Dr Rebecca McNamara

BA Baylor, MSt, DPhil Oxford
Postdoctoral Research Associate, ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions

A20 - John Woolley Building
The University of Sydney

Telephone +61 2 9036 9961

Biographical details

Dr Rebecca McNamara’s research focuses on the literature and language of Medieval England, and she is also interested in the cultural history of medieval Europe. Her current project, part of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, identifies and theorises emotions related to suicide in the Middle Ages. She examines cases of self-murder (including suicide attempts) and emotions surrounding those cases in medieval English legal records and chronicles, as well as tracing a trajectory of the emotions related to the suicidal impulse in literature from 1200-1500.

Dr McNamara is also interested in the effects of language on literary form and meaning, and, more broadly, the impact of historical change upon language. These core ideas shaped her doctorate, ‘Code-Switching in Medieval England: Register Variety in the Literature of Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Usk, and Thomas Hoccleve’ (2010, University of Oxford). Here she studied the ways in which Chaucer, Usk, and Hoccleve’s professional textual environments in law, London guilds, factional politics, and bureaucracy influenced their literary writing. She reconsidered the identifications of what kinds of language these writers considered appropriate for literature, and she maintained that the variety of linguistic register in their works challenges our retrospectively created boundaries of England’s late medieval vernacular language.

She has taught undergraduate courses on Old English literature, Middle English literature, Sex and Sin in the Middle Ages, the literature of J. R. R. Tolkien, and linguistics. Dr McNamara has also taught English literature, public speaking, and English as a second language to students aged 7-18.

Research interests

  • Middle English Literature
  • Vernacular Language in Medieval England
  • Suicide in the Middle Ages
  • History of Emotions

Current projects

Emotions and the Suicidal Impulse in the Medieval World (ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, Postdoctoral Research Associateship, 2011-2013)

Recent Conference Presentations

2013

  • McNamara, R. (2013). A Lesser Evil? The Violence of War and Suicide in the Middle Ages. Representing War and Violence in the Pre-Modern World Conference.
  • McNamara, R. (2013). The Law on Feeling: Finding Emotions in Medieval Legal Texts. Sourcing Emotions in the Medieval and Early Modern World Conference.
  • McNamara, R. (2013). Dying on the Edge: The Suicides of Criminals in Medieval England. Medieval Academy of America Annual General Meeting.
  • McNamara, R. (2013). Pro timore: Criminal Suicide in the Middle Ages. ANZAMEMS Biennial Conference.
  • McNamara, R. (2013). Academic Border Crossing: A Roundtable on International Career Opportunities. ANZAMEMS Biennial Conference.

2012

  • McNamara, R. (2012). The Sorrow of Soreness: Infirmity and Suicide in the Middle Ages. ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions Sydney Node Study Day.
  • McNamara, R. (2012). Fever, Madness, Anguish: Suicide and Emotions in Thirteenth-Century English Legal Records. Society for the Social History of Medicine and Queen Mary, University of London Centre for the History of Emotions Conference.
  • McNamara, R. (2012). Afterlives of the Self-Murdered: Imagining Suicide and Emotions in England’s Medieval Legal Records. South African Society for Medieval and Renaissance Studies Conference.
  • McNamara, R. (2012). Appropriated Emotions? Medieval Suicide in Art and Life. UWA Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies Conference.
  • McNamara, R. (2012). Infirmity and Compassion: Emotions of Suicide Case Petitions to the English Crown, 1200-1400. Australian Historical Association Annual Conference.

2011

  • McNamara, R. (2011). Literary Devices and Late 14th-Century Governmental Texts. International Medieval Congress 2011.

2010

  • McNamara, R. (2010). Code-Switching in the Linguistic Hierarchy: Three Bureaucrats and their Texts. New Chaucer Society International Congress 2010.

2008

  • McNamara, R. (2008). Negotiating Linguistic Domains: Register-Switching in Chaucer and Usk. New Chaucer Society International Congress 2008.
  • McNamara, R. (2008). Bureaucrat and Poet: Semantic Boundaries in Chaucer’s Anelida and Arcite. Oxford English Graduate Conference.

