James T. Clayton

I study the literary practices of the early modern period, especially where they intersect with theology and political philosophy. Areas of particular interest include the Reformation, print culture, Francis Bacon, and the poetry of George Herbert and John Milton.

My dissertation, The Reformation of Indifference: Adiaphora and Literature in the Seventeenth Century, provides an account of religious neutrality as political strategy and literary mode. Through readings of texts in several genres, the project argues for the significance of indifference for securing and contesting the political viability of religious pluralism in seventeenth-century England. In doing so, the project challenges familiar genealogies of liberal and secularist thought with the ultimate aim of recovering the provocative force of pluralistic and just ways of writing and thinking for the twenty-first century.

As an assistant instructor in the English Department at Princeton, I have taught the writing of John Milton, the essay as literary tradition, and an introductory survey spanning the literatures of the 14th-18th centuries. I have also co-taught a number of English composition and literature courses in correctional facilities in New Jersey with the Prison Teaching Initiative, a state-funded organization that provides for-credit college education to incarcerated students. Through the Princeton University Preparatory Program, I work with area high school students from low-income backgrounds toward academic enrichment and college matriculation.

From 2014-2017, I was a co-convener of the Renaissance Colloquium in the English Department, which sponsored a series of talks by visiting scholars on topics ranging widely across the fields of early modern studies.

My research has benefited from the travel grants from the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, a Folger Shakespeare Library grant-in-aid, and several internal fellowships. During the 2017-2018 academic year, research in Oxford and London was supported by a Donald and Mary Hyde Academic Year Research Fellowship. During the 2018-2019 academic year I will be a Graduate Fellow in the Center for the Study of Religion, a Teaching Fellow in the Princeton University Preparatory Program, and the beneficiary of a Dean’s Completion Fellowship from the Graduate School.