My research interests include Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman and Angevin history, law and society, medieval manuscripts, and the intersection between legal, historical, and literary writing. My current project and research interests developed out of a background including an undergraduate thesis concerning the depiction of Champenois and French judicial procedure in Chrétien de Troyes’ twelfth-century romance, Le chevalier au lion, and an MA dissertation on the nature of sokerights and more generally soke in the Leges Henrici Primi. From April 2014 – March 2015, I was an intern at the British Library. My internship was in the Ancient, Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts section of the Western Heritage Department where I assisted with the preparation of the Library’s major temporary exhibition ‘Magna Carta: Law, Liberty, Legacy’.
am an advocate for old books and libraries, promoting the Humanities through Special Collections and Archives. My research has focused for over a decade on medieval literature and culture. I am interested in recovering individuals lives from the material past, using methodology from literary studies and Book History (codicology, paleography, bibliography). I have been working on an illustrated, thirteenth-century Anglo-Norman Apocalypse manuscript, proposing a hypothetical audience and the manuscript would have been read by its culture.
My teaching and research interests lie in the history of western Europe in the early and high Middle Ages. To date, my work has focused on themes of kingship and governance with an emphasis on the role of ritual and symbolic display. I recently published a new biography of King Æthelred ‘the Unready’, which was awarded the Longman-History Today prize for best ‘scholarly but accessible’ book. Future projects include a study of forgery and historical memory in western Europe at the turn of the first millennium, to be published by Princeton University Press; a popular history of the Normans, to be published by John Murray; and an edition of the Anglo-Saxon charters from continental houses.
I specialize in the medieval British Isles and North Atlantic World, with emphasis on Old and Middle English, Anglo- Norman, Welsh, and Old Norse/Icelandic languages, literatures, and cultures, alongside interests in premodern Irish, Scottish, and French literature and culture as well. I have a broad range of research and teaching interests, including Arthuriana; Chaucer; Robin Hood/outlawry; women’s and gender studies, particularly women’s literate practices; alchemy, magic, and esoterica; monsters and the supernatural; hagiography; literature and the law; genre studies in romance, chronicle, dream vision, mystic and devotional literature; cultural and historical literary studies (feasts and feasting; disasters and delights; violence and trauma; chivalry and courtliness; dreams and dreaming; landscapes and the environment; medieval afterlives); comparative literature; ecocritical and animal studies; manuscript studies/ text technologies and history of the English language. I am trained as an interdisciplinary literary historian, and as a scholar I am interested in the relationships between texts and the cultures that produce them, and invested in the ways in which multiple methodologies can be used in tandem to create a more focused and nuanced lens on a single subject. To that end, I make use of theoretical paradigms and methods from English, History, Art History, Anthropology, Culture/ Material and Gender Studies, among others, in my research and writing.
I’m currently a visiting research fellow at the University of Leeds. The overall framework of my research is that of authority: how it was negotiated between different levels of power, how it operated in practice, and how it transformed between the earlier and later Middle Ages. To that end, my current research is focused on the relationship between bishops and kings between the late ninth and late eleventh centuries. In general terms, I am particularly interested in the production and use of documentary material, and in the relationship between life histories and historical processes.
I am a specialist in medieval studies, with an emphasis in Old and Middle English and Anglo-Norman literature. My research and teaching interests include Marie de France, Chaucer, Dante, critical animal studies, postmodern medievalisms, women and gender in the Middle Ages, the Arthurian tradition from its inception to the present day, and history of the English language. My current projects center on the liminality of human/animal identity in the medieval imagination. Hailing originally from the San Francisco Bay Area, I earned Bachelor and Master of Arts degrees in English from Arizona State University and a PhD in medieval literature from the University of Oregon. Before coming to Western Kentucky University in 2007, I held a position as Assistant Professor of English at Valparaiso University in Indiana. I am a member of the Medieval Academy, the New Chaucer Society, the Society of Medieval Feminist Scholars, and the Medieval Association of the Midwest, serving for the latter as a member of the Executive Council and as Convener of Conferences. In 2014 I was appointed co-editor of Enarratio, a journal of medieval studies. In addition to teaching at WKU, I also serve as undergraduate literature advisor and as the managing editor of The Ashen Egg, the English department’s annual journal of analytical essays on literature, rhetoric, linguistics, film, and popular culture, which I founded in 2012. In 2015 I was honored to be the recipient of the Potter College and Western Kentucky University teaching awards.
Political culture fascinates me, and in particular the design and deployment of rhetoric for political effect. I study this in the context of 13th-14th c. English royal administration and its domestic and diplomatic interlocutors. I am also interested in the question of women’s power, and especially their participation in diplomatic exchange. My recent monograph explores royal letters in the reign of Edward I, and I am currently working on the relationship between concepts of justice/injustice and political and moral complaint/advice in the Middle Ages, with my colleague Prof. Constant Mews. Cover image: Lincolnshire County Archive BNLW 1/1/55/1, c.1230-1250 (image, K. Neal).
I am a historian of U.S. religious and cultural history, focusing primarily on the nineteenth and twentieth centuries.