I specialize in the medieval British Isles and North Atlantic World, with emphasis on Old and Middle English, Anglo- Norman, Welsh, and Old Norse/Icelandic languages, literatures, and cultures, alongside interests in premodern Irish, Scottish, and French literature and culture as well. I have a broad range of research and teaching interests, including Arthuriana; Chaucer; Robin Hood/outlawry; women’s and gender studies, particularly women’s literate practices; alchemy, magic, and esoterica; monsters and the supernatural; hagiography; literature and the law; genre studies in romance, chronicle, dream vision, mystic and devotional literature; cultural and historical literary studies (feasts and feasting; disasters and delights; violence and trauma; chivalry and courtliness; dreams and dreaming; landscapes and the environment; medieval afterlives); comparative literature; ecocritical and animal studies; manuscript studies/ text technologies and history of the English language.

I am trained as an interdisciplinary literary historian, and as a scholar I am interested in the relationships between texts and the cultures that produce them, and invested in the ways in which multiple methodologies can be used in tandem to create a more focused and nuanced lens on a single subject. To that end, I make use of theoretical paradigms and methods from English, History, Art History, Anthropology, Culture/ Material and Gender Studies, among others, in my research and writing.


BA, French, The College of William and Mary

MA, English, Longwood University

Graduate Certificate, Women and Gender Studies, University of North Carolina Greensboro

PhD, English, University of North Carolina Greensboro

Other Publications


Edited Collection

Melusine’s Footprint: Tracing the Legacy of a Medieval Myth (co-edited with Misty Urban and Deva Kemmis), Leiden: Brill, 2017.

[Chapter: “The Alchemical Transformation of Melusine,” pp. 94-105.]

Publisher’s page:  http://www.brill.com/products/book/melusines-footprint

Peer-Reviewed Journal Articles

“Public Displays of Affliction: Women’s Wounds in Malory’s Morte Darthur.” Forthcoming in Modern Philology.

“‘Compassion and Benignytee’: A Reassessment of the Relationship Between Canacee and the Falcon in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Squire’s Tale.” Forthcoming in Medieval Feminist Forum.

“Conduct and Character: The Overlooked Importance of the Feast in Medieval Robin Hood Tales” Medieval Perspectives 31 (2017), 19-30.

“He Dreams of Dragons: Alchemical Imagery in Arthur’s Dream Vision.” Arthuriana 27.1 (Spring 2017), 73-94.

“Prdn Me? Text Speak, Middle English, and Chaucer’s ‘Pardoner’s Tale.’” SMART: Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching 22.1 (Spring 2015), 75-85.

“From Propaganda to Product: The Arthurian Legend in Modern Tarot Decks.” Relegere: Studies in Religion and Reception 3:2(2013), 381-406.
(Available online: https://relegere.org/relegere/article/view/579)

“Bridging the Gap: Using Young Adult Literature with the Classics in the Secondary Classroom.” Virginia English Bulletin. 56:2 (Fall, 2006), 19-29.

Peer-Reviewed Chapters and Essays

“Author as Nation-Crafter: Teaching The Lord of the Rings in an Epic Course.”  Approaches to Teaching Tolkien’s The Lord of the Rings and Other Works, Ed. Leslie A. Donovan. New York: MLA, 2015. 176-183. Finalist for the Mythopoeic Society’s award  for “Best Scholarly Book on the Inklings,” 2017.

“Episodic Arthur: ‘Merlin,’ ‘Camelot,’ and the Medieval Literary Romance Tradition.” Television Medievalisms. Eds. Carolyn Kinane and Meriem Pages. Jefferson: McFarland, 2015. 99-121.

“Species or Specious? Authorial Choices and the Parliament of Fowls.” Rethinking Chaucerian Beasts. Ed. Carolynn Van Dyke. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 233-248.


Review: Emotion in Old Norse Literature: Translations, Voices, Contexts, by Sif Rikhardsdottir.” Forthcoming in The Medieval Review (Submitted).

Review: Middle English Marvels: Magic, Spectacle, and Morality in the Fourteenth Century by Tara Williams.” Forthcoming in Preternature (submitted).

Review: Political Appetites: Food in Medieval English Romance by Aaron Hostetter.” Forthcoming in The Heroic Age.

Review: The Critics and the Prioress: Antisemitism, Criticism, and Chaucer’s The Prioress’s Tale, by Heather Blurton and Hannah Johnson.” Forthcoming in Medieval Feminist Forum (submitted).

Review: Savage Economy: The Returns of Middle English Romance, by Walter Wadiak.” Forthcoming in The Sixteenth-Century Journal (submitted)

Review: Witches and Pagans: Women in European Folk Religion, 700-1100, by Max Dashu.” Medieval Feminist Forum 53.2 (2018), 129—131.

Review: Elf Queens and Holy Friars: Fairy Beliefs and the Medieval Church, by Richard Firth Green.” Arthuriana 27.4 (Winter 2017), 80-82.

