Welcome to the website of Larissa (Kat) Tracy, Ph.D., Professor of Medieval Literature at Longwood University in Farmville, Virginia.
As a medievalist, my work focuses on thirteenth and fourteenth century texts in context and their relationship to the pre-Conquest period in England and the Viking Age, with particular emphasis on the the intertextual motifs of social justice and law. My specialties and areas of interest range from Old English/Middle English Language and Literature, Old Norse Literature, Old/Middle Irish Literature, Middle Welsh Literature, Old French Fabliaux, Chaucer, Hagiography, Feminist/Gender Studies, Cultural Studies, Social Justice, Violence and Obscenity in Medieval Literature, Medieval Romance, Monstrosity, Medieval Medicine and Law, J.R.R. Tolkien, Medievalism, Early Biblical Texts, Codicology, Paleography, Manuscript Transmission, and History of the English Language.
I spent five years in Dublin, Ireland where I received my M.Litt. and Ph.D. from Trinity College, Dublin. During the course of both my undergraduate and graduate studies, I worked as a journalist for a number of newspapers, American and Irish. I taught in the Washington, D.C. area from 2000-2005, and have been at Longwood University since fall 2005. This site encapsulates both my academic/teaching career and my journalism experience, including course materials and conference information.
My main area of specialty, comparative studies of violence, torture, and brutality in literature of the medieval world is the subject of my monograph Torture and Brutality in Medieval Literature: Negotiations of National Identity, published by D.S. Brewer in 2012. Most of my work involves dispelling modern misconceptions about the Middle Ages and interrogating preconceived notions of modernity. To this end, I have published several volumes that consider a specific practice or idea, framed by modern perceptions, and provide detailed, interdisciplinary analysis of the medieval reality. These include: Medieval and Early Modern Murder (Boydell, 2018); Flaying in the Pre-Modern World: Practice and Representation (D.S. Brewer, 2017); with Kelly DeVries, Wounds and Wound Repair in Medieval Culture (Brill, 2015); Castration and Culture in the Middle Ages (D.S. Brewer, 2103); and, with Jeff Massey, Heads Will Roll: Decapitation in the Medieval and Early Modern Imagination (Brill, 2012). My first book Women of the Gilte Legende: A Selection of Middle English Saints’ Lives was published by D.S. Brewer in April 2003 and was released in paperback in March 2012. I served as the General Editor of Eolas: The Journal of the American Society of Irish Medieval Studies for six years (2013–2019), and I am currently the series editor for Brill’s Explorations in Medieval Culture.
In the summer of 2016, I was a Visiting Scholar at St. John’s College Oxford, where I spent my days in the Bodleian and St. John’s Libraries researching medieval manuscripts on literature, law and medicine as part of my ongoing book project England’s Medieval Literary Heroes: Law, Literature, and National Identity. I was also afforded the rare opportunity to look at select manuscripts first hand, including British Library Cotton Nero MS A.x (The Gawain-manuscript) and the Auchinleck Manuscript in the National Library of Scotland.
Over the last few years, I have been interviewed as a guest scholar on NPR’s With Good Reason, participated in documentaries for the Discovery Channel and National Geographic Channel, and been an invited speaker at Oxford University, Duke University, The Catholic University of America, Virginia Tech, and Randolph College. I was just interviewed by The Lone Medievalist, which highlights the careers and accomplishments of scholars who are the only medievalist in their department or at their institution, as a way of building an online community, as their featured scholar for the month of November.
I participated in a National Endowment for the Humanities summer teaching institute on Inquisitions and Persecutions in Sixteenth Century Europe and the Americas at the University of Maryland in 2005. In 2003, I participated in an NEH research seminar on Old French Fabliaux and the Medieval Sense of the Comic at Yale University.
Most recently, I submitted the completed manuscript of Treason: Medieval and Early Modern Adultery, Betrayal, and Shame to Brill. I am currently finishing my monograph England’s Medieval Literary Heroes, and beginning new projects on medieval cross-dressing and kingship. I am also editing several conference papers for submission and publication. I also do some work in popular culture, looking at the medieval precedents for modern medievalisms in film and television, like Game of Thrones and Vikings.
In collaboration with Dr. Steven Isaac, I co-organize an annual regional undergraduate conference in medieval studies, Meeting in the Middle: www.longwood.edu/medieval