Dr Megan Cavell

Dr Megan Cavell

Department of English Literature
Associate Professor

Contact details

Department of English Literature
University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

I work on a range of topics in medieval studies, from Old English and Latin languages and literature to riddles, animals and gender.


  • 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).


  • Earliest English
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where They Came From
  •  and more.

Postgraduate supervision

I welcome supervision inquiries from postgraduate students working on Old English, Anglo-Latin and comparative literature (especially poetry), and medieval animal studies.

Find out more - our PhD English Literature  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


I work on a wide range of topics in medieval studies, from Old and early Middle English and Latin languages and literature to cross-period animal studies. My current research projects focus on predators in early medieval England and the Old English and Latin riddle traditions.

My past research has analysed 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 early medieval 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.

I am also the editor of The Riddle Ages: Early Medieval Riddles, Translations and Commentaries, whose aim is to provide open-access translations and commentaries of the Exeter Book and contemporary Latin riddles for an audience of students and interested members of the public. The website sponsors and I co-organise annual sessions on early medieval riddles with Jennifer Neville (RHUL) at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds.

You can hear about some of my research on the following podcasts/radio programmes:


Recent publications


Cavell, M (ed.) 2022, The Medieval Bestiary in English: Texts and Translations of the Old and Middle English Physiologus. translated by Megan Cavell, Broadview Press. <https://broadviewpress.com/product/the-medieval-bestiary-in-english/#tab-description>

Cavell, M & Neville, J (eds) 2020, Riddles at work in the early medieval tradition: Words, ideas, interactions. Manchester Medieval Literature and Culture, Manchester University Press. <https://manchesteruniversitypress.co.uk/9781526133717/>

Cavell, M 2016, Weaving words and binding bodies: The poetics of human experience in Old English literature. Toronto Anglo-Saxon Series, University of Toronto Press. <https://utorontopress.com/9781442637221/weaving-words-and-binding-bodies/>


Cavell, M & Neville, J 2023, 'Aldhelm's Fandom: The Humble Virtues of Boniface's Riddles', The Review of English Studies. https://doi.org/10.1093/res/hgad077

Cavell, M 2021, 'Seeing red: visuality, violence and the making of textiles in early medieval enigmatic poetry', Medieval Feminist Forum, vol. 57, no. 1, pp. 17-48. <https://scholarworks.wmich.edu/mff/vol57/iss1/3/>

Cavell, M 2020, 'Spiders behaving badly in the Middle English Physiologus, the Bestiaire attributed to Pierre de Beauvais and Odo of Cheriton’s fables', Neophilologus, vol. 104, no. 4, pp. 567–583. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11061-020-09645-7

Cavell, M 2018, 'Arachnophobia and Early English Literature', New Medieval Literatures, vol. 18, pp. 1-43. https://doi.org/10.1017/9781787442047.001

Cavell, M 2017, 'Powerful Patens in the Anglo-Saxon Medical Tradition and Exeter Book Riddle 48', Neophilologus, vol. 101, pp. 129-138. https://doi.org/10.1007/s11061-016-9490-8

Cavell, M 2017, 'The Igil and Exeter Book Riddle 15', Notes and Queries, vol. 64, no. 2, pp. 206–210. https://doi.org/10.1093/notesj/gjx003

Cavell, M 2015, 'Formulaic FriÞuwebban: Reexamining Peace-Weaving in the Light of Old English Poetics', Journal of English and Germanic Philology, vol. 114, no. 3, pp. 355-372. https://doi.org/10.5406/jenglgermphil.114.3.0355

Cavell, M 2015, 'The Binding of Religious Heroes in Andreas and the Hêliand', English Studies, vol. 96, no. 5, pp. 507-524. https://doi.org/10.1080/0013838X.2015.1029309

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Cavell, M 2020, A Community of Exiles: Whale and Human Domains in Old English Poetry. in The Palgrave Handbook of Animals and Literature. Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 97-110.

Cavell, M 2020, Domesticating the devil: the early medieval contexts of Aldhelm’s cat riddle. in M Cavell & J Neville (eds), Riddles at work in the early medieval tradition: Words, ideas, interactions. Manchester University Press, pp. 57-75.

Cavell, M 2016, Sails, Veils and Tents: The Segl and Tabernacle of Old English Christ III and Exodus. in Medieval Clothing and Textiles. vol. 12, Medieval Clothing and Textiles, vol. 12, Boydell & Brewer, pp. 27-39.

Other contribution

Cavell, M, Trilling, R, Cheung, WL, Keener, J, Majewski, H, Morrow, M, Newton, K, Packman, A, Sykes, K & Varnam, L 2024, Playing with Old English: A Playful Pedagogy Resource.. <https://hdl.handle.net/2142/122753>

View all publications in research portal