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
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    • Washington University
    • CB 1122
    • One Brookings Drive
    • St. Louis, MO 63130-4899
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    Jessica Rosenfeld specializes in late medieval literature, the medieval reception of Aristotle (ethics and politics), medieval women’s writing, and the history of emotions.

    Rosenfeld’s first book, Ethics and Enjoyment in Late Medieval Poetry: Love after Aristotle (Cambridge University Press, 2011) explores the influence 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.  She is currently completing a book manuscript on the medieval foundations of modern ideas about emotions and affect – including debates about whether emotions are primarily bodily or primarily cognitive, the status of “natural” emotions, the gendering of emotion, and emotional taxonomies.  In 2014-15, she held a Charles A. Ryskamp Research Fellowship from the ACLS.  She has published articles on Chaucer, John Gower, Margery Kempe, and The Romance of the Rose in journals including New Medieval Literatures, JMEMS, Exemplaria, and New Chaucer Studies: Pedagogy and Profession, and in several edited collections.  She co-edited a collection of essays, Chaucer and the Subversion of Form (Cambridge University Press, 2018).  She is currently co-editor of the journal Exemplaria: Medieval – Early Modern – Theory and Associate Editor of The Chaucer Encyclopedia (Wiley-Blackwell, forthcoming in 2023).  She has two essays forthcoming on The Romance of the Rose – one in MLA Approaches to TeachingThe Romance of the Rose’, and one in a collection of essays in honor of Alastair Minnis, Literary Theory and Criticism in the Later Middle Ages

    Professor Rosenfeld has long had a particular (scholarly) interest in the much-maligned emotion (sometime sin) of envy.  She expressed her appreciation publicly, here:, and has also written about envy in The Book of Margery Kempe and Chaucer’s Parson’s Tale, with related work-in-progress on Christine de Pizan and Laura Cereta.  She co-convenes the lively Medieval Studies Writing Group, an interdisciplinary works-in-progress seminar supported by the Center for Humanities (  She has recently taught undergraduate and graduate courses on Medieval Women’s Writing, Chaucer, Medieval Emotions, Medieval Gender and Sexuality, and the Medieval Dream Vision.

    Rosenfeld is an affiliate faculty member of the Department of Women, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Program in Comparative Literature, and the Department of Classics.


    • 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.