Kenneth Graham

Photo of Ken Graham.

PhD, Berkeley
MA, Toronto
BA, Alberta

Extension: 45124


I joined the Waterloo faculty in 2001, having taught previously at New Mexico State University, Dalhousie University, the University of Alberta, the University of Wyoming, and the University of California at Berkeley. I have taught three dozen different undergraduate and graduate courses, but most often teach Shakespeare and English Renaissance poetry.

My research focuses on the relationship between literature and history, particularly the histories of religion, politics, and education during the Renaissance and the Protestant Reformation. My main contributions have come in two areas. The first is the study of religious poetry, from early Protestant psalm translations to John Milton’s Paradise Lost; my interests here include George Herbert, Fulke Greville, and the English metrical psalters, about each of which I have written three essays. The second is Shakespeare studies, where my work has explored problems of rhetorical expression in relation to conviction and religious belief.

My first book, The Performance of Conviction, explores how rejecting the need for rhetorical artifice paradoxically became the rhetorical and literary means by which an early modern culture of conviction sought variously to reform, educate, serve, dominate, or abandon the world. My second book, Disciplinary Measures from the Metrical Psalm to Milton, argues that the Reformation attack on the disciplinary structures of the late medieval church significantly affected the way Herbert, Milton, and others understood the power of language – including poetry – to govern conduct and cure souls.

In 2005 I co-organized the 17th Waterloo Conference on Elizabethan Theatre on the topic of Religion and Theatre, which led to the publication in 2009 of Shakespeare and Religious Change. I am now an organizer of the Shakespearean Theatre Conference, a collaboration between the University of Waterloo and the Stratford Festival that runs in Stratford in odd-numbered years. Due to the pandemic, the 2021 conference took place in June 2022; the conference theme was “Shakespeare in a Changing World” (The Shakespearean Theatre Conference | English Language and Literature | University of Waterloo (

Selected publications


Shakespeare On Stage and Off, ed. with Alysia Kolentsis (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2019).

Disciplinary Measures from the Metrical Psalms to Milton (Ashgate/Routledge, 2016).

Shakespeare and Religious Change, ed. with Philip D. Collington (Palgrave Macmillan, 2009).

The Performance of Conviction: Plainness and Rhetoric in the Early English Renaissance (Cornell UP, 1994). Rhetoric and Society Series.

Articles and Book Chapters

King Lear and Blessing,” Shakespeare Quarterly 73.4 (2022), 303-332 (

“Derek Walcott: A Branch of the Blue Nile” ( and “Wole Soyinka: ‘Shakespeare and the Living Dramatist’” ( Palgrave Encyclopedia of Global Shakespeare (Palgrave Macmillan, 2022).

Caelica and the Psalms: Greville’s Depth,” in Fulke Greville and the Culture of the English Renaissance, ed. Russ Leo, Katrin Röder, and Freya Sierhuis (Oxford University Press, 2019), 138-55.

Caelica and the Psalms: Greville’s Depth,” in Fulke Greville and the Culture of the English Renaissance, ed. Russ Leo, Katrin Röder, and Freya Sierhuis(Oxford University Press, 2019), 138-55.

 “Shakespearean Comedy and Early Modern Religious Culture,” in The Oxford Handbook of Shakespearean Comedy, ed. Heather Hirschfeld (Oxford University Press, 2018), 105-21.

“The Reformation of Manners and the Grace of the Reformation: Measure for Measure’s Disciplinary Mingle-Mangle,” Religion and Literature 49.3 (Autumn 2017), 162-71 [In “Literature and the Reformation: A Forum,” ed. Richard A. Strier and Susannah Brietz Monta].  

“The Sidney Psalter and the Spiritual Economies of Abundance,” in The Return of Theory in Early Modern English Studies, Volume II, ed. Paul Cefalu, Gary Kuchar, and Bryan Reynolds (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014), 257-275. 

“Shakespeare and Rhetoric” (review essay).  Rhetorica  32 (2014), 91-97.

“Plain Style” and “Devotional Poetry.” Princeton Encyclopedia of Poetry and Poetics, 4th ed. (Princeton UP, 2012).

“Fulke Greville.” Blackwell Encyclopedia of English Renaissance Literature, ed. Garrett Sullivan and Alan Stewart (Wiley-Blackwell, 2012).

“Soyinka and the Dead Dramatist,” Comparative Drama 44 (2010), 29-44.

“Herbert’s Holy Practice,” in George Herbert's Pastoral: New Essays on the Poet and Priest of Bemerton, ed. Christopher Hodgkins (University of Delaware Press, 2010), 72-90.

“‘Clear as heaven’: Herbert’s Poetry and Rhetorical ‘Divinitie,’” Renaissance and Reformation 29:2-3 (2005), 183-201.

“Distributive Measures:  Theology and Economics in the Writings of Robert Crowley,” Criticism 47 (2005), 137-158.

“George Herbert and the ‘Discipline’ of History,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 31 (2001), 349-377.

“‘Without the form of justice’: Plainness and the Performance of Love in King Lear,” Shakespeare Quarterly 42 (1991), 438-461.

Fellowships & Awards

  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship
  • Huntington Library Fellowship
  • Kaplan Postdoctoral Fellowship

Current research

I am currently studying the effects of religious culture on Shakespeare’s language, and particularly on his rhetoric. As part of this project, I have led seminars at the Shakespeare Association of America conference and at the World Shakespeare Congress on how what is known in Shakespeare studies as “the turn to religion” might be brought together with studies of Shakespeare’s language. I am also involved with two editorial projects, the online Pulter Project ( and a three-volume Oxford edition of George Herbert's Complete Works.

Areas of graduate supervision

  • Renaissance & Reformation literature, including Shakespeare and Milton
  • Poetry
  • Literature & Rhetoric