About

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.

Education

BA, French, The College of William and Mary

MA, English, Longwood University

Graduate Certificate, Women and Gender Studies, University of North Carolina Greensboro

MFA in Writing, Lindenwood University

PhD, English, University of North Carolina Greensboro

Other Publications

 
scholarly publications
 
Edited Collection
 
Melusine’s Footprint: Tracing the Legacy of a Medieval Myth. Eds. Misty Urban, Deva Kemmis, and Melissa Ridley Elmes. (Leiden: Brill, 2017).–Chapter: “The Alchemical Transformation of Melusine,” 94—105.
             Reviewed in: Medieval Feminist Forum; Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts, Parergon, Preternature, Mediaevistik
 Refereed Articles
 “Failed Ritualized Feasts and the Limitations of Community in Branwen ferch Lŷr.” Proceedings of  the Harvard Celtic Studies Colloquium 38 (2018; pub. 2020). 201—215.
“Public Displays of Affliction: Women’s Wounds in Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur.” Modern Philology 116.3 (2019). 187-210. Winner of the 2019 Lone Medievalist Prize for Scholarship Honorable Mention.
“‘Compassion and Benignytee’: A Reassessment of the Relationship Between Canacee and the Falcon in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Squire’s Tale.” Medieval Feminist Forum 54.1 (2018). 50—64.
 “He Dreams of Dragons: Alchemical Imagery in the Medieval Dream Visions of King Arthur.” Arthuriana 27.1 (Spring 2017). 73—94.
“Conduct and Character: The Feast Scene and Characterization in A Lytell Gest of Robyn Hode.” Medieval Perspectives 31 (2016). 19—30.
“Prdn me? Txt spk, Middle English, and Chaucer’s Pardoner’s Tale.” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching 22.1 (Spring 2015). 75—85.
“From Propaganda to Product: The Arthurian Legend in Modern Tarot Decks.” Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception 3:2 (2013). 381—406. (Available online: https://relegere.org/relegere/article/view/579).
Book Chapters      
“Treason and the Feast in Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur.” Treason: Medieval and Early Modern Adultery, Betrayal, and Shame. Ed. Larissa Tracy. (Leiden: Brill, 2019). 320—339.
“Episodic Arthur: ‘Merlin,’ ‘Camelot,’ and the Medieval Romance Tradition.” The Middle Ages on Television: Critical Essays. Ed. Karolyn Kinane and Meriem Pagès. (Jefferson: McFarland, 2015). 99—121.
“Author as Nation-Crafter: Teaching The Lord of the Rings in an Epic Literature Course.” Approaches to Teaching Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Other Works. Ed. Leslie A. Donovan. (New York: MLA, 2015). 176—183. Finalist for the 2017 Mythopoeic Society scholarship award for Best Book on Inkling Studies.
“Species or Specious? Authorial Choices and the Parliament of Fowles.” In Hir Corages: Rethinking Chaucerian Beasts. Ed. Carolynn Van Dyke. (New York: Palgrave, 2012). 233—247.
Introductions
“Introduction to Special Issue: MEARCSTAPA: Ten Years of Teratology.” With Asa Simon Mittman and Thea Tomaini. Preternature : Critical and Historical Studies on the Preternatural  9.1 (2020): 1—10.
“Editor’s Note: New Feminist Voices in the Heroic Age.” With Carla María Thomas. The Heroic Age, Issue 19, Summer 2019. https://www.heroicage.org/issues/19/editorsnote.php
Under Contract/ Forthcoming
Food and Feast in Premodern Outlaw Tales. Co-edited with Kristin Bovaird-Abbo. Edited collection under contract with Routledge Press. (In Press)      –Chapter: “Acting Out(Law): Outlawry, Identity Constructions, and the Feast in Two Shakespearean Comedies.”
“Teaching Beowulf as a Cultural Reliquary.” Forthcoming in Practical Approaches to Teaching Beowulf, eds. Larry Swain and Aaron Hostetter, De Gruyter Press, January 2021.
“Fairies and Power in Medieval Culture.” Forthcoming in Bloomsbury’s Cultural History of Fairies, ed. Susan Aronstein. (revised and resubmitted.
“Thryth.” Forthcoming in the Anglo-Saxon Women’s Florilegium, eds Irina Dumitrescu, Emily Butler, and Hilary Fox. (revised and resubmitted)
“Feast Imagery in Medieval Devotional and Mystical Texts.” (revised and resubmitted)
“Female Friendship in Late-Medieval English Literature: Cultural Translation in Chaucer, Gower, and Malory.” Forthcoming in Medieval Women’s Friendship, eds. Karma Lochrie and Usha Vishnuvajjala. (revised and resubmitted)
“A Community of Scholar-Knights: Using the Arthurian Legend as a Mentoring Tool for First-Year and First-Generation Students.” Forthcoming in the MLA Approaches to Teaching the Arthurian Tradition, ed. Dorsey Armstrong. (submitted)
 
