I grew up in Kent, and after attending the local state grammar school I read English at Oxford, where I took my undergraduate and graduate degrees.
I have taught at Oxford since 1999, and have also worked at the universities of Reading and Southampton.
I teach English literature from the Anglo-Saxon period up to the sixteenth century. I also regularly teach the history, theory and use of the English language.
My principal research interests are in Chaucer, the medieval and sixteenth-century love lyric, and poetics, with an emphasis on how form precedes and generates meaning. I am interested in interrogating the agendas which drive the taxonomy of poetic form, and in challenging the division still made between medieval and early modern literature. I have recently completed a book on the role of rhyme in late medieval and early Renaissance love lyric. This book shows that decorum in the choice of vocabulary, combined with the limited rhyme resources of English, render certain clusters of words and ideas almost inevitable, particularly in complex poetic forms demanding large rhyme-groups. As a result, the essentially arbitrary element of rhyme comes to generate features of the experience of love in poetry, and the impression of subjectivity in love lyric is a side-effect of the necessities of rhyme.
‘Chaucer’s presence in Songes and Sonettes’ in Stephen Hamrick (ed.), Tottel’s Songes and Sonettes in Context (Ashgate, 2013), pp. 87-110.
‘An obscured tradition: the sonnet’s relationship to its fourteen-line predecessors’, Review of English Studies 62 (2011), 373-92.
Edition of Tottel’s Miscellany (Penguin Classics, 2011). Co-edited with Tom MacFaul.
The Sources of Chaucer’s Poetics (Ashgate, 2008).
‘Resistance, Regard and Rewriting: Virginia Woolf and Anne Thackeray Ritchie’, English 57 (2008), 42-64.