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W&L English Professor Publishes New Book Holly Pickett’s book explores the stories of several serial converts in early modern England.

Holly-Pickett-scaled-600x400 W&L English Professor Publishes New BookHolly Pickett, professor of English

Holly Pickett, professor of English at Washington and Lee University, has published a new book titled “The Drama of Serial Conversion in Early Modern England” that is expected to hit shelves this month.

Published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, the book reconceptualizes religious identity by exploring the stories of numerous serial converts, namely individuals who changed their religious affiliations between Catholicism and Protestantism multiple times in early modern England (1580-1650).

Pickett investigates the techniques that serial converts used to stage and justify their conversions and demonstrates the performative nature of the act of conversion itself. This offers a counternarrative to the paradigm of private conversion that was on the rise following the Reformation. The book further demonstrates how genres and conventions associated with conversion shaped not only forms of communication but also the experience of conversion itself.

Book-cover-233x350 W&L English Professor Publishes New Book“I have been working on the book for many years, so it is sort of surreal to finally hold a copy of it in my hands,” said Pickett. “I’m glad to have a chance to share the story of these converts’ lives and their views about religious identity with a wider audience. Serial converts have, as a group, often been derided or misunderstood in the past, so it felt important to be able to investigate their motivations and tell their side of the story. It feels a little bit like sticking up for the underdog. I’m also glad that one of my favorite historical figures from the period, Sir Kenelm Digby, appears on the cover of the book. He was a fascinating person – a scientist, privateer and a serial convert. I would be happy if I could contribute to a little groundswell of interest in his life and work.”

Pickett and fellow English faculty member Wan-Chuan Kao, who also recently published a book, will host a joint discussion and celebration of their new publications from 5 to 6:30 p.m. on May 1 in Leyburn Library’s Northen Auditorium. The event is sponsored by the W&L Library and the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program.

Pickett has been a member of the W&L faculty since 2005. A core member of the Medieval and Renaissance Studies Program as well, she holds a Bachelor of Arts in English from Millsaps College, along with a Master of Arts and Ph.D. from the University of California, Los Angeles.

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