Medieval literature

Fordham PhD Alum Publishes Book on Piers Plowman

Fordham alum Arvind Thomas (PhD 2010) is receiving accolades for his new book (from Toronto University Press) Piers Plowman and the Reinvention of Church Law in the Late Middle Ages, which asks the question, “To what extent does the art of making poems share in the craft of making laws, and vice versa?”

Cornell English professor Andrew Galloway says, "This book offers an important excavation of how much canon law is part of the ‘dialogic’ range of discourse in and around Piers Plowman, both showing how the poem’s originality extends to how it refashions canon law and following implications that might have been treated by a prosaic canonist but that, fortunately, were instead unfolded by a brilliant poet. Arvind Thomas’ study thus also offers a new way to appreciate some of the range and depth of canon law itself."

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Arvind is grateful for his time at Fordham and for the mentorship he says that made this book possible. “I owe Wolfgang Mueller a deep debt of gratitude for encouraging me to compare the versions of the poem from the perspective of canonist thought. Wolfgang has consistently been a critical reader of this project, prompting me to engage the original canonical sources closely and to write in a language that historians would understand.”

“I am deeply grateful to Eve Keller, who served as a mentor and helped me shape the book’s conceptual methodology , clarify it in terms of the project’s ‘big picture,’ and shape the appropriate style. Her practice of form-attentive reading of premodern literature has served as a model for the book.”

“I owe a great debt to Lenny Cassuto, whose graduate mentorship enabled me to stay in academia to work on the book.”

“My thanks also go to John Bugg, whose feedback on the readers’ reports on the book manuscript was central to its revision process.”

Congratulations to Arvind on his remarkable accomplishment.

For more information, and to purchase the book, please click here: Piers Plowman and the Reinvention of Church Law in the Late Middle Ages.

Master Class on the Queer Middle Ages and Research for Social Justice 

On Thursday, April 11th, Professor Steven Kruger spoke to Fordham undergraduate and graduate students about his early career and research in medieval literature.  Dr. Kruger, visiting from CUNY Graduate Center, Queen’s College, New York, discussed his development as a scholar and his approach to writing.  Importantly, he addressed the significance of historical research that contributes meaningfully to present-day cultural issues.

The Master Class was inspired by undergraduate coursework done by this year’s Freshmen Honors cohort in the English Department. Upon reading Kruger’s article, “Claiming the Pardoner,” written in 1994, students wondered how Kruger might add to his views on Geoffrey Chaucer’s enigmatic character 25 years later.


Dr. Kruger specializes in gender, sexuality, feminist and queer theory, and medieval literature.  Dr. Kruger's publications include many articles on these topics, as well as book-length studies including AIDS Narratives: Gender and Sexuality, Fiction and Science; Queering the Middle Ages (co-ed. with Glenn Burger); and The Spectral Jew: Conversion and Embodiment in Medieval Europe.

We are grateful for the support of Fordham University Center for Medieval Studies, the Department of English, and graduate student David Smigen-Rothkopf whose gorgeous flier artwork is featured here.


Students Build a Play with the Pros

On Friday, April 5, theater director Noah Himmelstein joined the students of Prof. Andrew Albin’s ENGL/THEA 4151: Performing Medieval Drama for a workshop on movement, devising, and stagecraft, to help them prepare their upcoming performance of the medieval morality play, Wisdom. Students explored the relationship between allegorical character and physical gesture, building up a bodily vocabulary for a climactic dance-off that tumbles into chaos at the center of the play. 

Katie Kudcey, Peri Rohl, Alesha Kilayko, Noah Himmelstein, and Charles Laboy (L-R) take a selfie after a medieval drama workshop and conversation.

Katie Kudcey, Peri Rohl, Alesha Kilayko, Noah Himmelstein, and Charles Laboy (L-R) take a selfie after a medieval drama workshop and conversation.

Afterward, students had the chance to talk informally with Himmelstein about his work and career. “He was very honest,” said Katie Kudcey (Music ’19), who plays Lucifer in Wisdom. “We would ask him a question and he wouldn’t beat around the bush.” Peri Rohl (English ’20), playing Anima, agreed: “‘[Theater] is something you do, it’s not who you are,’ he told us, and both our worlds kind of exploded!” 

Himmelstein’s emphasis on improvisation and intuition left a strong impression. “Connecting your physical actions to your character is really important for medieval work, where intention and motivation matter less,” said Savanah Manos (English ’20), who plays the role of Will. Rohl agreed, adding, “We can play around with our characters, play around with the scene, be spontaneous, and we’ll still get good results.”

Wisdom will be performed on Saturday, April 27 at 10:30am, at the entrance to FCLC’s Lowenstein Building on the corner of 60th and 9th. All are invited to come see this inventive, dynamic, and very funny medieval play come to life on the streets of New York! For more information, check out the Fordham Medieval Dramatists’ Facebook page and website.

Doctoral Student Danielle Sottosanti Attends Groundbreaking Symposium

English Department Doctoral student Danielle Sottosanti represented Fordham University at the first Race before Race symposium, an event designed for medieval and early modern race scholars.


The two-day event, hosted by the Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies at Arizona State University, featured scholars who are pushing their fields in new directions in the study of race, whether from archival, theoretical, or practical directions.

Speakers included Patricia Akhimie, David Sterling Brown, Seeta Chaganti, Urvashi Cahkravarty, Kim Hall, Jonathan Hsy, Dorothy Kim, Noémie Ndiaya, Shokoofeh Rajabzadeh, Carla Maria Thomas, Farah Karim-Cooper, and Cord Whitaker.

Sottosanti, whose Doctoral project explores the intersections of race, religion, and gender in the conversion narratives of medieval romance, enjoyed being a part of the symposium and supporting its more inclusive approaches to the study of race in the medieval and early modern world.

For more on the symposium, click here: Race before Race Symposium

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Reid-Mullarkey Research and Teaching Forum--October 24th

You are invited to the next Reid-Mullarky Reseach and Teaching Forum—Writing and Teaching in the Age of the Unspeakable. Wednesday, October 24th from 2:30pm-6:30pm at Rose Hill’s Duane Library, Room 351 and videoconference to LL309. Please plan to attend. Tea will be served. For more info see below.

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Doctoral Student Danielle Sottosanti Represents Fordham at the IUDC Doctoral Consortium

Congratulations to graduate student, Danielle Sottosanti, for being chosen to deliver a portion of her Doctoral research at New York City’s Medieval Inter-University Doctoral Consortium. The Doctoral Consortium, which draws from faculty and graduate students from CUNY – Brooklyn College, CUNY – Graduate Center, Columbia, Fordham, NYU, Princeton, Rutgers, SUNY - Stony Brook, and others, showcases the research of top students in and around New York City. Danielle’s paper, “The Romance of Crossover: Why Now is the Time for Broader Study of Late-Medieval Religious Conversion,” formed part of a session entitled “Finding New Paths,” chaired by Professor Steven Kruger of CUNY – Graduate Center. The Consortium was hosted this year by NYU on 27 April 2018. The attached image from the Auchinleck MS imagines religious conversion in the enigmatic, medieval romance, "The King of Tars," where the convert's skin color changes once he is baptized. Please join the Fordham community in congratulating Danielle for a job well done!

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English Faculty Receive Fellowships

Congratulations to English Department faculty members who have been awarded Fordham Faculty Fellowships!