Dr Megan Cavell

Dr Megan Cavell

Department of English Literature
Birmingham Fellow

Contact details

Address
University of Birmingham
Edgbaston
Birmingham
B15 2TT
UK

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.

Qualifications

  • 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

Biography

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).

Teaching

  • Popular Fiction before the Novel
  • The Canterbury Tales
  • Fantastic Beasts and Where They Came From
  • Understanding Medieval Literature (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.


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

Research

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 Scholars of Early Medieval England (SchEME) mentoring programme with Mary Kate Hurley (Ohio State), Damian Fleming (Indiana/Purdue, Fort Wayne) and Robin Norris (Carleton). 

Publications

Books

Articles

  • ‘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)