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Zachary Lesser

Edward W. Kane Professor of English

Associate Chair


Curriculum Vitae

Fisher-Bennett Hall 115

Office Hours

spring 2024

Mon 3-4:30 pm

or by appointment

Zachary Lesser received his PhD in English Literature from Columbia University and his BA in Renaissance Studies and Religious Studies from Brown University. Before coming to Penn, he taught at the University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign. His teaching and research interests focus on Shakespeare and early modern drama, the history of material texts, bibliography and editing, early modern political and religious debate, and digital humanities.

Prof. Lesser is a general editor of The Arden Shakespeare (fourth series), along with Peter Holland and Tiffany Stern. His latest book is Ghosts, Holes, Rips and Scrapes: Shakespeare in 1619, Bibliography in the Longue Durée (Penn Press, 2021), which was shortlisted for the DeLong Book History Prize from SHARP. Both of his previous monographs won the Elizabeth Dietz Award, presented annually by SEL: Studies in English Literature to the best book in Renaissance studies. Most recently, he published Hamlet after Q1: An Uncanny History of the Shakespearean Text (Penn Press, 2015); his first book was Renaissance Drama and the Politics of Publication: Readings in the English Book Trade (Cambridge University Press, 2004).

Prof. Lesser is the co-creator, with Alan B. Farmer, of one of the earliest and most widely used DH resources in early modern studies: DEEP: Database of Early English Playbooks, an online resource for studying the printing, publishing, and marketing of Renaissance drama. With Adam Hooks, he created the Shakespeare Census, an online database of all extant copies of Shakespeare editions before 1700.  

Prof. Lesser has held visiting lectureships at Oxford University and the University of North Carolina. In 2019 he gave the Centennial Martin Ridge Lecture in Literature to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the Huntington Library; the lecture is available online.

In 2019, he took over from Peter Stallybrass as Director of Penn's long-running Workshop in the History of Material Texts.

An open-access self-archive of selected publications can be found here.


News & Events

Doctoral Dissertations Chaired


Dianne Mitchell "Unfolding Verse: Poetry as Correspondence in Early Modern England"


Marissa Nicosia "Historical Futures in Seventeenth-Century Literature"


Claire M. L. Bourne "'A Play and No Play': Printing the Performance in Early Modern England"

Courses Taught

spring 2024

fall 2023

spring 2023

ENGL 1022.001 The Age of Milton  

fall 2022

ENGL 4097.301 English Honors Program  

spring 2022

ENGL 101.001 Shakespeare  
ENGL 800.301 Pedagogy  

spring 2021

ENGL 736.401 Shakespeare's Playbooks  

fall 2020

ENGL 101.001 Shakespeare  

spring 2020

ENGL 038.001 Age of Milton  

fall 2019

ENGL 016.301 Shakespeare/Not Shakespeare  

spring 2018

ENGL 101.001 Shakespeare  
ENGL 800.301 Pedagogy  

spring 2017

fall 2016

ENGL 430.640 The Shakespeare Variations  

spring 2016

ENGL 038.001 The Age of Milton  

spring 2015

ENGL 101.001 Introduction to Shakespeare  

fall 2014

ENGL 038.401 Milton  
ENGL 200.301 Hamlet  

spring 2014

ENGL 101.001 Shakespeare  
ENGL 597.301 Shakespeare  

spring 2013

ENGL 236.301 Hamlet  

fall 2012

ENGL 016.303 Shakespeare/Not Shakespeare  
ENGL 311.301 English Honors Program  
ENGL 430.640 Shakespeare and Company  

fall 2011

ENGL 038.001 Age of Milton  

spring 2010

ENGL 101.001 Shakespeare  
ENGL 800.301 Pedagogy  

fall 2009

ENGL 038.001 Milton  

fall 2008

ENGL 311.301 Honors Thesis Seminar  

spring 2008

ENGL 101.001 Shakespeare  
ENGL 800.302 Pedagogy  

fall 2007

ENGL 038.001 The Age of Milton  

spring 2007

ENGL 016.304 Shakespeare/Not Shakespeare  

fall 2006

ENGL 038.001 The Age of Milton