Preston, Claire

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(C.E. Preston, Claire E. Preston)


Female. Education: Earned Ph.D.


Office—Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge CB2 3HU, England. E-mail[email protected]


Sidney Sussex College, Cambridge, England, fellow in English; Cambridge University, English department faculty member.


Rose Mary Crawshay Prize, British Academy, 2005, for Thomas Browne and the Writing of Early Modern Science.


(Editor and author of introduction), Thomas Browne, Selected Writings, Carcanet Press (Manchester, England), 1995.

(Reviser) J.A. Cuddon, A Dictionary of Literary Terms and Literary Theory, 4th edition (Preston not associated with earlier editions), Blackwell (Malden, MA), 1998.

Edith Wharton's Social Register, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 2000.

Thomas Browne and the Writing of Early Modern Science, Cambridge University Press (Cambridge, England), 2005.

Bee, Reaktion, 2006.

Contributor to Soft Cannons: Nineteenth-Century American Women Writers and the Masculine Tradition, edited by Karen Kilcup, University of Iowa Press, 1999.


Claire Preston is a lecturer in English literature whose scholarly interests include early modern literature and science, American landscape writing, and seventeenth-century scientific pastoral. She has published essays on such writers as William Shakespeare, John Donne, Ben Jonson, and Theodore Dreiser, and books about Sir Thomas Browne and Edith Wharton. Her Edith Wharton's Social Register, for example, has been lauded by critics for placing that author's "writing within the cultural and literary contexts of modernism," explained Carol Singley in Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers. By categorizing Wharton's characters into four distinct groups, Preston "illuminates the motives, actions, and outcomes of characters, and charts the development of Wharton's writing over time," Singley continued. Through her analysis, Preston shows, too, Wharton's concern for the social and scientific issues of her day. Although Singley regretted that Preston "may understate Wharton's ties with other nineteenth-century American writers," the reviewer praised the author's analysis as "sophisticated, nuanced, theorized."

Preston has also edited a collection of seventeenth-century physician and author Sir Thomas Browne's writings, and she published a study of his work titled Thomas Browne and the Writing of Early Modern Science. As with her Wharton book, Preston seeks to place her subject within his social/historical context, especially regarding the growing influence of empiricism on scientific writing. Assessing the book in the Renaissance Quarterly, Allison B. Kavey lamented that Preston is overly influenced by Steven Shapin's limited arguments in The Social History of Truth, which uses the work of a few upper-class scientific writers to generalize trends in discourses in natural philosophy at the time. However, Kavey lauded "Preston's clear commitment to a careful and thoughtful reading of Thomas Browne's works," which she "brings to life in her thoughtful readings."



Legacy: A Journal of American Women Writers, June, 2002, Carol Singley, review of Edith Wharton's Social Register, p. 264.

Renaissance Quarterly, winter, 2005, Allison B. Kavey, review of Thomas Browne and the Writing of Early Modern Science, p. 1408.

SciTech Book News, December, 2005, review of Thomas Browne and the Writing of Early Modern Science.


University of Cambridge Department of English Web site, (July 12, 2006), brief career information on Claire E. Preston.