Front Quad of Lincoln College, the walls covered in bright green ivy

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 (Paper 1A). 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.


I am a specialist in Old English literature, pursuing research strongly inflected by literary and cultural theory of various stripes, but especially ecological and new materialist—that is, theory which questions our conceptions of the environment and the nonhuman.

I am particularly interested in the ways that humans are drawn into intimacy with their environments in their experience of time. My first monograph, The Life Course in Old English Poetry (forthcoming with Cambridge University Press, 2023), explores depictions of human ageing in Old English 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. These disrupted and idiosyncratic life narratives are moreover presented as embedded within the nonhuman life courses of objects, animals and other natural phenomena.

This monograph will complement a volume I have recently co-edited with Thijs Porck (Leiden University), Early Medieval English Life Courses: Cultural-Historical Perspectives (Brill, 2022), which is strongly interdisciplinary in nature and brings together studies of age vocabulary, medicine, name-giving practices, theology, poetry, and material culture.

I have also published on book history, Middle English literature, and Old Norse poetry, and among other places my work appears in The Review of English Studies, English Studies, Neophilologus, and Notes and Queries.

Select publications

The Life Course in Old English Poetry, Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature. Forthcoming, 2023.

'The Wanderer and the Legacy of Pathetic Fallacy', Neophilologus. Forthcoming, 2023

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

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

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