In broad terms, I see my research grappling with the ways in which individuals construct their sense of identity in relation to a social order that is itself in flux, subject to conflict and renegotiation of roles. Like chess pieces (the game of chess was often-allegorized by medieval writers in both political and erotic terms), individuals may be seen as constrained by the circumstances into which they are born – including their sex, religion, social class, geographic region, or political order – but the collective power of such factors still allows for a degree of individual agency. Literary works are essential to the processes by which writers and readers alike constitute their sense of themselves as individual and as social and political subjects. Such texts shape the conditions of possibility for those living at a given time and place, and at the same time serve as sites for struggle and conflict over the construction of identities, individual or collective, and social relationships.
In my current book project, provisionally entitled “Power, Gender, and Lineage in Late Medieval France: ‘douce France’ and the University of Paris, ‘fille du roy’,” I look at the diverse literary responses to the political troubles that plagued the reign of Charles VI (1380-1422). The works that I study, including allegorical poetry, sermons, political treatises, and legal documents, provide meaningful interventions into a dynamic and unfolding historical process of collective identity formation. In this project I show how different authors mobilized gendered discourses, particularly in relation to the allegorical figures of France and of the University of Paris, to shape and define a social and political space that heralds the modern nation-state.
My teaching interests are varied. I have taught almost a dozen different courses for graduate and advanced undergraduate students since my arrival at the University of Chicago. Some of my favorites include Débats et querelles littéraires au Moyen Âge, Love’s Books, Love’s Looks: Textual and Visual Perspectives on the Roman de la rose, and Women in French Literature. This year I look forward to teaching two new courses: Old French, and ‘Other-speech’ and ‘Visible words’: Allegory, the allegorical, and allegoresis before modernity.
- Theorizing the Ideal Sovereign: The Rise of the French Vernacular Royal Biography. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2008.
- “How to Become the ‘roy des frans’: the Performance of Kingship in Philippe de Mézières’s Songe du vieil pelerin.” The Age of Philippe de Mézières. Ed. Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski and Kiril Petkov. Brill, 2011.
- “Desire, Deception, and Display: Linguistic Performance in Jehan de Saintré,” in Visualizing Medieval Performance: Perspectives, Histories, Contexts. Ed. Elina Gertsman. Aldershot: Ashgate, 2008. 193-206.
- “Public Displays of Affection: Love and Kinship in Philippe de Mézières’s Épistre au roi Richart.” New Medieval Literatures 8 (2006): 99-123.