Current Book & Research 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)

(Proposal submitted) 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: 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.

Ongoing Research

In addition to my book projects, I am currently researching in the following subjects:

–Female friendship in medieval British literature

–Chaucer’s representation of birds in the Canterbury Tales (a follow-up to my 2012 essay on Parliament of Fowls)

–Ethics in the Arthurian tradition

–Weather and landscapes in medieval dream visions

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