‘Great Writers Inspire’ podcast on Beowulf and dragons!


I was delighted to be invited to contribute a podcast to the Fantasy Literature strand of the Oxford English Faculty’s Great Writers Inspire series.

You can find my podcast, Desiring Dragons: Creative and Critical Responses to the Dragon in ‘Beowulf’ at this link: here.

For my podcast, I decided to talk about how the dragon in the Old English epic Beowulf has inspired creative writers in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, beginning with JRR Tolkien’s response to the dragon in his letters, literary criticism, and translation of the poem, and how he created the dragon of his dreams in the depiction of Smaug in The Hobbit. I then discussed the brilliant 2020 feminist translation of the poem by Maria Dahvana Headley (you can also read my review of the translation in History Today). In the podcast I discuss Headley’s decision to make her dragon female in the translation and the impact that this has on the dragon fight scenes. And finally I read two of my own original poems about the dragon (‘His Dragon’ and ‘The Dragon and the Thief’) from my current poetry project inspired by Beowulf.

If you’d like to learn more about Beowulf, please do have a listen to the episode of the podcast Backlisted in which myself, Andrew Male, John Mitchinson, and Andy Miller introduce the poem and explore modern adaptations and translations. The episode concludes with two more of my own original poems. The link to the episode is here.

It’s a pleasure to be a part of the Fantasy Literature research cluster at Oxford and writing this podcast would have been such a dream for my teenage self! I hope it’s as fun to listen to as it was to write!

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Margery Kempe Society: Call for Submissions

The Margery Kempe Society website

Until July 31st, the Margery Kempe Society is open for submissions for blogposts from graduate students / early career researchers and from all teachers of Kempe and her Book!

Co-founded by myself and my partner-in-crime Laura Kalas, the Margery Kempe Society is a fully-inclusive space to support, and to promote, the scholarship, study, and teaching of The Book of Margery Kempe.

Check out our Call for Submissions here (and a huge thank you to Emily Harless who is co-ordinating the blogpost drive!)


In other Team Margery news, this week Laura and I were interviewed by the brilliant AJ Langley for a forthcoming episode of her podcast My Favourite Mystic. It was great to talk about the origins of our own interests in mysticism and in Margery, and to have the opportunity to talk about our forthcoming volume, Encountering The Book of Margery Kempe.

(On the subject of which: until 18th July, Manchester University have a sale on! Use the code SUMMER50 and you can get 50% off the forthcoming volume- it’s a bargain for £42.50!)

I’ll post here when our podcast episode is released but it will be in November, to coincide with the publication month for Encountering!

We’re very grateful to AJ for having us on the show. If you’d like to check out the previous episodes, including one with Team Margery’s Einat Klafter, check out this link: My Favourite Mystic.

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‘Encountering The Book of Margery Kempe’, forthcoming November 2021!

My partner-in-crime Dr Laura Kalas and I are delighted to announce that our exciting new collection of essays on The Book of Margery Kempe will be published by Manchester University Press in November this year!

You can find the book on the Manchester University Press website at this link.

This is the blurb:

This innovative critical volume brings the study of Margery Kempe into the twenty-first century. Structured around four categories of ‘encounter’ – textual, internal, external and performative – the volume offers a capacious exploration of The Book of Margery Kempe, characterised by multiple complementary and dissonant approaches. It employs a multiplicity of scholarly and critical lenses, including the intertextual history of medieval women’s literary culture, medical humanities, history of science, digital humanities, literary criticism, oral history, the global Middle Ages, archival research and creative re-imagining. Revealing several new discoveries about Margery Kempe and her Book in its global contexts, and offering multiple ways of reading the Book in the modern world, it will be an essential companion for years to come.

The collection features a critical introduction by Laura and myself plus thirteen essays by leading Margery Kempe experts: Diane Watt, Liz Herbert McAvoy and Naoë Kukita Yoshikawa, Josephine A. Koster, Ruth Evans, Johannes Wolf, Katherine Lewis, Susan Maddock, Anthony Bale and Daniela Giosuè, Dorothy Kim, Sarah Salih, Tara Williams, and of course Laura Kalas and Laura Varnam.

We’re so excited to see this project come to fruition and we’re so grateful for all the hard work of the contributors (‘Team Margery’!) and the brilliant editors at Manchester University Press. Look out for Encountering The Book of Margery Kempe in November 2021!

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History Today: My review of Maria Dahvana Headley’s Beowulf translation

I was delighted to be asked to review Maria Dahvana Headley’s new Beowulf translation by History Today magazine! You can read my review here.

If you’d like to find out more about the history of Beowulf and its translations, we discussed the Headley version, alongside translations by Tolkien, Heaney, and Edwin Morgan, plus a range of adaptations and creative rewritings, on the Beowulf episode of Backlisted podcast, which you can find here: Beowulf on Backlisted (hosted by Andy Miller and John Mitchison, with Andrew Male and myself as guests).

