Dr Rachel Holmes

Dr Rachel E Holmes

MA (Hons) MLitt PhD FHEA

Rachel’s research is interdisciplinary and transnational in focus, anchored in early modern English literature and culture but invested in the inter– and the trans–, that is, in the spaces between and beyond conventional national, disciplinary, and period boundaries.

Dr Rachel Holmes

Rachel grew up in Pontefract, West Yorkshire, where she attended her local comprehensive, Carleton High School, and coeducational sixth-form, NEW College. After heading to St Hugh’s College, Oxford, as an undergraduate she returned north to the University of St Andrews to complete her MA and MLitt in Shakespeare Studies. She was awarded her PhD, funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, from St Andrews in 2014. Since then, she has been a Research Associate at the Centre for Research in the Arts, Social Sciences, and Humanities (CRASSH) and the Faculty of English at the University of Cambridge, a Junior Research Fellow at Wolfson, and a Lecturer in Shakespeare and Renaissance Literature at University College London. She rejoined Wolfson in Michaelmas 2022 as College Assistant Professor, Director of Studies, and Fellow in English.

Her doctoral work became her first book project, Clandestine Contracts: Marriage, Law, and Literary Adaptation in Early Modern Europe, completed with the support of a Philip A Knachel Fellowship from the Folger Institute, a European Research Council postdoctoral research associateship, and a Laura Bassi Scholarship. This book traces the journey across the early modern world of selected tales of clandestine marriage, the medieval institution of Christian marriage undertaken outside the recognition of legal authorities. Clandestine Contracts shows how the relationship between versions of its focal tales is shaped by legal anxieties about clandestine marriage and thereby demonstrates the centrality of legal questions to transnational literary adaptation. 

To date, Rachel’s published work has been featured in Studies in Philology, Forum for Modern Language Studies, Renaissance Studies, The New Rambler, and contracted for edited volumes with Edinburgh, Oxford, and Cambridge University Presses. Broadly interested in literary and legal structures and processes of knowing, its subjects have included, for example, the threatening contractual agency of the early modern widow, truth-seeking and the effects of rhetorical vividness in literature, law, and emotion, and teaching social justice through Shakespeare.

She is currently working on her second monograph project, Rape Myths: Representing Consent and Culpability, 1275–1736, which explores the early modern roots of contemporary Anglo-American laws governing sexual transgressions and charts a transnational transformation in the representation of rape —figured through shifts in inwardness and intention in literature— during that time. 

What's on

Two nature photographs, one of someone hiking and one of a hare.

Open Call: Wolf Words Poetry Anthology 2024

27/11/2023 at 09.00

We are excited to launch an open call for the second edition of our Wolf Words Poetry Anthology; this year our theme is Wild. 

WRE 2023 - an audience member asking a question

Writing an abstract workshop

30/11/2023 at 19.00

This workshop is organised to help students prepare to be part of the Wolfson Research Event 2024.


A photo of a pocket watch open for repair

A Duty to Repair?

01/12/2023 at 18.00

How can you introduce protection of the environment into consumer contract law when this is detrimental to the protection of the consumer?

Artwork of white tree with an orange sky in the background by Tim Head.

Art Exhibition: 'How It Is'

02/12/2023 at 10.00

Visit Wolfson's latest exhibition 'How It Is' featuring work by the influential British artist Tim Head.

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Entrepreneurship Workshop for Students

02/12/2023 at 13.00

An interactive session during which students can gain insight into the sphere of entrepreneurship.