Literary publications
Poetry Collection

Arthurian Things: A Collection of Poems. Apple Valley: Dark Myth Publications, 2020. Grand Prize-winning manuscript, World of Myth Magazine 2019 Open Contract Challenge Poetry
Poetry
“Akasha.” North Carolina Bards Anthology of Poetry, ed. James P. Wagner. Long Island: Local Gems Poetry Press, 2020.
“Shadow-Dwellers.” Spillwords. Spillwords.com. April 28, 2020.
“Lines.” Spillwords. Spillwords.com. March 16, 2020.
“Raymond’s Choice.” The World of Myth Magazine. February 2019.
“Identity Crisis.” Ink Quarterly. 3:1 (Winter 2007-2008), 11.
“Big Top Cycle.” Sweetbay Anthology, ed. S.M Foran. Prize Books, 2006. 50-53.
“Waste Knot, Want Naught.” The Blotter. (July 2006), 13.
Fiction

“Dr. Watson and the Werewolf.” Full Moon and Howlin’: A Werewolf Anthology. Accepted.

“Truth and Toe Shoes.” HeartWood Literary Magazine, 2020. Accepted.

“When the Elves Are Gone.” The Last Elven War: A Zimbell House Anthology. Zimbell House Publishing, 2020. In Press.

“A Midwinter’s Meal.” The World of Myth Magazine. September 2019.

“Writer’s Log.” The Writer’s Studio Journal 2.2 (Spring 2007), 10-11.

“Living Whiff a Writer.” The Writer’s Studio Journal 1:3 (Summer 2006).

Essays

“The Art (and Heart) of Arthurian Things: A Craft Essay.” The Year’s Work in Medievalism. Solicited by the editors; forthcoming.

“The Bigger Picture.” Ink Quarterly. 3:3 (Summer 2008), 5-17.

“Ovarian Whosit-Whatsits and Primetime TV.” The Blotter. (November 2007), 6-7.

“Finding the Rhythm.” The Writer’s Studio Journal 1.1 (Winter 2007), 8-11.

Projects

Monograph: Negotiating Violence at the Feast in Medieval British Texts

Much of the literature of medieval Britain is anchored in the idea that prescribed rules of behavior are the key to developing a stable community. From the warrior-codes and hall rituals of the Anglo-Saxon comitatus to the chivalric and courtly conduct codes of the later medieval period, there is the sense that once everyone knows and agrees to abide by the same codes of behavior, preserving the stability of the community simply entails the continued enforcement of those rules. My work exposes some of the heretofore-unconsidered limitations of medieval chivalric and conduct codes by considering how the violent altercations at or following literary feasts occur not in spite of the codes that prescribe correct behavior in the hall, but because those codes are ineffectual governing tools for spaces in which the jurisdiction of one rule relaxes the authority of another.

Unlike the legibly antagonistic interactions at jousts, tournaments, and battles, feasts are events at which everyone appears to be of like mind. However, this is a façade wrought through the following of artificial rules of etiquette which do nothing to quell the various conflicts between individuals, groups, and families; while the chivalric code clearly identifies combat-related modes of antagonism and how they should be redressed, the conduct codes governing proper behavior in the hall are concerned primarily with immediate behavior at the table and offer no broader set of instructions by which a feast may be both an ordered event and also an opportunity for the purging of latent violence. Therefore, violent disruptions at the feast cut through the artificially-created harmony of the feasters, exposing and expelling otherwise unexamined conflicts. Because it is unexpected and exists beyond any governing code, this is a more authentic form of violence than its battlefield counterpart. Such moments of feasting violence provide points of intervention wherein the codes governing correct behavior are shown to be inadequate, compelling individuals to negotiate the underlying issues—such as the inability of marriage bonds to forge lasting peace and the tensions between individual and communal honor—that threaten to destabilize and destroy the community.

This project comprises case studies that group texts thematically, making use of ideas gleaned from postcolonial, ecocritical, gender, and hospitality studies and drawing from historical documents including chronicles, legal codes, and conduct manuals to historicize my readings. This multidisciplinary approach permits a culturally-informed contextualization of the violence at the feast, challenging the misconception that violence is a one-size-fits-all theme in medieval literature by demonstrating how it is presented in ways that highlight the particular anxieties of the community in which and for which a given text was produced.

