Dr Lucy Brookes
I read and work on the secular literature written in England during the high to late Middle Ages. I completed my BA at Worcester College, Oxford, before specialising in Medieval Literatures and Languages during my Masters at the University of York. I then returned to Worcester and Oxford for my DPhil in English. My thesis (‘The Subject of Romance’) offered a study of character and subjectivity in the medieval English romances. There I argued that romance – a highly conventional and formulaic genre – should be afforded a more significant position in the history of literary subjectivity. By reading canonical and lesser-known (and traditionally denigrated!) examples of English romance alongside one another for their conventions, new readings of texts including Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Le Bone Florence of Rome, and The Squire of Low Degree emerge. I am currently working on a monograph based on this doctoral work; this is under contract with Boydell & Brewer.
Alongside the preparation of my first book, I am beginning to think about several new projects. The first of these is a study of veracity and ‘truthfulness’ in Middle English literature. In an article published in New Medieval Literatures, I used the modern coinage ‘truthiness’ to interrogate the tendency for romances (obviously and indeed self-consciously fictional texts) to claim to be telling the truth at moments when they are most sensational and extraordinary. I think that there are compelling parallels to be drawn between the semantic slipperiness of ‘trouthe’ in the later Middle Ages, and our own ‘Post-Truth’ era; this project will start with romance, but build out to encompass other popular ‘fictional’ genres of the period.
I am also working on several smaller articles that use recent work in the History of the Emotions to read popular romance. I’ve been thinking a lot about the interrelated methodologies of phenomenology, Affect Theory, and the History of the Emotions, which are significant not only in terms of the new possibilities for reading and understanding people and characters of the past they afford the literary critic, but for what their burgeoning place in the academy suggests about the direction of our field at large. Other research interests include Arthurian literature (medieval and modern), TV soap operas and Westerns, and narratology.
At Merton I teach the medieval papers Prelims 2 (Literature in English, 650-1350) and FHS 2 (Literature in English, 1350-1550), as well as Prelims 1A (English Language). I serve as Director of studies for students pursuing Course II at the college, and teach specialised papers for this course (at the moment, this is the Lyric Paper). I supervise undergraduate and MSt dissertations on a range of medieval topics. In 2019-20 I was an Ashmolean Junior Teaching Fellow as part of the Krasis programme; I always enjoy the chance to use objects and especially Oxford’s wonderful museum collections in my teaching.