“Review: Simple Forms: Essays in Medieval English Popular Literature, by Douglas Gray.”  Reviews From the Greenwood for the International Association of Robin Hood Studies. http://robinhoodscholars.blogspot.com/2017/07/reviews-from-greenwood-melissa-ridley.html

“Review: Medieval Science Fiction, Carl Kears and James Paz, Eds.” The Heroic Age 17 (2017): http://www.heroicage.org/issues/17/reviews.php#kears-paz

“Review: Mermaids and the Production of Knowledge in Early Modern England, by Tara E. Pedersen. The Journal of the Fantastic in the Arts 27.2 (2016), 321-324.

Review: Disknowledge: Literature, Alchemy, and the End of Humanism in Renaissance England, by Katherine Eggert.”  The Sixteenth Century Journal 47.4 (2016), 1106-7.

Review: Romancing Treason, by Megan G. Leitch.” Hortulus: The Online Graduate Medieval Studies Journal 12:1 (Spring, 2016). https://hortulus-journal.com/journal/volume-12-number-2-2016/melissa-ridley-elmes/

“Review:  The Wake, by Paul Kingsnorth.” International Association of Robin Hood Studies Bulletin (Spring 2016). http://robinhoodscholars.blogspot.com/2016/04/reviews-from-greenwood-melissa-ridley.html

“Review: Medieval Tastes: Food, Cooking and the Table, by Massimo Montanari.” The Sixteenth Century Journal 47.1 (2016), 178-179.

“Review: Verse and Transmutation: A Corpus of Middle English Alchemical poetry, by Anke Timmermann. Hortulus: The Online Graduate Medieval Studies Journal 11.2 (Fall, 2015). Jenny Catherine Bledsoe and Melissa Ridley Elmes, Eds. Web. https://hortulus-journal.com/elmes/

“Review: The Modulated Scream: Pain in Late Medieval Culture, by Esther Cohen.” Hortulus: The Online Graduate Medieval Studies Journal 7:1 (Spring, 2013) Meghan Glass and Beth Fischer, Eds. Web. https://hortulus-journal.com/journal/volume-9-number-1-2013/ridley-elmes/

“Review: Malory: The Life and Times of Arthur’s Biographer (Christina Hardyment)”. Hortulus: The Online Graduate Journal in Medieval Studies, Grace Windsor, Ed. (2011) Available Online. https://hortulus-journal.com/journal/volume-6-number-1-2010/elmes/

“Review: Of Giants: Sex, Monsters & The Middle Ages, by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen.”  Hortulus: The Online Graduate Medieval Studies Journal. Grace Windsor, Ed. Available online: http://www.hortulus.net/~hortulus/index.php/Of_Giants:_Sex%2C_Monsters%2C_and_the_Middle_Ages_by_Jeffrey_Jerome_Cohen

“Review: Magic in the Middle Ages, by Richard Kieckhefer.” Hortulus: The Online Graduate Medieval Studies Journal. 4:1 (2008). Karina Ashe, Ed. Available online: http://www.hortulus.net/~hortulus/index.php/The_Book_Review

Review: At Large and At Small, by Anne Fadiman.” Ink Quarterly. 2:3 (Summer 2007).  7-9. Available on-line: http://members.gcronline.com/writersstudio/Summer%202008.pdf


“Mommy-Writer: Finding the Time to Write.” The Writer’s Studio Journal (1:2) Spring 2006. 5 – 9.

“Waste Knot, Want Naught.” The Blotter. July, 2006. 13.

“Living Whiff a Writer.” The Writer’s Studio Journal (1:3) Summer 2006.

“Big Top Cycle.” Sweetbay Anthology. Prize Books, 2006. 50-53.

“Finding the Rhythm.” Writer’s Studio Journal (1.1) Winter 2007. Pp. 8-11.

“Writer’s Log.” Writer’s Studio Journal, Spring 2007. 10-11.

“Ovarian Whosit-Whatsits and Primetime TV.” The Blotter. Garrison Somers, Editor-in-Chief. November, 2007. 6-7.

“Identity Crisis.” Ink Quarterly. 3:1 (Winter 2007-2008). 11.

“The Bigger Picture.” Ink Quarterly. 3:3 (Summer 2008). 5-17.

“The Witness.” 2010 Poetry Journal, Donna Brauda, Ed. CreateSpace, 2009.

“Upon Viewing Gentile da Fabriano’s Adoration of the Magi.” 2010 Poetry Journal, Donna Brauda, Ed. CreateSpace, 2009.



Monograph: Negotiating Violence at the Feast in Medieval British Texts

Much of the literature of medieval Britain is anchored in the idea that prescribed rules of behavior are the key to developing a stable community. From the warrior-codes and hall rituals of the Anglo-Saxon comitatus to the chivalric and courtly conduct codes of the later medieval period, there is the sense that once everyone knows and agrees to abide by the same codes of behavior, preserving the stability of the community simply entails the continued enforcement of those rules. My work exposes some of the heretofore-unconsidered limitations of medieval chivalric and conduct codes by considering how the violent altercations at or following literary feasts occur not in spite of the codes that prescribe correct behavior in the hall, but because those codes are ineffectual governing tools for spaces in which the jurisdiction of one rule relaxes the authority of another.

