Hello, and welcome to my site! I’m Dr. Melissa “Melle” Ridley Elmes, Assistant Professor of English and Medieval Literature and writer of poetry, fiction, and nonfiction.
“Wearing my scholarly hat,” I specialize in the medieval British Isles and North Atlantic World, with emphasis on Old and Middle English alongside Anglo-Norman, Welsh, and Old Norse/Icelandic literature and culture, and interests in premodern Irish, Scottish, and French literature as well. My research engages with the Arthurian legend; Chaucer; Robin Hood/outlawry; women’s and gender studies, particularly women’s literate practices, women and violence, and gender and power; alchemy, magic, and esoterica; monsters and the supernatural; literature and the law; genre studies and medieval English, Anglo-Norman, Welsh, and Icelandic poetic forms; mythology and folklore; ecocritical and animal studies; manuscript studies and history of the book, and history of the English language.
I am trained as an interdisciplinary and comparative literary critic, historian, and philologist. As a scholar, I am interested in the linguistic presence of ideas in texts and how they shift over time, and in cultural poetics–the relationships between texts and the cultures that produce them, and in turn between texts and the audiences that receive them–and invested in locating ways in which cross-temporal and cross-geographical approaches and multiple methodologies can be used in tandem to create a more focused and nuanced lens on a given subject. To that end, I make use of theoretical paradigms and critical methods from English, History, Art History, Anthropology, Cultural/ Material, Ecocritical, and Gender Studies, among others, in my research and writing. My scholarship on historical literatures and cultures focuses on the responsible interpretation of premodern subjects in context, and my scholarship in medievalism participates in the ongoing critical examination of medieval subjects in contemporary culture, and the reclamation of medieval history and culture from the ideologically-driven scholarship and reception that has permitted medieval studies to be used for white supremacist and nationalist purposes.
My scholarship has been supported by fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities and Folger Shakespeare Library.
I have taught a broad range of courses both face-to-face and online, including the Global Arthurian legend, the British Arthurian tradition, Chaucer, Heroes and Monsters from Beowulf to Hellboy, Violence and Trauma in Medieval Literature, Celtic Literature and Culture, Literature of the Viking Age, Women in Medieval Literature and Culture (a global approach), Medieval Afterlives: Modern Reception of the Medieval, Mythology and Folklore (a comparative global survey), Early Modern literature, genre studies, research and composition courses, creative writing, the first half of the British and World literature surveys, a World Literature course focused on medieval travel narratives, the History of the English Language, and the Senior Capstone in English Studies.
Drawing on a background that includes training in Art History, History, Classical studies, Gender studies, and Romance and Celtic languages as well as English, Composition, and Creative Writing, I am dedicated to interdisciplinary and comparative approaches to the study of premodern texts and artifacts. My literature students are trained to pursue original, open-ended critical inquiry, considering questions of authorship, readership, and audience; language and interpretation; reading literary texts in companionative fashion alongside contextual materials like maps, primary source documents including letters and inventories, manuscript evidence, and artworks and architecture; and developing skills in close-reading, analysis, and research-based argumentative writing. I train my language students to examine English through historical, textual, and socio-linguistic avenues, considering internal and external influences on language development; the impact of English on other world languages and cultures and of other languages on English; and the importance and value of viewing English through a multiple lens–as “Englishes” rather than as a monolithic and homogeneous language. My writing students are trained to understand and negotiate for themselves the relationships between creation and craft; invention and convention; and working towards personal writing goals versus satisfying the requirements for an assignment, and to consider the historical dimensions of the genre in which they are writing in order to develop confidence in their own aesthetic choices and contributions to the conversations they are writing into. My essential teaching focus in every course is to help my students develop into independent, flexible, creative, and engaged thinkers, and my pedagogical practices emphasize reflexive, contemplative, culturally responsive and student-centered approaches.
My teaching has been honored with Emerson Excellence in Teaching, Southeastern Medieval Association Excellence in Teaching, and Teaching Association for Medieval Studies Teaching awards.
I serve in elected and appointed positions for a number of international and national scholarly organizations, most recently as a member of the Celtic Studies forum for the Modern Language Association and Celtic Studies delegate to the MLA General Assembly, the K-12 and Schallek Award committees for the Medieval Academy of America, and secretary for the Southeastern Medieval Association advisory board; President of the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship; and the North American representative for the American Society for Irish Medieval Studies. I am also a series editor for the Medieval Institute Publications Monsters, Demons, and Prodigies book series, Associate Editor for The Heroic Age: A Journal of Early Northwestern Europe and book reviews editor for Medieval Feminist Forum.
“Wearing my writer’s hat,” I hold an MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University, and my poetry and prose have appeared in a variety of print and online venues. My creative work focuses on the intersections, tensions, and collisions of relationships and cultural and societal expectations; making, exploring, fracturing, and re-viewing myths, folktales, and legends; and the hidden worlds and dark corners in our minds and imaginations. My priority as a writer is to offer my readers something to linger over, to think and feel with, to engage intellectually, and to enjoy on a belletristic level. My first book of poetry, Arthurian Things: A Collection of Poems, was published in February 2020 by Dark Myth Publications after winning the World of Myth open contract challenge.
Website and Blog navigation
This site includes pages featuring my academic publications and editorial record, my published poetry, fiction, and nonfiction, a list and descriptions of courses I have taught, and a blog that considers my experiences in the classroom first as a student, and then as a teacher/researcher/writer and new professor, as well as reflecting on my experiences with writing and publishing. It is my hope that the blog in particular will become a resource for graduate students seeking to enter and successfully navigate and complete advanced degrees; for other new professors at the start of their careers; for teachers and instructors seeking interesting and different ways to approach the work of teaching; and for anyone with interests in medieval studies, in academia, in teaching, or in writing.
Public Speaking, Writing Workshops, and Coaching
I am available for scholarly talks, readings of my creative work, workshops on writing poetry and fiction, and one-on-one coaching with scholars hoping to improve their teaching in culturally responsive ways through the application of reflexive and contemplative student-centered pedagogical practices.
I can be reached at melissaridleyelmes (at) gmail.com
All material published on this website and blog is the property of the blog author, Melissa Ridley Elmes, and may be shared or redistributed with credit to the author under ordinary fair use guidelines, but may not be sold or used for any commercial purpose.
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.