Director, Centre for Comparative Literature
Associate Professor of Comparative Literature and Medieval Studies
Affiliations: Literature and Critical Theory
Office: Bader Theatre
Leave Status: N/A
Bio & Research
My work focuses on the rich literary culture of medieval Spain. My research is broad in terms of both chronology and language, moving from late antiquity up to the fifteenth century and covering texts written in Castilian, Latin, Catalan and Hebrew. My previous work explored the female body as a means of articulating questions of literary authority and practice within the cultural spheres of medieval Iberia, and demonstrated the centrality in medieval literary culture of the gendering of rhetorical and hermeneutical acts involved in the creation of texts and meaning. My work, as exemplified by my recent book, Figuring the Feminine: The Rhetoric of Female Embodiment in Medieval Hispanic Literature (University of Toronto Press, 2008), seeks to combine both medieval and modern approaches to literature in its use of a framework rooted in classical and medieval rhetoric (i.e. premodern ‘literary theory’) as well as current theories of gender and feminist philosophy. I find the dialectic between medieval and modern theoretical articulations to be compelling and critically productive. My research also examines the cross-cultural dynamic at work medieval Iberian literatures, focusing, for example, on cultural fusion and ambiguity in a fourteenth-century poet writing in both Castilian and Hebrew, and on the cultural tensions between France and Occitania embedded in the linguistic form of a fourteenth-century bilingual Arthurian text written on the island of Mallorca. My current large project explores the hugely important, but understudied, theory of metaphor in the Middle Ages. Using medieval rhetorical and philosophical sources, I am attempting to understand metaphor an all its theoretical complexity and to hone in on some of the crucial work it accomplishes in medieval culture, ranging from its conceptual importance in the areas of Eucharistic transformation and religious conversion, to the development of an idea of ethical literary character.