Student Spotlight

Bradley Smith

Bradley is a recent MA Program graduate, who finished his master's degree in Spring 2013. His thesis, "Nature and the Constant Seeds of Change: Lucretian Physics and Heideggerian Metaphysics in Spenser's Mutabilitie Cantos" won the Alvan S. Ryan Award for Best Literature Project for 2012-2013.

A dedicated student, Brad earned a competitive Research Assistantship that allowed him to work with rare books and manuscripts at the Boston Public Library. Reflecting on his time in the program, Brad had this to say:

I loved the English MA program because of the people. The professors, staff, and my fellow MA students all created an intellectually stimulating and encouraging environment in which to explore new ideas.

The uniqueness of the History of the Book and Books, Manuscripts, and Libraries seminars will always leave a mark on me. Working directly with the rare materials provided a new set of tools and first-hand experience with an aspect of literature and its history that is sometimes neglected. Even when I'm not working directly with rare materials, these experiences continually surface to offer questions, contexts, and possible avenues of investigation.

Today, Brad is earning his PhD at Tufts University in Somerville, MA.


You can read Brad’s award-winning thesis abstract below:


June 2013

Bradley C. Smith

B.A., University of Utah

M.A., University of Massachusetts Boston

Directed by Professor Scott Maisano

Edmund Spenser’s Mutabilitie Cantos—two cantos appended to his epic, The Faerie Queene, in an edition posthumously published in 1609—have perplexed readers for centuries. Readers and critics have attempted to understand and explain the Cantos by focusing on many different aspects, using a variety of methods, and they have come to just as many different conclusions. One largely agreed upon element, however, is that the Cantos exhibit a concern with metaphysical matters; and yet, precisely what the metaphysical argument is has seen just as much debate. In an attempt to shed new light on the metaphysical undercurrent, this project engages with scholarship that investigates the \ presence of Lucretius, something that began in the early 20th century, but has recently seen a resurgence of interest. Lucretius’ natural philosophy is essential to understanding the Mutabilitie Cantos, but on its own, is insufficient to fully unpack the fragment’s metaphysical concerns. Therefore, this project turns to Martin Heidegger to help explain Spenser’s reliance upon a philosophy that denies both God and the immortal soul, and to fill in the metaphysical gaps that Lucretius’ natural philosophy leaves unfilled. At the heart of this investigation is the German philosopher’s understanding of the Greek word phusis, a word that he argues originally meant “beings,” but was corrupted into Latin natura, and then into English nature. In this project, I articulate the ways in which Spenser’s Nature is created within this understanding of Heidegger’s phusis, through which Nature is able to take up the role of constancy in Spenser’s seventh book, which tells the “Legend of Constancie.” At the same time, I show that Spenser understands Mutabilitie’s aspirations as something that would result in utter desolation: were she to win, there would be nothing. By having Nature strike down the prideful titaness, Spenser shows himself to be engaging with what Heidegger claims is the fundamental question in metaphysics: why are there beings at all instead of nothing?


To read more about what Brad and other students are doing in the program, click here to go to our News page!