Events at Abington delve into English professors' research on satire, imagining

Headshots of Marissa Nicosia and Andrew Bricker

Marissa Nicosia, associate professor of Renaissance literature at Abington, and Andrew Bricker, an associate professor of English literature at Ghent University in Belgium, will highlight their research at two events on Feb. 27.

Credit: Penn State

ABINGTON, Pa. — Two public events at Penn State Abington on Feb. 27 will highlight the research of Marissa Nicosia, associate professor of Renaissance literature at Abington, and her longtime colleague Andrew Bricker, an associate professor of English literature at Ghent University in Belgium. 

Beginning at noon in the Lares Building, Bricker will deliver his lecture "Validating the Vicious: Rationalizing Satire's Failures in the Twenty-First Century," which will include lunch.  

Bricker will then switch roles and interview Nicosia about her new book, "Imagining Time in the English Chronicle Play: Historical Futures, 1590-1660," at 3 p.m. in 8 Sutherland Building followed by a reception. Registration for a Zoom option is available. 

The pair met more than a decade ago when were selected for the Andrew W. Mellon Fellowship of Scholars in Critical Bibliography. They found commonalities in their work, and they have maintained ties through their research. Nicosia and Bricker are founding senior fellows of the scholarly society that grew out of this initial fellowship, the Andrew W. Mellon Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography at Rare Book School. 

Nicosia initiated Bricker’s appearance on campus, which includes the public lecture and visits with students.  

“I am not only consistently impressed with the rigor, scope and relevance of Andrew’s research ... but also his engaging way of writing and speaking about his research to students, colleagues and members of the general public,” she said. 

Nicosia’s new book, the focus of the late afternoon session, argues that playwrights in the early modern period constructed speculative futures when they report narratives about the national past. Drawing on historical formalism and critical bibliography, this study reveals the metaphoric and material ways that chronicle plays participate in debates about temporality and politics in this time frame. 

The idea for Nicosia’s book emerged from her doctoral dissertation, and she has since radically revised and transformed it with the addition of new research and reframing. 

“My book focuses on plays that portray the English past but imagine possible futures for the nation. Playwrights like Shakespeare and his contemporaries were engaging in future imagining although some didn’t want these futures to happen. It’s the practice of imaginative literature,” she said. 

The book includes the time period during the English civil wars when theaters were closed, but playwrights were still imagining the country’s future, and they weighed in on contemporary politics.  

"For example, in 'Craftie Cromwell,' the playwright imagines a bad future to try to prevent it, but we can see it as this uncanny anticipation of this outcome. People were reading these alongside news and political pamphlets. A lot that I see in these texts reminds me of 'Saturday Night Live' or coverage in The Onion or other modern sites that are showing the absurdity in the news,” Nicosia said. 

“I was thinking about the relationship between history and literature and what happens on the stage while researching and writing. These playwrights never let telling a good story get in the way of the facts. Imagining is so important to them, and they took the time to play with it to do political or creative work,” she continued. 

Both events have been organized by the English program at Abington with support from the Humanities in the World Initiative of the Penn State Humanities Institute and the Society of Fellows in Critical Bibliography at Rare Book School. 

About Penn State Abington 

Penn State Abington provides an affordable, accessible and high-impact education resulting in the success of a diverse student body. It is committed to student success through innovative approaches to 21st-century public higher education within a world-class research university. With more than 3,100 students, Penn State Abington is a residential campus that offers baccalaureate degrees in 25 majors, accelerated master's degrees, undergraduate research, the Schreyer Honors College, NCAA Division III athletics and more.