Caro Pirri is Assistant Professor of English with a specialization in the English Renaissance and the English literatures of the Americas. Her work lies at the intersections of Renaissance literature and culture, art and aesthetics, critical race studies, early American history, and performance theory.
Her current book project, Settlement Aesthetics: Theatricality, Form, Failure, identifies a period of English history between 1570 and 1620 – bracketed by the search for the Northwest Passage and Jamestown’s Starving Time – when the New World settlement project was popularly regarded as a failed enterprise. She shows that dramatists such as William Shakespeare, Christopher Marlowe, and Ben Jonson were taking up and adapting accounts of settlement’s failures, recognizing in them a set of formal techniques for representing crisis that could help them respond to changes in their own dramatic medium. By showing that popular drama’s development was deeply imprinted by the history and textual legacy of England’s colonial conquests, her work radically expands the archive of plays that we could call “New World dramas.” Settlement Aesthetics reads British drama of the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries as also, in some sense, American drama.
Pirri is also beginning research on a second project on Renaissance literary histories of whiteness. She reads the ways that English Renaissance women writers were defining whiteness as a racial identity during a time that “Britain” as a unified nation was first being articulated. This work links whiteness to early British nationalism through representations of English femininity.
Pirri’s research has been supported by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation and the American Council of Learned Societies.