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Anke Bernau


Accepting PhD Students

Personal profile

Research interests

Specific research interests:

My research and teaching interests cover a wide range of medieval (and early modern) genres and themes, as well as theoretical approaches. These include:

  • Knots (of all kinds, especially medieval);
  • Plant Humanities;
  • Curiosity and Craft;
  • Poetics and aesthetics;
  • Ecocriticism and New Materialism;
  • Medievalisms;
  • Medieval religious cultures;
  • Writings on virginity (medieval to modern)

I am currently working on a book project tentatively entitled Medieval Knotworks: Vital Ecologies, which looks at how late medieval vernacular (English) culture used knots to manifest and represent various kinds of - often seemingly inimical - relations, including life and death; matter and spirit; nature and craft. The figure of the knot offers a conceptual focus for this study, as it ranges across different media and categories, while also figuring (in various iterations) as an almost omnipresent metaphor for recent theoretical work done under the loose umbrella of 'environmental humanities'.

I am also interested in considering the ways in which vernacular poetry (ca. 1380-1600)  approached the question of poetic invention, particularly through representations and discussions of cognitive process (memory, imagination, curiosity). I have a longstanding interest gender studies, particularly in relation to virginity and abstinence (both medieval and contemporary), and I also work on medievalism - that is, on post-medieval representations and popular conceptions of the 'medieval' or 'middle ages'.

Other research

Completed Research Projects:

In 2007, I published a wide-ranging study of female virginity, entitled Virgins: A Cultural History (Granta), which was translated into German and Japanese. This study explores different discourses of virginity from ca. 1200 to the start of the twenty-first century.

In 2009, Bettina Bildhauer and I co-edited and published a collection of essays on cinematic representations on the Middle Ages, Medieval Film (Manchester University Press); and in 2015 I co-edited a volume entitled Sanctity as Literature in Late Medieval Britain with Eva von Contzen. This collection considers the contributions religious literary genres, such as hagiography, make to the development of forms of  'literariness' (Manchester University Press).

I have published several journal articles on a range of topics, including on: the Albina origin myth;  on lists and medieval poetics; on Bruno Latour's concept of [REL] and medieval antisemitism; on translation and form in Patience; on affective thinking in Pearl ; and on cleanness in 'Cleanness'. 

I am a series editor for the Manchester Medieval Literature and Culture Series at Manchester University Press.

From August 2011 - January 2013 I was holder of a Humboldt Experienced Researcher Fellowship at the Freie Universitaet, Berlin. 

From 2015-21 I was co-editor of Exemplaria: Medieval / Early Modern / Theory



Supervision areas:

I would be happy to supervise research in any of the areas related to my research interests. The John Rylands library, with its large collection of medieval manuscripts and early printed books, its electronic resources (such as Early English Books Online, Literature Online and electronic image collections such as ARTSTOR and LUNA) and its comprehensive range of critical materials provides an ideal research environment for students interested in medieval literature, culture and medievalism.

Recent and Current PhD Students and their Theses (for which I was/am Main Supervisor or equal Co-Supervisor):

  • Paul Knowles. ‘Haunted Pasts and Possible Futures in Ecogeographical Short Fiction: Crisis and Chronotope’ (co-supervised) (Sept. 2021 - )
  • Meaghan Allen. 'Sacred Slayers and (Un)Willing Martyrs: The Female Martyr-Topos in Medieval Hagiography and Contemporary Gothic/Horror' (Jan. 2021 - ).
  • Emily Harless. 'Memories of Margery Kempe: Remembering in and Rememberings of The Book of Margery Kempe' (September 2019 -)


  • Hannah Priest: 'Monstrous Subjectivity in Middle English and Anglo-Norman Verse' [successfully completed in 2009]
  • Kate Ash: ' "Off quhat nacioun art thow?": The Enigma of National Identity in the Middle Ages' [successfully completed in 2010]
  • Stephen Gordon, 'The Theatre of Death: Ghosts, Perception and the Funerary Performance' [successfully completed 2013]
  • Daisy Black, 'Mind the Gap:Time, Gender and Conflict in the Late Medieval Mystery Plays ' [successfully completed 2014]
  • Gillian Redfern. 'Back to the Future? Look North - It's Positively Medieval!' [AHRC-funded; successfully completed 2022]

Other teaching information

Taught courses:

I teach and direct courses at both undergraduate and postgraduate level. Undergraduate courses include our core first year course, entitled "Mapping the Medieval"; a second-year course entitled "Medieval Metamorphoses"; and my specialist year 3 course, "Vital Matters: Medieval Ecologies". This third-year course brings medieval theories of nature into conversation with recent work on the climate emergency.

At MA level, I currently teach on the following courses: (1) 'Space, Place, and Text' (a theoretical course on spatial theory, core course for the MA in English Literature and American Studies); (2) 'Perspectives' (methodological course on the MA for Medieval and Early Modern Studies); (3) 'Wondrous Transformations: Translating the Medieval Past' (medieval poetry, modern translations and translation theories).

In the past, I have taught on other courses, such as "Troy Stories" (from Chaucer to Lavinia Greenlaw), and also on courses on Early English Drama (together with Professor Jacqueline Pearson) and on "Medievalism" (with Professor David Matthews).

Further information

  • Manchester Medieval Literature and Culture Series

I am a general editor of the Manchester Medieval Literature and Culture Series. For further information on the series, including an outline of the Series? aims and the process of submitting a book proposal, please go to:

  • I am a board member of Manchester University Press.







Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 5 - Gender Equality
  • SDG 13 - Climate Action
  • SDG 14 - Life Below Water
  • SDG 15 - Life on Land
  • SDG 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions

Areas of expertise

  • PR English literature
  • medieval
  • poetics
  • aesthetics
  • craft
  • ornament
  • knots
  • Ecocriticism
  • New materialism
  • plant humanities
  • moss
  • D111 Medieval History

Research Beacons, Institutes and Platforms

  • Sustainable Futures
  • Manchester Institute for Collaborative Research on Ageing
  • Creative Manchester


  • medieval
  • literature
  • gender
  • curiosity
  • craft
  • poetics
  • virginity
  • memory
  • temporality
  • emotions
  • materiality
  • aesthetics
  • plant humanities
  • Ecocriticism
  • environmental humanities


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