David Lawton

Professor of English​
PhD, York University
research interests:
  • Medieval literatures and culture
  • Bible and religious writing
  • Chaucer, his contemporaries and successors
  • voice
  • Literary history and theory
  • drama
  • poetics
  • blasphemy
  • pain studies
  • global literatures and postcolonial studies
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    contact info:

    mailing address:

    • Washington University
    • CB 1122
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    Professor Lawton has published nine books and many articles and book chapters in English literary and cultural studies and in medieval studies. He has recently published a complete edition of Chaucer's work for Norton, and another of "The Canterbury Tales," and in 2017 published a book on voice in medieval literature.

    Professor Lawton received his MA. from Oxford and his Ph.D. from the University of York, where he held his first academic post in 1974-75. He moved to the University of Sydney, Australia, in 1975, and stayed there as Reader in Early English Language Literature until 1992. From 1992 to 1995 he was Professor and Head of English in the University of Tasmania, moving to England in 1995 to be Professor of English and Chair of Literature in the School of English and American Studies at the University of East Anglia, Norwich. In 1998 he became Professor of English at Washington University, and was Chair 2002-08. He was elected Fellow of the Australian Academy of the Humanities in 1993, was Visiting Fellow at Clare Hall, Cambridge (2009), and was Leverhulme Visiting Professor of English at the University of Oxford (2009-10). Professor Lawton has published nine books and many articles in English literary and cultural studies, in medieval studies, and in religious studies (Faith, Text and History: the Bible in English in 1991, and Blasphemy in 1993). He published Voice in Later Medieval English Literature: Public Interiorities (Oxford University Press) in 2017, The Norton Chaucer in 2019, and the Norton edition of The Canterbury Tales, also in 2019. He was founding editor of a major journal, New Medieval Literatures, and co-editor 1997-2018, and he was Executive Director of the New Chaucer Society 2002-12. He was Director of Graduate Studies in English at Sydney and here (1999-2002). He has served as main advisor on more than 20 Ph.D. dissertations, and helped steer several on to subsequent publication. Former students of his hold tenured or tenurable academic positions in Australia, Britain, Japan, Iceland and the USA. At Washington University and elsewhere he has been named an Outstanding Faculty Mentor and received awards for excellence in mentoring and teaching. David Lawton has also published poetry and journalism, and appeared on radio and television, in the US, Britain and Australia. He is a life member of Clare Hall, Cambridge, and a faculty associate in English Language and Literature at Oxford.

    Courses

    • L14 2151: Literature in English: Early Texts and Contexts
    • L14 312W: The Body in Pain
    • L14 491: Chaucer
    • L14 511: Seminar: Fame, Fate and Voice in Late Medieval English Writing
    • L14 154: Literature Seminar for Freshmen: Literature and Blasphemy
    • L14 395C: Shakespeare
    • L14 3061: Old English Literature: Introduction to Old English Language and Literature
    • L14 4621: Topics in English Literature: Medieval Drama: Miracle, Mystery, Morality, and Marlowe
    • L14 365F: The Bible as Literature
    The Norton Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

    The Norton Chaucer: The Canterbury Tales

    Available as both a portable paperback volume and an enhanced digital edition, this complete collection of The Norton Chaucer: Canterbury Tales is meticulously glossed and annotated. With access to the ground-breaking Reading Chaucer Tutorial included in every new copy, this volume delivers unmatched support and value.

    The Norton Chaucer

    The Norton Chaucer

    Prose edited by Professor Jennifer Arch.

    A vibrant edition brings Chaucer's complete works to life

    Both an enhanced digital edition and a handsome print volume, The Norton Chaucer provides the complete poetry and prose, meticulously glossed and annotated specifically for undergraduate readers, with apparatus reflecting current scholarship—all at an unmatched value.

    Faith, Text and History: The Bible in English (Studies in Religion and Culture Series)

    Faith, Text and History: The Bible in English (Studies in Religion and Culture Series)

    Chaucer's Narrators (Chaucer Studies)

    Chaucer's Narrators (Chaucer Studies)

    The book begins with a brief prefatory discussion of its relation to structuralist and post-structuralist criticism. The first chapter, `Apocryphal Voices', surveys the basis of modern critical approaches to l>personal> and `irony' in Chaucer's poetry, and suggests that such approaches are better suited to unequivocally written contexts. A systematic hesitation between a wholly written and a wholly spoken context requires critical distinctions between types of l>persona/l>, and a number of distinctions in the range between l>persona/l> and voice. `Morality in its Context' examines the Pardoner and his tale and argues against a `dramatic' view of the tale itself, while the third chapter, 'Chaucer's Development of l>Persona/l>', is a study of possible sources for Chaucer's handling of the narratorial '1', looking at the English `l>disour/l>', the French `l>dits amoureux/l>', Italian and Latin sources of influence, and the l>Roman de la Rose/l>. The last two chapters apply the principles outlined so far to l>Troilus/l> and l>The Canterbury Tales/l>, with a particular examination of the literary history of the Squire's tale to show that modern interest in dramatic l>persona/l> has obscured many other important issues and leads to drastic misreading. This is a challenging and lucid work which questions many of the received attitudes of recent Chaucer criticism, and offers a reasoned and approachable alternative view.

    Blasphemy

    Blasphemy

    From Jesus Christ to Salman Rushdie, from Moses to Freud, blasphemy has been a force in producing many forms of Western cultural identity. Blasphemy continues to influence our relations with other cultures, yet it is not so much an idea as a shifting rhetorical figure. It stands for whatever we deplore: we define the truths we uphold in terms of the blasphemies we attack.