Pasquale Toscano

Bio/Description

I am a scholar/critic, teacher, and writer, especially on disability, whose work has appeared in The New York TimesThe Atlantic, and Vox, among other publications. A graduate of Washington and Lee University (2016), I earned two master's degrees, in English (1550-1700) and Classics, from the University of Oxford as a Rhodes Scholar before coming to Princeton for my Ph.D. in English. My research interests include early modern English literature, Milton, disability studies, the Greco-Roman epic tradition, classical reception/Black classicism, and Tudor/Stuart drama (especially Roman plays and Shakespearean tragedy). Though I write about it less frequently, I'm likewise a fan of contemporary fiction, including Marilynne Robinson’s and Elizabeth Strout’s, as well as musical theater. My scholarship, and creative nonfiction, has either been published or is forthcoming in Disability Studies QuarterlyReformation, the Classical Receptions Journal, SEL: Studies in English Literature 1500-1900, and the Huntington Library Quarterly, while many of my public-facing essays can be found in Synapsis: A Health Humanities Journal, for which I'm a contributing writer. I am a 2023-2024 Porter Ogden Jacobus Fellow, Princeton's top honor for graduate students. In the fall, I'll also be joining the faculty of Vassar College as an assistant professor of English.

I'm currently working on several book projects. My top priority—Stand and Wait: Dynamics of Physical Dis/ability in the Greco-Roman Epic Tradition—explores how nonnormative embodiment serves as both a problem to be solved and a spur to generic innovation in (neo)classical heroic verse. It begins by adducing several thematic and formal reasons for why epic poets often introduce disabled characters only to banish them soon afterwards. Four central chapters then discuss writers—Ovid, Spenser, Milton, and Phillis Wheatley Peters—whose relationship to the epic tradition has often been contested. I argue that their contributions come into clearer focus if we consider them as "crip renovations": narratives that incorporate, and even are shaped by, a broader range of somatic experiences than is typical for the genre, on the interrelated levels of form, temporality, and heroism. These poems thus become more accessible at least to certain kinds of othered bodyminds. My second book project—All Pity Choked: The Falls of Tragedy and the Rise of Renaissance Cure—reveals how early modern tragic literature becomes a site for litigating the ethics, efficacy, and affects of "cure," which gained conceptual currency in the Renaissance. Meanwhile, I'm also co-editing, with Angelica Duran, the first volume to bring Milton and disability studies into one another's orbits (Milton and the Network of Disability, Embodiment, and Care Studies, under contract with Edinburgh UP), and writing essays of hybridized creative nonfiction and literary criticism, which I aim eventually to revise into a book.

Teaching is likewise important to me. I designed a course, “Literature and Psychology,” for Oxbridge Academic Programs in 2018, have served as an AI here at Princeton, co-taught introductory composition as part of the Prison Teaching Initiative, and in the fall of 2024, designed and taught a new course called "Bodies and Belonging in Milton's Epic Tradition" with Nigel Smith. In 2024, the Princeton Graduate School acknowledged my contributions with one of its annual Teaching Awards. Outside the classroom, I'm an advisor at one of Princeton's undergraduate colleges (Whitman) and a frequent mentor for fellowship applicants.

Selected Publications


Three articles:

Pity, Singular Disability, and the Makings of Shakespearean Tragedy in Julius Caesar,” SEL 61.2 (Spring 2021): 203-40.

The Way History Lands on a Face: Disability, Indigeneity, and Embodied Violence in Tommy Orange’s There There,” with Brandi Bushman, DSQ 41.4 (2021).

Epic Regained: Phillis Wheatley’s Admonitory Poetics in the ‘Little Columbiad,’Classical Receptions Journal 13.2 (April 2021): 178-211.

Three public-facing essays:

‘Let Be Assigned Some Narrow Place Enclosed’: Requesting Accommodations Has Always Been Tricky Business,” Synapsis, 19 Sept. 2021.

Hamilton is America’s Monumental Epic. That’s a Good Thing,” LARB, 19 July 2020.

I’m obese and disabled. I want a healthy lifestyle. But it’s often inaccessible to disabled people like me,” Vox, 27 May 2019.

Three op-eds:

Legal Abortion Isn’t the Problem to be Solved,” with Alexis Doyle, The Atlantic, 19 July 2019.

Stop Using Disability as a Political Club,” The Boston Globe, 4 Feb. 2018.

My University is Named for Robert E. Lee. What now?,” The New York Times, 22 Aug. 2017.