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Dr Harriet Soper

Dr Harriet Soper

  • Simon and June Li Fellow in English Literature


As an undergraduate, I studied English at Corpus Christi, Oxford (2010–13) before first coming to Lincoln to study for an MSt in English c.650–1550, funded by the AHRC (2013–14). Specialising in Old English literature, I moved afterwards to Cambridge, to embark on a PhD in Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic at King’s College, funded by the AHRC and the Isaac Newton Trust (2014–17). My doctoral thesis was supervised by Dr Richard Dance, and explored the presentation of narratives of human ageing in Old English poetry. I continued at Cambridge as a Research Fellow at Corpus Christi College (2017–19), before returning to Lincoln in 2019.

College teaching

I teach Lincoln’s first years the earliest surviving texts in English, from c.650 up until 1350, including poems like The Wanderer, The Dream of the Rood and Beowulf. I also teach first years an introduction to the English Language (half of Paper 1). For those in their second year, I pick up at 1350 and teach Middle English literature until 1550; together we analyse works by Chaucer and the Gawain-poet, among many other texts. For Course II students, I also teach the c.650–1100 paper, and organise teaching across the course. Finally, I act as an advisor for Lincoln’s graduate students, at both Master’s and DPhil level.


My research is primarily concerned with issues of personal, social and relational identity in medieval writings, especially Old English poetry (c.650–1100). It attends to how such ideas are constructed linguistically, rhetorically and through narrative. It also investigates how early medieval English material culture and visual art resonate with the written sources. I am currently completing my first monograph, The Life Course in Old English Poetry, which uncovers the unique understanding of human ageing articulated in this body of literature. It is particularly interested in how the ageing of humans is not clearly removed from the ageing of other kinds of entity, or indeed that of the world itself. I also speak and publish on manuscript cultures, Middle English literature, and Old Norse-Icelandic poetry. 

Select publications

Ed., with Thijs Porck, Early Medieval English Life Courses: Cultural-Historical Perspectives, Leiden: Brill, forthcoming, 2021.

‘Echoing Retorts in Skírnismál', in Old Norse Poetry in Performance, ed. by Annemari Ferreira and Brian McMahon. London: Routledge, forthcoming, 2021.

'The Light in the Old English Rhyming Poem, Lines 1–2’, Notes and Queries (66) 2019, 20–24. doi: 10.1093/notesj/gjy188.

Reading the Exeter Book Riddles as Life-Writing’, Review of English Studies (68) 2017,  841–65. doi: 10.1093/res/hgx049.

‘Three Newly Recovered Leaves from the ‘Winchester Anthology”, The Library (18) 2017, 218–24, doi: 10.1093/library/18.2.218.