About Robert Appelbaum
Robert Appelbaum was born in New York City (1952) into a working-
class Jewish family, and raised in Cleveland, Ohio and Chicago,
Illinois. He received a B.A. in the humanities from the University of
Chicago in 1975, putting himself through school through scholarships,
the kindness of relatives, and a variety of odd jobs, including two
summers as an oiler at Republic Steel on the far south side of Chicago.
Afterwards he travelled though France, Italy and Greece, earning a
degree in French Language and Civilisation at the Sorbonne and
getting experience as a dishwasher in Loutsa, a beachtown near
Athens. Then he began a career at the Berlitz Schools of Languages in
the American Midwest.
In 1978 Appelbaum threw caution to the wind, quit his job at Berlitz,
loaded up his Renault Le Car, and headed west to San Francisco. He
worked as an art dealer in San Francisco for a number of years, threw
caution to the wind again, started driving a luxury limousine for a
living and eventually entered graduate school, first at San Francisco
State University, from which he received an M.A., and then at the
University of California, Berkeley.
At Berkeley, Appelbaum studied with Stephen Greenblatt and other
‘New Historicists’, and wrote a doctoral dissertation that would later
develop into his first book, Literature and Utopian Politics in
Seventeenth-Century England (Cambridge 2002). He taught at the
University of Cincinnati, the University of Alabama, Birmingham, and
the University of San Diego, and completed post-doctoral studies at the
University of Michigan, the Folger Shakespeare Library, and the Center
for the Humanities at Wesleyan University, studies which led to his next
two books, Envisioning an English Empire (Pennsylvania 2005) and
Aguecheeks’s Beef (Chicago 2006).
In 2004 he moved to England, to take up a post as lecturer in
Renaissance Studies at Lancaster University. At Lancaster he was the
recipient of a British Academy Research Award, a Leverhulme
Fellowship, and an Arts and Humanities Research Council Fellowship.
In 2011, out of pragmatism as well as dismay at the privatisation of
English universities and the introduction among them of obscene
tuition fees, he took up a Chair in English Literature at Uppsala
Appelbaum teaches and reads in a wide area of studies related to
English Literature, with a special strength in Shakespeare and the
Seventeenth Century. His scholarly and creative work these days,
however, mostly focuses on food and studies, terrorism studies, and
violence studies, and expands well beyond the borders of Britain and
In food and culture studies, in addition to Aguecheek's Beef,
Appelbaum has published a number of reviews and review essays in
Times Higher Education, Clio, The Baffler and elsewhere, as well as an
online essay 'Food Fuss in London', and his book, Dishing It Out: In
Search of the Restaurant Experience (Reaktion 2011). He has produced
an essay called 'Judith Dines Alone: From the Bible to Du Bartas',
which looks at translation theory as well as the symbolic meaning of
keeping kosher, or not, in the Judith legend, which appears in Modern
Philology. Dishing It Out, in the meantime, looks at the culture of
supermarkets in Europe and elsewhere. But it goes beyond the
sociological to the personal, for it is also a memoir and a work of creative
non-fiction. Working the Aisles: A Life in Consumption (Zero 2014) s at
once a memoir and a critique of consumerism -- it is by turns funny,
harrowing, and enlightening.
In terrorism studies, Appelbaum has published on Milton and the
Gunpowder Plot and on 'Terrorism and the Novel, 1970-2001' and
'Fantasias of Terrorism', an introductory article to a special issue on
terrorism in the Journal for Cultural Research which he edited.
Recently, he has completed Terrorism Before the Letter: England,
Scotland, France, and the Mythography of Political Violence, 1559-
1642 (Oxford University Press), and an essay, 'Shakespeare and
Terrorism', which appears in Criticism. He is a contributor as well to
Terrorism and Literature (Cambridge Univerity Press, 2017), edited by
In 2014 Appelbaum was appointed a Fellow at the Stellenbosch Institute
for Advanced Study, where he developed a project on 'The Aesthetics of
Violence'. He has recently lectured at the Institute, Stellenbosch
University, Pretoria University, Cape Town University, the Cornaro
Institute in Larnaca, Cyprus, Concordia University, Canada,
Copenhagen University, Melbourne University, The University of
Sydney, The French Shakespeare Society and the University of Zurich.
More recently, Appelbaum has published The Aesthetics of Violence: Art,
Fiction, Drama, and Film, with Rowman and Littlefield. In 2016 he was
awarded a grant from the Swedish scientific research society,
Vetenskaprådet, to undertake a four-year project on 'The Renaissance
Discovery of Violence, from Boccaccio to Shakespeare.'
Appelbaum is in addition a co-organizer for the international research
group, Interpreting Violence. And he has recently been named editor for
The Cultural History of Myth in the Renaissance, to be published by
Bloomsbury as part of a series on the cultural history of myth.