St. Paul’s Cathedral and a sense of place

Headshot of Roze Hentschell
Roze Hentschell, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies for the College of Liberal Arts and Professor of English

Look at any image of the London skyline throughout history, and you are sure to spot St. Paul’s Cathedral. The historic building has seen many changes since the first iteration was constructed in AD 604. Beyond playing a major role in the history of England, St. Paul’s Cathedral has also had a major influence on early modern English literature.

Roze Hentschell, professor of English, used her 2011-12 Ann Gill Faculty Development Award funding to explore how St. Paul’s Cathedral not only found its way into early modern English texts, but into how early modern English communities were influenced through their conceptualization of the space.

In the Great Fire of London in 1666, St. Paul’s Cathedral fell victim to the flames. In an effort to reconstruct the iconic landmark, architect Sir Christopher Wren rebuilt it with a new representation of English ‘sense of place,’ transforming into a fixture of the study of London since it was completed in 1710. It is the late sixteenth-and early seventeenth-century representations of the medieval building, “Old St Paul’s,” and its surroundings that Hentschell explores in her upcoming book, “Spatial Stories: St. Paul’s Cathedral Precinct, 1561-1625.”

Painting of St Paul's Preaching Cross in 1616
Painting of St Paul’s Cathedral. Photo courtesy of Roze Hentschell

For Hentschell, ‘sense of place’ has two meanings: the sensory, bodily acts and interactions that individuals have with the architecture and landscape. Secondly, ‘sense of place’ is the symbolic or emotional reactions that individuals have to the places they inhabit.

“The stories we tell, about people and about history, are necessarily about place. By attending to the interactions between place and people and to the multiple stories these interactions tell—we discover a more complex understanding of London’s cathedral,” shares Hentschell.

Thanks to Great Conversations membership gifts, which fund the Ann Gill Faculty Development Award, Hentschell was able to travel to London in 2012 to research in several libraries that held original documents from early modern St. Paul’s Cathedral. After discovering a wealth of information in these texts, she developed her research into book project, which she has just completed.

Hentschell’s approach to studying architectural spaces in London, such as St. Paul’s Cathedral, is unique. She analyses of a wide variety of early modern English texts to understand how early modern cultural geography creates a new realm for scholars and other educators to consider. Her research has also made its way into her graduate-level seminars, where her students compare early modern and contemporary England using elements of literature and cultural geography.

The 2012 Ann Gill Faculty Development Award winner will be presenting her latest research at the November 9 Great Conversations event titled, “Some Have Greatness Thrust Upon ’em’: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare™ and Why He Still Matters.”

There are close ties between her St. Paul’s Cathedral research and her interest in Shakespeare. “All of my scholarly work is deeply interested in popular culture. Historical texts are incredibly important to my work, but they can only get us so far. Literature helps us to fill in the blanks,” shares Hentschell. “My interest in Shakespeare as a cultural phenomenon fits right into this because I engage with how the average person has been able to have access to the Shakespeare over the years and how that has helped to create the cultural phenomenon that we still live with (and perpetuate) today.”

Some Have Greatness Thrust Upon ’em’: How Shakespeare Became Shakespeare™
and Why He Still Matters

Presented by Roze Hentschell, Professor of English, Associate Dean for Undergraduate Studies
Hosted in the University Theatre in CSU’s University Center for the Arts
Thursday, November 9, 2017

Interested in joining Great Conversations?
Contact: Savannah Kacher at or (970) 491-4030