Courtney Rydel

  • (On Sabbatical, Spring 2023) Chair and Associate Professor of English; Director of the Sophie Kerr Endowment




I hold an M.A. and Ph.D. in English from the University of Pennsylvania (Ph.D. 2012, M.A. 2008), with a pedagogy certificate from the Center for Teaching and Learning and a certificate in Gender, Sexuality and Women’s Studies.  I earned my B.A. in English, summa cum laude, with minors in Creative Writing and Classics from The College of New Jersey (2006).


With Jennie Carr, professor in Biology, I’m engaged in an ongoing project on medieval birds, specifically how medieval conceptions of birds compare to modern-day scientific knowledge.  We have discovered that poetry, specifically Chaucer’s Parliament of Fowls, incorporates more accurate observations of bird behavior than the supposed “expert” sources at the time.  We have given a joint talk on this research, and had an interactive gallery exhibit at the Sandbox gallery in Chestertown.


Recently I was interviewed for a documentary on “Deadly Journeys of the Apostles” that aired on the National Geographic Channel in the United States as well as being seen worldwide.  This interview built on my expertise on the Legenda aurea or Golden Legend, a thirteenth-century collection of saints’ lives, as well as the teaching I do in the Bible as Literature class. 

I have heard from viewers in Argentina, Belarus, Belgium, Bolivia, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Columbia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, England, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, El Salvador, France, Indonesia, Ireland, Italy, Israel, Kenya, Liberia, Malaysia, Mexico, Pakistan, Peru, the Philippines, Slovenia, Scotland, South Africa, South Korea, Spain, Venezuela, Uruguay, the United States, Yugoslavia, and Zimbabwe (38 countries).


My current book project traces the British reception and translation of the Golden Legend, a collection of saints’ lives that became one of the most popular medieval books.  This understudied text contributed in important ways to models of gendered behavior and women’s piety, to the history of biblical translation and publishing, and to the development of authorial identity and tradition in English literature.  This is the first study to give a sustained consideration to the English translations of the Golden Legend together, and to explore the role of women and gender specifically in the Golden Legend.



“Legendary Resistance: Critiquing Rape Culture in the Virgin Martyr Passions,” in Subjects of Violence: Women, Consent, and Resistance in the Later Middle Ages, Ohio State University Press, edited by Sarah Baechle, Elizaveta Strakhov and Carissa M. Harris, forthcoming, projected 2019. 


“Iacopo da Voragine (Jacobus de Voragine).”  Entry for The Chaucer Encyclopedia, Wiley Blackwell.  Forthcoming, projected 2019.


“Medieval Birds: Science Meets Poetry in the Parliament of Fowls,” co-authored with Jennie M. Carr, The Once and Future Classroom: Resources for Teaching the Middle Ages, 15.1 (Fall 2018).


“The Collaborative Medievalist,” in The Ballad of the Lone Medievalist, edited by Kisha J. Tracy and John Sexton, punctum books, May 2018.


“Interpretive Etymologies in Translations of the Golden Legend,” in Translation and Authority - Authorities in Translation (The Medieval Translator 16), edited by Pieter De Leemans and Michele Goyens, Brepols: 2016, 289-302.


“Inventing a Male Writer in Mechtild von Hackeborn’s Booke of Gostlye Grace,” Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures, 40.2 (Winter 2014): 192-216.


Review of Heresy Trials and English Women Writers, 1400-1670, in Recusant History: A Journal of Research in Post-Reformation Catholic History in the British Isles, 32.1 (May 2014): 126-8 (invited review).


“A Discovery of the Only Middle English Translation of the Legenda aurea Prologue,” Notes and Queries, New Series 60.4 (2013): 508-512.


“Fits of Imagination,” Review of Thomas Meyer’s Beowulf: A Translation, for Jacket2, an online journal of contemporary poetry, 4 December 2013.  Accessible at: <>


Review of Richard W. Pfaff’s The Liturgy in Medieval England: A History, in Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures, Spring 2012 (38.1).



Lower level courses include a First Year Seminar, “Here Be Monsters: Dragons, Werewolves and Zombies in Literature and Film,” Classical Literature, Introduction to Drama, History of English Literature I, and English 101.


Upper level courses include Global Middle Ages, Chaucer, Women’s Writing to 1800, Arthurian Romance, and Anglo-Saxon Language and Literature, and the English department junior seminar.


Teaching interests: Writing and rhetoric, medieval literature, translation theory, medieval and early modern women’s writing, material texts from manuscript to digital, Chaucer, romance and hybrid genres, national identity, digital humanities/medievalism, global Middle Ages, saints’ lives, and gender and sexuality studies.

Professional Affiliations

Early English Text Society

Hagiography Society

Modern Languages Association

Medieval Academy of America

New Chaucer Society

Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship