My research centers on late-medieval literary and historical writing, with a particular focus on how texts mediate social and political contexts.
I focus on how medieval writers theorized life in wartime, concentrating on poetic representations of the experience of war; legal frameworks developed by political theorists; and historical accounts written by chroniclers. By studying individual, and often idiosyncratic, responses to war, I aim to show how abstractions like national identity, grand récit historical narratives, and the concept of war itself take shape.
My book project brings this focus to bear on entwined Anglo-Scottish and Anglo-French relations during the Hundred Years War (1337-1453). I argue that historians and literary authors theorized the territorial conflicts endemic to medieval Europe as a distinct political worldview centered on war. Unlike today, when war is seen as an exceptional rupture to the state of peace, intellectuals in the Middle Ages saw war as the default state of society and peace a mere cessation of battles soon to recommence. Drawing on manuscript studies, cultural history, and close readings of literary and non-literary texts, the project argues that our understanding of literary forms like national history is shaped by writers who pursued war on the page as adamantly as soldiers on the battlefield. For instance, in an article in MLQ, I show how competing visions of British history and identity emerged across the late Middle Ages in Scottish and English chronicles. By analyzing how geographical accounts and visual representations of Britain were used to support England’s military claims in Scotland and the strategies used by Scottish historians to reject them, I demonstrate how war drove the development of texts that purported to narrate the cohesive history of the nation. Through this project I challenge the traditional Anglo-French framing that has characterized scholarship on the Hundred Years War. I expand this transnational focus in a collection of essays I am co-editing with R.D. Perry (University of Denver) that analyzes the impact of the Hundred Years War on literary genres and lesser-studied locales across Europe.
The material and intellectual afterlives of the Middle Ages shape my research in two ways: I use archival research to recover unjustly overlooked medieval texts and study the history of scholarship on the Middle Ages, from sixteenth-century antiquarians to the textbooks scholars use today. To these ends, I published a co-written analysis of a previously unknown manuscript of the military treatise Knyghthode and Bataile with A.S.G. Edwards (University of Kent) and recently edited a fifteenth-century Middle English treatise on hand-to-hand conflict. Currently I am collecting material for a social history of the Riverside Chaucer, a book every medievalist owns.
I am also beginning research on a second book project examining the cultural history of imperialism in the Middle Ages. Epitomes of Empire: The Nine Worthies and Medieval Imperial Ambition focuses on the Nine Worthies, a group of Biblical, pagan, and Christian heroes that were the subject of innumerable frescoes, tapestries, woodcuts, engravings, performances, and literary works across medieval Europe. I investigate the emergence of this trope within three political contexts: conflicts over medieval conceptions of imperium, concerns about the future of the Holy Roman Empire, and a creeping anxiety over Europe’s peripherality within the medieval world system. Ultimately, I explore how these representations of ancient heroes created the cultural architecture for sixteenth-century imperial projects.
Together, these projects seek to understand the reciprocal relationship between war and culture in the late Middle Ages and how it shapes the modern world. Through my scholarship I aim to rethink the inherited nationalist and monolingual historical scripts that encumber the study of the Middle Ages and revise a scholarly history that isolates war into national, linguistic, and disciplinary silos.
I hold an M.A. (Hons) in English Literature from the University of Edinburgh and M.A. in English from the University of Pennsylvania, where I will receive my Ph.D. in 2021.
“Forms of Writing, Forms of War: England, Scotland, France c.1300-1450.”
“Forms of Writing, Forms of War” examines entwined Anglo-Scottish and Anglo-French relations in order to analyze the relationship between war, empire, and nation in late-medieval literature. It argues that historians and literary authors theorized the territorial conflicts endemic to medieval Europe as a distinct political worldview centered on war, in which war was taken as the default state of society and peace a mere cessation of battles soon to recommence. Drawing on manuscript studies, cultural history, and close readings of literary and non-literary texts, the project shows how our understanding of literary forms like national history is shaped by late-medieval writers who pursued war on the page as adamantly as soldiers on the battlefield. The Hundred Years War had distinctly literary stakes as writers from opposing sides atomized the transnational literary traditions of Latinate and Francophone Europe. Drawing on the work of Raymond Williams, the project argues that this process can be charted by the rising status of mediation, a word which enters the English language in the late fourteenth century and carries cultural and political meanings throughout the period. Bringing the diplomatic and aesthetic senses of mediation together, the project establishes an account of the relationship between political and literary negotiation in late-medieval literature. While scholars of later periods have explored how literature mediates the contradictions of English imperialism, “Forms of Writing, Forms of War” contributes to a premodern perspective to this broader intellectual project by revealing the literary forms of war that underwrite literary communities before the nation-state.
This edited collection expands the conventional Anglo-French framing of the Hundred Years War by delineating the conflict’s European theatre of war. Our contributors combine new approaches to canonical writers including Oswald von Wolkenstein and Alain Chartier with studies of lesser-known figures and genres not usually linked to war, such as women’s visionary writing.