Dr Helen Appleton

My research focuses on pre- and post-conquest English literature. I am completing a monograph on faith and the land in early medieval England, examining how saints and relics are imagined as influencing the space around them, both in life and post-mortem, as well as the impact of the population's devotion (or lack thereof) on their environment. The project has led to an interest in Rogation practice, especially the corpus of Old English Rogation homilies, and in the post-conquest adaptation of pre-conquest material, on which I have published. 

I am also currently working on the image of King Alfred as English national ‘darling’ in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, particularly his representation as guide and font of wisdom in proverb collections. This work develops from an interest in knowledge and wisdom in Early Medieval texts, and in apropriations of the past. 

My research is interdisciplinary, drawing on historical, theological and art historical perspectives to contribute to our understanding of literature, and culture more broadly. Recent publications include a study of architectural imagery in Middle English, Latin and Anglo-Norman lyric; articles on the adaptation of Classical and Late Antique verse in Old English and Anglo-Latin texts; and a study of travel accounts, textual transmission and a mappa mundi from eleventh-century Wessex.

My next major project will be on representations and understandings of solitude, loneliness and social isolation in Medieval Insular literatures and cultures. I am intrigued by how cultures which placed such emphasis on the community, yet viewed solitude as spiritually useful, conceptualised the emotional and intellectual effects of seclusion, particularly social isolation.

I am also interested in the reception of and responses to the Psalms across cultures, and medievalisms. 

Old English, Middle English, Old Norse, English Language, Medievalisms

Together with Prof. Sue Gillingham (Theology) and Dr Francis Leneghan (English), I coordinate The Oxford Psalms Network, a TORCH Interdisciplinary Research Network on the Psalms.

I co-organised, together with Dr Louise Nelstrop (Faculty of Theology), the 2016 Mystical Theology Network Conference: 'Art and Articulation: Illuminating the Mystical, Medieval and Modern'. This international conference brought together scholars from a range of disciplines to explore the relationship between word and image.

Balliol College website


  • Art and Mysticism: Interfaces in the Medieval and Modern Periods

  • The Insular Landscape of the Old English Poem The Phoenix

  • Introduction: the Psalms in Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman England

  • 'Æðele geferes’: Northern Saints in a Durham Manuscript

  • The Role of Æschere’s Head

  • The Old English Durham and the Cult of Cuthbert

  • The Book of Isaiah as an Influence on Andreas


  • More
List of site pages