I’m an Associate Professor of Old and Middle English at Rutgers University-Camden, where I study medieval English literature and culture. My first book studies food and cooking in medieval English romance, primarily as they are used to discuss political theory. The title is Political Appetites: Food in Medieval English Romance, released October 2017 from The Ohio State University Press.
I am currently working on several new projects: I am co-editing a volume called Practical Approaches to Teaching Beowulf with Dr. Larry Swain, a collection of essays by those teaching this poem the most, rather than by faculty at research-heavy institutions. I am also working on two new monographs. The first is a comparative study on the poetics of Old English along with contemporary hip hop culture, to discover what new questions arise when we look at this vibrant tradition and its relation to composition, memory, tradition, form, voice, and authority.
The second project seems destined to dilate. Right now I have eleven (!?!) chapters in the planning stages on the development of Avarice from Pauline radix malorum to proto-capitalist virtue, from the Old English period through Jacobean literature, using the penitential tradition in comparison with Marx’s historical narrative of primitive accumulation, bringing together dialectical materialism with the New Materialisms. It looks like it will have to be two books in sequence. The first will be called Commodities Beyond Avarice, a study of the concept of the commodity as it was understood in medieval culture and explored in great literary works such as Beowulf (& other Old English works, prose & poetry), Marie de France’s Lanval (& its Middle English descendants), Sir Amadace and other romances, and Chaucer’s The Summoner’s Tale. The second part is a little more hazy, but I’m thinking it will be called Decriminalizing Sin. This is the story of Avarice’s achievement of legitimacy, starting in confessional manuals, moving to John Gower’s nine thousand-line examination in his Confessio Amantis, and looking at Piers Plowman & the social justice poetry of the Alliterative Revival. Other chapters might address the guild and urban economic entanglements of late medieval drama, the literature of the early Tudors (especially Thomas More’s Utopia), possibly early modern English literature about colonialism, and then culminating in an examination of Ben Jonson’s plays satirizing the nascent capitalist — Volpone, The Alchemist, and Bartholomew Fayre.
My teaching is heavily involved with the interplay between medieval and modern, demonstrating what sophisticated knowledge of the Middle Ages can reveal to our contemporary world. My classes reach a broad variety of RUC students, undergraduate and graduate, majors and otherwise, and include classes on ancient and medieval heroism, traveling in the Middle Ages, global collections of short stories, and the Icelandic sögur, as well as standard English fare as early literature surveys, Chaucer, and Old English literature. I see the medieval world as a global, multicultural phenomenon intricately wound with secular politics and religious experience, and believe this pre-capitalist, pre-fundamentalist, pre-colonialist, pre-Renaissance world contains valuable lessons about what the modern world can become.
In my spare time, I’m an avid translator of Anglo-Saxon poetry, and my work can be found on my webpage, The Anglo-Saxon Narrative Poetry Project (URL listed below). I have also opened up a project to translate the entirety of the extant Old English homilies in modern English, work that is much-needed.
In my non-academic time, I enjoy playing video games (mostly RPGs) & singing at karaoke and open mic nights.
461 Armitage Hall
311 North Fifth Street
Camden NJ 08102
Email (the best way to reach me):
The Old English Narrative Poetry Project
The Old English Homily Project