Hello! I’m Dr Laura Varnam and I’m the Lecturer in Old and Middle English Literature at University College, Oxford (known as ‘Univ’). I’m an academic, tutor, medievalist, and poet, and you can find me on twitter @lauravarnam, on the English Faculty website here, and on the Univ website here.
At Univ I teach alongside Prof Nicholas Halmi, Dr Joseph Moshenska, Dr Laura Wright, and Dr Jack Parlett. Together we are Team English! I teach the medieval literature papers- Old English and Middle English- and I also teach linguistics and run study skills sessions (see my page on Study Skills for undergraduate students here). I’m a member of Univ’s Schools Liaison Panel and I’m passionate about our widening participation and access work. Check out our online resource Staircase 12 for students wanting to develop their interests beyond the curriculum. You can find me in the Reading Bank here talking about Daphne du Maurier’s Rebecca, reading around the subject, and admission to Oxford. In 2019 I was involved in the celebrations and reflections for the 40th anniversary of the admission of women students to Univ. Find out more about the ‘Women at Univ’ exhibition I co-curated with Robin Darwall-Smith and Elizabeth Adams here.
My two great loves are medieval literature and the life and works of Daphne du Maurier. My first book, The Church as Sacred Space in Middle English Literature and Culture was published by Manchester University Press in January 2018. My next medieval book project will focus on Margery Kempe and, with Dr Laura Kalas (Swansea), I organised the Margery Kempe Studies in the 21st Century Conference at Univ in April 2018. Laura and I are the co-founders of the Margery Kempe Society and our innovative new volume of essays Encountering The Book of Margery Kempe will be published by Manchester University Press in November 2021.
I am also passionate about the Old English epic Beowulf. You can hear me talking about the original poem, modern translations and adaptations on this episode of Backlisted and in this podcast recording for the English Faculty’s Great Writers Inspire series: Desiring Dragons: Creative and Critical Responses to the Dragon in Beowulf. In both podcasts I read from my original poetry inspired by Beowulf. My poetry has been published in The Oxford Magazine (Autumn 2020), Ink, Sweat & Tears, and is forthcoming in Green Ink Poetry (August 2021), and I am working on a full collection. I reviewed Maria Dahvana Headley’s amazing new translation for History Today here.
I am currently writing a book on Daphne du Maurier and in May each year you will find me in Fowey, Cornwall, at the Fowey Festival of Arts and Literature giving talks and running reading groups about du Maurier. I gave an in-depth interview to the website Five Books about Du Maurier’s life, works, literary significance and influence, which you can find here. In 2018 I published the first in-depth scholarly article on Daphne du Maurier’s biography of Branwell Bronte (The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte, 1960) in the journal Bronte Studies. In autumn 2019 I was interviewed on the award-winning literary podcast Backlisted for their episode about Du Maurier’s short story collection The Breaking Point. In 2020 I contributed another expert interview to Five Books that focused specifically on Rebecca.
I was interviewed as one of the experts on the 2017 Arte documentary Daphne du Maurier: Sur les traces de Rebecca (dir. Elisabeth Aubert Schlumberger; prod. Patricia Houtart and Francois Duplat) and I attended the premiere of the film in Paris (you can read about the event here). The film premiered on UK television in March 2019 on PBS America.
In October 2017 I was involved in the UK launch of Tatiana de Rosnay’s new biography of Daphne du Maurier, Manderley Forever (you can read about the events here and catch up with my interview with Tatiana de Rosnay and Lady Tessa Montgomery, Daphne du Maurier’s daughter in this podcast). I published an article on the 2017 film adaptation of My Cousin Rachel in The Conversation (here); on the 80th anniversary of Du Maurier’s Rebecca in 2018 (here; this article was republished in The Independent); and on the upcoming Netflix adaptation of Rebecca here. You can find my book reviews of four of du Maurier’s novels on the relaunched Daphne du Maurier website (my reviews of The Scapegoat, Castle Dor, The Flight of the Falcon, and The House on the Strand are available here). I run the Du Maurier twitter account and I have written a series of articles for the website about Du Maurier film and television adaptations. The first, on Hitchcock’s 1940 adaptation of Rebecca, was published in August 2018, and the second, on Nicolas Roeg’s Don’t Look Now, was published in August 2019. In February 2020 I reviewed a special screening of the 1959 adaptation of The Scapegoat followed by a panel discussion with Daphne’s grandson, the Jungian analyst Rupert Tower: here.
Click here for more information on my academic publications and here for my current research. Click here for my Daphne du Maurier work and here for my resources for grad students and ECRs.
Thoroughly enjoyed your Beowulf in Fowey this morning. I was first introduced to him by a primary school teacher back in the 1940s! So good to see the OE as well as the translation. As a classicist I’m interested in languages generally. My wife is Welsh,so I have learnt that and also dabbled in the other Celtic tongues, also all the Romance languages since retiring and even a bit of Icelandic. Your students must enjoy your lectures.
Many thanks David! That’s very kind. I’m glad you enjoyed the talk in Fowey last week. It was good to meet you. best wishes, Laura
Enjoyed your Rebecca piece in the New European via The Conversation very much. I had a poem in The New E. in February – their first ‘Poem for Europe’ which actually was about Europe!
Thank you very much Edward. I’ll have a look for your poem!