Photo of Dr Liam Lewis

Dr Liam Lewis PhD

Honorary Fellow Languages, Cultures and Film


Research Overview

My mission as a medievalist is to extend debates in posthumanism, environmental theory, and the human/animal divide into a period traditionally overlooked by scholars interested in such matters: the Middle Ages. Putting medieval literature to work in dialogue with critical theory and modern philosophy, I seek not to ‘apply’ theory to medieval texts in anachronistic ways. Rather, I create a dialogue between medieval and modern ways of conceptualising nonhuman perspective, by thinking about how medieval texts challenge modern ideologies, as well as how such texts may be understood using modern and contemporary ecological methodologies.

With this mission and methodology, I have defined three key areas of my scholarly intervention: theoretical and critical approaches to medieval ecologies, medievalism and textual reception, and literary history, with further details below:

(1) Theoretical approaches to animals and sound in medieval literature:

Animal Soundscapes in Anglo-Norman Texts (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2022), series: ‘Nature and Environment in the Middle Ages’.

My published and forthcoming research in this area includes the following items, including articles in some of the top-refereed journals in my field (chronologically listed):

‘The Bear Stage’, co-authored with Andy Kesson, Hannah O’Regan, and Callan Davies, in Emma Whipday (ed.), Shakespeare and Play (Routledge, in press, print run 2024), 3,000 words.

‘Man spekeþ, bere brayeþ’: the Zoopoetics of Bear Roaring and Silence in the Middle Ages’, Nottingham French Studies 62.3 (2024), 251–266.

‘Posthuman Bears: Agency in Premodern Bear Baiting in Britain’, in Oliver Grimm (ed.), Bear and Human: Facets of a Multi-Layered Relationship from Past to Recent Times with an Emphasis on Northern Europe (Turnhout: Brepols, Open Access, 2023), pp. 175-186

‘Rewilding with the ‘Cri’ in Medieval French Texts: Yvain and Mélusine’, French Studies, 77.2 (Open Access, 2023), 167-182.

‘Noise on the Ocean Before ‘Pollution’: The Voyage of Saint Brendan’, Interdisciplinary Studies in Literature and Environment, 30.1 (2023), 4-24.

‘Animal Umwelt and Sound Milieus in the Middle English Physiologus’, Exemplaria, 34.1 (Open Access, 2022), 24-39.

‘Quacktrap: Glosses and Multilingual Animal Contact in the Tretiz by Walter of Bibbesworth’, in Vincent Debiais and Victoria Turner (eds), Les Mots au Moyen Age / Words in the Middle Ages (Turnhout: Brepols, 2020), pp. 161–80.

‘Wolfe Yollez’, The Learned Pig (for editorial season ‘Wolf Crossing’, 2017).

Publications under review or in preparation in this area are listed below:

Picturing Apocalypse: Translation and Ecology Before the ‘Anthropocene’ (to be submitted to University of Minnesota Press, expected completion date: 2026), 80,000 words.

‘The Medieval History of Baiting’ in Hannah O’Regan, Andy Kesson, and Callan Davies (eds), Bears and Baiting in Early Modern England (to be submitted to UCL Press, expected completion date: October 2025), 6,000 words.

‘The Evidence for Bear Baiting in Post-Conquest England and Northern France’, co-authored with Hannah O’Regan (to be submitted to Medieval Archaeology, expected completion date: April 2024), 8,000 words.

‘What does a bear baiting assemblage look like? Interdisciplinary Analysis of an Early Modern ‘Sport’’, co-authored with Elizabeth Wright, Callan Davies, Angela Lamb, Holly Miller, Kevin Rielly, Sophy Charlton, Andy Kesson, Greger Larson, and Hannah J. O’Regan (submitted to Antiquity in Jan. 2024), 8,000 words.

‘Sloughing the Lion in Villard de Honnecourt’s Sketchbook’, (submitted to Cahiers de Recherches Médiévales et Humanistes in Dec. 2022), 8,000 words.

(2) Medievalism and textual reception. My work as a medievalist has led me to consider the reception of the medieval period in twentieth-century contexts.

‘Entering the Medieval Literary Space through Modern and Contemporary Storytelling and Performance of the ‘Chastelaine’, in Sophie Marnette (ed.), Mapping Literary Ecosystems: (Re)-positioning and Contextualising the Chastelaine de Vergi (to be submitted to Boydell & Brewer in May, 2024), 8,000 words.

‘Imaginaires de l’Apocalypse’ (to be submitted to Culture & Recherche, the official journal published by France’s Ministry of Culture, in March 2024), 3,000 words.

‘Eko; Eko; Azarak’: Witchcraft, Medieval Gibberish and Queer Untranslatability in High Magic’s Aid’, in Special Edition, ‘Mainstreaming Queerness: The New Queer Vanguard’, Sexualities, with forward by Professor Heather Love (submitted Jan 2023), 7,000 words.

My work in this area includes preparing a translation of an untranslated novel in European Arthuriana:

The Sorcerer by René Barjavel. Originally published in French as L’Enchanteur (Paris: Éditions Denoël, 1984). Expected completion date: 2025.

(3) Literary History. I am engaged in scholarship that addresses the understated role of women in medieval literary history:

Transgressive Marie de France, in preparation with Professor Zrinka Stahuljak (UC Los Angeles), expected completion date: 2027.

‘Adeliza of Louvain: Patron’, in Danna Messer (ed), English Consorts: Power, Influence, Dynasty: Normans to Early Plantagenets (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2023), pp. 83-98.

Medieval Animal Studies

My monograph 'Animal Soundscapes in Anglo-Norman Texts' explores the themes of animal sound, noise and language in medieval French and English literature written in Anglo-Norman England, including glossaries and treatises, bestiaries, hagiography, fables, lyric and song. My work challenges some theoretical assumptions in contemporary animal studies by focusing on how language and sound expression is used to redefine networks of relation between humans and nonhumans in the Middle Ages. I consider the ways important texts from the Middle Ages, including the Fables by Marie de France and the Life of Saint Francis of Assisi use the sounds of beasts and birds to reinforce human exceptionalism whilst simultaneously placing the noises of different creatures back into the mouths of human audiences. I am currently writing articles on Walter of Bibbesworth's Tretiz, the vernacular Lives of St Francis of Assisi, and the literary patronage of medieval consort Adeliza of Louvain.

My postdoctoral project considers the use of ecology and the environment in conceptualisations of medieval medicine, in particular how myths and legends of healing with nonhuman animals and birds were communicated through medieval texts. In broader terms, I am also interested in ecocriticism and the environmental humanities, sound studies and translation studies.