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Dr. Simon Thomson: Lebenslauf

Research Interests

Simon loves working with early medieval manuscripts, ideally untidy and damaged ones. He’s particularly interested in the adaptation and use of narrative texts in different medieval contexts, and in the different social functions that the telling of stories performs. His focus is on the literary cultures of early medieval – meaning roughly 600–1200 – England and northern Europe.

His research focus is currently on the different uses of the story of Saint Christopher in this period, meaning that he spends a lot of his time chasing down  and looking at different manuscript versions to see what he can find, and the rest of his time being interested in the issues the story is used to think about, from the development of Christian communities to the fear of outsiders, from monstrosity to femininity, and from kingship to military service.

Though his first love is Beowulf and the manuscript that contains it, Simon has published on other Old English texts, on The Mere Wife (a modern retelling of Beowulf), on the eleventh-century court of Cnut, on different aspects of manuscript culture, and on Christopher’s story and the Old English translation of it.

His teaching focuses on Old English prose and poetry and how to read it in different ways, taking in historical and manuscript contexts, engaging with the formal challenges of the language and poetic metre, and exploring the impact of theoretical approaches including gender studies, ecocriticism, queer theory, and post-colonialism.



2012–2015      PhD, University College London

Thesis: Towards a history of reception for the Nowell Codex, London, British Library, Cotton MS Vitellius A. xv (second part); Supervisors: Prof. Richard North & Prof. Susan Irvine

2007–2009      MA, Medieval English Literature University College London

2003–2004     PGCE (Secondary, English and Drama), University of Wolverhampton

2000–2003      BA (Hons), English Language and Literature, University of Oxford (Lincoln College)


Teaching and research posts

Since 2018       Senior Lecturer in Medieval English Language and Literature, Heinrich-Heine Universität, Düsseldorf

2015–2018      Wissenschaftlicher Mitarbeiter (Research Assistant), Ruhr-Universität Bochum, to Prof. Dr. Luuk Houwen

2012–2015      Postgraduate teaching assistant, English Language and Literature, University College London


Other employment

2011–2016      School Improvement Specialists (Systems), Cambridge Education, Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria

2010–2011      Volunteer Teacher Trainer / Organisational Development Management, VSO Nigeria

2008–2010      Head of Learning and Access, Imperial War Museum London, Churchill War Rooms

2007–2008      Learning and Teaching Coordinator, Shakespeare’s Globe, Globe Education

2003–2007      Teacher of English and Drama, King’s Norton Boys’ School Birmingham & Riddlesdown High School, Croydon


Current research projects and interests

The contextual shaping of meaning: The use and development of the story of Saint Christopher in early medieval western Europe, ca. 800–ca.1250.

Chair of Medieval Narratives in Transmission, Brepols series of edited texts and monographs: http://www.brepols.net/Pages/BrowseBySeries.aspx?TreeSeries=MNT

Board member of Medieval Leavings, an Open Access journal for medieval scholarship: https://medievaleavings.hcommons.org/



Monographs and editions

with Michael Bintley, Sensory Perception in the Medieval West, Utrecht Series in Medieval Literacy 34 (Utrecht: Brepols, 2016)

Communal Creativity in the Making of the ‘Beowulf’ Manuscript: Towards a history of reception for the Nowell Codex, Library of the Written Word 67 – The Manuscript World 10 (Leiden: Brill, 2018)

Medieval Stories and Storytelling: Multimedia and Multi-temporal Perspectives, Medieval Narratives in Transmission 2 (Utrecht: Brepols, forthcoming 2020)

Strangers at the Gate! The (un)welcome movement of people and ideas in the medieval world, Explorations in Medieval Culture (Leiden: Brill, forthcoming 2021)


Essays and articles

‘Towards a Poetics of Storytelling, or, why could the Anglo-Saxons not stop telling the story of Judith?’, in Medieval Stories and Storytelling: Multimedia and Multi-temporal Perspectives, ed. S. C. Thomson (Utrecht: Brepols, forthcoming 2020)

‘The embodied, networked, plurality of the individual self in Maria Dhavana Headley’s The Mere Wife’, Studies in Medievalism (forthcoming, 2020)

Mittelalterliche Entwicklungslininen in Europa: Englischspracige Raum: England, in Handbuch Versepik: Paradigmen – Poetiken – Geschichte, eds. Stefan Elit, Kai Bremer & Katerina Kroucheva (Heidelberg: Springer, forthcoming 2020)

‘Sigmundr Fáfnisbani in the court of Cnut’, in Richard North, Erin Goeres, and Alison Finlay, eds., Anglo-Danish Empire: A Companion to the Reign of King Cnut the Great (Medieval Institute Publications, forthcoming 2020)

‘Playful storytelling in Beowulf’, in Beowulf in the Media, ed. David Clark (Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars, 2020) , pp. 153–183

‘Grotesque, fascinating, transformative: The power of a strange face in the story of Saint Christopher’, Essay in Medieval Studies 34 (2019): 83–98

‘The overlooked women of the Old English “Passion of Saint Christopher”’, Medievalia et Humanistica: Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Culture 44 (2018): 61–80

‘Telling the Story: Reshaping Saint Christopher for an Anglo-Saxon Lay Audience’, Open Library of Humanities, 4.2 (2018): 1–32

‘Capital Indications: How Scribe A thought readers should engage with the Nowell Codex’, The Proceedings of the International Conference ‘Language Culture and Society in Russian / English Studies, 5–6 August 2014 5 (2018): 169–181

‘Configuring Stasis: the appeal to tradition in the reign of Cnut the Great’, in Stasis in the Medieval World, eds. V. Symons and M. D. J. Bintley, New Middle Ages (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2017), pp. 179–204

‘The two artists of the Nowell Codex Wonders of the East’, SELIM 21 (2015-2016): 105–154

‘“Whistle While You Work”: Scribal engagement with Old English poetic texts’, in Thomson and Bintley, eds., Sensory Perception in the Medieval West (2016), pp. 99–122

‘Introduction’, in Thomson and Bintley, eds., Sensory Perception in the Medieval West (2016), pp. 1–5

‘Manuscript stability and literary corruption: our failure to understand the Beowulf manuscript’, Quaestio Insularis 16 (2015): 54–71

‘Scribes, sources, and readers: Using a digital edition to develop understanding of the Nowell Codex’, Poetica 83 (2015): 59–77

An Analysis of Ernst Kantorowicz’s ‘The King’s Two Bodies’ (London: Macat, 2015)

with others: ‘Overall findings and technical report of ESSPIN Composite Survey 1 (2012)’, Education Sector Support Programme in Nigeria (ESSPIN) / DfID Report ESSPIN 060, May 2013, online at http://www.esspin.org/resources/report/349