Sian Echard

Professor

Research Classification

Research Interests

Literary or Artistic Work Analysis
Literary or Artistic Work Dissemination or Reception Contexts
Modes and strategies of dissemination
Poetry
Media Types (Radio, Television, Written Press, etc.)
Anglo-Latin literature
Arthurian literature
History of the Book
John Gower
Manuscript studies
Medieval literature

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Graduate Student Supervision

Doctoral Student Supervision (Jan 2008 - May 2021)
Time and Metaphor: Reading and Writing the Computus in the British Isles, 600-1400 (2018)

No abstract available.

The Arthur of the March of Wales (2016)

“The Arthur of the March of Wales” explores the medieval Arthurian legend through the lens of the political boundary separating and combining the English and Welsh people. This border, I argue, is overwhelmingly responsible for the legend’s genesis and its most enduring features. This critical orientation breaks from the conventional organization and focus of Arthurian scholarship, which has meticulously segregated literary works about Arthur into independent traditions. These traditions forcibly map our modern conceptions of homogeneous imagined communities—nation states or linguistic heritage—onto literary texts which are themselves overwhelmingly inter-linguistic and comparative. My study, instead, reads Arthurian border works outside the disciplinary and nationalistic boundaries which have been erected upon them. As I argue, recognizing the Anglo-Welsh border as the preeminent origin for a substantial portion of the Arthurian corpus is important for how we understand the wider manifestations of the legend. However, the implications of this project reach beyond scholarly tradition. My study details how the Arthurian legend and the border serve similar cultural and political purposes throughout British history. Both Arthur and the Anglo-Welsh border are entities which hold a mutually reflexive position to Welsh, English, and Norman hegemony and ideology; they simultaneously shape and are shaped by the evolving conceptions of British identity on both sides of the border. Amid the clash of armies, the coexistence of peoples, and the clamor of courts, the Arthurian border continuously revealed and unraveled the ever-evolving “truths” of British culture. “The Arthur of the March of Wales” is a fresh, interdisciplinary intervention in our conception of the Arthurian legend and the national/disciplinary boundaries which have hitherto confined it.

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Families, Fictions, and Seeing Through Things: Re-Reading Langland, Chaucer, and the Pearl-Poet (2011)

This dissertation explores the generation of meaning in medieval texts and suggests ways in which we can regenerate that meaning by deploying medieval hermeneutic models. Unlike previous scholarship in this particular area, much of which focuses upon how scholasticism and the classical inheritance influenced medieval reading practices, this project brings together two relatively new theoretical models in order to re-evaluate our understanding of some well-trodden ground: the work of William Langland, Geoffrey Chaucer, and the Pearl-Poet. These two models are genealogy and thing theory – two perspectives which seem very different but which both resonate with medieval forms of understanding. This dual theoretical paradigm complicates our assumptions about how linear models functioned in the Middle Ages and highlights how the absence of meaning can be just as significant as its presence. The “thing,” both as concrete object and divine unknown, is an integral part of genealogy, in that the linear genealogical model is constantly on the edge of dissolution as its hidden histories threaten to disrupt its stability.In each of the four “case studies” in this dissertation I apply these models to my readings of different forms of textuality: literary tradition, the physical manuscript, and literary analysis. Langland’s poem Piers Plowman is a central component in each case study, largely because it refuses conclusions and resolutions. Its apparent transgression of genre, its unexpected turns, and its ability to be aligned with opposing ideologies make it a puzzle to the modern reader. It is, in many ways, an indefinable “thing.” Much of this project looks for such moments of “thingness” in order to explore alternate models of signification, and therefore Piers Plowman is ideal as the common thread connecting the different parts of my argument. Applying thing theory and the genealogical paradigm to the various works in this dissertation facilitates an exploration of issues such as authorship, community, individuality, and alterity and the role they play in medieval textuality. Increasing our awareness of how medieval reading practices diverge from modern ones surely enhances our understanding of how literature shaped medieval English culture – a culture which, in turn, shaped our own.

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Publications

 
 

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