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Moving Holy Women in the Middle Ages: GMS2021 Roundtable

This week it’s the fantastic Gender and Medieval Studies conference! The theme for this year’s papers is ‘Gender and Mobility’ and the conference is being held online, organised by the University of Surrey. More info available here.

I’ll be speaking on a roundtable on Wednesday afternoon entitled ‘Moving Holy Women in the Middle Ages’, sponsored by the Margery Kempe Society, alongside Laura Saetveit Miles, Jennifer N Brown, and my Margery Kempe collaborator Laura Kalas.

The abstract for our session is below and I’m sure I’ll be back to blog about the discussion later this week!

Moving Holy Women in the Middle Ages

Sponsored by The Margery Kempe Society

Within the patriarchal teachings and regulations of the medieval Church, religious women fashioned alternative routes of devotion which enabled the pursuit of a spiritual life. The practice of an “imitatio Christi with specifically feminine inflections” produced what Barbara Newman terms “the womanChrist model”, where women could attain “an exalted status in the realm of the spirit”. Women moved the boundaries of religious expression, creating ‘grey zones’ such as the Beguine life; moved geographically, travelling on pilgrimage; and moved hearts and minds through their teachings. Yet, as Sarah McNamer has explored in her work on affective meditation, compassion in the Middle Ages was scripted as feminine: just as holy women were affectively ‘moved’ by their devotions, so their devotions ‘moved’ other Christians, both in the Middle Ages and beyond. This roundtable explores the meanings of moving, and being moved, in the devotional experience and writings of medieval women and in modern responses to their charismatic mobility.

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Backlisted Podcast: Beowulf episode

I was absolutely delighted to be invited back as one of the guests on the award-winning podcast Backlisted to discuss one of my favourite medieval poems: Beowulf!

I joined hosts Andy Miller and John Mitchinson, and special guest Andrew Male, for the Halloween episode of the podcast: you can listen online here.

We discussed the original Old English poem, a wide range of modern translations (including Seamus Heaney, Tolkien, Edwin Morgan, and the brilliant new version by Maria Dahvana Headley) and a number of modern adaptations and interpretations, from the 2007 Beowulf movie to John Gardner’s Grendel and much more! We also talked about Robert Shearman’s brilliant short story collection We All Hear Stories in the Dark, which I absolutely loved.

I had a fantastic time last year on the episode discussing Daphne du Maurier (available here). Thank you so much for inviting me back, the Beowulf discussion really was something special!

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Review of the Netflix Rebecca for The Conversation

Lily James and Armie Hammer as the De Winters in the new Netflix adaptation of Du Maurier’s Rebecca

This week I wrote my first review of the new Netflix adaptation of Du Maurier’s Rebecca for The Conversation. Follow this link to read the article. I discussed dreams and nightmares, interiority, and the boldness of the second Mrs de Winter, as well as reflecting on the ways in which Du Maurier’s novel speaks to our modern times.

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My Du Maurier Country, for Muddy Stilettos

In the week that saw the new adaptation of Rebecca appear on Netflix, I was delighted to talk to Rachel Buchanan at Muddy Stilettos about my favourite places to visit in Cornwall if you’d like to follow in the footsteps of Daphne du Maurier! Follow this link to check out my interview. I hope it won’t be long until I’m able to visit Du Maurier country again!

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Five Books Interview on Du Maurier’s Rebecca

This week I gave an expert interview to the website Five Books all about Daphne du Maurier’s most popular novel Rebecca, ahead of the release of the Netflix adaptation on 21st October. You can read the interview here: Five Books Rebecca.

I talked about the importance of Rebecca to Du Maurier’s literary reputation and its place within her canon of works. I explored the relationship of the novel to Jane Eyre, the significance of the nameless narrator, and the real-life inspiration behind Manderley. Finally I discussed adaptations of Du Maurier’s work on film and my anticipation and excitement for the new Netflix adaptation starring Lily James (pictured below).

In 2018 I gave an interview to Five Books which examined lesser-known works by Du Maurier, such as The Parasites and The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë. You can find my original interview here.

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Episode on Du Maurier’s The Scapegoat on the Modern Life Podcast

I was delighted to be invited as a guest on the Modern Life Podcast with Tabby Pawlitzki to discuss Daphne du Maurier’s 1957 novel The Scapegoat and the two adaptations of the novel: the 1959 film starring Alec Guinness and Bette Davis, and the 2012 television adaptation starring Matthew Rhys, Eileen Atkins, and Sheridan Smith (photoshopped image below!!)

You can listen to the podcast online at this link Please note that there are spoilers for the book and both adaptations! (We discuss the significance of the different endings of all three in some detail!)

If you’d like to find out more about the Alec Guinness adaptation, follow this link to my article on the Daphne du Maurier website.

Thank you, Tabby, for the fascinating discussion and for inviting me to take part. It was a pleasure!

Edited to note that the 2012 adaptation was first shown on ITV.

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