Faculty Expertise in Medieval Literature (Old and Middle English)

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Ohio State offers many opportunities to study the rich literatures of the Middle Ages (approximately 500-1500 C.E.). The Department of English regularly offers classes on the language and literature of both the Old English and Middle English periods, as well as courses on special topics and comparative traditions in the Middle Ages. Beyond the English department, Ohio State also offers many more resources for studying medieval literature through the faculty and course offerings of the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and the collections of Rare Books and Manuscripts in the Ohio State Library system.

Old English (c. 500-1100) is known mainly as the language of the early legendary poem Beowulf, but many other important and interesting writings survive in Old English—heroic poetry, historical chronicles, biblical and religious literature, and texts about medicine and magic. At Ohio State, students can study these texts in translation but also learn to read them in the original language. Faculty in the area of Old English include Associate Professor Leslie Lockett, whose areas of interest include early medieval theories of the mind and soul, manuscript studies, Old English translations of Christian literature and the history of food in the early Middle Ages; and Professor Christopher A. Jones, whose areas of interest include Old English language and poetry, manuscript studies, and religious literature.

Middle English (c. 1100-1500) is the language of such major authors as Geoffrey Chaucer, author of The Canterbury Tales, and the anonymous poet of the mysterious Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. Students at Ohio State have the opportunity not only to study these major figures, but to explore the much wider and more diverse world of Middle English writings, from passionate love poems and stories of knightly adventures, to mystical writings of medieval women, to social satire and sophisticated explorations of selfhood. Faculty in Middle English studies include Professor Karen A. Winstead, whose interests include medieval women writers, saints’ lives and (auto)biographies, Arthurian literature, narrative theory, and the connections between medieval literature and modern popular culture; and Associate Professor Ethan Knapp, whose specialties include later medieval poetry (especially the works of Chaucer, John Gower and Thomas Hoccleve), Arthurian literature, allegory and the history of literary theory; and Visiting Assistant Professor Zachary Hines (Lima Campus), whose interests include late medieval manuscripts and libraries and the reception of medieval texts in the Renaissance.

For other English department faculty who teach courses relevant to the Middle Ages, see the pages of Professor Merrill Kaplan (Old Norse language and literature, Folklore) and Professor Clare A. Simmons (British Victorian Medievalism).


Courses in Old and Middle English

  • English 4513: Introduction to Medieval Literature
  • English 4514: Middle English Literature
  • English 4515: Chaucer
  • English 5710: Introduction to Old English
  • English 5711: Intermediate Old English (Beowulf, rotating with other topics)
  • English 6716: Introduction to Graduate Study in the Middle Ages
  • English 6718: Introduction to Graduate Study in Chaucer
  • English 7818: Seminar in Later Medieval Literature (topics such as Medieval Women, Medieval Allegory)