I am currently a third-year PhD student of Medieval and Early Modern Studies with funding from the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) as part of the Consortium for the Humanities and Arts in South-East England (CHASE) at the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, University of Kent.
I grew up in a small village on the border of Wiltshire and Oxfordshire with parents who encouraged my love of studying even when they didn’t understand it. I moved to Canterbury in 2010 and the Cathedral town has been my home for six years, having studied for my BA, MA, and now my PhD here. Canterbury has fostered my interest in medieval culture, being one of the few places with both a Franciscan garden for you to retreat to with a good book and an abundance of noisy medieval pubs perfect for a cold pint.
The more time I have spent researching the medieval past, the more it engages me. For me, it represents a period of incredible imaginative cultural production. This was a period of humour and wit, of Chaucer, of great Cathedrals, humble parish churches, and intense devotion; it was a celebration of art in all forms. The way ideas were shared is not so dissimilar to current internet cultures, where anonymity and appropriation of material is welcome, encouraged even. The medieval past is a period about which there will always remain questions, it can never be fully rediscovered and so it is open for exploration, for interpretation and reinterpretation, and this is my contribution.
Although my research examines the social and textual literary networks of one fifteenth-century Middle English poem, The Awntyrs off Arthure, my research interests span late-medieval literary, visual and popular culture, which varies from parish church wall paintings to political history to medieval drama. And my interests seem to be expanding with each day.
Beyond the PhD I am involved with a number of projects that are both connected to and separate from my studies. I am co-organiser of Material Witness, an interdisciplinary doctoral training programme for the interrogation of physical objects, spaces and environments, and I am one of the founding editorial board members for Brief Encounters, an open access journal for the publication and dissemination of postgraduate research. I am a staunch feminist, a liberal, a determined baker, and an avid watcher of all TV (personal favourites include Gilmore Girls, Homeland, GoT, Six Feet Under, and SATC). You may occasionally find posts about all of these things on my blog – after all I am much more than just an almost-PhD.
For pictures of old books, buildings, and all other things you can follow me on Instagram and on Twitter @RebeccaPope21
There is something about the connection formed between a reader and their books which interests me above all else; the marks on a page where a reader has too often rested their thumb, or the scribbling of a name in the margin as a mark of ownership. To interact with these books now is to interact with the people who read them 600 years ago, forging a real human connection through the act of reading. To get to go into libraries and read these books for myself is an experience that I don’t think I’ll ever grow tired of.
My thesis is particularly concerned with the books which contain Middle English Arthurian romance. It aims to recover the networks of people that may have written, read, and shared these texts in the late-medieval period. My project focuses on the fifteenth-century alliterative romance, The Awntyrs off Arthure (The Adventures of Arthur), which survives in four different manuscript copies. It is derived from an earlier Arthurian romance, the alliterative Morte Arthure, and is the source for a third romance The Avowyng of Arthure. It shares textual similarities to both Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Sir Thomas Malory’s Le Morte Darthur, both well-known and well-studied canonical Arthurian romances. Yet, all of these texts survive in just one copy. The Awntyrs is therefore remarkable, as it survives in four unique manuscript versions.
The world of King Arthur and his knights has managed to continually captivate the imaginations of audiences, from its known beginnings in the 11th century, to its modern day depictions in TV shows like Merlin or Camelot. Ideas of the round table and of chivalry have found their way into our own idioms and cultural identities. Yet its popularity in the Middle Ages is shown through a fragmented manuscript record. My thesis explores how the history of a text, both cultural and social, can be reconstructed when only a piece of it remains. The surviving manuscripts of Awntyrs were not always the only copies, the books reveal that more must have once existed that have since been lost. This project is the puzzling together of the remaining pieces to try and form a fuller, more complete picture of the literary past, the process as well as the products being expressed here through my blog, which I invite you to read, engage with, and comment on as you wish.
or alternatively can email me at firstname.lastname@example.org