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Dr Patricia Palmer

Dr Patricia PalmerReader in Renaissance and Irish Literature

Tel +44 (0)20 7848 1776


Address Department of English
King's College London
Room 7.15 Virginia Woolf Building
22 Kingsway
London WC2B 6LE

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Patricia Palmer grew up in Kerry and has a BA in English and Archaeology and an MA in Medieval and Renaissance English from University College Cork.  She worked in Athens and Brussels before taking a DPhil in English Literature at the University of Oxford.  She taught in Limerick and York universities before moving to King’s in 2008.

Research interests

Patricia's work usually finds itself positioned at the intersection of culture and colonialism, or in the troubled regions where violence and the aesthetic meet.  Her first book, Language and Conquest in Early Modern Ireland: English Renaissance Texts and English Imperial Expansion (Cambridge University Press, 2001), explored the intimate relationship between Elizabethan high culture and colonisation – particularly linguistic colonisation.

Patricia's second book, The Severed Head and the Grafted Tongue: Literature, Translation and Violence in Early Modern Ireland (Cambridge University Press, 2013) explored the writing of atrocity, by crossing back and forth between literary severed heads and the very literal beheadings that stake out the landscape of early-modern Ireland.  Late 16th century Ireland offers a remarkable opportunity for examining how real violence bleeds into literary depictions of war and atrocity.  As well as being a space of conflict, early-modern Ireland proves, not altogether coincidentally, to be a rich site of cultural production and transmission: Edmund Spenser wrote The Faerie Queene in the interstices of his colonial duties; Sir George Carew translated the great Spanish epic of the conquest of Chile, Alonso de Ercilla y Zuñiga’s La Araucana, while masterminding a counterinsurgency campaign; Sir John Harington translated Ariosto's Orlando Furioso between two stints in Ireland, as a would-be planter and as a soldier.  But as well as exploring the disturbing kinship between aesthetics and atrocity, The Severed Head and the Grafted Tongue examines the way literature resists violence – for example in its reading of Richard Stanihurst's Aeneis – while bringing the voices of native dissent up against colonial texts.

Patricia's work has a strongly comparative approach.  Language and Conquest read English colonial practice in both Ireland and North America against Spanish conduct in the New World.  The Severed Head and the Grafted Tongue sets Renaissance English literature in the wider context of Spanish, Italian and Gaelic writing.  One of her aims in keeping that comparative perspective is to challenge the tendency of much postcolonial criticism to privilege colonial and canonical texts at the expense of native voices.

Patricia is currently writing on Irish exiles on the continent and in South America, and on marginalised figures in the State Papers. Her next, longer-term project is a study of liminality in Irish literature.

PhD supervision:

  • Linguistic colonisation
  • Literature and violence
  • Early-modern Ireland
  • Colonial translation
  • Edmund Spenser’s colonial context
  • Liminality in Irish poetry

For more details, please see my full research profile.

Selected publications
  • The Severed Head and the Grafted Tongue: Translating Violence in Early Modern Ireland (Cambridge University Press, October 2013).
  • Language and Conquest in Early Modern Ireland: English Renaissance Literature and Elizabeth Imperial Expansion (Cambridge University Press, 2001; paperback 2009).
  • 'Hungry Eyes' and the Rhetoric of Dispossession: English Writing from Early-Modern Ireland', in The Blackwell Companion to Irish Literature, ed. Julia Wright, 2 vols. (Oxford: Blackwell, 2010), 1:92-107.
  • 'Flights of Fancy: Joining into the Miraculous', in Flight of the Earls /Imeacht na nIarlaí, ed. Eamon Ó Ciardha (Derry: Guildhall Press, 2010), 75-83.
  • ‘Missing Bodies, Absent Bards: Spenser, Shakespeare and a Crisis in Criticism’, English Literary Renaissance 36.3 (Autumn 2006): 376-95.

For a complete list of publications, please see my full research profile.


Patricia's undergraduate teaching focuses on the link between literature and its political/historical moment, in ‘Language in Time’, ‘Language on the Edge’ and a third-year Renaissance module, ‘Imagined Worlds’.

She teaches an postgraduate Irish poetry module, ‘Reimagining the Present, Rewriting the past in Irish Literature’.

Expertise and public engagement

Patricia presented a long-running series on languagecalled ‘Wordscapes’ on RTÉ Radio and still does occasional broadcasts for them.

She is the King’s lead in a partnership with a human rights/arts advocacy partnership, the Living Cities Project, in the Niger Delta.











































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