My research is focused on Old English poetry and prose, in particular Beowulf and writings associated with King Alfred.
My forthcoming monograph, The Dynastic Drama of Beowulf (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer), unravels the web of Scandinavian royal legends known to the original audience of Beowulf. The book offers a new interpretation of the work’s structure based on the principle of the dynastic life-cycle and provides explanations for features of the poem that have never been satisfactorily explained, most famously its many digressions and episodes. Highlighting the work’s originality, it proposes that the poet created a fictionalized monster-slaying hero and inserted him into royal legend in order to dramatize moments of dynastic crisis. It also brings into focus the poet’s debt to biblical paradigms of kingship and shows how the Anglo-Saxons came to read Beowulf as their own Book of Kings.
Another area of research is the reception of the Book of Psalms in medieval England. Together with Sue Gillingham (Theology) and Helen Appleton (English), I am a founder and co-organiser of The Oxford Psalms Network, an interdisciplinary research group hosted by The Oxford Research Centre for the Humanities (TORCH) and devoted to the study of all aspects of the Psalms. I have recently co-edited two volumes of essays on medieval English psalms: with Tamara Atkin, The Psalms and Medieval English Literature: From the Conversion to the Reformation (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2017); and with Helen Appleton, The Psalms in Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman England, special edition of English Studies, 98.1 (2017).
I am also Co-Director of Oxford Medieval Studies, a TORCH programme devoted to the promotion of interdisciplinary medieval studies.
I lecture on Old English poetry and prose in the English faculty, and teach Early Medieval English at St Peter's and Exeter colleges.
Undergraduate teaching and supervision:
Prelims Paper 2 (Early Medieval Literature, c. 650-1350)
FHS Paper 2 (English Literature 1350-1550)
Course II FHS Paper 1 (Literature in English 600-1100)
FHS Paper 6: 'Hit and Myth: (Mis)representations of the Medieval in the Modern Age'
FHS Paper 7: dissertations on early medieval English.
Graduate teaching and supervision:
MSt in English 650-1550:
'Old English for Beginners/Improvers'
'The Age of Alfred' (C-course option)
I also supervise Masters and Doctoral dissertations on a wide range of topics connected with Anglo-Saxon England and its literature. Recent and ongoing DPhil dissertations that I have supervised include work on Anglo-Saxon medicine, Mercian vernacular literature, the Old English Metrical Charms, Anglo-Latin and Old English saints' lives and Alfredian prose. I welcome applications from students interested in any area of Old English.
The Dynastic Drama of 'Beowulf' (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, forthcoming).
'The Departure of the Hero in a Ship: the Intertextuality of Beowulf, Cynewulf and Andreas', SELIM 24 (2019), 105–34.
The Psalms and Medieval English Literature: From the Conversion to the Reformation, ed. Tamara Atkin and Francis Leneghan (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2017).
‘Introduction: a Case Study of Psalm 50.1-3 in Old and Middle English’, in The Psalms and Medieval English Literature: From the Conversion to the Reformation, ed. Tamara Atkin and Francis Leneghan (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2017), pp. 1–33.
'Making the Psalter Sing: the Old English Metrical Psalms, Rhythm and Ruminatio’, in The Psalms and Medieval English Literature: From the Conversion to the Reformation, ed. Tamara Atkin and Francis Leneghan (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2017), pp. 173–97.
The Psalms in Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman England, special edition of English Studies 98.1 (2017), ed. Helen Appleton and Francis Leneghan.
‘Introduction: The Psalms in Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman England’, (with Helen Appleton) in The Psalms in Anglo-Saxon and Anglo-Norman England, ed. Helen Appleton and Francis Leneghan, special edition of English Studies 98.1 (2017), 1–4.
‘Preparing the Mind for Prayer: The Wanderer, Hesychasm and Theosis’, Neophilologus 100.1 (2016), 121–42.
‘Translatio Imperii: the Old English Orosius and the Rise of Wessex’, Anglia 133.4 (2015), 656–705.
‘Teaching the Teachers: the Vercelli Book and the Mixed Life’, English Studies 94.6 (2013), 627–58.
‘Reshaping Tradition: the Originality of the Scyld Scefing Episode in Beowulf’, in Transmission and Generation in Medieval and Renaissance Literature: Essays in Honour of John Scattergood, ed. Karen Hodder and Brendan O’Connell (Dublin: Four Courts Press, 2012), pp. 21-36.
‘Royal Wisdom and the Alfredian Context of Cynewulf and Cyneheard’, Anglo-Saxon England 39 (2010), 71-104.
‘The Poetic Purpose of the Offa-Digression in Beowulf’, The Review of English Studies 60.246 (2009), 538–60.
‘Making Sense of Ker’s Dates: the Origins of Beowulf and the Palaeographers’, Proceedings of the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies Postgraduate Conference 1, March 2005.
Click these links to listen to my podcasts on 'Beowulf' (for Oxford University's Great Writers Inspire Project) and 'Why should we study Old English?' (for the 'Challenging the Canon' Project).
The Oxford Psalms Network
Oxford Medieval Studies
St Cross College website