Hello, and welcome to my site. I’m Dr. Melissa “Melle” Ridley Elmes, Associate Professor of English and Gender Studies 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; poetry and poetics; epic and romance; drama; 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; 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 in the silences and lacunae in texts and narratives and how we can use them generatively as thinkers to (re) construct textual and narrative meaning and significance both historically and for modern audiences. In these various endeavors, I am 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 used in fields ranging from English, History, Gender, Art History, Anthropology, Cultural/ Material, Popular, and Ecocritical Studies in my research and writing. 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 the 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, 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, Literary Alchemy: Texts of Transformation and Becoming, genre and cultural 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, Introduction to Global Gender Studies, 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, Comparative Literature, 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 both subject-specific and interdisciplinary research methods. 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; working towards personal writing goals versus satisfying the requirements for an assignment by actively engaging in rhetorical and metacritical thinking throughout the writing process; and to consider the historical dimensions of the genres in which they are writing in order to develop confidence in their own aesthetic choices and contributions to and interventions in the conversations they are writing into and against. My gender studies students are trained to understand the individual, interpersonal, local, national, and global dimensions of gender issues through an intersectional and comparative lens; to research gender topics for both personal and professional purposes using qualitative, quantitative, and mixed-method approaches and a variety of interdisciplinary and digital resources including the eHRAF World Cultures database; how media influences popular perceptions of gender; and the essential nature of public-facing scholarship and writing in gender studies, preparing them for careers in any field and especially for nonprofit, educational, legal, health services, and government jobs in which knowledge of gender and sexuality issues is especially important. My essential teaching focus in every course is to help my students develop into independent, flexible, creative, and engaged thinkers and problem-solvers with a spirit of risk-taking and perseverance applicable to any career trajectory, and my pedagogical practices emphasize reflexive, contemplative, culturally responsive and student-centered approaches.
My teaching has been honored with Innovative Assessment Design, 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 the 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; the Celtic representative for the International Arthurian Society-North American Branch, 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 HA: A Journal of Early Northwestern Europe and book reviews editor for Medieval Feminist Forum.
As a writer and editor, I am passionate about supporting new and underrepresented voices in literature, and was honored to serve as an advisory board member for Catstone Books, a publishing company devoted to supporting, publishing, and promoting the work of diverse speculative authors and home of the Samuel R. Delany fellowhip.
“Wearing my writer’s hat,” I hold an MFA in Writing from Lindenwood University, and my poetry and prose have appeared and are forthcoming in a variety of print and online venues including Eye to the Telescope, Star*Line, Illumen, Haven, Spectral Realms, Black Fox, Poetry South, Gyroscope, In Parentheses, Thimble, Reunion: The Dallas Review Online, Heartwood, and World of Myth. Writing across speculative and literary genres, 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; engaging historical materials in literary imaginative and fantastical revisionism and bringing historical dimensions of language, craft, and form into conversation with modern sensibilities, 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. As a writer/scholar, my scholarship deeply informs my creative work, while my creative work provides accessible popular avenues for aspects of my scholarship, creating a synergistic relationship between my academic and creative endeavors which organically functions as a form of public humanities, transforming my scholarship into vehicles that engage audiences with literary interests in non-traditional ways. 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.
My writing has been honored with a Pushcart nomination and Elgin, Rhysling, and Dwarf Star award nominations from the Science Fiction and Fantasy Poetry Association.
I have over a decade of experience on and backstage in community theater with a focus on musicals and comedy, sang and recorded with a synth pop band, performed in community chorales, and have done voiceover work. I am a lyricist and vocalist in mezzo-soprano range. You can see a list of my performance credits here.
Public Speaking, Writing Workshops, Teaching Workshops, and Coaching
I am available for scholarly talks, public-facing talks on my research, readings of my creative work, workshops on writing poetry and fiction, workshops on teaching, 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 and the alignment of objectives, personal, and academic goals through instructional design.
I can be reached at melissaridleyelmes (at) gmail.com
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. As a scholar/writer who is deeply invested in public engagement and the public good of the humanities and of education, the blog provides an avenue for me to engage in that work regularly.
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.
Fascinating .. book club would be so interesting with you at the round table. Sadly, I live too far away: but I’m keen to follow a blog.