My principal research interests are in Chaucer, the medieval and sixteenth-century love lyric, and poetics, with an emphasis on how form precedes and generates meaning. I am interested in interrogating the agendas which drive the taxonomy of poetic form, and in challenging the division still made between medieval and early modern literature.
I have recently completed a book on the role of rhyme in late medieval and early Renaissance love lyric. This book, Rhyme and the Construction of Love in English Lyric 1300-1579, will be published by Oxford University Press in 2023. It shows that decorum in the choice of vocabulary, combined with the limited rhyme resources of English, render certain clusters of words and ideas almost inevitable, particularly in complex poetic forms demanding large rhyme-groups. As a result, the essentially arbitrary element of rhyme comes to generate features of the experience of love in poetry, and the impression of subjectivity in love lyric is a side-effect of the necessities of rhyme.
I am currently working on a new book about anthologies of ‘English verse’ and the fantasies of England they project. This picks up my longstanding interests in poetry anthologies and the agendas which drive the critical framing of texts.
I teach English literature from the early medieval period up to the sixteenth century. I also teach the history, theory and use of the English language.
I grew up in Kent, and after attending the local state grammar school I read English at Oxford, where I took my undergraduate and graduate degrees. I have taught at Oxford since 1999, and have also worked at the universities of Reading and Southampton.