 p/a x 3 years

ARC Future Fellowship: FT180100371

This Project aims to provide an ambitious new literary history of how early modern women read and wrote in the margins of their books, uncovering new texts, practices, writers and readers across the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. Reading is a central mechanism through which the English Renaissance was instituted: a means by which the classical world reached the early modern subject and vernacular textual culture came to flourish. Evidence for how reading operated can be found in the traces readers left behind in their books, including marginal annotations. These annotations provide not only crucial evidence of reading practice, but also an overlooked source of extraordinary writing. A world of textual activity can be found here: marks, signatures, requests for remembrance, short lyrics, devotional meditations, letters and extended prose tracts teem in the margins of early modern books and manuscripts, in both scribal and print forms. The margin has emerged as one of the most significant new textual sites of the period, moving from the edges of scholarship to a place of central importance. However, most scholarship in this field still focuses on men’s use of marginalia, overlooking hundreds of instances of marginal annotation by women. This project will provide the first comprehensive examination of how early modern women readers engaged with the margins of their books. It will radically expand our conception of what constituted early modern women’s writing and how it was circulated. It will also reevaluate, from a new perspective, our understanding of reading, writing and book use in early modern England and disseminate its findings in new digital forms, bringing together materialist and digital humanities scholarship to create a digital archive enabling future research. 


The successful applicant will work with Professor Rosalind Smith at ANU on one aspect of this project, such as a study of early modern women’s marginalia in a single archive (eg. the Emmerson collection at State Library Victoria) or a study of early modern women’s use of print marginalia. Working with the project’s digital resources, you will collaborate with a team of research assistants and international collaborators to recover a new corpus, develop new models of reading and writing practice and gender and authorship, as well as contribute to new theorisations and practices surrounding digital humanities and the early modern texts. Partner institutions for the project include the University of Oxford and the Folger Shakespeare Library, as well as early modern archives and rare book collections across the globe. The project includes funded fieldwork in UK and US archives for the successful PhD candidate, as well as national and international conference travel and collaborative publication opportunities. The student will also work in close collaboration with the Early Modern Women Research Network, co-convened by Professor Smith. 


You will:

  • Have a first-class Honours (H1) or equivalent degree in a relevant field, such as literary studies, historical studies or gender studies
  • Have demonstrated experience or interest in digital methods in the humanities
  • Be a creative, critical, independent thinker with excellent communication and collaboration skills
  • Be available to commence full-time study in 2020. 


The successful applicant will receive a PhD stipend of $27,082 per annum, as well as $5,000 per annum fieldwork support. 


How to Apply

Applicants should submit an expression of interest by August 1 2020



Current student projects

Peihopa, Kelly. Early modern women's prison writing. PhD (2019-2022)

Rodwell, Julia. Digitising the Emmerson Collection at State Library Victoria. PhD (2019-2023)

Greaves, Laura. Finding Caroline: Silent victims and gender bias in true crime writing. PhD (2019-2023)


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Updated:  04 August 2020 / Responsible Officer:  Director (Research Services Division) / Page Contact:  Researchers