Melissa Rack

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Research Fellow

Melissa J. Rack is Assistant Professor of English at the University of South Carolina. She holds an MA in English and American Literature from the University of South Florida, and a PhD in Literary Criticism and Textual Studies from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She specializes in Medieval and Renaissance Literature, and her area of expertise is 16th and 17th century English poetry, particularly the work of Edmund Spenser.

Dr. Rack’s larger research agenda focuses on the reception and imitation of Catullus in Spenser’s shorter lyric verse. At the Ludwig Boltzmann Institute, she is working on a comparative study of Catullan imitation and intertextuality in the work of the German Neo-Latin poet Paulus Melissus (Paul Schede) and the English poet Sir Philip Sidney. Melissus was renowned in his day for his metrical skill and stylistic virtuosity. Although he is often mentioned in larger discussions of Neo-Latin verse, no critical edition or vernacular translation of his complete work exists in the English language. As such, his significance as a model for Sidney and for other English poets remains largely unexplored. Sidney’s Catullan imitation likewise has bearing on Spenser’s own poetics, so a greater understanding of the role Neo-Latin poets played in the intertextual and intercontinental transmission of Catullus will in turn shed light on Spenser’s revision of a Catullan aesthetic in the 1590’s.

In addition to her LBI fellowship, Dr. Rack is the winner of two Research Initiative for Summer Engagement (RISE) grants from USC’s Office of the Vice President of Research (2018) and (2020), a Center for Renaissance Studies grant at the Newberry Library (2014) and a Thomas Wheeler Traveling Fellowship (2014) from the University of Tennessee, Knoxville. She has published peer-reviewed articles on the poetics of form and genre in the work of Spenser, Catullus, Chaucer, and Thomas Wyatt, as well as reviews of scholarly monographs in the Spenser Review, the Sidney Journal, and Renaissance Quarterly.