I work on the literature, history and culture of England during the high and later middle ages. My early research focused on the multilingual environment which produced the flowering of fictional and historiographical writing in post-Conquest England, in Latin, French and English; and on the development of English national identity and literary history. My first book, Fiction and History in England, 1066-1200, is a study of the ideologies of national identity, the genres of romance and chronicle, and the colonial discourses of the English in medieval Ireland. In 2009 I was awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize, which enabled me to take teaching leave 2010-12. In 2015 I published Early Fiction in England: From Geoffrey of Monmouth to Chaucer, a Penguin Classics volume of high medieval texts in new translations and editions, intended both for students and the general reader. During 2015/16 I held a Leverhulme Research Fellowship, and in April 2016 was the Morton Bloomfield Visiting Fellow in medieval literature at the English Department of Harvard University. My volume for the Penguin Monarchs series, Richard II, came out in January 2016, reissued in paperback in 2018, and shortly to be translated and published in China. Following the 2016 conference Conquest: 1016, 1066, marking the 950th anniversary of the Norman Conquest and 1000th anniversary of Danish conquest, the volume Conquests in Eleventh-Century England: 1016, 1066, co-edited with Emily Ward of Cambridge, was published in April 2020.
In recent years I've expanded my research to consider the great changes of the high middle ages as a whole, in both religious and secular cultures, producing The Oxford English Literary History vol. 1. 1000-1350: Conquest and Transformation (Oxford University Press, 2017).
I am one of the editors of New Medieval Literatures: NML 20 was published in April 2020, and we're accepting submissions for NML 21 and on to 22.
Recent articles (see also the Symplectic-linked list of publications to the right):
- 'How to read both: the logic of true contradictions in Chaucer's world', Studies in the Age of Chaucer 42 (2020), forthcoming.
- 'The Originality of the Orrmulum', Early Middle English 1.1 (2019), 35-54.
- ‘“The curelesse wound”: Henry Howard, earl of Surrey, and the poetry of blood’, in Manuscript and Print in Late Medieval and Early Modern Britain: Essays in Honour of Professor Julia Boffey, ed. Tamara Atkin and Jaclyn Rajsic (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2019), 241-60.
- ‘1155 and the Beginnings of Fiction’, History Today (15 January 2015), 41-6.
- ‘The Ideal of Knighthood in English and French Writing, 1100-1230: Crusade, Piety, Chivalry and Patriotism’, in Writing the Early Crusades: Text, Transmission, and Memory, ed. Marcus Bull and Damien Kempf (Woodbridge: Boydell, 2014), 155-68.
- ‘Language’, in A Handbook of Middle English Studies. Wiley-Blackwell Critical Theory Handbooks, ed. Marion Turner (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), 379-95.
- ‘The Anomalous King of Conquered England’, in Every Inch a King: Comparative Studies on Kings and Kingship in the Ancient and Medieval Worlds, ed. Charles Melville and Lynette Mitchell (Leiden: Brill, 2012), 173-93.
- ‘Holinshed and mythical history’, in The Oxford Handbook of Holinshed's Chronicles, ed. Ian W. Archer, Felicity Heal and Paulina Kewes (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 155-71.
- ‘Harold Godwineson’, in Heroes and Anti-Heroes in Medieval Romance, ed. Neil Cartlidge (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2012), 59-80.
- ‘Mutatio dexterae Excelsi: Narratives of Transformation after the Conquest’, Journal of English and Germanic Philology 110 (2011), 141-72.
- ‘Introduction’ and ‘Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and the Limits of Chivalry’, in The Exploitations of Medieval Romance, ed. Laura Ashe, Ivana Djordjević and Judith Weiss (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2010), 1-14; 159-72.
Undergraduate: Early Medieval Literature, 650-1350; Late Medieval Literature, 1350-1550; Shakespeare; Medieval English and Related Literatures 1066-1550; Romance; Old and Middle English Language; Practical Criticism and Commentary.
Graduate: Varying options on historiography and romance in the high middle ages for the MSt courses in Medieval Literature and Medieval Studies. I would welcome prospective doctoral students wishing to work on any aspect of the Conquest and the post-Conquest period, broadly considered, and particularly on the multiple literatures of England; on the literatures of kingship, chivalry and aristocratic culture; on the rise of interiority and individuality in literature and culture; on the relation of Church and society; on Arthurian literature throughout the Middle Ages; on national and community identities, medieval imperialism and post-colonialism; on medieval romance, and questions of genre; on chroniclers and historiographies.
Graduate research supervision: I am keen to supervise research students in all my fields of expertise, and I encourage interested possible applicants to contact me directly. I am currently supervising two graduate students, on the strutures of meaning in Middle English romance, and on the early modern reception and adaptation of Arthurian romance.
Past graduate students: Recently completed D.Phils include Dr Emily Dolmans, 'Regional Identities and Cultural Contact in the Literatures of Post-Conquest England' (2017); Dr Daniel Reeve, 'Romance and the literature of religious instruction, c.1170–c.1330' (2015); Dr Liliana Worth, 'Exile-and-Return in Medieval Vernacular Texts of England and Spain, 1170-1250' (2014); Dr Emily A. Winkler (History), 'Royal Responsibility in Post-Conquest Invasion Narratives' (2013); Dr Jaclyn Rajsic, 'Britain and Albion in the Mythical Histories of Medieval England' (2012), and Dr Alexander Rhodes, 'Narrative and Knowledge Transmission in Anglo-Saxon and Post-Conquest Literature' (2012).
I am a regular on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time, contributing to episodes about Malory's Le Morte Darthur (January 2013), 'Chivalry' (February 2014), Beowulf (March 2015), Tristan & Iseult (December 2015), 'The Twelfth-Century Renaissance' (October 2016), 'Purgatory' (May 2017), 'Thomas Becket' (December 2017), Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (December 2018), and Piers Plowman (scheduled for April 2020: postponed due to Covid-19). Besides appearances on Radio 4's Front Row and Saturday Review, my own radio programmes include A Cultural History of the Plague (BBC Radio 3, 2014), and The Birth of Love (BBC Radio 4, 2014). Just before the Covid-19 lockdown I was interviewed by Simon Armitage in The Poet Laureate Has Gone to His Shed, available as a podcast and broadcast May 2020.
I've recently made an archival documentary for BBC4, looking at the history of the plague in light of our experience with coronavirus: Plague Fiction (BBC4, 2020).
Television appearances as an interviewee include the ground-breaking documentaries Cunk on Britain (BBC2, 2018), and Danny Dyer's Right Royal Family (BBC1, 2019). I have been an expert interviewee on a Time Team special on the location of the Battle of Hastings, '1066: The Lost Battlefield' (Channel 4, 2013); A N Wilson's programme on C S Lewis, 'Narnia's Lost Poet' (BBC4, 2013); 'The Greatest Knight', a documentary on William Marshal (BBC2, 2014); a three-part series on the Norman Conquest, '1066: A Year to Conquer England' (BBC2, 2017), Front Row Late, discussing the boundaries between history and fiction (BBC2, 2019); and 'Mystic Britain', talking about King Arthur (BBC4, 2020).
Also available are an Oxford University podcast about my research, and a public lecture on the birth of the romance delivered to accompany the Romance of the Middle Ages exhibition at the Bodleian Library in 2012.
In September 2016 I was a Lansdowne Visiting Speaker at the University of Victoria, Vancouver Island, BC, delivering a keynote lecture at the 'Making Early Middle English' conference.
In November 2013 I delivered the Dorothy Ford Wiley Crossroads Lecture in Medieval Studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.