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Durham University

Department of English Studies


Academic Staff

Dr Vladimir Brljak

Assistant Professor in the Department of English Studies

(email at

I joined the Department in 2018, having previously studied at the Universities of Zagreb (BA) and Warwick (PhD), and held research fellowships at the University of Cambridge (Thole Research Fellow, Trinity Hall, 2015-18), the Bodleian Library, Oxford (2017), and the Huntington Library, San Marino, CA (2018).


I work mainly on English literary and intellectual history, 1500-1700, with wider interests in the history of poetics and hermeneutics in the Western tradition.


My doctoral dissertation examined the place of the allegorical tradition in the literary and intellectual culture of late sixteenth- and seventeenth-century England, and I am now completing a monograph consolidating my research in this field, titled The Allegorical Heresy: Allegory and Modernity in English Literature and Poetics, 1500-1700. I also continue to be involved in projects exploring wider perspectives on allegory and related subjects. I organized Allegory Studies? (Warwick, 2013); co-organized Rethinking Allegory (with Karen Lang and Peter Mack; Warburg Institute, 2015); edited Personification and Allegory: Selves and Signs (Arcade, 2019); and am currently editing Allegory Studies: Contemporary Perspectives (Routledge, forthcoming 2021), a volume collecting new work on the subject across a range of disciplines and specializations in the humanities and social sciences.


A new long-term project deals with developments in English poetics and literary criticism c.1600-60. This period remains a neglected and misunderstood episode in the history of English poetic thought, typically presented as a fallow interlude between the waning age of Sidney and the dawning age of Dryden.The project seeks to reverse this long-standing trend and recover what is in fact a moment of exceptional interest in the history of the subject. Among the first fruits of this research will be editions of three unpublished texts from this period: an essay on The Causes and Obiects of Delectation by Kenelm Digby, and two literary-critical fictions—The Ball and The Court of Astraea with the Arraignement of Romances—by Philip Kinder.

Relating to this interest is Poetics before Modernity: a collaborative project aimed at rethinking the history of literary theory in the West from classical antiquity to the eighteenth century, which I convene with Micha Lazarus. The project's outputs have included an eponymous seminar series (Cambridge, 2016-17) and a conference (CRASSH, Dec 2017), and two publications co-edited with Dr Lazarus are currently in preparation: 'Artes poeticae: Formations and Transformations, 1500-1700', special issue of Classical Receptions Journal (in press), and Poetics before Modernity: Literary Theory in the West from Antiquity to 1700 (under contract with Oxford University Press, forthcoming 2021).


Another long-term interest is the work of John Milton. Most of my current Miltonist research is based around the idea of Paradise Lost as a work of seventeenth-century 'science fiction': science fiction in the narrow sense, of a poem with a lot to say about other worlds, space travel, and encounters with extraterrestrial beings, but also in a broader sense, of being an imaginative expression of a number of heterodox theological and philosophical views which Milton came to embrace by the 1650s, and which, among other sources, informed what he would have seen as his 'scientific' understanding of the world. What happens, this work asks, if instead of ignoring or allegorizing it, we take Milton's science fiction seriously, including its furthest and least explored reaches: its radically material universe; its heretical, anti-trinitarian deity; its metabolizing, warring, shape-shifting, deep-space-traveling angels; its theanthropomorphic humans; even its anti-allegories of Sin and Death and the Pavilion of Chaos, which have baffled readers for centuries, but also find a place in the poem's intricate design. In addition to a number of publications currently in preparation, these interests also inform the special topic module 'Paradise Lost' as Science Fiction (ENGL3731).

My article 'The Satanic "or": Milton and Protestant Anti-Allegorism' was awarded the Review of English Studies Essay Prize for 2014 and was included in the journal's virtual issue celebrating the 350th anniversary of the first publication of Paradise Lost (1667).


