James Paz

James Paz

Lecturer in Early Medieval English Literature, University of Manchester

My speciality is Old English language and literature; but I am also an interdisciplinary medievalist who recognises that early medieval literature interacts with the visual and material culture of the period. Some of my more recent work looks at how medieval writing can inform and transform modern literary genres, such as science fiction.

My first monograph, which comes out of my doctoral research, draws on thing theory to argue that ‘things’ do not simply carry Old English voices across the ages but change them, sometimes reshaping or even subverting the messages intended by their original human makers. I present evidence for the talkativeness of nonhumans in five chapters interpreting both literary and material artefacts: Æschere’s head, Grendel’s mother and the giants’ sword in Beowulf; the Exeter Book riddles and Aldhelm’s Latinenigmata; the Franks Casket; the Lives of St Cuthbert and Lindisfarne Gospels; The Dream of the Roodand the Ruthwell runes. In arguing for the agency of things, this monograph rethinks the divisions between ‘animate’ human subjects and ‘inanimate’ nonhuman objects. The Anglo-Saxon thing resists such categorisation by acting as an assembly, moulding meaning and matter together into a distinct whole.

I am also co-editing, introducing and contributing to a collection of essays on Medieval Science Fiction, addressing the recurring omissions of the Middle Ages from constructed histories of SF. The collection combines critical and creative approaches and includes essays from medievalists, historians of science, research astronomers, SF critics and authors. Contributors consider where, how and why ‘science’ and ‘fiction’ intersect in the medieval period; explore the ways in which works of modern SF illuminate medieval counterparts; but also identify the presence and absence of the medieval past in SF history and criticism.

My new research explores the relationship between the earliest English literature, science and craft, starting with an article and a number of talks on Eilmer of Malmesbury: an eleventh-century astronomer and flying monk.

I would be interested in supervising postgraduates on topics concerning: the intersections between early medieval literature and material culture; the relationships between humans and nonhumans in early medieval culture; medievalism (especially in science fiction and fantasy); new materialisms (especially thing theory).

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