Dr Megan Cavell

Dr Megan Cavell

Department of English Literature
Birmingham Fellow

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I work on a wide range of topics in medieval studies, from Old and early Middle English and Latin languages and literature to gender, material culture, monstrosity, and animal studies/ecocriticism. My current research project focuses on predators and inter-species conflict in pre- and post-Conquest England.


  • BA in English Language and Literature, University of Western Ontario
  • MA in Medieval Studies, University of Toronto
  • PhD in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge


After undertaking a BA and MA in Canada, I completed my PhD at the University of Cambridge in 2012. I then took up a Postdoctoral Fellowship at the University of Toronto (2012-2014) and a Junior Research Fellowship at Durham University (2014-2016). I joined the Department of English Literature here at Birmingham in 2017, after lecturing in the Faculty of English at the University of Oxford (2016-2017).


  • Popular Fiction before the Novel
  • The Canterbury Tales
  • Writing Medieval Communities: Regions and Nations (PG) 

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome supervision enquiries from postgraduate students working on Old English and comparative literature (especially poetry), gender, monstrosity, and medieval animal studies/ecocriticism.


My research has focused on literary representations of material culture, constructed objects and textiles, as well as theoretical approaches to non-human animals and the natural world. My first book, Weaving Words and Binding Bodies: The Poetics of Human Experience in Old English Literature, explored the Anglo-Saxon literary fascination with constructive processes and constrictive practices, emphasising the ways in which Old English texts depict everything from material objects and human/animal bodies to abstract concepts as shaped things.

My current interdisciplinary animal studies project, provisionally entitled Fearing the Beast: Animal Identities in Early and High Medieval England, examines the disregarded histories of non-human animals. By engaging with written, visual and material sources, it will explore how medieval writers depicted predatory encounters between a range of human and non-human species, from spiders to wolves. Exploring issues of fear and inter-species conflict, this study is particularly timely given debates over the reintroduction of predator species across Europe.

Other activities

I am the co-founder and editor-in-chief of The Riddle Ages: An Anglo-Saxon Riddle Blog, whose aim is to provide open-access translations and commentaries of the Exeter Book riddles for an audience of students and interested members of the public. The blog sponsors and I co-organise annual sessions on Anglo-Saxon riddles with Jennifer Neville (RHUL) at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds.

I also co-organise the Anglo-Saxonist Mentoring Initiative (ASMI) with Mary Kate Hurley (Ohio State), Damian Fleming (Indiana/Purdue, Fort Wayne) and Peter Darby (Nottingham). 




  • ‘Arachnophobia and Early English Literature’, New Medieval Literatures 18 (2018): 1-43
  • ‘The Igil and Exeter Book Riddle 15’, Notes & Queries 64.2 (2017): 206-10
  • Powerful Patens in the Anglo-Saxon Medical Tradition and Exeter Book Riddle 48’, Neophilologus 101 (2017): 129-38 
  • ‘Sails, Veils and Tents: The Segl and Tabernacle of Old English Christ III and Exodus’, Medieval Clothing and Textiles 12 (2016): 27-39
  • ‘Formulaic Friþuwebban: Re-examining Peace-weaving in the Light of Old English Poetics’, Journal of English and Germanic Philology 114 (2015): 355-72
  • ‘The Binding of Religious Heroes in Andreas and The Hêliand’, English Studies 96 (2015): 507-24
  • ‘Constructing the Monstrous Body in Beowulf’, Anglo-Saxon England 43 (2014): 155-81
  • ‘Sounding the Horn in Exeter Book Riddle 14’, The Explicator 72 (2014): 324-7
  • Old English ‘Wundenlocc’ Hair in Context’, Medium Ævum 82 (2013): 119-25 
  • Looming Danger and Dangerous Looms: Violence and Weaving in Exeter Book Riddle 56’, Leeds Studies in English 42 (2011): 29-42 

Book Chapters

  • ‘A Poetics of Empathy?: Non-human Experience in the Anglo-Saxon Bovine Riddles’, in Medieval Ecocriticisms, ed. Heide Estes (forthcoming)
  • ‘What a Bloody Mess!: Textile Production and Violence in Early English and Scandinavian Literature’, in Representing Women Warriors and Female Aggression in the Middle Ages, eds. Tracey-Anne Cooper and Christine Senecal (forthcoming)