Joanna Murdoch

I'm finishing my dissertation in late medieval literature at Duke University's English Department. I study the conceptual, relation-building work of the poetic line in devotional poems copied in fifteenth-century manuscripts. These poems and their surviving manuscripts are often overlooked in long histories of poetry, but I argue that they have much to teach us about the conceptual and expressive possibilities available to medieval poets, readers, and book producers long before lyric existed as a category in English poetics. I focus on the early cultivation of audiences who read, and re-read, poetry at its most granular levels of rhyme and line as if their lives and the welfare of others depended on it. Then as now, the extent to which we treat each others' lives and the health of our world as if they really do matter can be seen, and I believe, steered, at our smallest points of language, choice, and action in concert with larger public efforts.

So far my teaching has focused on academic writing, creative nonfiction, and multimedia composition, but I bring in medieval and early modern materials whenever possible—it's amazing how urgently and profoundly they can speak to us today. It has been a pleasure exploring some of these urgencies with the Religions and Public Life branch of the Kenan Institute for Ethics, Duke's Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, and the Duke Language, Arts, and Media Program (LAMP).

Current Appointments & Affiliations

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