Watson, Robert N.

Distinguished Professor

Neikirk Distinguished Professor of English
Kaplan 282
Tel: 310.825.2910 / Fax: 310.267.4339 / E-mail



B.A., summa cum laude, Yale University, 1975

Ph.D., Highest Honors, Stanford University, 1979



William Shakespeare; Ben Jonson; ecocriticism; Metaphysical poetry; the future of the humanities; the U.S. in the 1960s; contemporary poetry.



Throne of Blood (Palgrave Macmillan, 2014).

Editor, Ben Jonson: Four Plays (Bloomsbury, 2014)

Back to Nature: The Green and the Real in the Late Renaissance (Penn Press, 2006; paperback, 2007:

Editor, Volpone, by Ben Jonson, New Mermaids Series (A&C Black and Norton, 2003).

Editor, Every Man in His Humour, by Ben Jonson, New Mermaids Series (1998)

Editor, Critical Essays on Ben Jonson (G.K. Hall/Twayne/Macmillan Presses, 1997)

The Rest is Silence: Death as Annihilation in the English Renaissance (U. California Press, 1987; paperback, 1999)

Ben Jonson’s Parodic Strategy: Literary Imperialism in the Comedies (Harvard UP, 1987)

Shakespeare and the Hazards of Ambition (Harvard UP, 1984); Winner of the Thomas J. Wilson Prize.

Recent Articles

“Protestant Animals: Puritan Sects and Animal-Protection Sentiment, 1550-1650,” in ELH, 2014. “Shadows of the Renaissance,” in The Oxford Handbook of Ecocriticism, 2014. “Othello’s Double Diction,” in Othello: The State of Play, 2014. “Lord Capulet’s Lost Compromise,” in Renaissance Drama, 2014. “Tell Inconvenient Truths, but Tell Them Slant,” in Ecological Approaches to Early Modern English Texts, 2014. The Complexity of Hope in Songs by Belle & Sebastian and Elvis Perkins,” Journal of Popular Music Studies, 2013. “The Fox and his Pause: Punctuating Consciousness in Jonson’s Volpone,” in Close-Reading the Renaissance, 2012. “Shakespeare’s New Words,” in Shakespeare Survey 65, 2012. “Midsummer Night’s Dream and the Ecology of Human Being,” in Ecocritical Shakespeare, 2011. “The Humanities Produce a Profit,” Chronicle of Higher Education, 2010. “Immortal Longings and Common Lyings: Denials of Death, from Jacobean Literature to Modern Journalism,” The Humanities Review, 2010. “Coining Words on the Elizabethan and Jacobean Stage,” Philological Quarterly 88, 2009. “Teaching ‘Crying’: Lot 49 and the 1960s,” in Approaches to Teaching Pynchon’s “The Crying of Lot 49” and Other Works, Modern Language Association, 2008.

Some Earlier Articles

“Wherefore Art Thou Tereu?: Juliet and the Legacy of Rape,” co-authored with Stephen Dickey, Renaissance Quarterly 58. “As You Liken It: Simile in the Wilderness,” Shakespeare Survey 56. “Tragedy,” revised, in The Cambridge Companion to Elizabethan and Jacobean Drama, 2nd edition. “Tragedies of Revenge and Ambition,” in The Cambridge Companion to Shakespearean Tragedy. “Othello as Reformation Tragedy,” in In the Company of Shakespeare. “`’Tis But A Man Gone’: Iago as Serial Killer,” Shakespeare Magazine. “The Palm as the End of the Mind,” PMLA. “Giving Up the Ghost in a World of Decay: Hamlet, Revenge, and Denial,” Renaissance Drama. “False Immortality in Measure for Measure: Comic Means, Tragic Ends,” Shakespeare Quarterly. “Richard III” in Shakespearean Criticism, Vol. 8. “Teaching ‘Shakespeare’: Theory vs. Practice” in Teaching Literature: What is Needed Now.


Additional Information

Professor Watson received his degrees from Yale and Stanford, then spent six years as a professor at Harvard before coming to UCLA in 1986, where he has served as Chair of the Department of English, Chair of the Faculty of the UCLA College of Letters and Science, Associate Vice-Provost for Educational Innovation, and now Associate Dean of Humanities. He has won national senior research fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies and the National Endowment for the Humanities, as well as a UC President’s Fellowship, and spent a year as a visiting Senior Fellow at Trinity College, Cambridge University.

Professor Watson teaches mostly Shakespeare, English Renaissance poetry, and historical ecocriticism, although he also created and led a new interdisciplinary General Education course on the 1960s. For seven years he served as Head Scholar of the Teaching Shakespeare Summer Institute at the Folger Shakespeare Library in Washington, D.C.. In 2001, he received the annual UCLA Distinguished Teaching Prize, and from 2006-8 he held the Gold Shield prize, given to one faculty member at the university for outstanding contributions in research, teaching, and public service. Last year he was named as the first holder of the Neikirk Chair for Innovative Undergraduate Education.

His environmentalist study of cultural history, Back to Nature: The Green and the Real in the Late Renaissance, won the 2007 Elizabeth Dietz Memorial Prize, “awarded annually for the best book published in early modern studies,” as well as the ASLE Prize for the best book of ecocriticism of 2005-07. He has recently published poetry in the New Yorker and other literary journals.

Links to some of Prof. Watson’s publications are available on his previous homepage: