Assistant Professor of Medieval French
University of California, Berkeley
Since July 2023 I've been Assistant Professor of Medieval French at University of California, Berkeley. Prior to this, I was a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Cambridge (2021–23), a Postdoctoral Fellow at Freie Universität Berlin (2020–21), and a Postdoctoral Research Associate at King's College London (2020). I was awarded a PhD in French from King's College London in 2020 for my dissertation, “The Anachronic Manuscript: Voices of the Past in BnF fr. 17177”.
I'm currently working on two book projects. The first, emerging out of my ERC-funded PhD research, is entitled The Anachronic Manuscript: Voices, Networks, and History in a Medieval French Book. In it, I develop the concept of the anachronic to articulate a new approach to medieval literature and history-writing based on the material object, the manuscript, as opposed to its heuristic abstraction, the text. The Anachronic Manuscript is centred on a thirteenth-century multi-text manuscript made in Soissons, northern France (Paris, BnF, fr. 17177), which I use as a case study to explore broader issues in medieval textuality surrounding voice, polyphony, affect, networks, and assemblages (the respective titles of each chapter).
The second, which won funding from the British Academy, examines the traces of tactile interaction found on medieval French (and some Occitan) manuscripts. Provisionally entitled Touch and the Experience of Medieval French Manuscripts, this monograph aims to document the prevalence of a variety of haptic bookish practices in the French-speaking space between 1200 and 1500. Five widely-disseminated thirteenth-century works are examined in over 300 illuminated manuscripts: Roman de Troie, Miracles de Nostre Dame, Lancelot-Grail, Faits des Romains, and Roman de la Rose. The thematic chapters—for now ‘Attachments’, ‘Virtuality’, ‘Ethics’, ‘Politics’, ‘Erotics’, ‘Devotion’, and ‘Time’—work comparatively across my corpus of manuscripts (plus many others) to draw out the implications of touch for the reading experience. I argue that not only does touch provide crucial insight into reader response and the interests of medieval French audiences but also that touch as a theoretical and methodological principle challenges the core assumptions of literary criticism.
I'm a specialist of medieval French literature and manuscript culture, but I retain an active interest in medieval Occitan language, narrative and lyric. Broadly speaking, I'm interested in approaches, both theoretical and empirical, that rethink medieval texts in relation to manuscript materiality. I'm keen to develop methodologies that make the most of the explosion of digitized manuscripts online, such as my work on textile curtains in medieval French books. Other research areas include: the senses (especially touch and smell); history and fiction in the Middle Ages; theories of temporality (including spectrality); philology and text-editing; compilatio; medieval reception of the ancient past; emotion and affect; the philosophies of Jacques Rancière and Jean-Luc Nancy; and the digital humanities.
© BnF and Henry Ravenhall
Doubting Thomas, with defaced saint
© BnF and Henry Ravenhall
© Henry Ravenhall 2023