Rita Copeland

Rita Copeland

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

Medieval literature and intellectual history


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 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.  My current project is a book on emotion and the history of rhetoric.  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: 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.

Selected Publications


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 300-1475.  Oxford, 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)