Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)



First Advisor

Phebe Jensen

Second Advisor

Christine Cooper-Rompato

Third Advisor

Lynne McNeill


The history of scholarship on Robert Burton’s The Anatomy of Melancholy will be explored in this thesis, beginning with a biographical background of Robert Burton and a brief description of The Anatomy of Melancholy. The overall arc of scholarship on Burton’s text began with a wave of early popularity in the seventeenth century, followed by a period of critical neglect in the eighteenth century when no new editions of the book were published. A renewed interest in the Anatomy in the nineteenth century led to a flurry of Burton studies in the twentieth century. The major trend in Burton scholarship has generally been a historical approach to studying the Anatomy, with a reader response methodology, championed by Stanley Fish, branching off as a major strand in the early 1970s. In the twenty-first century scholarship has clustered around exploring the historical context of the Anatomy, as exemplified by the research of Angus Gowland. A synthesis of historical and reader response research has recently been accomplished by Mary Lund.