Dr David Griffith BA, PhD, FSA

Photograph of Dr David Griffith

Department of English Literature
Senior Lecturer in English Medieval Studies

Contact details

Arts Building
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My primary area of research is the later medieval period into the early sixteenth century.  I work on medieval epigraphy, vernacularity, memorialisation, antiquarianism, and relations between textual and visual cultures, with a particular focus upon in the parish church.  I also have interests in writings of and about the First World War, especially prose writers of the 1910s and 20s and modern writers such as Peter Whelan and Susan Hill.


I studied at the University of Exeter: a BA in English Medieval Studies followed by a PhD on popular culture and medieval English romance narratives.


I teach and lecture primarily later medieval and Tudor literature but happily venture into the modern period.  I currently convene a number of drama modules: Plays and Performance (year 1)Tragedy (year 2) and the final year option The Birth of English Theatre: from the Mystery Plays to Jacobean City Comedy (from 2016-17). My other particular interest is the First World War and I co-teach (with Dr Deborah Longworth) the final year module Remembering World War One.

Postgraduate supervision

I am pleased to supervise MA, MPhil and PhD students on literary and cross-disciplinary subjects. Current and recent students have worked on:

  • ‘The political appropriation of John Lydgate’s Fall of Princes: a manuscript study of British Library, MS Harley 1766’ (PhD)
  • ‘Asceticism in late-medieval religious writing: Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Douce 114’ (PhD)
  • A revelation of purgatory to ane holy woman (1422).’ (MPhil)
  • ‘Magical rings in Middle English Romance: an interdisciplinary study’ (MPhil)
  • ‘The medieval house and curtilage: domestic spaces in the English medieval romance’ (MPhil)
  • ‘Literary representations of Cardinal Thomas Wolsey in the sixteenth century’ (MA)
  • 'Early Modern Dream Visions' (PhD) (co-supervision with Gillian Wright)
  • 'The foliate head in medieval English ecclesiastical buildings' (MLitt)
  • 'Politics and Sainthood: Literary Representations of St Margaret of Scotland from the C11th to the C15th in England and Scotland' (PhD) (co-supervision with Emily Wingfield)
  • 'Andrew of Wyntoun's Orygynale Chronicle (c.1420)' (PhD) (co-supervision with Emily Wingfield)

I welcome enquiries from prospective graduate students looking to work in the following areas: epigraphy, medieval English textual and vernacular cultures, art and culture of the medieval English parish church, late-medieval devotional and mystical writing, religious and secular iconographic traditions, romance genre and the culture of chivalry, Tudor writing (esp. religious) the impact of the Reformation on artistic production, antiquaries and antiquarians.

I also welcome students with projects on writing of or about the First World War (from 1914 to the present day).


My primary research activities are cross-disciplinary with a strong emphasis upon exploring links between textual, artistic and material cultures in England in the medieval and early modern periods. For the last few years I have been developing related projects on the large and, for the most part, unstudied body of vernacular inscriptions produced in England between the Conquest and the Tudor reformations. These are, essentially, texts produced for display in public and domestic contexts and the corpus extends to thousands of inscriptions in a host of languages, mostly English but also various kinds of insular French, Cornish, Welsh, Dutch, and Hebrew.  Much of my work is focused on the art and devotional cultures of the English parish church.

Latterly, I have also been working on projects relating to writings of and about the First World War and have particular interests in the work of Herbert Read, Frederic Manning and their contemporaries, and of modern writers such as Peter Whelan and Susan Hill.

Research groups

I am active in the research networks that bring together Birmingham medievalists in the College of Arts and Law, including the Centre of Study of the Middle Ages

Other activities

I am a Fellow of the Society of Antiquaries and am involved in societies and organizations concerned with the preservation and understanding of medieval literary, artistic and material cultures. I am an active member of The Church Monuments Society  and of The Monumental Brass Society (The MBS archive is housed in the Cadbury Research Library at the University of Birmingham.) I'm also a member of The Suffolk Records Society, The Norfolk Churches Trust, the Suffolk Institute of Archaeology and History, and the Oxfordshire Architectural and Historical Society.

I'm a member of The Early English Text Society, and I sit on the advisory board of the Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures.


Forthcoming and in press

  • The Material Word. Vernacular Inscriptions in Late Medieval England (Brepols, 2017)
  • 'Texts and Detexting on English church screens', in Art and Science of Medieval Church Screens, ed. Richard Marks, Spike Bucklow, and Lucy Wrapson (Boydell, 2016)
  • English patrons and Norman workshops during the Lancastrian occupation: the incised slabs of Alice Tyrell (d. 1422) and John Cherowin (d.1441)', Church Monuments


  • ‘The Passion Cycle in English wall painting and manuscript art: readers and spectators in Midlands Communities in the later medieval period.' (with Rachel Canty) In "Diuerse Imaginaciouns of Cristes Life": Devotional Cultures in England and Beyond, 1300-1560', ed. Stephen Kelly and Ryan Perry (Brepols, 2015), pp. 267-89
  • 'Newly Identified domestic wall paintings from Francis Quarles's Emblems in Mickelgate, York', (with Hugh Adlington and Tara Hamling), Huntingdon Library Quarterly 78:3 (2015), 521-51
  • 'A living language of the dead? French commemorative inscriptions in fifteenth-century England', The Medieval Journal, 3:2 (2013), 69-135
  • ‘The seven works of mercy in the parish church: the development of a vernacular tradition.’ In Patrons and Professionals, ed. Paul Binski and Elizabeth New, Harlaxton Medieval Studies XXII (Shaun Tyas, 2012), pp. 292-315
  • ‘A newly identified verse item by John Lydgate at Holy Trinity church, Long Melford, Suffolk.’ Notes and Queries, 58: 3 (2011), 364-67 [http://nq.oxfordjournals.org/content/58/3/364.full.pdf+html]
  • Six English Parish Churches [with Rachel Canty]. In The English Parish Church Through the Centuries, Interactive DVD, gen. ed. Dee Dyas (York University, Centre for Christianity & Culture, 2010) http://www.york.ac.uk/projects/christianityandculture/
  • ‘Medieval literature.’ In The English Literature Companion, ed. Julian Wolfreys, Palgrave Student Companions Series (Palgrave, 2010), pp. 72-80
  • ‘English Commemorative Inscriptions: Some Literary Dimensions.’ In Memory and Commemoration in Medieval England, ed. Caroline M. Barron and Clive Burgess, Harlaxton Medieval Studies XX (Shaun Tyas, 2010), pp. 251-70
  • ‘The visual history of Guy of Warwick.’ In Guy of Warwick, Iconand Ancestor, ed. Rosalind Field and Alison Wiggins (Brewer, 2007), pp. 110-32
  • ‘Owners and copyists of John Rous’s armorial rolls.’ In Essays in Manuscript Geography: Vernacular Manuscripts of the English West Midlands from the Conquest to the Sixteenth Century, ed. Wendy Scase (Brepols, 2007), pp. 203-28
  • ‘Visual Culture.’ In Chaucer: An Oxford Guide, ed. Steve Ellis (Oxford UP, 2005), 190-207
  • ‘A portrait of the reader: donors and their books in late-medieval church art.’ In Imagining the Book, ed. Stephen Kelly and John Thompson, Texts and Cultures of Northern Europe, 7 (Brepols, 2005), pp. 323-54
  • ‘The reception of Continental women mystics in fifteenth and sixteenth England: some artistic evidence.’ In The Medieval Mystical Tradition VII, ed. Eddie Jones (Brewer, 2004), pp. 97-117