David Lawton

Professor, Department of English
PhD, York
research interests:
  • Medieval literatures and culture
  • Bible and religious writing
  • Chaucer
  • Literary history and theory
  • Drama
  • Poetics
  • Blasphemy
  • Pain studies
  • Postcolonial and Australian studies
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contact info:

mailing address:

  • Washington University
  • CB 1122
  • One Brookings Drive
  • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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Professor Lawton has published six books and many articles in English literary and cultural studies and in medieval studies.

Lawton research centers on Chaucer's poetry and prose as well as medieval religious drama. His most recent books Voice in Later Medieval English Literature: Public Interiorities (Oxford University Press, 2017) yields important insights into the voice work of late medieval poets, especially Langland and Chaucer, and also their fifteenth-century successors. He is founding co-editor of a major journal, New Medieval Literatures, and was Executive Director of the New Chaucer Society 2002-12.

At Washington University and elsewhere he has been named an Outstanding Faculty Mentor and received awards for excellence in mentoring and teaching. Prof. Lawton has also published poetry and journalism, and appeared on radio and television, in the US, Britain and Australia. He is a life member of Clare Hall, Cambridge, and a faculty associate in English Language and Literature at Oxford.

Selected Publications

Books

Voice in Later Medieval English Literature: Public Interiorities (Oxford University Press, 2017).
The Siege of Jerusalem, ed. Ralph Hanna and David Lawton, Early English Text Society Original Series 320 (Oxford University Press, 2003).
Blasphemy. Harvester Wheatsheaf (London) and University of Pennsylvania Press (Philadelphia) 1993, in hard cover and paperback.
Faith, Text and History: The Bible in English. Harvester Wheatsheaf (U.K.); Simon and Schuster (Australia); University of Virginia  Press (U.S.A.), 1991, in hard cover and paperback.
Joseph of Arimathea: A Critical Edition (New York, Garland, 1983).

Articles and Book Chapters

“Defaced: The Art of Blaspheming Texts and Images in the West,” Profane: Sacrilegious Expression in a Multicultural Age, ed. Christopher S. Grenda, Chris Beneke and David Nash (University of California Press, 2014).
“Public Interiorities,” A Handbook of Middle English Studies, ed. Marion Turner (Wiley-Blackwell, 2013), 93-107.
“Voice and Public Interiorities: Chaucer, Orpheus, Machaut,” in Answerable Style: the Idea of the Literary in Medieval England, ed. Andrew Galloway and Frank Grady (Ohio State University Press, 2013), 284-306.
“Christopher Marlowe, Dr Faustus,” Oxford Companion to Tudor Drama, ed. Tom Betteridge and Greg Walker (Oxford University Press, 2012), 161-74.
“Voice After Arundel,” Arundel and After, ed. Vincent Gillespie and Kantik Ghosh (Brepols, 2011), 133-51.
“English Literary Voices, 1350-1500,” The Cambridge Companion to Medieval England, ed. Andrew Galloway (Cambridge University Press, 2011), 237-58.
“The Bible and the Biblical in English, from Caedmon to 1550,” The Oxford History of Literary Translation in English, volume 1, ed. Roger Ellis  (Oxford University Press, 2008), 193-233.
“1453 and the Stream of Time,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, ed. David Wallace and Jennifer Summit, 37 (2007), 469-91 – special issue on temporalities.

Voice in Later Medieval English Literature: Public Interiorities

Voice in Later Medieval English Literature: Public Interiorities

Lawton approaches later medieval English vernacular culture in terms of voice. As texts and discourses shift in translation and in use from one language to another, antecedent texts are revoiced in ways that recreate them (as "public interiorities") without effacing their history or future. The approach yields important insights into the voice work of late medieval poets, especially Langland and Chaucer, and also their fifteenth-century successors, who treat their work as they have treated their precursors. It also helps illuminate vernacular religious writing and its aspirations, and it addresses literary and cultural change, such as the effect of censorship and increasing political instability in and beyond the fifteenth century. Lawton also proposes his emphasis on voice as a literary tool of broad application, and his book has a bold and comparative sweep that encompasses the Pauline letters, Augustine's Confessions, the classical precedents of Virgil and Ovid, medieval contemporaries like Machaut and Petrarch, extra-literary artists like Monteverdi, later poets such as Wordsworth, Heaney, and Paul Valery, and moderns such as Jarry and Proust. What justifies such parallels, the author claims, is that late medieval texts constitute the foundation of a literary history of voice that extends to modernity. The book's energy is therefore devoted to the transformative reading of later medieval texts, in order to show their original and ongoing importance as voice work.