Dr Harriet Soper

I am a specialist in Old English literature, pursuing research strongly inflected by theory of various stripes, but especially ecological and new materialist – that is, theory which questions our conceptions of the environment and the nonhuman.

I am particularly interested in the ways that humans are drawn into intimacy with their environments in their experience of time. My first monograph, The Life Course in Old English Poetry (forthcoming with Cambridge University Press, 2023) explores depictions of human ageing in Old English verse. In previous scholarship, these depictions have mostly been approached with reference to learned Latinate theories of the normative ‘ages of man’, or else considered through the lens of one or two life phases, such as childhood and adolescence or old age. My study foregrounds Old English poetry's deep interest in fluid and variable life courses, shaped by contingency and surprising turns of events: each person's takes a different shape. These disrupted and idiosyncratic life narratives are moreover presented as embedded within the nonhuman life courses of objects, animals and other natural phenomena. 

I also recently co-edited Early Medieval English Life Courses: Cultural-Historical Perspectives (Brill, 2022) with Thijs Porck (Leiden University). This ‘field-defining’ volume (Christina Lee, University of Nottingham) is interdisciplinary, bringing together studies of age vocabulary, medicine, name-giving practices, theology, poetry, and material culture. Like my monograph, it foregrounds entanglements between the human and nonhuman.

More widely in the field of medieval studies, I have also published in The Library on the subject of the manuscript contexts of the late fifteenth-century ‘Winchester Anthology’, and will be publishing a study of the use of echoed speech in the Old Norse eddic poem Skírnismál in Old Norse Poetry in Performance, ed. Annemari Ferreira and Brian McMahon (Routledge, 2021), as well as a related study, 'Recontextualising the Echoing Retorts of Hárbarðsljóð and Lokasenna', forthcoming in Scandinavian Studies

   

At Lincoln College, I teach Prelims Paper 1(A), ‘Introduction to English Language’; Prelims Paper 2, 'Early Medieval Literature, c.650–1350'; FHS Paper 2 (Course II, Paper 3), 'Literature in English 1350–1550'; Course II, Paper 1, ‘Literature in English c.650­­–1100'. I also supervise dissertations in the field of medieval literature and act as College Advisor for graduate medievalists.

 

As an undergraduate, I studied English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford (2010–2013). I then completed an MSt in English c.650–1550 at Lincoln College, which was funded by the AHRC (2013–14). Specialising in Old English literature, I then moved to Cambridge for a PhD in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic at King’s College, funded by the AHRC and the Isaac Newton Trust (2014–2017). My doctoral thesis was supervised by Dr Richard Dance, and explored the presentation of narratives of human ageing in Old English poetry. I continued at Cambridge as a Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College (2017–2019), before returning to Lincoln College, Oxford, in 2019.

Publications