My major research specialisms are in Anglo-French literary interrelationships, cultures and exchanges; and in medieval theatre.
My first book, Contest, Translation and the Chaucerian Text (Brepols, forthcoming) brings a study of medieval translation between English and French into conversation with questions of canonicity and reception (both medieval and post-medieval). It examines the way in which three Middle English translations of French-language works (The Romaunt of the Rose; the Belle Dame Sans Mercy and An ABC to the Virgin) respond to and reconfigure their French-language source texts, exploring at the same time the role which attribution of these translations to Chaucer has played in determining and delimiting critical approaches to them, and reconceptualising them as active, cross-channel participations in well-known late medieval debates about their French-language sources and intertexts. I am interested in the ‘place’ of texts like these on the fringes of the Chaucer canon, and how critical approaches to Chaucer have affected the ways in which their processes of translation are studied and characterised. In addition to my monograph, I have published articles and book chapters on a range of late medieval English- and French-language texts, authors and codices, including manuscripts of the Roman de la rose (2015), Alain Chartier (2013, 2015, 2018), and Charles d’Orléans (2018).
Current research: Medieval Nuns and their Theatre
My current research forms part of a major collaborative project, The Medieval Convent Drama Project, which will run 2016-2020 and which is fully funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and hosted by the University of Fribourg, Switzerland. It aims to explore the traces of theatrical activity – which include playscripts, but also other, more fleeting and fragmentary accounts – within late medieval women’s religious houses in England, Northern France and Burgundy. In opening up this neglected area of study to new investigation, we hope to integrate study of medieval nuns’ theatre more coherently and fully within contemporary and future critical appraisals of the medieval dramatic canon and its performance history.
My work for the project focuses upon one convent in particular: the Dames Blanches (‘White Ladies’) of Huy, in what is now Belgium. One of the first Carmelite houses for women to be founded, the surviving medieval manuscripts and archives from Huy convent include an extraordinary collection of plays copied by sisters themselves. I work principally on this manuscript, seeking to understand the circumstances in which it was copied, and the material that it contains. I do this by working through archival material from the convent, to get a sense of how the sisters were living and the place which theatre may have occupied in their lives, but also through contemporary performances of the plays, both in present-day convents and in other locations. The project has a strong outreach and public engagement element: we are particularly interested in discussing medieval convent theatre history with today’s nuns, and in engaging with audience responses and thoughts about the performances we present.
I have published several preliminary studies in the area of convent drama, some authored jointly with colleagues on the MCD project (2012, 2015, 2017, 2018). Our major planned outputs, in addition to our performances, will comprise an edition of a selection of medieval nuns’ plays, and a monograph on drama in medieval women’s religious houses.
For more information about Medieval Convent Drama and our events, please do visit the Medieval Convent Drama website
Teaching and research
In parallel with my academic work, I pursue research into university pedagogy and outreach in relation to medieval literature and culture. I have a long-standing research partnership with Dr Helen Brookman (KCL) in this area of study. Helen and I are particularly interested in the intersections between creative and critical practices and their potential pedagogic impacts. We have published a joint article on creative writing and teaching Old English verse (2016) and are currently (2019) co-editing a collection of case-studies, Creative and Critical Encounters in Teaching Early English: Making New, which will be published by ARC Humanities in their ‘Teaching the Middle Ages’ series.
I have also recently authored a blogpost about teaching medieval mumming through performance, drawing on experiences with UoB English students: https://earlyenglishdrama.wordpress.com/2019/04/19/from-nought-to-a-mumming-in-ninety-minutes/