UCL English


Dr Anthony Ossa-Richardson


Email: a.ossa-richardson@ucl.ac.uk
External phone: 020 7679 3121
Internal phone: 33121
Office: Foster Court 242

Anthony Ossa-Richardson photograph

Education and Experience 

Anthony Ossa-Richardson studied philosophy at Bristol (BA), Renaissance literature at York (MA), and intellectual history at the Warburg Institute (Ph.D., 2011). He worked for a year as a research assistant on the manuscript notebooks of Sir Thomas Browne, then held a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship at Queen Mary University of London. In 2015 he joined the English department at the University of Southampton, before coming to UCL in 2019.

Research Interests

Anthony's research encompasses a range of periods and disciplines—he has written essays on such odd topics as the study of pagan religion in the Renaissance; the science of sneezing in early modern England; the psychiatric and demonological beliefs of Victorian asylum chaplains; the theory of relics on the cusp of the Enlightenment; the early novelist Thomas Nashe and the didactic poet Sir John Davies; the metaphorics of the mind in late Cartesian philosophy; the madcap scheme for world peace dreamt up by a De Beers office clerk in early twentieth-century South Africa; humanist imitations of the Greek satirist Lucian; the editing, translation, interpretation and literary criticism of the Bible; the limits of the concept of allegory; and the architecture of postwar British university campuses.

His major project for the past few years has been his second monograph (published in May 2019), A History of Ambiguity—an account of the ways in which readers and critics from antiquity to the twentieth century have posited, denied, conceptualised and argued over the existence of multiple meanings in texts; it covers ten interconnected episodes in the histories of law, literary criticism, philosophy, rhetoric and biblical exegesis.

Anthony is currently working on two long projects with several underlying themes in common: first, an intellectual history of British architecture, 1945-1966, exploring an array of new efforts to create meaning in lieu of an accepted vocabulary of historical forms; and second, a book on the problem of typicality and atypicality, characterisation and the use of sources in late sixteenth-century English literary and quasi-literary works.

Finally, alongside these individual projects, he is currently translating (with Dr Richard Oosterhoff, University of Edinburgh), the first book about Africa published in Europe, the Cosmography and Geography of Africa, by the Moroccan diplomat al-Hasan al-Wazzan, better known as Johannes Leo Africanus. This work was written in Italian in the 1520s and first published in 1550, although the printed version is considerably different from the original manuscript, on which our work is based. The translation is contracted with Penguin Classics and will probably be out in late 2022


A History of Ambiguity (Princeton, 2019)

Et Amicorum: Essays on Renaissance Philosophy and Humanism in Honour of Jill Kraye, eds Anthony Ossa-Richardson and Margaret Meserve (Brill, 2018)

The Devil's Tabernacle: The Pagan Oracles in Early Modern Thought (Princeton, 2013)

Articles and Chapters in Books

'Known Unknowns: John Davies's Nosce Teipsum in Conversation', English Literary Renaissance (forthcoming, 2021) 

 'Allegory, Ambiguity, Accommodation', in Allegory Studies: Contemporary Perspectives, ed. Vladimir Brljak (Routledge, forthcoming, 2021) 

 ‘The Use of Ridicule in Religious Disputes: An Unedited Huguenot Manuscript of the 1740s’ (ed. and trans.), Erudition and the Republic of Letters (forthcoming, 2021) 

 'Pseudohistory and Metafiction in the Eighteenth Century', in Antiquity and Enlightenment Culture: New Approaches and Perspectives, eds Felicity Loughlin and Alexandre Johnston (Brill, 2020). 

'Cry Me a Relic: The Holy Tear of Vendôme and Early Modern Lipsanomachy', in Knowledge of Religion as Profanation, eds Martin Mulsow and Asaph Ben-Tov (Springer, 2019).

'Tau's Revenge', in Et Amicorum, eds Ossa-Richardson and Meserve (2018, see above)

'The Naked Truth: André Rivet between Bellarmine and Grotius', in God’s Word Questioned: Biblical Criticism and Scriptural Authority in the Dutch Golden Age, eds Dirk van Miert, Henk Nellen, Piet Steenbakkers and Jetze Touber (OUP, 2017), 109–30.

'Sir Thomas Browne, Paolo Giovio, and the Tragicomedy of Muleasses, King of Tunis', Studies in Philology 113 (2016), 669–94.

'César de Missy (1703–75) Studies the New Testament', Erudition in the Republic of Letters 1 (2016), 151–202.

'Dissenting Theology, Dissenting Style: Edward Harwood's Liberal Translation of the New Testament and its Critics', Eighteenth-Century Thought 6 (2016), 83–113.

'The Idea of a University and its Concrete Form', in The Physical University: Contours of Space and Place in Higher Education, ed. Paul Temple (Taylor & Francis, 2014), 131–58.

'Sublimity as Resistance to Literary Form in the Early Modern Bible', in The Edinburgh Companion to the Bible and the Arts, ed. Stephen Prickett (Edinburgh UP, 2014), 69–87.

'A Moral Anatomy of the Early Modern Sneeze', Lias 40 (2013 [= 2014]), 83–104.

'Image and Idolatry: The Case of Louis Richeome', in Method and Variation: Narrative in Early Modern French Thought, eds Emma Gilby and Paul White (Legenda, 2013), 41–53.

'Possession or Insanity? Two Views from the Victorian Lunatic Asylum', Journal of the History of Ideas 74 (2013), 553–75.

'Gijsbert Voet and discretio spirituum after Descartes', in Angels of Light? Sanctity and Discernment of Spirits in the Early Modern Period, eds Johannes Machielsen and Clare Ashdowne (Brill, 2012), 235–53.

'Nicolas Peiresc and the Delphic Tripod in the Republic of Letters', Journal of the Warburg and Courtauld Institutes, 74 (2010), 263–79.

'Pietro Pomponazzi and the Rôle of Nature in Oracular Divination', Intellectual History Review, 20 (2010), 435–55.

'From Servius to Frazer: The Golden Bough and its Transformations', International Journal of the Classical Tradition, 15 (2008), 339–68.

'Ovid and the 'free play with signs' in Thomas Nashe’s The Unfortunate Traveller', Modern Language Review 101 (2006), 945–56.