Home » pollnitz

Aysha Pollnitz

Assistant Professor

Aysha Pollnitz arrived at Grinnell College in August 2013 following research fellowships at Trinity College, Cambridge and the Folger Shakespeare Library, Washington DC. She has taught at the University of Cambridge, Georgetown University, and Rice University, where she served as a resident faculty associate at Baker College.

Her first book, Princely Education in Early Modern Britain, was published by Cambridge University Press in 2015.  It investigates one of the earliest attempts to use liberal education to effect political reform in Europe.  More specifically, it considers the fortunes of a humanist campaign, led by Erasmus of Rotterdam (c.1466-1536), to deter European princes from vainglorious warfare by teaching them knowledge of scripture and classical literature.  Erasmus’s prescriptions and curriculum had a particularly strong impact on the British isle, where humanist pedagogy transformed the upbringing of Tudor and Stuart princes between 1485 and 1649. The schooling of fifteenth-century princes had emphasized the sword but the education of Henry VIII and his successors prioritized the pen.  This shift in princely pedagogy played a critical and hitherto unappreciated role in reshaping the political and religious culture of early modern Britain.  Erasmus may have been intending to deter rulers from conquering additional territories but, in practice, his curriculum gave princes the skills and (inadvertently) the impetus to assert their supremacy over their subjects’ souls. Ultimately, a mode of education which was meant to prevent over-mighty monarchy in Europe actually taught kings and queens to extend their authority over church and state. 

Dr. Pollnitz's second major research project examines the history of liberal education before liberalism in the Americas.  Between 1524 and ca.1701, European missionaries and pedagogues translated a humanist curriculum that emphasized the study of classical grammar and rhetoric to the Americas as part of their attempts to Christianize and colonize the New World. Her study posits that the classical curriculum frequently survived the voyage but it shows that justifications for teaching youths the liberal arts and sciences underwent a sea-change in the Americas, where educators began to insist on the power of letters to transform students’ social and political status for the first time.  Native American voices were active in articulating this new account of the power of liberal education and used their classical learning to cross over linguistic, cultural, and epistemological boundaries in colonial society.

Dr. Pollnitz teaches courses on medieval and early modern European history, British history, the history of political and religious thought, on the history of sex, gender, and family, on cultural encounters, on the transmission of knowledge, and on historical method and argument. She has advised undergraduate and graduate student research on topics in British, European, and intellectual history.

Selected Publications

Princely education in early modern Britain (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2015)

“Translation,” In Oxford Bibliographies in Renaissance and Reformation. ed. Margaret King (New York: Oxford University Press, 2015).

“Educating Hamlet and Prince Hal,” in Shakespeare and Early Modern Political Thought, ed. David Armitage, Conal Condren, and Andrew Fitzmaurice (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009 and paperback, 2012), pp. 119-38.  Reprinted in Shakespearean Criticism, 146 (2012).

“Religion and Translation in the Court of Henry VIII: Princess Mary, Katherine Parr and the Paraphrases of Erasmus,” in Mary Tudor: Old and New Perspectives, ed. Susan Doran and Thomas S. Freeman (Houndmills, Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011), pp. 119-33.

“Christian Women or Sovereign Queens? Representing the Schooling of Mary I and Elizabeth I,” in Tudor Queenship: The Reigns of Mary and Elizabeth, eds Anna Whitelock and Alice Hunt (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2010), pp. 127-44.

“Humanism and Court Culture in the Education of Tudor Royal Children,” in Tudor Court Culture, eds Tom Betteridge and Anna Riehl (Selingrove PA: Susquehanna University Press, 2010), pp. 12-38.

“Humanism and the Education of Henry, Prince of Wales, 1594-1612,” Prince Henry Revived: Image and Exemplarity in Early Modern England, ed. Timothy Wilks (London: Southampton Solent University in association with Paul Holberton Publishing, 2007), pp. 22-64.

Campus Phone: 

(641) 269-9521

faculty info column 1

On-Campus Address: 

Mears Cottage 210
1213 Sixth Avenue
Grinnell, IA 50112
United States

Office Hours: 

Tuesday 2-4pm

Education / Degrees: 

B.A. (Hons I*), University of Sydney
M.Phil., University of Cambridge
PhD., University of Cambridge

Courses Taught: 

HIS 234: Early modern Europe, 1350-1650 HIS 235: Britain in the Modern World, I HIS 295-03: Sex, gender, and family in Europe, 1300-1700 HIS 295-01: Adv Tutorial on Historical Writing HIS 331-01: Making Knowledge in Early Modern Europe

Primary Academic Interest: 

Early modern European history

Academic Interests: 

Intellectual and cultural history, history of political and religious thought, history of education and the transmission of knowledge

Curriculum Vitae/Resume: