Dr Bonnie Lander Johnson
College Position
Fellow in English
University Position
Teaching Associate, Faculty of English
Other Positions

College Associate Professor, Director of Studies: Newnham College

Degrees and Honours

BA (Sydney), MA (Melbourne), Dphil (Oxon), PhD

Research Interests

My first monograph, Chastity in Early Stuart Literature and Culture, traced the medical, theological, literary, and revolutionary uses of chastity from The Winter's Tale to the death of Charles I. It argued, among other things, that court 'performances', including royal birthing ceremonies, need to be considered part of the same debate as political and theological pamphlets. My second book was Blood Matters, a collection of interdisciplinary essays as part of the Wellcome-Trust funded The Blood Project.

I am now writing about the Elizabethan botanical renaissance: a movement that involved a wide range of popular practices from domestic decorative arts to pedagogy, gardens and food, printed herbals, and the Shakespearean theatre itself, but which also shaped Elizabethan proto-colonialism and expansionist privateering through growing markets in cochineal, tobacco and sugar. This work also covers chrorographic texts, travel (local and global), plants as objects of nostalgia and exoticism and shifting theological and proto-scientific understandings of the created world. As part of this research I am editing The Cambridge Handbook of Literature and Plants, a 20-chapter volume charting literature's interest in plants (from Virgil to contemporary nature writing and spanning all global regions) and finishing a monograph on Shakespeare's botany.

From 2020-23 I convene the Faculty's Plant Life research group with Kasia Boddy. In 2021-22 Kasia and I received a Research and Collections grant to hunt in our college and university collections for images and stories about Cambridge's role in the global saffron trade and the local cultures that emerged around the growing, cultivating, selling, and use of saffron as medicine, dye, pigment, food. For centuries, both locally and globally, saffron has been caught up in nationalist, commercial and religious tensions, but we have all but forgotten the role Cambridge played in this long history. This project will culminate in an online exhibition and a conference at CRASSH: Saffron: Global History, Cambridge Stories.

I also bring my interest in religious and scientific discourses around nature to modern and contemporary writing. I am working on recent nature writing about plants and also 20th-century prose in the tradition of the divine imagination. With Julia Meszaros at Maynooth, I am charting the forgotten history of the role women played in the Catholic Literary Revival of the 19th and 20th centuries. This movement is usually characterised by the work of Evelyn Waugh and Graham Greene but in fact women writers from across the English speaking world (especially Britain and Ireland) were the movement’s most numerous members. Their work is almost entirely forgotten. For CUA press, I am editing a multi-volume series of paperback novels: Catholic Women Writers. I am also writing historical, literary and theological accounts of the divine imagination and its uses of nature to describe the ways in which ordinary life is raised by mystical reality.

I am a member of the Scholars of Literature and Religion Network and the Association for the Study of Literature and the Environment.

Select Publications


Chastity in Early Stuart Literature and Culture (Cambridge University Press, 2015; paperback, 2017). Featured here: The Language and Literature of Chastity

(Under Review) Shakespeare’s Plants: Botany and Belief in the Elizabethan London (Cambridge University Press).

Edited Collections:

(Forthcoming), Cambridge Handbook of Literature and Plants (Cambridge University Press, 2023).

(With Eleanor Decamp, eds.), Blood Matters: Studies in European Literature and Thought, 1400-1700 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018). Featured here: Blood and Bodies.

Book Chapters:

(Forthcoming), ‘‘Fairy Bowers’ and ‘Stately Cedars’: Shakespeare’s Queenly Flowers and the Statecraft of Elizabeth I,’ Beautiful Blossoms in the Tudor and Stuart Courts (Amsterdam University Press).

(Forthcoming, with Julia Meszaros), 'British and Irish Novels and the Catholic Imagination,' The Oxford History of British and Irish Catholicism (OUP, 2022).

(Forthcoming) 'Introduction', The Cambridge Handbook of Literature and Plants (Cambridge University Press, 2023).

(Forthcoming) 'Shakespeare, Then and Now', The Cambridge Handbook of Literature and Plants (Cambridge University Press, 2023).

‘“The blood of English shall manure the ground”: the almanac in Richard II’s vision of soil and body management’, in Hilary Eklund (ed.), Ground-Work: Soil Science in Renaissance Literature (Duquesne University Press, 2017), 59-78.

‘Blood, Milk, Poison: Romeo and Juliet’s tragedy of “green” desire and corrupted blood’, Blood Matters: Studies in European Literature and Thought, 1400-1700 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 134-150.

(With Eleanor Decamp), ’Introduction’, Blood Matters: Studies in European Literature and Thought, 1400-1700 (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), 1-14.

Journal Articles:

(In development), ‘Anne Turner’s Yellow Bands: Saffron, Anglo-Irish Politics and the London Theatre as Scaffold.'

(Under Review), ‘Iconoclast Trees in Shakespeare and the Ballad Tradition’, Shakespeare Journal special edition: ‘Shakespeare and Gardens’, edited by Todd Borlik.

'Green', HOWL 1 (2022).

'Treasure', Hinterland 10 (2022).

(With Julia Meszaros), 'Ward (nee Hope-Scott), Josephine Mary', Oxford Dictionary of National Biography (2022).

(with Myles O'Gorman), 'Shakespeare's Statuary Women and the Indoor Theatre's Discovery Space', Early Theatre 24 (2021), 89–112.

(With Beth Dubow) ‘Allegories of Creation: Glassmaking, Forests and Fertility in Webster's The Duchess of Malfi’, Renaissance Drama 45 (2017), 107-137.

(With Eleanor Decamp and Laurie Maguire, ’The Bloody Truth', Bulletin of the Society of Renaissance Studies 31 (2014), 11-13.

‘Interpreting the Person: tradition, conflict, and Cymbeline’s Imogen’, Shakespeare Quarterly 59:2 (2008), 156–184.

‘The Convention of Innocence and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight’s Literary Sophisticates’, Parergon: Journal of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies 24:1 (2007), 41–66.

‘Critical Relationships: Sense & Sensibility on page and screen’, Sensibilities: The Journal of the Australian Jane Austen Society 32 (2006).

Critical Editions (with Introductions):

(with Julia Meszaros) Caryll Houselander, The Dry Wood (CUA Press, 2021).

(with Julia Meszaros) Sheila-Kaye Smith, The End of the House of Alard (CUA Press, 2022).

(Forthcoming, with Julia Meszaros) Josephine Ward, One Poor Scruple (CUA Press, 2022).