About this blog

I started this blog in 2008, when I was in my first year as a graduate student at the University of Oxford. My reasons for choosing the name 'A Clerk of Oxford' were explained in my first post (there's no real mystery about it!). My academic research focuses on literature produced in England from the eleventh century onward, specifically relating to the Danish Conquest of 1016 and the reign of Cnut: essentially, I'm interested in what happened when a group of aristocratic Scandinavians settled in England and brought with them their own established traditions of poetry, narrative and legend. What stories did they tell about their conquest and about legendary Vikings of the past? What cultural and political purposes did these stories serve in Anglo-Danish England, and what influence did they have on later interpretations of England's Viking history? These are the kind of questions I ask in my day job. This sample of blog posts should give you a feel for some of my research interests: The World's Friendliest Vikings, Wyrms and Werebears: Tale-Telling in the Eleventh Century and Today, The Death of Svein Forkbeard, The story of Cnut and the waves, St Edmund of East Anglia: History and Romance, and Hastings and the Hermit King.

Otherwise, I'm interested in (and blog about) pretty much anything relating to medieval England, but especially legends of English saints, medieval churches, and religious poetry in Old and Middle English. This blog is intended for a general, non-specialist audience, not for academics (though they're always welcome too, of course!), and I post a lot of texts in their original language, with translations. My criteria for posting any particular text are: do I like it, and is it already readily available on the internet? If the answers are 'yes' and 'no', then I post it here. I love introducing people to the 'real thing' - even if it's just a brief extract from an Old English homily or a short Middle English poem. There are lots of popular misconceptions about the medieval period and I like to think one good way of countering them is to give non-specialist readers the opportunity to see original texts, with context and translations where helpful, with the aim of demonstrating what academics know but don't always manage to communicate to the public: that medieval literature can be subtle, inventive, surprising, playful, moving, and infinitely diverse.

I don't claim by any means to be an expert in all the things I post about here - I'm just someone who enjoys many different kinds of medieval literature, and likes introducing it to new audiences. I've been fortunate enough to have a wide-ranging education in medieval literature, and I'm still learning new things every day; what I learn, I share on this blog. Chaucer's 'Clerk of Oxford' is both student and teacher - we are told that 'gladly wolde he lerne and gladly teche' - and I aim to do both here, as gladly as I can.

You'll also find in the archives of this blog an eclectic range of poetry and music, depending on whatever I happened to be interested in at any particular moment in the past seven years. Unsurprisingly, there's also lots to do with Oxford and the surrounding area, and with East Kent (where I'm originally from). I hope you find something to interest you, and if you want to know more about anything I've posted, please do leave a comment.

The real Clerk of Oxford, from the Ellesmere Chaucer