Dr Harriet Soper

 

I am a specialist in Old English literature, pursuing research strongly inflected by literary and cultural 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 published in The Library on the subject of the manuscript contexts of the late fifteenth-century ‘Winchester Anthology’, and in Scandinavian Studies on the subject of echoing retorts in Old Norse eddic dialogues. My work also appears in The Review of English Studies, English StudiesNeophilologus, Notes and Queries, and elsewhere. 

 

Monograph:

 

The Life Course in Old English Poetry. Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature. Under contract with Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2023.

 

Edited volume:

 

Early Medieval English Life Courses: Cultural Historical Perspectives, co-edited with Thijs Porck. Explorations in Medieval Culture 20. Brill, 2022.

 

Journal articles:

 

'The Wanderer and the Legacy of Pathetic Fallacy', Neophilologus, forthcoming 2023.

'Echoing Retorts in Hárbarðsljóð and Lokasenna', Scandinavian Studies 94.4, forthcoming 2022.

'The Light in the Old English Rhyming Poem, Lines 1–2', Notes and Queries 66 (2019), 20–24.

'Reading the Exeter Book Riddles as Life-Writing', The Review of English Studies 68 (2017), 841–65.

'Three Newly Recovered Leaves from the 'Winchester Anthology'', The Library 18 (2017), 218–24.

'Eald æfensceop: Poetic Craft and the Authority of the Aged in Old English Verse', Quaestio Insularis 17 (2016), 74–100.

 

Chapters:

 

'The Dead Body', in The Body in Medieval Literature and Culture c.1000–1500, edited by Annie Sutherland. Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2025. 

'Life Cycles', co-authored with Thijs Porck, in The New Cambridge History of Britain. Volume I: c.410–c.1100, edited by Fiona Edmonds and Rory Naismith. Cambridge University Press, forthcoming 2025. 

'Age Identity in Old and Middle English Literature', in The Palgrave Handbook of Literature and Age, edited by Valerie Lipscomb and Aagje Swinnen. Palgrave, forthcoming 2023.

'Dramatic Implications of Echoed Speech in Skírnismál', in Old Norse Poetry in Performance, edited by Annemari Ferreira and Brian McMahon, 85–107. Routledge, 2022.

'Introduction: Conceptualizing the Life Course in Early Medieval England', co-authored with Thijs Porck, in Early Medieval English Life Courses: Cultural Historical Perspectives, ed. Thijs Porck and Harriet Soper, 1–14. Brill, 2022.

 

Book reviews:

 

Megan Cavell and Jennifer Neville, eds., Riddles at Work in the Early Medieval Tradition, Review of English Studies 72 (2021), 579–81

Susan Irvine and Winfried Rudolf, eds., Childhood and Adolescence in Anglo-Saxon Literary Culture, English Studies 100 (2019), 240–42

 

I teach widely across the medieval period, as well as English language up to the present day. 

For the BA (Hons) in English Language and Literature, 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 undergraduate and graduate dissertations in the field of medieval literature.

 

 

I studied for a BA (Hons) English at Corpus Christi College, Oxford (2010–2013), before completing an MSt in English c.650–1550 at Lincoln College, 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, as the Simon and June Li Fellow in English in 2019.

Publications