Liam E Semler Author of Evaluating Organization Development

Liam E Semler

Professor of Early Modern Literature
The University of Sydney

I research and teach in the English Department at the University of Sydney. My areas of special expertise include Shakespeare and education, Renaissance English women's writing, and literature and visual arts in early modern England. I lead the Better Strangers project which is a research collaboration focussing on tertiary and secondary education. Better Strangers hosts the open access Shakespeare Reloaded website (


I teach, supervise and research widely in the field of early modern English literature. I was director of the University of Sydney's Medieval and Early Modern Centre in 2012-13 and president of the Australasian Universities Language and Literature Association from 2009-13. From 2009-14 I was Chief Examiner for the Year 12 (HSC) English Extension 1 and 2 courses in NSW schools. I have held visiting fellowships at the Massachusetts Center for Interdisciplinary Renaissance Studies, Corpus Christi College Cambridge, the University of Nottingham, Oxford Brookes University, the University of Warwick and the University of Essex.

Areas of Research / Professional Expertise

    My research activity has three main areas of focus: Shakespeare and pedagogy in literary studies at school and university; English women’s writing of the mid-seventeenth century; and early modern English literature and the visual arts.

    My research into pedagogy addresses the problem of how creativity and innovation operate within formal educational systems. Key to this is understanding the entanglement of educators and students in neoliberal, managerial and standardized teaching and learning contexts. My book, 'Teaching Shakespeare and Marlowe: Learning vs the System' (2013) is an attempt to understand this context. The book draws on my experience as part of a long-running collaborative research project with a Sydney school. The project began as ‘Shakespeare Reloaded’ in 2008 and continues as ‘Better Strangers’ (2011-19). The project co-hosted: the ‘Unlearning Shakespeare’ symposium at Oxford Brookes (2012); the ‘Radical Shakespeare Pedagogy’ roundtable at the Shakespeare Institute (University of Birmingham, Stratford-upon-Avon, 2012) and a conference on Shakespeare and learning (Sydney, 2010) with the Australian and New Zealand Shakespeare Association which led to the book, 'Teaching Shakespeare beyond the Centre: Australasian Perspectives' (2013). The project hosted the Shakespeare FuturEd Conference in Sydney in 2019. The project website is Shakespeare Reloaded (

    I am also interested in English women’s writing in the 1650s. I began by researching aesthetic, political and religious contexts for the anonymous Puritan woman’s book, Eliza’s Babes or the Virgin’s Offering (1652). More recently I have been considering the early works of Margaret Cavendish in terms of how she accesses natural philosophical knowledge from the late 1640s to mid-1650s.

    From my earliest academic writing onward I have been fascinated by the interconnections between early modern literature and the visual arts. This began with my book 'The English Mannerist Poets and the Visual Arts' (1998) which approached metaphysical and cavalier verse through the inter-art lens of mannerist style. More recently, I have spent a lot of time, and numerous articles and chapters, trying to understand how early modern English writers understand the idea of the ‘grotesque.’ My recent book with Routledge is an annotated sourcebook of English texts that define, apply and explore the grotesque from 1500-1700.



Featured Title
 Featured Title - The Early Modern Grotesque, Semler - 1st Edition book cover


Cogent Arts & Humanities 3.1 (2016)

Prosperous teaching and the thing of darkness: Raising a Tempest in the classroom

Published: Jan 09, 2019 by Cogent Arts & Humanities 3.1 (2016)
Authors: Liam E Semler
Subjects: Education, Literature

This essay uses Shakespeare’s The Tempest as a way of conceptualising modern institutional education. The over-systematisation of formal education which characterises professional teaching and learning in the twenty-first century is designated “SysEd.” The flaws in SysEd are discussed and a less structured space of educational experience, named “ardenspace,” is described in theoretical and practical terms. The characters and plot of The Tempest are used to embody this argument.