Ellen M. Caldwell

Contact Information

Voice: 657-278-7038
Dept: 657-278-3163

Ellen M. Caldwell

Associate Professor


I earned my B.A. from USC, my M.A. and Ph.D. from UCLA in 1980. I taught at Vanderbilt University in Nashville, TN, and from 1987-2001 at Kalamazoo College in Michigan before coming to CSUF in fall 2001.


1980, Ph.D., University of California, Los Angeles

1974, M.A., University of California, Los Angeles

1972, B.A., University of Southern California

Research Areas

Renaissance historiography, medieval images of women, including "loathly ladies," medieval ballads, Renaissance masques, emblems, and art, soliloquy and early modern constructions of the self, medieval and Renaissance mysticism, martyrdom, and mutilation.

“Portia as Fortuna in Shakespeare’s Merchant of Venice” 

This essay links the Renaissance iconography of the goddess Fortuna to that of Portia. This characterization calls into question the typical portrayal of Portia as the spokesperson for Christian mercy, making her instead the shrewdest “merchant” of the play, where she acquires a husband and exacts revenge on Shylock through her subjective manipulation of law and justice.

 “Taking It All Back: Word and Intent in Chaucer’s “Manciple’s Tale,” the Retraction, and the Anonymous Mum and the Sothsegger”

This essay posits a split between word and intent that allows words the freedom to take on meanings according to the hearer rather than the speaker or writer of the word. Unlike the argument of Mum, which asserts the necessity of always speaking truth, Chaucer’s works suggest that truth is in the ear of the auditor. Like the act of confession, where the penitent’s absolution is dependent upon the priest who hears and judges the authenticity of the words, Chaucer’s tales are dependent on auditors for their meaning. This frees the taleteller from the consequences of telling politically dangerous or morally questionable material; using irony and other forms of obfuscation, the taleteller can protect his own intent and  force his auditors to supply their own.

Courses Regularly Taught

Medieval literature, Shakespeare, Shakespeare and Film, Renaissance literature, Gender theory, drama


"When We Dead Awaken: The 1613 Marriage Masques of Shakespeare, Campion, and Beaumont.” Text & Presentation 2007. Ed. Stratos E. Constantinidis. Jefferson, NC: McFarland and Co., 2008. 29-44.

"Banish All the Wor(l)d’: Falstaff’s Iconoclastic Threat to Kingship in I Henry IV.”Renascence59.4 (Summer 2007: 219-245.

“The Heroism of Heurodis: Self-Mutilation and Restoration in Sir Orfeo. Papers in Language and Literature 43.3 (Summer 2007):291-310.

“Brains or Beauty: Limited Sovereignty in the Loathly Lady Tales: The Wife of Bath’s Tale, Thomas of Erceldoune, and The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame Ragnell.” The English “Loathly Lady” Tales: Boundaries, Traditions, Motifs. Ed. S. Elizabeth Passmore. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2007.

“Invasive Procedures in Webster’s The Duchess of Malfi.” In Women, Violence, and English Renaissance Literature. Ed. Linda Woodbridge and Sharon Beehler. Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2003. 149-86. 

"John Lyly's Gallathea: A New Rhetoric of Love for the Virgin‑Queen." English Literary Renaissance 17 (Winter, 1987): 22-40. Rep. in Renaissance Historicism: Selections from English Literary Renaissance.  Ed. Arthur Kinney and Dan Collins. Amherst: U Massachusetts P, 1987.