My research often focuses on gender, the body, and sexuality in early medieval literature, particularly that of northwestern Europe, but I am also interested in Modernism, World War I poetry, medievalisms, the body in literature, and women's history and writing more generally.
Dissertation: Movement and Meaning in Early Medieval England: The Kinesic Style of Old English Saints' Lives
Moving bodies fill the pages of Old English texts, but while scholars of early medieval England have produced countless studies on gender, authority, faith, education, law, and more, they have rarely centered those bodies and their movement, through which those concepts were mediated, reproduced, and experienced. I address this gap by employing a methodology called kinesic analysis—the practice of attending to the movements of human bodies and the ways in which they make meaning—and reading Old English saints’ lives with a focus on the texts’ kinesic style—which, in a broad sense, means “the particular manner of all movements performed by a person in events that are liable to make sense to her (perception, sensation, and embodied cognition) and to others (presence, expression, and communication), including the slightest nuances.” Ultimately, I argue that the poets of these vernacular texts use kinesic description to engage with, call on, and subvert Germanic heroic and secular values and norms in order to emphasize the power of God to overthrow them; to construct new Christian ideals of heroism, gender, and action; to challenge characterizations of saintly behavior as passive; and to recast bodily behaviors such as restraint, stillness, and endurance of suffering as forms of active heroism and resistance.
BOOK CHAPTERS “Pedagogy in the Digital Age.” In Practical Approaches to Teaching Beowulf, edited by Larry Swain and Aaron Hostetter. Kalamazoo, MI: Western Michigan University, 2022. Teaching Beowulf, in any classroom context, poses some interesting difficulties--from the condition of the manuscript and the unknown authorship and date of composition to the highly referential, dense nature of the text and the multitude of characters, peoples, and epithets used to describe them. On top of these difficulties, many students simply approach Beowulf with trepidation, apathy, and disdain, or expect to be completely bored by the poem. Some students may find that they become captivated by the text, fascinated by the warrior culture the poem depicts, with its feuds, bands of warriors, and ideas about fame and fate, or the early medieval Germanic context of the poem, full of swords and armor, mead halls and treasure troves, oral poetry and stories about battles. And let’s not forget the series of increasingly difficult, violent, and action-packed monster fights! But some students will need additional help and encouragement to connect to, understand, and appreciate the poem, and digital resources and tools can often provide that for today’s students. In fact, incorporating digital strategies into lessons on Beowulf can help all students understand and enjoy the poem more, whether the poem naturally appeals to them or not. This chapter represents an effort to aid educators at various levels in incorporating these and other digital sources into their teaching of Beowulf, so that they and their students might enjoy the opportunities these resources can provide. See the companion website to this chapter here.
"Kinesic Analysis: A Theoretical Approach to Reading Bodily Movement in Literature." In The Cursed Carolers in Context, edited by Lynneth Renberg and Bradley Phillis, 21-38. London: Routledge, 2021. In this chapter I explore the challenges of studying dance and bodily movement in literature, particularly in early medieval literature, and the benefits of using a methodological approach grounded in principles of kinesic analysis--that is, a technique for studying bodily movement and the ways in which it makes meaning in texts. I then demonstrate this methodology through a reading of Goscelin of Saint-Bertin's version of the tale of the cursed carolers within his Translatio Edithe. Centering bodily movement in an analysis of this text can help to frame the dance itself within the tale, as well as to provide insights into the tale in the context of bodily movement and its implications, thus enhancing understanding of the dance as dance and of the tale within the larger hagiographic narrative of the Translatio.
"The Dancing Girls in The Life of Saints Chrysanthus and Daria. In Anglo-Saxon Women: A Florilegium, edited by Emily Butler, Irina Dumitrescu, and Hilary E. Fox (forthcoming). The “dancing girls” of Ælfric’s Passio Chrisanti et Darie sponse eius within his Lives of Saints have a minimal role: they attempt to seduce Chrysanthus from Christ with their wodlican plegan, “foolish sport,” but they fail to do so. This episode has usually been read as a typical temptation scene, and analyses of this Life usually focus on Chrysanthus and Daria’s marriage as a model of chaste marriage for lay couples, with an emphasis on virginity as the fundamental feature of Old English saints’ faith and sanctity. When the maidens are centered in a reading of this Life, however, what becomes evident is their movement--wodlican plegan—in contrast to the stillness of, and the weaponization of stillness by, Chrysanthus and Daria. Reading the Life with attention to the interplay of movement and stillness ultimately offers an additional saintly characteristic to be admired and emulated by the lay audience of the Lives: physical control and restraint, not only through rejection of sexual activity, but also through mastery of bodily movement.
JOURNAL ARTICLES "'Glorious and Execrable': The Dead and Their Bodies in World War I Poetry." The Hilltop Review 9, no. 2 (2017): 14-31. (pdf) While many scholars of World War I poetry have identified aspects of soldier poets’ work that embody the change from enthusiastic support of the war to disillusioned criticism of it, in this paper I argue for an additional, and highly meaningful marker of this significant change: the use of the dead and their bodies in this poetry. The commonly held critical view of World War I poetry is that there is a clear divide between poetry of the early and late years of the war, usually located after the Battle of the Somme in 1916, where poetry moves from odes to courageous sacrifice and protection of the homeland to bitter or grief-stricken verses on the horror and pointless suffering of the war. This change is particularly noticeable in the poetry of “soldier poets." Through analysis of poems by a variety of World War I poets, including Wilfred Owen, Siegfried Sassoon, Isaac Rosenberg, and others, I track this shift and examine how it is mapped onto the bodies of soldiers in their poetry. I argue that poetry of the early years of the war depicts bodies as stable, insulated objects on which poets can project messages of admiration for the sacrifice and nobility of soldiers, support for the war, or concepts of nationalism and empire; in contrast, in the later poetry of the war, bodies are unstable, exposed, and corrupted, no longer able to support old messages of courage and noble sacrifice but reflecting the futility, senselessness, and destruction of the war.
