Michelle DeGroot

Michelle DeGroot

I’ve lived in a lot of places — Northern Virginia, Pennsylvania, Boston, Oxford, London — but I’m so happy to have landed back in Virginia and here at Hollins. As a scholar, I have at least two (overlapping) identities: literature specialist and medievalist. As a literature scholar, I love that I get to teach a wide variety of literary periods at Hollins, ranging from the the Middle Ages to the present, finding in every era the strange spells that language casts. As a medievalist, I grab every piece of cultural context I can to understand that language and to help me access a culture that is both similar and very foreign to our own. I think those skills — analyzing rhetoric, appreciating beauty, engaging with difference — are essential to life.

Areas of Expertise

  • Medieval literature, medievalism, speculative and genre fiction, religion and literature

Courses Taught

  • Imaginary Cities
  • Close Reading, Critical Writing
  • Introduction to Children's Literature
  • From the Spheres to the Stars: Speculative Fiction and Its Literary Ancestors
  • History of the English Language
  • Medieval Literature
  • Chaucer's Canterbury Tales
  • Dante's Divine Comedy
  • Medieval Women’s Voices
  • Reimagining the Middle Ages
  • Milton and His Literary Afterlives
  • The Eighteenth-Century Novel
  • Senior Research Seminar

Education

  • M.A., Ph.D., Harvard University
  • B.A., University of Virginia

Publications & Articles

  • "Compiling Sacred and Secular: Sir Orfeo and the Otherworlds of Medieval Miscellanies,” in The Transmission of Medieval Romance: Manuscripts and Metre (Boydell and Brewer, 2018)
  • “To Suffer a Witch in WandaVision,” with Annie Berke for Public Books, November 2021
  • “Shining Cities: Communal Reading and the New Jerusalem from Maidstone to McCain,” in Reading Cultures: Late Antique to Early Modern Europe, edited by James Simpson, Nicholas Watson, Daniel Donoghue, and Anna Wilson (forthcoming).
  • The Entangled Cities: The New Jerusalem and Secular Readership in England, 1300-1600 (in progress)

Research Interests

  • I’m currently working on a book that examines how primarily vernacular writing in medieval England draws on the biblical image of the New Jerusalem to build cultural space for “secular” literature. The image of the jeweled heavenly city shows up in texts where you might expect it, like religious descriptions of the afterlife, but also in more surprising contexts, like descriptions of the kingdom of Faerie or the muddy reality of medieval London. The way these texts imagine heaven, the ultimate happy ending, tells us a lot about how late medieval readers might have understood their own complicated communities and the role of reading within them.
  • I’m also interested in medieval attitudes to history and belief, modern adaptions (from the liberatory to the diabolical) of the Middle Ages, and the ongoing relevance of medieval narratives and aesthetic forms in contemporary pop culture and public discourse.