I work on Old English poetry and prose, especially Beowulf and writings associated with King Alfred. My research is mainly focused on the meeting of Christian-Latin culture and Germanic literary tradition in Anglo-Saxon England, in particular the translation and reception of biblical and patristic material.
I am currently completing a monograph entitled The Dynastic Drama of Beowulf (contracted to Boydell & Brewer as part of their Anglo-Saxon Studies series), the first book-length study of the poem's royal families. Instead of treating royal history as mere background to the main narrative of the hero's monster-fights, this study argues that dynastic legends are integral parts of the fabric of Beowulf that require sustained literary analysis. The first part of the book concentrates on the internal evidence of the text itself, examining the poem’s structure, the poet’s manipulation of dynastic traditions and the integration of the hero’s fights with monsters into the dynastic drama. The second section considers a range of potential theological, historical and literary contexts for the dynastic drama of Beowulf, exploring connections with biblical models of kingship and the emergence of dynastic kingship in the early medieval West. Finally I address the question of how Beowulf might have been read as a dynastic drama in the Alfredian period and at the time of the manuscript's copying in late Anglo-Saxon England.
Another area of research is the reception of the Book of Psalms in medieval England. I am a founder and co-organiser of The Oxford Psalms Network, an interdisciplinary research group hosted by The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH) and devoted to the study of all aspects of the Psalms. I have recently co-edited two volumes of essays on medieval English psalms: with Tamara Atkin, The Psalms and Medieval English Literature: From the Conversion to the Reformation (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2017); and with Helen Appleton, The Psalms in Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman England, special edition of English Studies, 98.1 (2017).
I am also a committee member of Oxford Medieval Studies, a TORCH research programme devoted to the promotion of interdisciplinary medieval studies.
I lecture on Old English poetry and prose in the English faculty, and teach medieval papers at St Peter's College.
Undergraduate teaching and supervision:
Prelims Paper 2 (Early Medieval Literature, c. 650-1350)
FHS Paper 2 (English Literature 1350-1550)
Course II FHS Paper 1 (Literature in English 600-1100)
FHS Paper 6: 'Hit and Myth: (Mis)representations of the Medieval in the Modern Age'
FHS Paper 7: dissertations on early medieval English.
Graduate teaching and supervision:
MSt in English 650-1550:
'Old English for Beginners/Improvers'
'The Age of Alfred' (C-course option)
I also supervise Masters and Doctoral dissertations on a wide range of topics connected with Anglo-Saxon England and its literature. Recent and ongoing DPhil dissertations that I have supervised include work on Anglo-Saxon medicine, Mercian vernacular literature, Anglo-Latin and Old English saints' lives and Alfredian prose. I welcome applications from students interested in any area of Old English.
The Psalms and Medieval English Literature: From the Conversion to the Reformation, ed. Tamara Atkin and Francis Leneghan (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2017).
‘Introduction: a Case Study of Psalm 50.1-3 in Old and Middle English’, in The Psalms and Medieval English Literature: From the Conversion to the Reformation, ed. Tamara Atkin and Francis Leneghan (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2017), pp. 1–33.
'Making the Psalter Sing: the Old English Metrical Psalms, Rhythm and Ruminatio’, in The Psalms and Medieval English Literature: From the Conversion to the Reformation, ed. Tamara Atkin and Francis Leneghan (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2017), pp. 173–97.
The Psalms in Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman England, special edition of English Studies 98.1 (2017), ed. Helen Appleton and Francis Leneghan.
‘Introduction: The Psalms in Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman England’, (with Helen Appleton) in The Psalms in Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman England, ed. Helen Appleton and Francis Leneghan, special edition of English Studies 98.1 (2017), 1–4.
‘Preparing the Mind for Prayer: The Wanderer, Hesychasm and Theosis’, Neophilologus 100.1 (2016), 121–42.
‘Translatio Imperii: the Old English Orosius and the Rise of Wessex’, Anglia 133.4 (2015), 656–705.
‘Teaching the Teachers: the Vercelli Book and the Mixed Life’, English Studies 94.6 (2013), 627–58.
‘Reshaping Tradition: the Originality of the Scyld Scefing Episode in Beowulf’, in Transmission and Generation in Medieval and Renaissance Literature: Essays in Honour of John Scattergood, ed. Karen Hodder and Brendan O’Connell (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2012), pp. 21-36.
‘Royal Wisdom and the Alfredian Context of Cynewulf and Cyneheard’, Anglo-Saxon England 39 (2010), 71-104.
‘The Poetic Purpose of the Offa-Digression in Beowulf’, The Review of English Studies 60.246 (2009), 538–60.
‘Making Sense of Ker’s Dates: the Origins of Beowulf and the Palaeographers’, Proceedings of the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies Postgraduate Conference 1, March 2005.
Click these links to listen to my podcasts on 'Beowulf' (for Oxford University's Great Writers Inspire Project) and 'Why should we study Old English?' (for the 'Challenging the Canon' Project).
The Oxford Psalms Network
Oxford Medieval Studies
St Cross College website