Dr Daniel Sawyer

I am interested in quantitative and qualitative codicology, textual criticism and the history of reading; and interested in ways in which these three subfields can usefully inform each other. 

The core of my role at present is the study of the Middle English Wycliffite Bible, the first comprehensive English translation of the Bible and the most successful English text before print. Research into this important text is hampered by the lack of a good modern edition: despite useful editorial work since, the standard text remains the edition published by Forshall and Madden in 1850. Together with the other members of the team on Oxford's AHRC-funded 'Towards a New Edition of the Wycliffite Bible' project, I am working to edit some parts of the Bible from the many surviving manuscripts, and to establish the parameters for a future full edition. I have become particularly interested in the changing presentation and reception of the Song of Songs across different versions and manuscripts.

I am currently preparing a monograph which uses manuscript evidence to rejig our understanding of how verse was read in later medieval England. In it, I examine poems which were widely circulated in later medieval England and therefore survive in many manuscripts, but have since been largely ignored—poems such as The Prick of Conscience and Speculum Vitae. Applying quantitative and qualitative codicological techniques to the many surviving copies of these texts allows me to move beyond the evidence of readers' marginalia and establish a new ‘baseline’ picture of the reading practices which were applied to English verse. That picture can then in turn inform our understanding of Middle English poets who are canonical today, such as Chaucer and Langland. 

I have also published on unnoticed Middle English poetry, rediscovered manuscript fragments and navigation in medieval reading.

I teach undergraduate courses in Old and Middle English literature. (When teaching Arthurian courses I have also ranged forwards as far as the twentieth century!) At the postgraduate level I help to teach palaeography and codicology for Oxford's MSt in English (650–1550) and MSt in Medieval Studies.

Publications

  • Rediscovered Manuscript Fragments of The Prick of Conscience in the Library of Queens’ College, Cambridge

  • ‘He That No Good Can’: An Unrecorded Copy of a Middle English Proverb

  • Navigation by Tab and Thread: Place-Markers and Readers’ Movement in Books

  • More
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