David Wallace has been Judith Rodin Professor of English, University of Pennsylvania, since 1996, with visiting stints at London, Melbourne, Princeton, and Jerusalem (twice). He is a Fellow of the English Association (http://www2.le.ac.uk/offices/english-association) and currently First Vice President, Medieval Academy of America (http://www.medievalacademy.org). His primary commitments are to Europe and European literatures, to the performance and enjoyment of poetry (especially Chaucer), and to helping secure a viable future for younger scholars.
David's commitment to all things European led to eight years of collaborative effort and some forty campus visits, seeking feedback for what would become the first full-scale literary history of Europe. The project's warhorse website, with its interactive pins, much modified over the years, may still be consulted: http://www.english.upenn.edu/~dwallace/europe/index.html
Oxford University Press finally published Europe: A Literary History 1348-1418, ed. David Wallace, 2 vols, in 2016 (https://global.oup.com/academic/product/europe-9780198735359?cc=us&lang=en&). This Europeanist project breaks from traditional, nineteenth-century nation state paradigms (Italian literary history, German literary history, etc.) since "Italy" and "Germany" did not exist as political states earlier on. It therefore unfolds through eighty-two chapters and nine itineraries that follow routes of trade, pilgrimage, military alliance, religious affiliation, and disease. Its expanded geographical vision assumes that Europe, which has no definite geographical limits, can be understood only with reference to regions thought to lie beyond its periphery. It considers intricate literary linkages between northern African shorelines and locales such as al-Andalus and Sicily, with Islam long integral to European space. Rome-centered, Latinate cultures as considered by earlier literary histories are here supplemented by Greek and Byzantine, Armenian and Slavic, Arabic and Hebrew writings across a wide range of locales. Collectively, we hope to build towards understanding of a Global Middle Ages, a project supported at Penn by a wide range of Faculty across many disciplines (https://www.sas.upenn.edu/medieval/).
Geoffrey Chaucer, born just after a planetary plague killed one in three, is today enjoying a global renaissance. Why do poets, translators, and performers from so many cultures, from the mountains of Iran to the islands of Japan, find Chaucer so inspiring? David's new book, designed for a wide audience, aims to find out (https://global.oup.com/academic/product/geoffrey-chaucer-9780198805069?c...)
Only once in the lifetime of a language does a writer have the chance to found a literary tradition. Chaucer takes this chance, but without assuming the official, deadening baggage of a 'founding father': that was loaded upon him much later. Chaucer had his literary heroes, but none of them were English; he thus writes with joyfulness, joiussance, unburdened by the fear of sounding like someone else. Blending Romance and Germanic vocabularies, local and imported forms, he fashions literature in English while preserving egregious expressive range: high tragedy and barnyard farce; religious allegory and sex up a pear tree; farts and the music of the celestial spheres. Before Chaucer, great literature was in Latin, French, or Italian. How, Chaucer pondered, might English come to rival these illustrious languages, accommodate science and astrology, philosophy and poetrie? But how also might it represent not just aristocrats, as in Troilus and Criseyde, but every social level, down to a Cook with a suppurating sore, a Plowman spreading dung? Born into the merchant class, in noisy dock-side London, Chaucer became a royal esquire-- which is why his life is much better documented than Shakespeare's. Westminster valued and rewarded him as a skillful civil servant-- customs inspector, overseer of royal buildings-- but not as a poet. His ambitions for English as a worthy European tongue were recognized only much later, when his Westminster Abbey burial place became Poets' Corner. From Shakespeare to Sylvia Plath, the most acute dramatists and poets have found Chaucer deeply enabling. And new Chaucerian voices, David Wallace suggests, are now mapping polyglot English futures: Jean Binta Breeze and Patience Agbabi, Caroline Bergvall and many others across the world.
David emphasizes that Chaucer can best be understood through oral performing. He has thus provided some selections from Chaucer in Middle English via Pennsound (http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Wallace.php). This website also presents performances by three Columbia professors from the 1930s, with some discussion of their period performance styles.
This Pennsound website also features documentaries made for BBC Radio 3 on Bede (with Kevin Whately), Margery Kempe (with Prunella Scales), Malory's Morte Darthur (with Andrew Motion), and John Leland (with Jeremy Northam). There is also podcast discussion of Caroline Bergvall's VIA, her rendition of the opening of Dante's Inferno (http://writing.upenn.edu/pennsound/x/Wallace.php).
David is a core research and teaching member of Penn's Gender, Sexuality, and Women's Studies Program (https://www.sas.upenn.edu/gsws/) and of its Faculty Environmental Humanities Working Group (http://www.ppehlab.org/workinggroup/). In October 2007 David gave the Clarendon Lectures in English at Oxford; these have been developed into book form for OUP as Strong Women: Life, Text, and Territory 1347-1645, published in May 2011: http://ukcatalogue.oup.com/product/9780199541713.do?keyword=David+Wallace&sortby=bestMatches
The four women considered here are Dorothea of Montau (1347-1394), Margery Kempe of Lynn (c. 1373-c. 1438), Mary Ward of Yorkshire (1585-1645), and Elizabeth Cary of Drury Lane (c. 1585-1639).
With Carolyn Dinshaw he has edited The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Women's Writing https://www.cambridge.org/core/books/the-cambridge-companion-to-medieval...
A member of the Center for Italian Studies at Penn, David also takes particular interest in French and German, as well as Middle English and is a member of Penn's Program in Comparative Literature and Literary Theory (http://ccat.sas.upenn.edu/Complit/)
David serves on the Advisory Board of the Center for Medieval Literature (Odense/ York), sharing their commitment to Europeanism expressed by its free online journal, Interfaces, which publishes in English, French, German, Italian, and Spanish (http://riviste.unimi.it/index.php/interfaces/index).
Having served as Faculty host and lecturer for Penn Alumni Travel for many years (http://www.alumni.upenn.edu/s/1587/gid2/16/interior.aspx?sid=1587&gid=2&...), David now teaches contemporary travel writing to Penn undergraduates. The first class assignment is "Crossing Walnut Bridge"; the last is a detailed account of Spring break travel.
David has taught summer schools in Fribourg, Lausanne, Istanbul, Jerusalem, and Budapest and strongly supports the continuing existence of the Central European University (https://www.ceu.edu/).