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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 WandererThe 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. I supervise dissertations in the field of medieval literature and act as College Advisor for graduate medievalists.


My current research largely explores issues of time and identity in medieval writings, especially Old English poetry. It attends to how ideas of ageing, for example, are constructed linguistically, rhetorically and through narrative. I am currently completing my first monograph, The Life Course in Old English Poetry, which explores depictions of human ageing in this body of verse. In previous scholarship, these depictions have mostly been approached with reference to learned Latinate theories of the normative ‘ages of man’, or else considered through the lens of one or two life phases, such as childhood and adolescence or old age. My study foregrounds Old English poetry's deep interest in fluid and variable life courses, shaped by contingency and surprising turns of events: each person's takes a different shape. My book furthermore demonstrates what can be learned about poetic discourses of ageing from narratives of nonhuman lives, most notably those of the Exeter Book Riddles. In doing so, it builds on ideas I have previously advanced in The Review of English Studies. I also write articles on book history, Middle English literature, and Old Norse poetry.

Select publications

Ed., with Thijs Porck, Early Medieval English Life Courses: Cultural-Historical Perspectives, Explorations in Medieval Culture 20, Leiden: Brill. Forthcoming, 2022.

‘Dramatic Implications of Echoed Speech in Skírnismál', in Old Norse Poetry in Performance, ed. by Annemari Ferreira and Brian McMahon. London: Routledge. Forthcoming, 2022.

'Recontextualising the Echoing Retorts of Hárbarðsljóð and Lokasenna', Scandinavian Studies. Forthcoming, 2022.

'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.