Professor of English

It’s been an honor to join colleagues across the disciplines at the University of Virginia in rethinking how we teach our incoming first years, and I’m excited to meet and learn from a new generation of students in the coming years. I am a scholar of literature as well as a fiction writer, with interests that span medieval literature, historical fiction and fantasy, religious studies, and the history of the book. I’ve taught courses on a variety of topics, from “Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales” to “Literature and the Environment,” from “Crime Fiction” to “The Literature of Fantasy from The Hobbit to Game of Thrones.”

In my view, the most effective and exciting teaching at any level involves bringing fresh perspectives into the classroom at every opportunity, a sensibility that has also inspired my scholarly and creative writing over the years. My most recent books are two novels, A Burnable Book and The Invention of Fire, historical thrillers that draw on my knowledge of the medieval period while helping me see this fascinating era from a new perspective.

My current research will result in a book titled Archive of the Animal: The Parchment Inheritance and the Common Era, which tells the strange story of parchment, the treated animal skin that was the most important writing surface in the European world for about a thousand years. I’ve worked with scientists, archivists, craftsmen, artists, and many others while writing this book, and it’s shown me how much we can all learn from a diverse range of perspectives on what we think we already know.

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