Prof Helen Cooper, Magdalene



Biographical Information

Helen Cooper took her BA and PhD at New Hall, Cambridge, now Murray Edwards College, and held a Junior Research Fellowship there.  In 1978 she moved to University College, Oxford, as the first woman fellow in its history, to teach medieval and early modern literature, and where she is now an Honorary Fellow.  She was the Editor for English Language and Literature for Medium Aevum for some years.  In 2004, she returned to Cambridge, to Magdalene College, as the Professor of Medieval and Renaissance English, and is now a Life Fellow.

Research Interests

Anglo-Norman and Middle English romance; the late fourteenth century, especially Chaucer; Chaucer's afterlife; the fifteenth century; connections between the Middle Ages and the early modern, especially in relation to Shakespeare and other drama, pastoral literature and romance.

Selected Publications

Publications include:

  •  Shakespeare and the Medieval World, Arden Companions to Shakespeare (2010)
  • The English Romance in Time: Transforming Motifs from Geoffrey of Monmouth to the Death of Shakespeare (Oxford University Press, 2004)
  • Oxford Guides to Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales (1989; third revised edition, Oxford University Press, 2023)
  • The Structure of the Canterbury Tales (Duckworth and University of Georgia Press, 1983)
  • Pastoral: Mediaeval into Renaissance (D.S. Brewer, 1978)
  • Co-edited with Peter Holland and Ruth Morse, Medieval Shakespeare, Pasts and Presents (Cambridge University Press, 2013) (includes “The Afterlife of Personification”)
  • Co-edited with Sally Mapstone, The Long Fifteenth Century: Essays for Douglas Gray (Oxford University Press, 1997) (includes "Counter-Romance: Civil Strife and Father-killing in the Prose Romances")
  • Edited, Sir Thomas Malory: Le Morte Darthur: The Winchester Manuscript (Oxford World’s Classics, 1998)
  • Editorial material to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight translated by Keith Harrison (Oxford World’s Classics, 1998)

Selected articles (from a very long list) include:

“Pastoral”, in Sixteenth-Century British Poetry, ed. Patrick Cheney and Catherine Bates, The Oxford       History of Poetry in English vol. 4 (Oxford University Press, 2022), pp. 244-61

“Women and Werewolves: William of Palerne in Three Cultures”, in Cultural Translations in Medieval Romance, ed. Victoria Flood and Megan Leitch (Boydell and Brewer, 2022), pp. 85-101

“Diverse Pageants: Normative Arrays of Sexuality”, in Rereading Chaucer and Spenser: Dan Geffrey with the New Poete, ed. Rachel Stenner, Tamsin Badcoe and Gareth Griffith (Manchester University Press, 2019), pp. 65-74

“The Knight and the Hermit: Crossing the Reformation”, in Timely Voices: Romance Writing in English Literature, ed. Goran Stanivukovic (McGill-Queen’s University Press, 2017), pp. 39-59

“Why Prospero Drowned his Books, and other Catholic Folklore”, Shakespeare Survey 70 (2017), 180-7

“Gower and Mortality: The Ends of Storytelling”, in John Gower: Others and the Self, ed. Russell A. Peck and R.F. Yeager (D.S. Brewer, 2017), pp. 91-107

“Passionate, Eloquent and Determined: Heroines’ Tales and Feminine Poetics”, Sir Israel Gollancz Memorial Lecture, in Journal of the British Academy 4 (2016), 221–44

“‘The most excellent creatures are not ever born perfect’: Early Modern Attitudes to Middle English”, in Imagining Medieval English: Language Structures and Theories, 500-1500, ed. Tim Machan (Cambridge University Press, 2016), pp. 241-60

“Pastoral and Georgic”, in The Oxford History of Classical Reception in English Literature vol. 2: 1558-1660, ed. Patrick Cheney and Philip Hardie (Oxford University Press, 2015), pp. 201-24

“Milton’s King Arthur”, RES NS 65 (2013), 252-6

“Poetic Fame”, in Cultural Reformations: Medieval and Renaissance in Literary History, Twenty First Century Approaches vol. 2, ed. Brian Cummings and James Simpson (Oxford University Press, 2010), pp. 361-78

“Edmund Spenser and the Passing of Tudor Literature”, in The Oxford Handbook of Tudor Literature 1485-1603, ed. Mike Pincombe and Cathy Shrank (Oxford University Press, 2009), pp. 49-66

“The Four Last Things in Dante and Chaucer: Ugolino in the House of Rumour”, New Medieval Literatures 3 (1999), 39-66

Jacobean Chaucer: The Two Noble Kinsmen and other Chaucerian Plays”, in Refiguring Chaucer in the Renaissance ed. T. M. Krier (University Press of Florida, 1998) pp. 189-209 

“Romance after 1400”, in the Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature ed. David Wallace (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1998), pp. 690-719

“Gender and Personification in Piers Plowman”, Yearbook of Langland Studies 5 (1991), 31-48