Monograph: Violence at the Arthurian Feast

Whereas violence at the feast in medieval British feasts more generally deals with the vacuum between codes of governance that is created in the feasting hall, providing the author with an opportunity to critique any of a variety of socio-cultural and legal issues in a fictional society that might or might not be traceable to the writer and community by whom and for whom a given text was produced, violence at the Arthurian feast is typically used in a far more intentionally thematic fashion, tied specifically to questions of loyalty (in earlier Arthurian narratives) and treason (in later Arthurian texts). This monograph, a subject-specific companion to the other, explores and analyzes that shift from a focus on loyalty to one on treason by noting its development and focus in the Arthurian feast hall. Focal texts include Lanval/Sir Laundevale/Sir Launfal; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; and Guinevere’s feast in the Death of Arthur tradition.

Edited Collection: Food and Feast in Premodern Outlaw Tales

(with Kristin Bovaird-Abbo, co-editor)

(In Press) This volume of 12 essays covering the early medieval period through the 17th century offers fresh insights into how outlaws interacted with and over food in premodern England and France, and will serve as a companion to the Food and Feast in Modern Outlaw Tales being edited by Alex Kaufman and Penny Vlagopoulos.

Edited Collection: Arthurian Ethics

(with Evelyn Meyer, co-editor)

This collection of essays delves into the little-explored subject of ethics in the Arthurian world, bringing together specialists in German, French, English, Dutch, medieval and modern Arthuriana for a wide-ranging, rigorous discussion. Subjects treated include the ethics of kingship, chivalry, violence, religion, ethics and gender, ethics and dis/ability, ethics and animals, the ethics of editing Arthurian texts and the ethics of writing modern Arthurian novels.

Edited Collection: Gendered Violence and Violent Genders on the Premodern Stage

(with Matthew Charles Carter, co-editor)

This is an interdisciplinary and transhistorical collection of essays examining the subject of violence and gender in dramatic works and performances from the medieval and early modern/English Renaissance periods. We have assembled fourteen scholars representing a range of interests, career levels, and identities, working in the English and French traditions, writing on texts ranging from the pastourelle motet to the Renaissance revenge tragedy, and spanning from the twelfth through the seventeenth centuries. Our scholars are working interdisciplinarily, and the essays feature intersectional literary, performance, feminist, masculinity, queer, and violence studies.

Edited Collection: Teaching Celtic Literature in the General Education Classroom

(with Matthieu Boyd, co-editor)

(Under development for the Fairleigh Dickinson University Press)  This project, the first of its kind, seeks to pair overview essays on essential points in Celtic literature and culture written by specialists, with shorter essays on classroom practices, text choices, and pedagogical activities used by specialists and non-specialists, alike. Including sample syllabi and a resources and editions section, this project will offer an unprecedented one-stop resource for more, and more responsible and thoughtful, incorporation of Celtic materials into a variety of courses beyond the specialist’s classroom. Currently under development as a two-volume set, with the first volume spanning the earliest literatures through 1700, and the second volume, 1700-present.

Upcoming Talks and Conferences

2020   “When the Digital Generation Isn’t: Pivoting Online with Traditional Campus Students.” (roundtable) 35th International Conference on Medievalism, Old Dominion University, Norfolk, Virginia (Virtual), November.
2021   Paper session: “Celtic Archipelagos” (organizer and presider) Celtic Studies Forum-sponsored session at the Modern Language  Association Annual Convention, Toronto, ON, January.
2021   Paper session: “Arthurian Ethics” (Respondent) Sewanee Medieval Colloquium, Sewanee, Tennessee, April. *re-accepted from 2020 due to pandemic*

2021   Roundtable: “Obscenity and Gender in Medieval Pedagogies” (organizer and presider) International Association of Robin Hood Studies-sponsored session for the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, May.
2021   Paper session: “Outlaw Epistemologies” (organizer and presider) International Association of Robin Hood Studies-sponsored session for the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, May. *re-accepted from 2020 due to pandemic*
2021   Paper session: “Medicine and Medical Practices in the Arthurian World” (organizer and presider) International Arthurian Society-North American Brach-sponsored session for the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, May. *re-accepted from 2020 due to pandemic*
2021   Paper session: “Gender and the Law: In Honor of Sally Livingston” (organizer) Society for Medieval Feminist scholarship-sponsored session for the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, May. *re-accepted from 2020 due to pandemic*
2021   Paper session: “Celtic Archipelagos” (organizer and presider) Celtic Studies Forum-sponsored session at the Modern Language Association Annual Convention, Toronto, ON, January.
 

Memberships

MLA CLCS Celtic Studies Forum
President, The Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship
Executive Board Member/ Associate Editor, The Heroic Age
Executive Board Member, MEARCSTAPA
Medieval Academy of America (appointed to the K-12 Committee)
New Chaucer Society
International Arthurian Society, North American Branch
International Association for Robin Hood Studies
Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literatures
Celtic Studies Association of North America
Southeastern Medieval Association
Mid-America Medieval Association
American Society for Medieval Irish Studies
Association of Writers and Writing Programs

Melissa Ridley Elmes

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