Jessica Rosenfeld

Associate Professor of English
Associate Chair, Department of English
PhD, University of Pennsylvania
research interests:
  • Medieval Literature
  • Ethics
  • History of Emotions
  • Medieval Women's Writing
  • Psychoanalytic Theory
  • Gender and sexuality studies
    View All People

    contact info:

    mailing address:

    • Washington University
    • CB 1122
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
    image of book cover

    Professor Rosenfeld’s teaching and research interests traverse English and continental medieval literature as well as medieval and modern moral philosophy and literary theory.

    Rosenfeld's first book, Ethics and Enjoyment in Late Medieval PoetryLove after Aristotle (Cambridge University Press, 2011) explores the influence of the belated reception of Aristotelian ethics on the way medieval philosophers and poets wrote about love, pleasure, labor, and human happiness.  The book also examines the legacy of “courtly love” in the psychoanalytic ethics of Jacques Lacan. Her current work turns to the history of emotions—love and envy in particular—to consider questions of ethics, politics, and gendered identity.  In 2012, she was awarded a Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship by the ACLS. She has recently published essays on John Gower’s Confessio Amantis (JMEMS, 2012), Chaucer’s “Parson’s Tale” (in Middle English Literature: Criticism and Debate, Routledge, 2014), and The Book of Margery Kempe (Exemplaria, 2014), and has essays forthcoming on The Romance of the Rose and an early fourteenth-century French adaptation of Aristotle’s Ethics. She co-edited a collection of essays, Chaucer and the Subversion of Form, published in 2018 by Cambridge University Press.


    • L14 158: Literature Seminar for Freshmen: Literature and the Art of Love
    • L14 491: Chaucer
    • L14 2151: Literature in English: Early Texts and Contexts
    • L14 3121: The Medieval Romance and Arthurian Legend
    • L14 410:: Medieval English Literature: Medieval Dream Visions
    • L93: 201C: Classical to Renaissance Literature: Text and Tradition
    • L14 369: Reading Sex in Premodern England
    • L14 4101: Medieval Women's Writing
    Chaucer and the Subversion of Form

    Chaucer and the Subversion of Form

    Responding to the lively resurgence of literary formalism, this volume delivers a timely and fresh exploration of the works of Geoffrey Chaucer. Advancing 'new formalist' approaches, medieval scholars have begun to ask what happens when structure fails to yield meaning, probing the very limits of poetic organization. While Chaucer is acknowledged as a master of form, his work also foregrounds troubling questions about formal agency: the disparate forces of narrative and poetic practice, readerly reception, intertextuality, genre, scribal attention, patronage, and historical change. This definitive collection of essays offers diverse perspectives on Chaucer and a varied analysis of these problems, asking what happens when form is resisted by author or reader, when it fails by accident or by design, and how it can be misleading, errant, or even dangerous.

    Ethics and Enjoyment in Late Medieval Poetry: Love after Aristotle

    Ethics and Enjoyment in Late Medieval Poetry: Love after Aristotle

    Jessica Rosenfeld provides a history of the ethics of medieval vernacular love poetry by tracing its engagement with the late medieval reception of Aristotle. Beginning with a history of the idea of enjoyment from Plato to Peter Abelard and the troubadours, the book then presents a literary and philosophical history of the medieval ethics of love, centered on the legacy of the Roman de la Rose. The chapters reveal that 'courtly love' was scarcely confined to what is often characterized as an ethic of sacrifice and deferral, but also engaged with Aristotelian ideas about pleasure and earthly happiness. Readings of Machaut, Froissart, Chaucer, Dante, Deguileville and Langland show that poets were often markedly aware of the overlapping ethical languages of philosophy and erotic poetry. The study's conclusion places medieval poetry and philosophy in the context of psychoanalytic ethics, and argues for a re-evaluation of Lacan's ideas about courtly love.