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Ceri Sullivan

Professor Ceri Sullivan


School of English, Communication and Philosophy

+44 29208 75617
John Percival Building, Room 2.21, Colum Drive, Cardiff, CF10 3EU
Available for postgraduate supervision


I research and teach on how early modern religion, trade, and bureaucracy use literary techniques to conduct their work. For instance, today's popular business handbooks enthusiastically explore the 'what ifs' of an organisation, contrasting what it is and what it might be. They ask how:

  • organisations may create fictions to underpin meaningful working relationships (eg. planning documents may be more significant as narratives than as tools to make decisions)
  • complicated issues can be compressed into images to influence future attitudes
  • effective colleagues may act as bricoleurs, catching up symbols at hand to offer direction and create confidence
  • myths circulate at work to express unconscious wishes, celebrate achievements, offer atonement, and resolve conflict
  • irony, jokes, and satire about work can integrate groups, lessen status differences, and reconceptualise problems.

I've published six monographs, two edited collections, and c. seventy articles, chapters, and notes about how this is the case in the early modern period, too. I am currently researching into how management consultancy texts can provide useful readings for Shakespearean critics (not just the other way round).

I am ENCAP's Subject Director of Research for English and Creative Writing, the general editor of the English Association's series Essays and Studies (volumes from 2020-2024):, and a member of the Cardiff Environmental Cultures group:












  • Sullivan, C. 2014. Property. In: Hadfield, A., Dimmock, M. and Shinn, A. eds. The Ashgate Research Companion to Popular Culture in the Early Modern Period. Farnham: Ashgate, pp. 295-308.



  • Sullivan, C. 2012. Ben Jonson and Hugh Broughton. Notes and Queries 59(4), pp. 571. (10.1093/notesj/gjs186)
  • Sullivan, C. 2012. London. In: Corns, T. N. ed. The Milton Encyclopedia. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 384.
  • Sullivan, C. 2012. Westminster. In: Corns, T. N. ed. The Milton Encyclopedia. New Haven: Yale University Press, pp. 221-222.


  • Sullivan, C. 2011. The importance of boredom in learning about the early modern. In: Conroy, D. and Clarke, D. eds. Teaching the Early Modern Period. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 222-226.
  • Sullivan, C. 2011. Supplying the city. In: Gossett, S. ed. Thomas Middleton in Context. Literature in Context Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, pp. 83-89.
  • Sullivan, C. 2011. Teaching as public engagement and impact. English Association Newsletter, pp. 5.
  • Sullivan, C. 2011. Traherne. In: Sullivan, G. A. J. et al. eds. The Encyclopedia of English Renaissance Literature., Vol. 3. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 964-968.
  • Sullivan, C. 2011. Vaughan. In: Sullivan, G. A. J. et al. eds. The Encyclopedia of English Renaissance Literature. Oxford: Blackwell, pp. 997-1000.





  • Sullivan, C. 2006. The art of listening in the seventeenth century. Modern Philology 104(1), pp. 34-71. (10.1086/510262)
  • Sullivan, C. 2006. Metaphysical poets. In: Kastan, D. S. ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 128-129.
  • Sullivan, C. 2006. Marston. In: Kastan, D. S. ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 476-478.
  • Sullivan, C. 2006. London’s early modern creative industrialists. Studies in Philology 103(3), pp. 313-328. (10.1353/sip.2006.0015)
  • Sullivan, C. 2006. Webster. In: Kastan, D. S. ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 398-400.
  • Sullivan, C. 2006. Barnfield. In: Kastan, D. S. ed. The Oxford Encyclopedia of British Literature. [.]. New York: Oxford University Press, pp. 390-392.













Book sections




Research overview

My first monograph dealt with how to persuade oneself in devotion, focusing on Catholic texts (Dismembered Rhetoric: English Recusant Writing 1580-1603). The second considered how a merchant represents himself and reads others' writings (The Rhetoric of Credit: Merchants in Early Modern Writing). The third asked whether, if the conscience is structured as a language, the consequence of the divine I AM is YOU AREN'T (The Rhetoric of the Conscience in Donne, Herbert and Vaughan). The fourth, Literature in the Public Service: Sublime Bureaucracy, reassessed Max Weber's understanding of the individual in the ideal bureaucracy, and the past and current relationship between creativity and bureaucracy.The fifth, Shakespeare and the Playscripts of Private Prayer, argues that private prayers involved scripting and acting an ideal self, and that Shakespeare took advantage of such dramatic action. The sixth, George Herbert and the Business of Practical Piety: Nudging Towards God, argues that Herbert creates a social, written, and physical environment to overcome the doleful conclusions of predestination. 

