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Rita Copeland

Sheli Z. and Burton X. Rosenberg Professor of the Humanities, Professor of Classical Studies, English, and Comparative Literature

Office Hours

office hours:  Fridays by appointment; other times by appointment

I work across a number of fields and periods, including: medieval literature (English, Latin, French); literary theory from ancient to modern; the history of rhetoric; the reception of classical traditions in medieval and early modern Europe; intellectuals, learning, and literacy in medieval Europe; history of the emotions. Usually my teaching combines my interests in antiquity and the Middle Ages--or how the Middle Ages understood antiquity.  I recently published Emotion and the History of Rhetoric in the Middle Ages (2021) and The Oxford History of Classical Reception in English Literature vol. 1, 800-1558 (2016).   Other recent work includes essays on commentary and gloss, and on Aristotle's Rhetoric in medieval England.  I am also interested in representations of the intellectual in pre-modern Europe, from late antique rhetorical culture to late medieval university cultures and heretical communities.   Other work includes Medieval Grammar and Rhetoric:  Language Arts and Literary Theory AD 300-1475, co-authored with Ineke Sluiter;and The Cambridge Companion to Allegory, co-edited with Peter Struck.  I was a founding editor of the annual New Medieval Literatures ).  I am General Editor, with Peter Mack (Warwick), of the Cambridge History of Rhetoric, a series in five volumes to be published in 2023.  I am also co-editor, with Jill Ross, of Toronto Studies in Medieval and Early Modern Rhetoric, a new book series from Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies.  In fall, 2010, I was a fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Jerusalem, working in the research group Encountering Scripture, on medieval Christian, Jewish, and Islamic approaches to scriptural exegesis.  In Spring 2013 I was a Fellow at Penn's Center for Advanced Judaic Studies for a seminar year on innovations in the thirteenth century.  In Spring 2020 I was a Visiting Fellow at the Warburg Institute in London.

Recent graduate courses that I have taught include: Ancient and Medieval Soul (co-taught with Ralph Rosen in Classical Studies), Medieval Poetics; Boethius: from Late Antiquity to the Early Modern Period; The Matter of Thebes (on medieval and early modern reception of Statius' Thebaid); Gloss and Commentary; The Classics and Middle English Literature; Medieval Education; The Sophists:  Ancient Traditions and Post-Classical Receptions (co-taught with Ralph Rosen); Introduction to Literary Theory (Comparative Literature); Medieval Allegory; Premodern Rhetorics; Piers Plowman; Chaucer's Classicism.  Undergraduate courses that I teach include: History of Literary Theory (Ancient to Modern); Ancient and Medieval Epic; The Romance of Pagan Antiquity; Troy Stories; Emotions.



Rhetoric, Hermeneutics, and Translation in the Middle Ages: Academic Traditions and Vernacular Texts. Cambridge, 1991/1995.

Criticism and Dissent in the Middle Ages. Cambridge, 1996.

 Pedagogy, Intellectuals, and Dissent in the Later Middle Ages: Lollardy and Ideas of Learning. Cambridge, 2001.

 Co-authored with Ineke Sluiter, Medieval Grammar and Rhetoric:  Language Arts and Literary Theory AD 300-1475Oxford, 2009

 Co-edited with Peter Struck, The Cambridge Companion to Allegory.  Cambridge, 2010

 Co-edited with Christopher Cannon and Nicolette Zeeman, Medieval Grammar and the Literary Arts, special issue of New Medieval Literatures (2009)

The Oxford History of Classical Reception in English Literature vol. 1, 800-1558 (2016)

 Emotion and the History of Rhetoric in the Middle Ages. Oxford, 2021



Doctoral Dissertations Chaired


Anna Johnson Lyman "Reading the Past: Ruins and Historical Writing in England, 800-1400"


Erika Smith Harman "The Art of the Question in Late Medieval England"


Jacqueline Marie Burek "Mending a Broken Chain: Continuous History and Literary Form in England and Wales, 1125-1450"


Kara Gaston "Chaucer's Formal Histories: Temporality and Intertextuality from the Italian Trecento to Troilus and Criseyde and The Canterbury Tales"


Ian Cornelius "Cultural Promotion: Middle English Alliterative Writing and the Ars Dictaminis"
Cristina Pangilinan "Poetry and London Learning: Chaucer, Gower, USK, Langland and Hoccleve"


Stephanie Anne Viereck Gibbs Kamath "Unveiling the 'I': Allegory and Authorship in the Franco-English Tradition, 1270-1450"


Jessica A. Rosenfeld "The Ethics of Courtly Love: Narrative Transformations in the Later Middle Ages"


Michelle Karnes "The 'School of Devotion': Imagination and Cognition in Medieval Meditations on Christ"


Lana Schwebel "Economy, Representation, and the Sale of Indulgences in Late-Medieval England"

Courses Taught

fall 2024

spring 2024

ENGL 7220.401 Vernacular Epistemologies  

fall 2023

ENGL 2000.401 Epic Tradition  

spring 2023

fall 2022

ENGL 0301.401 First Year Seminar: Emotions  

spring 2022

ENGL 706.401 Ancient Medieval Soul  

fall 2021

spring 2021

fall 2020

ENGL 229.401 Epic, Romance, Myth  
COML 501.401 History of Literary Theory  

fall 2019

ENGL 229.401 Troy Stories  
ENGL 707.401 Premodern Rhetorics  

spring 2019

ENGL 715.401 Gloss and Commentary  

fall 2017

ENGL 721.401 Medieval Poetics  

spring 2017

ENGL 015.402 Emotions  

fall 2016

ENGL 600.401 History of Literary Theory  

spring 2016

fall 2015

fall 2014

ENGL 020.301 Literature Before 1660  

spring 2014

ENGL 707.401 Pre-Modern Rhetorics  

fall 2013

ENGL 020.301 Literature Before 1660  

fall 2012

spring 2012

fall 2011

ENGL 229.401 Romance of Pagan Antiquity  
ENGL 715.401 Gloss and Commentary  

spring 2011

ENGL 229.001 The Sophists  
ENGL 394.401 History of Literary Theory  

fall 2009

spring 2009

ENGL 394.401 History of Literary Theory  

fall 2008

ENGL 524.401 Medieval Education  

spring 2008

fall 2007

fall 2006

ENGL 571.401 History of Literary Theory  

spring 2006

fall 2005

ENGL 715.401 Medieval Literary Theory  

spring 2004

ENGL 715.401 Medieval Allegory  

fall 2003

spring 2003

ENGL 220.401 Medieval Epic and Romance  

fall 2002

ENGL 707.401 Premodern Rhetorics  

spring 2002

ENGL 220.401 The Epic Tradition  

fall 2001

ENGL 571.401 Literary Theory  

spring 2001

ENGL 524.401 Medieval Education  

fall 2000

ENGL 396.401 The Epic Tradition  
ENGL 701.401 Piers Plowman  

spring 2000

fall 1999

ENGL 525.401 Chaucer's Classicisms  

spring 1998