Hello, and welcome to my site! I’m Dr. Melissa “Melle” Ridley Elmes, Assistant Professor of English and Medieval Literature at Lindenwood University.
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 and Scottish 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 studies (feasts and feasting; disasters and delights; violence and trauma in medieval texts; 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 and comparative literary historian. As a scholar, I am interested in the relationships between texts and the cultures that produce them and invested in locating ways in which cross-temporal approaches and 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 critical methods from English, History, Art History, Anthropology, Cultural/ Material, Ecocritical, and Gender Studies, among others, in my research and writing. My book project, “Negotiating Violence at the Feast in Medieval British Texts,” showcases my ability to synthesize multiple critical lenses into a study focused on close, comparative, and critical textual readings and analysis. My scholarship on historical literature and culture focuses on the responsible interpretation of medieval subjects in their own 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 ideologically-driven scholarship that has permitted medieval studies to be used for white supremacist and nationalist purposes.
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, Medieval Afterlives: Modern Reception of the Medieval, Mythology and Folklore, Literary Alchemy, genre studies, writing courses, the first half of the British and World literature surveys, and the History of the English Language. Drawing on a background that includes training in Art History, History, and romance and Germanic languages as well as English, I am dedicated to interdisciplinary and comparative approaches to the study of medieval 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. In addition to counting towards the BA, BFA, and minor in English, my courses are regularly cross-listed with, and applicable towards requirements for, the General Education, Medieval/Renaissance, Interdisciplinary and Gender Studies programs, and I am available to serve as the director of honors theses in my areas of specialization.
This site includes pages featuring my current book and research projects, publications and conference activity, teaching philosophy and a list and description of courses I have taught, and a blog that is intended to serve as a record of my experiences in the classroom first as a student, and then as a teacher/researcher/writer and new professor. 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.