My research falls into two interlaced fields, folklore and literature,examining how folkloric archetypes and tale types are present, revised, and reimagined throughout the medieval and early modern period, and in popular culture. I work argues that popular culture is the natural progression of tracing folkloric figures through literature and in many ways popular culture acts as modern folklore. I take a psychoanalytic approach to the representations of folkloristic figures in popular literature, analyzing what fears, anxieties, and desires these representations illustrate and examining why these appear at any given time and place.My research addresses topics as diverse as national identity construction, globalization, gender issues, regional folklore, historicist and Marxist theory.
Examining medieval and early modern literature through a folkloric lens, and tracing the appearances of figures, tropes, and themes through these works and then forwarding them and applying them to popular culture allows for a new perspective on these texts as well as allowing us to place these texts in contexts. This interdisciplinary approach also allows a more complete understanding of these texts and their historical and cultural moments.
The common understanding of the English devil is as a visually different Other who tempts, deceives, and seduces. He is often associated with racialized and sexualized Others such as Jews, Moors, and Women. My doctoral project describes the common understanding of the English devil and then looks for instances within texts that countered this understanding and analyzed the work the devil figure was doing. In William of Malmesbury’s Gesta regum Anglorum (1140), Þe Deulis Perlament, OR Parelamentum of Feendis (1430) 1 Henry IV (1597), Macbeth (1606/1623), and Paradise Lost (1667) the devil is used to identify the dangers devilish leaders pose to the nation-state, demonstrate how a democratic collective of people, and certain political structures, are demonic, and the long-reaching consequences of rebellion inspired by devilish leaders. Using Benedict Anderson’s Imagined Communities, I trace how each of these tropes are used to create community using the devil as a feindbild, a common enemy to define Englishness against. William of Malmesbury’s Gesta regum Anglorum (1140), writes the fictional founding of England using devilish leaders and the good role models who oppose them to do it. A Song Called Þe Deulis Perlament, OR Parlamentum of Feendis (1430) illustrates that mimicking political and power structure can be demonic and that the democratic parliament is a threat to the nation-state. By the early modern period English national identity has become British national identity and internal threats of rebellion have replaced external and borderland threats. Owain Glendower in 1 Henry IV (1596-7/1698) and Macbeth (1606/1623), represent devilish leaders who lead people into rebellion against the sanctioned lord, but they also represent internal fears and anxieties over a unified Britain, and in both of these previously understood Others we can read how the absent Irish haunts early modern England. Each of these threads: devilish leadership, demonic parliament, and rebellion are then reanalyzed through the character of Satan in Paradise Lost (1674) for the arguments the epic makes about what the threats are to a post-Restoration England and how the nation-state and the people move forward and succeed.
My research interests are rooted in the origins of popular ideas, researching and tracking figures, themes and ideas backwards. My most recent publications all apply a folkloric approach to texts, examining how folklore and exploration of origins impacts our understanding. “Don’t Just Print the Legend, Write It: The Odd Construction of Elfego Baca as Folk Hero” in Western Folklore analyzes the construction of a folk hero while “The Mystery of the Woods: Twin Peaks and the Folkloric Forest” in Cinema Journal: InFocus analyzes the use of the folkloric forest as a narrative shorthand. I also have a chapter “I Framed Freddy: Functional Aesthetics in the Nightmare on Elm Street series” in Style and Form in the Hollywood Slasher Film which takes a Bordwellian approach to how practical film considerations impact narrative.
My next research project looks at the folkloric figures of death, fairies, the Green Man, and analyzes how they are used to make nationalistic arguments in English literature.