"Children of the Waste Land." Polyglossia 12, no. 1 (2009): 5-13. (pdf) T.S. Eliot offers a modern interpretation of an ancient legend in his epic poem entitled The Waste Land, largely influenced by contemporary anthropological studies From Ritual to Romance by Jessie L. Weston and The Golden Bough by Sir James Frazer. The story of the Wasteland and the Fisher King has its foundations in ancient vegetation rituals and echoes through time to find a place in both medieval romances and modern day narratives. Who is the modern Fisher King according to Eliot, and what are the implications of that answer for today's Waste Land?
PANELS ORGANIZED 2021
Organizer, "Intangible Cultural Heritage and the Global Middle Ages," 56th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 2021.
Co-organizer, “A Feminist Renaissance in Early Medieval English Studies I: Women’s Networks in the Early Medieval North Atlantic,” 56th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 2021. Special Session sponsored by A Feminist Renaissance in Early Medieval English Studies.
Co-organizer, “A Feminist Renaissance in Early Medieval English Studies II: Feminist Critical Methodologies for the Early Middle Ages,” 56th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 2021. Special Session sponsored by A Feminist Renaissance in Early Medieval English Studies.
The 55th International Congress on Medieval Studies and many other academic conferences were cancelled or postponed as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Co-organizer, “A Feminist Renaissance in Anglo-Saxon Studies I and II: White Nationalism, Misogyny, and the Modern Reception of the Early Medieval North Atlantic,” 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 2019. Special Sessions sponsored by A Feminist Renaissance in Early Medieval English Studies.
Co-organizer, “A Feminist Renaissance in Anglo-Saxon Studies I: Interdisciplinary/Extramural,” 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 2018. Special Session sponsored by A Feminist Renaissance in Early Medieval English Studies.
Co-organizer, “A Feminist Renaissance in Anglo-Saxon Studies II: Projects in Progress,” 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 2018. Special Session sponsored by A Feminist Renaissance in Early Medieval English Studies.
“Movement and Meaning in Early Medieval Literature,” 52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, May 2017.
“Movement in Medieval Literature,” 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, May 2015.
PAPERS PRESENTED 2022
"Weary Warriors and Violent Virgins: Masculine and Feminine Violence in Old English Verse Saints," MLA 2022 Convention, Washington, D.C., January 2022.
"Movement, Stillness, and Transformation in Andreas and Guthlac," 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 2020. - CANCELLED (COVID-19 PANDEMIC)
“‘A Feather on the Breath of God’: Medieval and Modern Movement,” 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 2019.
“Movement and Communication in Anglo-Saxon Literature,” 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, May 2018.
“Juliana and Judith: Movement, Stillness, and Two Models of Female Sanctity,” 35th Annual Meeting of the Illinois Medieval Association, Chicago, IL, February 2018.
“Gendered Movement in Anglo-Saxon Literature,” 22nd Leeds International Medieval Congress, July 2017.
“Movement in Anglo-Saxon Hagiography,” 52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, May 2017.
“Public Peace and Personal Purity: Gender, Communities, and Relationships in Law and Literature of Anglo-Saxon England,” 51st International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, May 2016.
“‘Far From Drunk With Ale’: Women, Sobriety, and Power in Old Norse Literature,” 21st International Medieval Congress, Leeds, UK, July 2015.
“‘Nor Hell a Fury’: Female Vengeance in the Nibelungenlied and Völsungasaga,” 2nd Annual Symposium on Medieval and Renaissance Studies, St. Louis, MO, June 2014.
“‘O Mighty Mud-Dweller’: Non-Sexual Insults in the Saga of Bjorn, Champion of the Hitardal People,” 49th International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, May 2014.
“Celestial or Human Childbirth?: Medical and Scientific Terminology in Anglo-Saxon Marian Texts,” 26th Annual Indiana University Medieval Studies Symposium, Bloomington, IN, March 2014.
“Mary’s Womb as Dwelling: The Virginal, Fertile, and Maternal Body of Mary in Anglo-Saxon Literature,” Medieval Association of the Midwest 29th Annual Conference, Terre Haute, IN, September 2013.
“Women’s Blood: Ritual Purity in Anglo-Saxon Religious Texts,” 1st Annual Symposium on Medieval and Renaissance Studies, St. Louis, MO, June 2013.
“Female Reproductive Bodies in Anglo-Saxon Religious Literature,” Norwich-York-King’s College London Graduate Student Conference, London, June 2011.
CAMPUS/DEPARTMENTAL TALKS 2016
"Teaching Research Writing," WMU New 1050 Instructor Training, Western Michigan University, August 2016.
"Applying to PhD Programs," 2016 AGES Graduate Student Professional Development Seminar, April 2016.
"Teaching the Unfamiliar Genre Project in ENGL 1050: Thought and Writing," WMU New 1050 Instructor Training, Western Michigan University, August 2015.
"Submission and Resubmission: Navigating the Academic Journal Publishing Process," 2015 National Association of Graduate Professional Students Midwest Regional Conference, Western Michigan University, March 2015.