Associate Professor

    University of New Mexico


    email: jwds [at] unm [dot] edu




  • Publications



    Joinings: Compound Words in Old English Literature. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016.




    “Approaching the History of English through Material Culture.” In “Teaching the History of the English Language: A Sourcebook for Instructors,” ed. Mary Hayes and Allison Burkette. Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming.


    “Revising Race in Layamon’s Brut.” JEGP 116 (2017): 156-81.


    “Sequences and Intellectual Identity at Winchester.” In Latinity and Identity in Anglo-Saxon Literature, edited by Rebecca Stephenson and Emily Thornbury. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2016.


    “Striking Balances in a Graduate Seminar.” Old English Newsletter 44, no. 3 (2013).


    “Rhythm and Music: The Sequences of Notker Balbulus.” Journal of Medieval Latin 22 (2012): 117–48.


    “Scribal Interpretations of Genre in the Old English Boethius.” Carmina Philosophiae: Journal of the International Boethius Society 19 (2010): 1–23. Reprinted in Boethius and Vernacular Traditions of “The Consolation of Philosophy,” edited by Noel Harold Kaylor, Jr. and Philip Edward Phillips. Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 2016.


    “Rhetoric and Politics in Archbishop Wulfstan’s Old English Homilies.” Anglia: Journal of English Philology 126 (2008): 65–96. Reprinted in Classical and Medieval Literary Criticism 135, edited by Lawrence J. Trudeau, 319–34. Detroit: Gale Cengage, 2012.

  • Courses

    Survey of Earlier English

    The Greatest Hits of the Early Years! Monsters, drunken louts, transvestites, and Satan! This course introduces students to the developments of English literature beginning with the Anglo-Saxon period, continuing through the Middle English and Early Modern periods, and ending in the Enlightenment. We will read representative and important works from those eras within their historical and cultural contexts. We will explore issues of race and gender, the introduction of literacy, and changing conceptions of writing and genre.


    Beowulf is the most celebrated and studied Old English poem, yet it remains ambiguous and contested. Modern scholars continue to scrutinize difficult points in the text and wrestle over approaches to the poem. This course will be devoted to a close reading of Beowulf in the original Old English, coupled with pertinent scholarship on specific points in the poem along the way. We will explore the roles of women in the text, the meanings of the monsters, the patterns of gift-giving, the linguistic intricacies of the text, and many other topics. Students will prepare translations of the poem, read secondary literature, and write a critical research paper for the semester.

    Medieval Evil

    Evil encapsulates the most fundamental problems any culture faces: suffering, injustice, and the meaning of human life. The Middle Ages produced unique conceptions and depictions of evil that remain quiet assumptions in modern life. This class will explore those conceptions and depictions as expressed in medieval literature, art, and thought. We will read of demons fighting saints, explore medieval philosophy, examine illuminations in manuscripts, unpack views of magic and witchcraft, immerse ourselves in Dante’s Inferno, and end with the the fantastic paintings of Hieronymus Bosch and the transformative depiction of Satan in Paradise Lost.

    Anglo-Saxon Evil

    Evil takes many forms in Anglo-Saxon literature: the devil, individual demons, monsters, sinners and their sins. Behind these various manifestations of evil lie two fundamental and competing conceptions of evil: one growing from the Christian, philosophical tradition and the other from non-Christian traditions that were still prevalent in Anglo-Saxon daily life. This seminar will examine different depictions and conceptions of evil in Anglo-Saxon literature and explore them through modern paradigms in order to understand the exact nature(s) of evil according to the Anglo-Saxons.