Tom Clayton

I study the literature and culture of the early modern period. Areas of particular interest include the Reformation, political philosophy, transatlantic exchanges, and the history of the book.  

My dissertation, The Reformation of Indifference: Adiaphora and Literature in the Seventeenth Century, explores the representations of religious difference in English poetry and prose at a historical moment of pluralization and colonial expansion. Readings of literary and philosophical works by John Donne, George Herbert, John Milton, Aphra Behn, and John Locke demonstrate the significance of the concept of adiaphora, or “things indifferent,” for the period's thinking about cultural diversity in relation to the Church’s commitment to religious uniformity. In a broad sense, the project organizes a new genealogy for the cultural and political categories through which liberal polities today grapple with differences of religion, race, and gender.  

As an instructor and an assistant instructor in the English Department at Princeton, I have taught courses on transatlantic literature and history, John Milton, the essay as literary tradition, and an introductory survey spanning the literatures of the 14th-18th centuries. I have also co-taught courses in composition, world literature, and Shakespeare in correctional facilities in New Jersey with the Prison Teaching Initiative. As a Teaching Fellow in the Princeton University Preparatory Program, I have taught theatre-based enrichment courses for high school students from low-income backgrounds in central New Jersey and also served as a mentor for students working toward college matriculation.  

My research has been supported by travel grants from the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies, several Folger Shakespeare Library grants-in-aid, the Donald and Mary Hyde Academic Year Fellowship for Research in England (2017-18), a Graduate Fellowship in the Center for the Study of Religion (2018-19), and a Bain-Swiggett Assistantship in Research (2020-2021).