Selected publications

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Journals

  • McNamara, R., Ruys, J. (2014). Unlocking the Silences of the Self-Murdered: Textual Approaches to Suicidal Emotions in the Middle Ages. Exemplaria: a journal of theory in medieval and Renaissance studies, 26(1), 58-80. [More Information]
  • McNamara, R. (2013). [Book Review] 'Multilingualism in Medieval Britain (c. 1066-1520): Sources and Analysis' edited by Judith A. Jefferson and Ad Putter. Parergon, 30(2), 200-201. [More Information]
  • McNamara, R. (2012). 'Diversity in setting of words makes diversity in understanding': Bureaucratic and Political Language in Thomas Usk's Testament of Love. New Medieval Literatures, 14, 165-199. [More Information]
  • McNamara, R. (2011). [Book Review] Elisabeth Salter and Helen Wicker, eds., Vernacularity in England and Wales, c. 1300-1550 (Turnhout, 2011). Parergon, 2011.
  • McNamara, R. (2009). [Review] Nicole Lassahn, 'Langland's Rats Revisited: Conservatism, Commune, and Political Unanimity' Viator 39 (2008), 127-155. Annotated Bibliography of English Studies, 39.
  • McNamara, R. (2008). [Book Review] Alan T. Gaylord, The Art of Chaucer’s Verse (New York and London, 2001). Annotated Bibliography of English Studies.
  • McNamara, R. (2008). [Book Review] J. J. Anderson, Language and Imagination in the Gawain-Poems (Manchester, 2005). Annotated Bibliography of English Studies.
  • McNamara, R. (2008). [Review] Andrew Lynch, '"Manly Cowardyse": Thomas Hoccleve's Peace Strategy' Medium Aevum 73 (2004), 306-323. Annotated Bibliography of English Studies.
  • McNamara, R. (2008). [Review] Peter Whiteford, 'Rereading Gawain's Five Wits' Medium Aevum 73 (2004), 225-234. Annotated Bibliography of English Studies.

2014

  • McNamara, R., Ruys, J. (2014). Unlocking the Silences of the Self-Murdered: Textual Approaches to Suicidal Emotions in the Middle Ages. Exemplaria: a journal of theory in medieval and Renaissance studies, 26(1), 58-80. [More Information]

2013

  • McNamara, R. (2013). [Book Review] 'Multilingualism in Medieval Britain (c. 1066-1520): Sources and Analysis' edited by Judith A. Jefferson and Ad Putter. Parergon, 30(2), 200-201. [More Information]

2012

  • McNamara, R. (2012). 'Diversity in setting of words makes diversity in understanding': Bureaucratic and Political Language in Thomas Usk's Testament of Love. New Medieval Literatures, 14, 165-199. [More Information]

2011

  • McNamara, R. (2011). [Book Review] Elisabeth Salter and Helen Wicker, eds., Vernacularity in England and Wales, c. 1300-1550 (Turnhout, 2011). Parergon, 2011.

2009

  • McNamara, R. (2009). [Review] Nicole Lassahn, 'Langland's Rats Revisited: Conservatism, Commune, and Political Unanimity' Viator 39 (2008), 127-155. Annotated Bibliography of English Studies, 39.

2008

  • McNamara, R. (2008). [Book Review] Alan T. Gaylord, The Art of Chaucer’s Verse (New York and London, 2001). Annotated Bibliography of English Studies.
  • McNamara, R. (2008). [Book Review] J. J. Anderson, Language and Imagination in the Gawain-Poems (Manchester, 2005). Annotated Bibliography of English Studies.
  • McNamara, R. (2008). [Review] Andrew Lynch, '"Manly Cowardyse": Thomas Hoccleve's Peace Strategy' Medium Aevum 73 (2004), 306-323. Annotated Bibliography of English Studies.
  • McNamara, R. (2008). [Review] Peter Whiteford, 'Rereading Gawain's Five Wits' Medium Aevum 73 (2004), 225-234. Annotated Bibliography of English Studies.

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