My next book will ask if management techniques (how to run a meeting, delegate actions, gather water cooler gossip, deal with the over-promoted, and so on) might be of use in thinking about Shakespeare's leaders. Currently, there is plenty of traffic in the other direction, as many corporate coaches draw on the plays to illustrate management techniques. What about literary critics getting something back in return?


Shakespeare and the Play Scripts of Private Prayer (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2020). Reviewed as: ‘clarity and originality’, ‘generative… fruitful’, ‘vast range of sources’, ‘strong historical evidence’ (Comitatus 52); ‘overdue and very welcome’, ‘argues compellingly’, ‘thorough, useful, and entertaining’, ‘brilliantly complicating’, ‘enjoyably stirred through with historical anecdotes’ (Review of English Studies 72.307); ‘original perspective of private prayer’, ‘expertly negotiates the current research’, ‘fascinating and thought-provoking’, ‘compelling’, ‘clear and engaging’ (Early Modern Literary Studies 22.1); ‘sustained treatment’, ‘engaging’, ‘significant contribution to… performance studies’, ‘brilliant insight’, fascinating insights and dizzying details’ (Bunyan Studies 25); ‘a shift in methodology… to a refreshingly innovative literary and rhetorical analysis’, ‘impressively researched’, ‘a compelling case’, ‘searching and persuasive’ (Spenser Review 52.2); ‘surprising’, ‘thoughtfully researched’, ‘intriguing case studies’, ‘a robust contribution’; ‘its primary arguing is convincing’, ‘compelling approaches’ (Shakespeare Quarterly 72.3-4); ‘remarkable number of prayer texts’ , shows ‘how the theatrical and narrative power of prayer, and its performative energies, promote counterfactual thinking’, ‘an invaluable contribution to early modern literary studies’ (Renaissance Quarterly 76.1).

Literature in the Public Service: Sublime Bureaucracy (Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013). Shortlisted for Best Book of 2012 and 2013, European Society for the Study of English.

The Rhetoric of the Conscience in Donne, Herbert, and Vaughan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2008). Reviewed as: ‘intelligent and entertaining’, ‘witty’, ‘keen sense for when the pursuit of piety veers into sardonic comedy’ (Review of English Studies 60.247); ‘extremely interesting, if stomach-churning’, ‘excellent close readings’, ‘subtle, interesting… valuable and welcome’ (MLR  104.3); ‘rich and stimulating, dense but readable’, ‘innovative, sustained, and illuminating rhetorical analyses [of] a vital subject in our intellectual history’ Rhetorica (28); ‘brilliant insights through unusual juxtaposition and deft assimilation’ (Seventeenth Century Journal  25.1); ‘expands our knowledge of theological and tropological connections in early modern devotional texts’, ‘surprising and valuable’ (Year’s Work in English Studies  89); ‘insightful... sharp… probing’ (George Herbert Journal  32.1); ‘engaging intellectual descant… lively energy… wit… conceptual daring’ (Modern Philology  110.2); ‘densely written… impressively compact… playfulness… adventurous wit’ (Notes and Queries  61.3)

The Rhetoric of Credit. Merchants in Early Modern Writing (Madison/London: Associated University Presses, 2002). Reviewed as: ‘incisive and learned’, ‘fascinating’, ‘an important book’ (Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies  4.2); ‘redresses deficienc[ies]’, ‘historically specific’, ‘disdains previous interpretations’, ‘drives home her point’ (The Historical Journal  49.4); ‘original and complex’, ‘unusually productive combination of professional skills’, ‘testing but welcome factual ballast to usual critical tendencies’ (Notes and Queries  3/2004); ‘succinct, informed… fresh’, ‘learned… and important’ (Renaissance Forum 7); ‘double expertise’, ‘fascinating’, ‘provocative and very important’ (Business History  46.1); ‘welcome corrective’, densely detailed’ (Review of English Studies  55); ‘palpable irritation [which]… is engaging, not off-putting, inspiring, not reactionary’ (Sixteenth-century Journal 34.3)

Dismembered Rhetoric. English Recusant Writing 1580‑1603 (Madison/London: Associated University Presses, 1995). Reviewed as: ‘timely… controversial… strong’, ‘intriguing and compelling’, ‘subtle, learned, and interesting’ (MLR  93.1); ‘fascinating’ (Shakespeare Quarterly ); ‘wonderful’, ‘should be received warmly and enthusiastically’, ‘densely argued’ , ‘rock solid and satisfying’ (Sixteenth-century Journal  27.2); ‘bring[s] sub-cultures into dialogue… interesting patterns’ (Studies in English Literature  36.1).

Authors at Work: the Creative Environment (English Association, Essays and Studies), intro, and co-ed. with Graeme Harper (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2009). Reviewed as: ‘deliciously voyeuristic’ (Guardian  15/8/09); ‘rewards curiosity’ (TLS 26/6/09)

Writing and Fantasy , co‑ed. with Barbara White (London: Longman, 1999). Reviewed as: ‘theoretically sophisticated’, ‘sureness of touch’, ‘impresses’ (Gothic Studies ); ‘outstanding in its range and breadth’; ‘far-reaching and important… fresh and interesting’, ‘none of the usual archetype-hunting and no facile claims’ (Journal of the Fantastic)

Grants and fellowships awarded

  • British Academy-Leverhulme Trust Small Research Grant (four times)
  • CRASSH (Cambridge), visiting fellowship
  • St. Catherine's College, Oxford, visiting fellowship
  • Corpus Christi College, Oxford, visiting fellowship
  • Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship
  • AHRC Knowledge Transfer Catalyst
  • English Subject Centre (twice)
  • HEFCW Collaboration and Reconfiguration Fund
  • Folger Library Fellowship 
  • British Academy block grant for conference participants 
  • Arts and Humanities Research Board study leave (twice)
  • British Academy/Huntington Library fellowship 
  • University of Wales Collaboration Fund
  • University of Wales Equipment Fund
  • Society for Renaissance Studies conference grant
  • British Academy postgraduate award


I have been the module leader on the following, in Cardiff:

  • BA:  The High Drama of Work in Early Modern Writing
  • BA:  Contemporary British Political Drama (covering plays from 1990-2015)
  • BA:  Elizabethan Shakespeare
  • BA:  Jacobean Shakespeare
  • BA:  Texts in Time 1500-1800
  • BA:  Renaissance Poetry, Prose, and Drama: the Principal Genres, Authors, and Issues
  • BA:  The Dissertation
  • MA:  Learning to Lead with Shakespeare (a presentist module, looking at current management theory)
  • MA:  Talking to God in Metaphysical Verse

Dissertations and theses (BA, MA, and PhD): I would welcome proposals in the area of trade, bureaucracy, religion, or rhetoric. Cardiff University has two principal resources for the early modern period: a digital copy of every book published between 1473 to 1700 (Early English Books Online) and physical copies of such books in SCOLAR, a collection of national significance in the areas of early modern histories and prescriptive manuals on how to do something (especially leadership, education, horticulture, and manners). 


Educated  at Cardinal Newman Catholic Comprehensive School, Rhydyfelin, and Hertford  College, University of Oxford.

First career in the City of London, with KPMG Peat Marwick McLintock, as senior charterted accountant and banking analyst.

Second career in NGOs, as a Finance Director (through V.S.O.) for the Zambian Council for the Handicapped, and with Oxfam Head Office as the senior overseas accountant for Mozambique (with additional field work in the Sudan, Zambia, and the DRC).

Third career in universities: Oxford, the Open University, Bangor, and here in Cardiff, teaching early modern literature and modern political drama. I am currently trying to become an éminence grise (one half of this has already been achieved...) 

Fourth career still a possibility! 

Honours and awards

Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and the Higher Education Academy.

Professional memberships

The Society for Renaissance Studies.

Committees and reviewing


External Committees

  • European Research Council, expert reviewer for Horizon 2020 applications (2017-2020)
  • JISC Historic Books, Advisory Board (2012-19)
  • English Association, Higher Education Committee (2009-19)
  • AHRC Peer Review College member (2004-14)
  • Quality Assurance Agency, English Benchmark Statement review group, member (2014)
  • Society for Renaissance Studies, Council member (also 1996-03, 2005-07, 2012-18); judge then chair of fellowship competition (2016-2017); judge of biennial book prize (2016)
  • Council for College and University English, Executive member (2011-14)
  • International Society for History of Rhetoric, U.K. representative (2004-08)

Internal Committees

  • Senate (2014-23)
  • Governance (2020-23)


I am interested in supervising work in the following areas:

  • Early Modern Poetry, Prose, and Drama
  • Early Modern Rhetoric
  • the representation of religion (all periods)
  • the representation of trade (all periods)

To cite Raymond Williams, 'culture is ordinary'; as Michel de Certeau argues, even banal situations can exhibit a resistant, alternative micro-politics in which individuals claim autonomy. Students who want to reconceive of creativity as a quality of ordinary people - shown in the way they produce extraordinary things in common places - are particularly welcome. Literature is not ethically superior to prescriptive management theory, but it is often more methodologically productive...