Unlike the legibly antagonistic interactions at jousts, tournaments, and battles, feasts are events at which everyone appears to be of like mind. However, this is a façade wrought through the following of artificial rules of etiquette which do nothing to quell the various conflicts between individuals, groups, and families; while the chivalric code clearly identifies combat-related modes of antagonism and how they should be redressed, the conduct codes governing proper behavior in the hall are concerned primarily with immediate behavior at the table and offer no broader set of instructions by which a feast may be both an ordered event and also an opportunity for the purging of latent violence. Therefore, violent disruptions at the feast cut through the artificially-created harmony of the feasters, exposing and expelling otherwise unexamined conflicts. Because it is unexpected and exists beyond any governing code, this is a more authentic form of violence than its battlefield counterpart. Such moments of feasting violence provide points of intervention wherein the codes governing correct behavior are shown to be inadequate, compelling individuals to negotiate the underlying issues—such as the inability of marriage bonds to forge lasting peace and the tensions between individual and communal honor—that threaten to destabilize and destroy the community.

This project comprises case studies that group texts thematically, making use of ideas gleaned from postcolonial, ecocritical, gender, and hospitality studies and drawing from historical documents including chronicles, legal codes, and conduct manuals to historicize my readings. This multidisciplinary approach permits a culturally-informed contextualization of the violence at the feast, challenging the misconception that violence is a one-size-fits-all theme in medieval literature by demonstrating how it is presented in ways that highlight the particular anxieties of the community in which and for which a given text was produced.

Monograph: Violence at the Arthurian Feast

Whereas violence at the feast in medieval British feasts more generally deals with the vacuum between codes of governance that is created in the feasting hall, providing the author with an opportunity to critique any of a variety of socio-cultural and legal issues in a fictional society that might or might not be traceable to the writer and community by whom and for whom a given text was produced, violence at the Arthurian feast is typically used in a far more intentionally thematic fashion, tied specifically to questions of loyalty (in earlier Arthurian narratives) and treason (in later Arthurian texts). This monograph, a subject-specific companion to the other, explores and analyzes that shift from a focus on loyalty to one on treason by noting its development and focus in the Arthurian feast hall. Focal texts include Lanval/Sir Laundevale/Sir Launfal; Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; and Guinevere’s feast in the Death of Arthur tradition.

Edited Collection: Food and Feast in Premodern Outlaw Tales

(with Kristin Bovaird-Abbo, co-editor)

(Proposal submitted) This volume of 12 essays covering the early medieval period through the 17th century offers fresh insights into how outlaws interacted with and over food in premodern England and France, and will serve as a companion to the Food and Feast in Modern Outlaw Tales being edited by Alex Kaufman and Penny Vlagopoulos.

Edited Collection: Teaching Celtic Literature in the General Education Classroom

(with Matthieu Boyd, co-editor)

(Under development for the Fairleigh Dickinson University Press)  This project, the first of its kind, seeks to pair overview essays on essential points in Celtic literature and culture written by specialists, with shorter essays on classroom practices, text choices, and pedagogical activities used by specialists and non-specialists, alike. Including sample syllabi and a resources and editions section, this project will offer an unprecedented one-stop resource for more, and more responsible and thoughtful, incorporation of Celtic materials into a variety of courses beyond the specialist’s classroom. Currently under development as a two-volume set, with the first volume spanning the earliest literatures through 1700, and the second volume, 1700-present.

Upcoming Talks and Conferences

2018 Conference Activity and Speaking Engagements

October 5-8: Harvard Celtic Colloquium, Cambridge, MA. Paper: Failed Ritualized Feasts and the Limitations of Community in Branwen ferch Llŷr.

June 18-20: Saint Louis University Medieval and Early Modern Studies Symposium, Saint Louis, MO. Paper: “Violence, Time, and Memory in Beowulf: The Feast Hall as Cultural Reliquary.”

May 10-13: International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI. Roundtable participant: “The Lone (St)ranger: Building a Community of Medievalists When You’re the Lone (New) Medievalist on Campus.”

April 6-7: Indiana University Medieval Studies Institute Annual Symposium, Bloomington IN. Paper: “Examining the Driving Force of Honor in Medieval Welsh Texts: Violence and the Feast in the Second Branch of the Mabinogion, A Case Study.”

March 1-3: Medieval Academy of America Conference, Atlanta, Georgia. Paper: “Power, Gender, and Cannibalism in the Medieval Literary Feast.”

January 3-7: Modern Language Association Convention, New York City. Panel Respondant: “669. ‘Mewn Dau Gae’ (‘Between Two Fields’): No State of Security in Medieval North Atlantic Studies.”


MLA CLCS Celtic Studies Forum
Vice-President, The Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship
Executive Board Member, The Heroic Age, 2016
Executive Board Member, MEARCSTAPA, 2013-present
Medieval Academy of America (appointed to the K-12 Committee)
New Chaucer Society
International Arthurian Society, North American Branch
International Association for Robin Hood Studies
Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literatures
Southeastern Medieval Association
Mid-America Medieval Association

Melissa Ridley Elmes

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