John Baxter

Professor Emeritus

headshots john baxter

Phone: 902-494-6874
Mailing Address: 
Room 3186, McCain Building, 6135 University Avenue
PO BOX 15000, Halifax, NS B3H 4R2
Research Topics:
  • Early Modern literature
  • Elizabethan and Jacobean drama
  • Rhetoric
  • Religion and literature


  • BA, BEd, MA, PhD (Alberta)

My research interests grow out of my teaching experience, especially as that has focused on Renaissance Poetry, Shakespearean Drama, and the tradition of Literary and Rhetorical Theory descending from Aristotle. My current project—a book-length study with the working titleShakespeare and the Name of Action—takes its bearings from a famous remark by Hamlet about the way great enterprises can “lose the name of action.”

I am investigating what counts as action and what counts against it in selected plays by Shakespeare. The first section, “Pathos-as-Praxis,” starts from a short paragraph in Aristotle’sPoetics, which concentrates on pathos or suffering, the bedrock of tragedy, and which paradoxically asserts that a pathos is a praxis, an action. Part II, “The Workings of Conscience,” considers the antimony of conscience and action that is central to Hamlet’s meditation and explores the ways in which conscience may work to re-shape rather than undermine the name of action. Part III, “Multiple Plots and One Action,” focuses on the question of motive, or motives, and the extent to which any one character may or may not dominate an action, the extent to which currents of action impinge on one another, with the possibility of changing their ‘name’ in the process. Part IV, “Ekplexis or the End of Poetry,” explores the role of wonder or astonishment in defining and delimiting an action, cleansing or purifying and, finally allowing its name to be not lost but seen from a new perspective.

Current News (in preparation)

  • “Necessary Questions and Probable Consequences in Hamlet,” for the 2015 Shakespearean Theatre Conference, University of Waterloo / Stratford Festival, Stratford, Ontario, June, 2015.
  • “The Aristotle-Coleridge Axis Revisited,” for The Centenary Conference in Honour of the Birth of George Whalley, organized by Michael DiSanto, Kingston, Ontario, July, 2015.

Selected Publications



  • Shakespeare's Poetic Styles: Verse Into Drama.  1980; reprinted London: Routledge, 2005.
  • [as editor, with Gordon Harvey.] In Defence of Adam: Essays on Bunyan, Milton, and Others by C. Q. Drummond. Norfolk: Brynmill Press/ Edgeways Books, 2004.  Paperback edition, 2005.
  • [as editor, with J. Patrick Atherton.] Aristotle’s Poetics. Translation and Commentary by George Whalley.  Kingston and Montreal:  McGill-Queen's University Press, 1997.


  • “‘My Shakespeare Rise’: Ben Jonson’s Celebration of His Shakespeare,” Proceedings of the 2013 Conference of the European Shakespeare Research Association, Montpellier, France. Forthcoming, Summer, 2015.
  • “Fanny Price as a Student of Shakespeare,” An Invitation to Mansfield Park, Part 28, (Nov. 14, 2014)
  • “Tying the Knot in Othello,” Essays in Criticism 64.3 (July, 2014): 266-92.
  • “Some Landmarks in Whylah Falls,” Literary Atlas of Atlantic Canada,!english/ccht (July, 2014).
  • “Reported Speech in The Winter’s Tale,” Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Reforme 36.3 (Summer, 2013): 127-51.
  • “George Whalley and a Way of Thinking about Shakespeare," Animus: The  Canadian Journal of Philosophy and Humanities 15 (Fall, 2011): <>.
  • “Action Figures in Shakespeare’s Lucrece,” Renaissance and Reformation / Renaissance et Reforme 33.1 (Winter, 2010): 81-107.
  • “Perilous Stuff: Poems of Religious Meditation,” Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 62, no. 2 (Winter, 2010): 89-115.
  • “Shakespeare in Syllabics: J.V. Cunningham’s ‘To What Strangers, What Welcome’,” Literary Imagination 12.1 (Winter, 2010): 101-108.
  • “The Soul of Tragedy: Some Basic Principles in Aristotle’s Poetics, in Resurfacing Tragedy, ed. John Duncan. PhaenEx: Journal of the Society for the Study of Existential and Phenomenological Theory and Culture 1.2 (July, 2007): <>.
  • “The Entrance to a World: Helen Pinkerton’s ‘Bright Fictions’,” Renascence: Essays on Values in Literature 59. 3 (Spring, 2007): 159-177.
  • “J.V. Cunningham’s Shakespeare Glosses,” Essays in Criticism 55.4 (October, 2005): 285-308.