Katherine Acheson

Professor and Associate Dean of Arts, Undergraduate Programs

Photo of Katherine Acheson.
PhD, Toronto
MA, Toronto
BA, Carleton

Extension: 30336
Office: PAS 2439


I did my BA at Carleton University in Ottawa (where I grew up), and my MA and PhD at the University of Toronto. I held a SSHRC (Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council) post-doctoral fellowship at Stanford, and I taught at the University of Toronto and Concordia University before I came to Waterloo. I have been at Waterloo since January of 1997.

My areas of interest have changed over the years; while I entered my PhD program thinking I would work on early Canadian literature, I was inspired to switch to Renaissance literature by a course called "Literature and Power in Renaissance England," given by Germaine Warkentin, who would become my supervisor. During my graduate training, I found a manuscript of the memoir and diary of Anne Clifford, and went on to edit the diary for my dissertation project (since published in 1995 and in 2006). When I came to UWaterloo I was influenced by the English department’s unique emphasis on the rhetorical dimensions of literary texts and media forms, and my research and teaching of the last twenty years reflects this.

My published works includes essays on Behn, Clifford, Milton, Marvell, and Shakespeare, Writing Essays About Literature (Broadview, 2011) and Visual Rhetoric and Early Modern English Literature (Ashgate, 2013). In 2019 I published a chapter in The Oxford Companion to Marvell(Oxford UP), a chapter in The Edinburgh History of Reading, Volume 1 (Edinburgh UP), and a collection of essays I edited entitled Early Modern English Marginalia (Routledge). The latter included my essay on women's marginalia in the early modern period as a strategic way of occupying space in early modern culture. My current work is on marginalia; I am working on editing a collection of essays about women's marginalia (with Rosalind Smith), and with a team of collaborators I am leading a SSHRC-funded research project called "The Future of Research in Early Modern Marginalia." 

My undergraduate teaching is primarily in seventeenth-century literature; my graduate courses in recent years have been about book history. My most recent research has been about marginalia, especially by women. I am currently editing a section of The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Early Modern Women's Writing called "Materialities: Print" and have commissioned 20 essays that will be published online through 2021 and 2022. 

Selected publications


Writing Essays About Literature. Peterborough, ON: Broadview P. First edition 2011; second edition 2021.

Early Modern English Marginalia (ed.). Routledge, 2019. 

Visual Rhetoric and Early Modern English Literature. Material Readings in Early Modern Culture (Series), Adam Smyth and James Daybell, eds. Ashgate, 2013.

Clifford, Anne. The Memoir of 1603 and the Diary of 1616-1619. Ed. Acheson. Peterborough: Broadview Press, 2006.

The Diary of Anne Clifford, 1616-1619: A Critical Edition. The Renaissance Imagination (Series), Stephen Orgel, ed. New York, NY: Garland, 1995.

Articles & Book chapters

“Visual Form and Reading Communities: The Example of Early Modern Broadside Elegies.” In The Edinburgh History of ReadingVolume 1: Early Readers. Ed. Mary Hammond and Jonathan Rose. Edinburgh: University of Edinburgh Press, 2020. 135-159.  

"The Occupation of the Margins: Writing, Space, and Early Modern Women." In Early Modern English Marginalia. 70-90. 

"Military Illustration, Garden Design, and Marvell’s Upon Appleton House.”English Literary Renaissance. 41.1 (January 2011): 152-198.

"The Picture of Nature in Seventeenth-Century English Aesop's Fables." The Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies. 9.1 (fall 2010): 26-52.

"Gesner, Topsell, and the Purposes of Pictures in Early Modern Natural Histories." Printed Images in Early Modern Britain: Essays in Interpretation, ed. Michael Hunter. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2010. 127-144.

"Anne Clifford's Style." In Lady Anne Clifford: Culture, Patronage and Gender in 17th Century Britain. Ed. Karen Hearn and Lynn Hulse. Yorkshire Archaeological Society, 2009. 117-130.

"Hamlet, Synecdoche and History: Teaching the Tropes of 'New Remembrance.'" College Literature. 31(2004)4: 111-134.

“’Outrage your face’: Anti-Theatricality and Gender in Early Modern Closet Drama by Women.” Early Modern Literary Studies. 6(2001)3: 7: 1-16.

“Authorship, Sexuality and the Psychology of Privation in Milton’s Paradise Lost.” ELH 67(2000)4: 905-924.

“The Modernity of the Early Modern: The Example of Anne Clifford.” In Discontinuities: New Essays on Renaissance Literature and Criticism. Eds. Viviana Comensoli and Paul Stevens. Toronto: U of T P, 1998. 27-51.

Fellowships & Awards

  • SSHRC 4A, 2011
  • uWaterloo-SSHRC 2005, 2008, 2010
  • University of Waterloo Outstanding Performance Award (2004, 2007, 2010, 2013)
  • Paul Mellon Centre for the Study of British Art Research Grant (2008)
  • Folger Shakespeare Library Short-Term Fellowship (2007 and 2013)
  • Learning Initiatives Fund, University of Waterloo
  • SSHRC Post-doctoral Fellowship (1995-1996)
  • SSHRC Doctoral Fellowship (1987-1991)
  • Queen Elizabeth II Doctoral Fellowship (1991-1992)
  • Royal Society of Canada, Alice Wilson Award, for most distinguished tri-council doctoral award holder (1988)

Current research

Currently I am working on these projects: one, editing and contributing to the section called "Materialities: Print" in the  Palgrave Encyclopedia of Early Modern Women's Writing; two, editing and contributing to a collection of essays early modern women's marginalia; and three, exploring ways to open research into historical book use to a broader and more diverse set of researchers. 

Areas of graduate supervision

  • Early modern literature and culture
  • Visual culture
  • Visual rhetoric