Michael Murrin

Raymond W. & Martha Hilpert Gruner Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus, Department of English, Department of Comparative Literature, Divinity School
PhD, Yale University, 1965

My contribution to the medieval and Tudor-Stuart periods is comparative. Since English really did not develop a free-standing tradition before the late sixteenth century, authors normally had to consider other language traditions when they composed their works. The action of Beowulf takes place in Denmark and modern Sweden; Chaucer drew his models from France and Italy; Malory translated mostly French romances; and Spenser and Milton for the long poem looked to Italy. The comparatist then has a real contribution to make in the study of these periods. All my published work has been comparative and much of my course work as well, whether I taught courses in allegory and the history of criticism, in epic (medieval or Renaissance), or romance (again medieval or Renaissance). Most recently I have taught a course called Travellers on the Silk Road, which relates to my current research interests. This course included English efforts in the sixteenth century to open up a silk trade with Iran by a long, dangerous route which took traders across the Arctic to Russia, down its rivers to the Caspian, and then to Iran. The English reappear at the end of the course with Kipling, Aurel Stein, and Peter Fleming. These all share time with Xuanzang, Marco Polo, and other travel writers.

Selected Publications

  • Trade and Romance (University of Chicago Press, 2014). Winner of the 2015 Rene Wellek Prize, American Comparative Literature Association and the 2015 Roland H. Bainton Book Prize for Literature.
  • History and Warfare in Renaissance Epic(University of Chicago Press, 1994)
  • The Allegorical Epic: Essays in Its Rise and Decline (University of Chicago Press, 1980)
  • The Veil of Allegory: Some Notes toward a Theory of Allegorical Rhetoric (University of Chicago Press, 1969)


Ph.D., Yale University, 1965. Teaching at Chicago since 1963.