Other current projects include the following commissioned chapters for edited volumes forthcoming c.2022:

• 'The Defence of Poesy', in The Oxford Handbook of Philip Sidney, ed. Catherine Bates
• 'Ends and Beginnings, c.1550-1750', in The Oxford Handbook of Allegory, ed. David Parry
• 'Things That Might Have Been: Milton in Croatia', in Milton in Further Translation, ed. Angelica Duran and Islam Issa

PhD Supervision

I welcome enquiries from prospective PhD students interested in the following aspects of English literary and intellectual history, c.1500-1700: allegory and related topics; history of poetics and literary criticism; the work of John Milton; topical and satirical elements in the popular drama (esp. relating to religion and religious controversy).

Current Doctoral Students

Lead Supervisor

Callum Bowler, 'Milton and the Medieval' (2020-); with Dr Venetia Bridges and Dr Mandy Green 


Caitlin Rankin-McCabe, 'Ineffable Angels: Seventeenth-Century Apophatic Exegesis of the Angelic Body' (2019-); with Dr Mandy Green (lead) and Dr Patrick Gray


Book review

Chapter in book

Edited book

  • Brljak, Vladimir (Accepted). Allegory Studies: Contemporary Perspectives. Routledge.
  • Brljak, Vladimir & Lazarus, Micha (Accepted). Poetics before Modernity: Literary Theory in the West from Antiquity to 1700. Oxford University Press.

Edited Journal

Journal Article

Other (Digital/Visual Media)


  • Brljak, Vladimir (2020), From Everyman to Hamlet: A Distant Reading, Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies Seminar. University of Birmingham.
  • Brljak, Vladimir (2020), Milton and the Space Age: Premodern Universes and Modern Readers, British Milton Seminar. University of Birmingham.
  • Brljak, Vladimir (2019), Milton and the Space Age: Premodern Universes and Modern Readers, 12th International Milton Symposium. Strasbourg.
  • Brljak, Vladimir (2018), Classical Myth in English Poetics after 1600, 8th Biennial Conference of the Society for Renaissance Studies. University of Sheffield.
  • Brljak, Vladimir (2018), Dead Water in English Criticism: Tradition and Innovation from Bacon to Dryden, STVDIO. Centre for the Study of the Renaissance, University of Warwick.
  • Brljak, Vladimir (2018), Inventing Renaissance Poetics: Modernity, Allegory, and the History of Literary Theory, Workshop in Poetics. Stanford University.
  • Brljak, Vladimir (2018), Roundtable participant, 'What Now for Allegory Studies?', 64th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America. New Orleans.
  • Brljak, Vladimir (2017), The Critical Fantasies of Philip Kinder, 63rd Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America. Chicago.
  • Brljak, Vladimir (2016), (Neo)allegory and (Anti)modernity, Redefining Allegory. Queen Mary University of London.
  • Brljak, Vladimir (2016), Allegorical Poetics in England after 1600: Fishing in the Dead Water, Renaissance Graduate Seminar. Faculty of English, University of Cambridge.
  • Brljak, Vladimir (2016), Hamlet in 1603 (series of three public lectures: 'Hamlet in Heaven', 'Hamlet in Purgatory', 'Hamlet in Hell'), Shakespeare Lives. Faculty of Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Zagreb.
  • Brljak, Vladimir (2015), '[S]ome shadowe of satisfaction': Bacon's Poetics Revisited, 61st Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America. Humboldt University, Berlin.
  • Brljak, Vladimir (2014), '[T]he causes and obiects of delectation': An Unpublished Essay on Poetic Theory by Kenelm Digby, 6th Biennial Conference of the Society for Renaissance Studies. University of Southampton.
  • Brljak, Vladimir (2014), Satan's Allegories and Milton's Epics, 60th Annual Meeting of the Renaissance Society of America. New York.
  • Brljak, Vladimir (2013), Allegory and Modernity in English Poetics, c.1570-1630: Locations and Dislocations, Annual Meeting of the American Comparative Literature Association. University of Toronto.
  • Brljak, Vladimir (2013), The Age of Allegory: A Medievalist Myth and Its Legacy, The Middle Ages in the Modern World. University of St Andrews.
  • Brljak, Vladimir (2012), The Mouth of Hell: Hamlet, 1.5.2-91, Arts Faculty Seminar. University of Warwick.

Support Staff