About me

Photo credit: Lee Pellegrini

I research and teach medieval English literature. My research centers on meter and poetics (what makes poetry tick). I teach in the fields of medieval literature and poetics: usually both at once.

My first book, English Alliterative Verse: Poetic Tradition and Literary History (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2016), is a cultural history of the English alliterative meter, c. 650-1550 CE. This is the poetic tradition that includes BeowulfSir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Piers Plowman. I trace the history of alliterative verse as an idea and a cultural practice over 900 years. Along the way, I challenge the traditional division of medieval English literary history into ‘Old’ and ‘Middle’ subperiods. A version of the third chapter, on Lawman’s Brut, appears in an edited volume devoted to the poem. Four articles bring the arguments and methods of the book to related topics: the relationship between metrical history and language history (Modern Philology); the meter of Piers Plowman (Yearbook of Langland Studies, forthcoming); the history of modern scholarship on medieval verse (ELH, forthcoming); and the historical study of poetics (Modern Language Quarterly, forthcoming). Several other articles and essays, all concerned with early English poetics, are published or forthcoming. With Alastair Bennett and Katharine Breen, I edit the Yearbook of Langland Studies.

At Boston College, I teach first-year literature (organized around the theme of Doppelgangers), Studies in Poetry, undergraduate electives on Chaucer and Middle English alliterative poetry, an advanced undergraduate seminar on medieval and modern tales of the long ago, and a graduate course on Chaucer and meter. I am on sabbatical in fall 2016.

In research as well as teaching, I am interested in finding new ways to bring digital technology to bear on the study of poetry. I have served as an assistant on a Mellon-funded research project that applies multispectral imaging techniques to medieval manuscripts, and I use digital tools to teach poetry in all my courses. In collaboration with my students, I am currently building an annotated digital map of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.

I am also a poet, and my poems appear in several print and digital journals. My first chapbook was published by Samizdat Press in 2008.

Originally from Greenport, New York, I received a B.A. in English and Classical Civilization from Wesleyan University and a Ph.D. in English from Yale University. I live in Brookline, Massachusetts with my wife.