Dr Fran Allfrey
Areas of interest
I research the afterlives of medieval texts, objects, and histories. My research focuses on literature and archaeology from early medieval England – the fifth to eleventh centuries, sometimes called the ‘Anglo-Saxon’ period – and how they have been represented and reinterpreted across the 20th-21st centuries. Bringing multi-media archival materials together, experiencing places, and speaking with people who engage with medieval things as creators, visitors, or participants are all part of my research methods.
I’m interested in the relationship between literature and objects, and how early medieval literature is used in mass media, museum displays, heritage events, and new poetry and art. I argue that the re-use of medieval things, or ‘medievalism’, can tell us a lot about identity, culture, and society in the present, and can help us to read new meanings in medieval literature.
I teach on the modules:
- EN2OEL – Introduction to Old English Literature
- EN3MO – Medieval Otherworlds
- EN2RTC – Renaissance Texts and Cultures
I am writing a book on the cultural history of Mound 1 at Sutton Hoo. Sutton Hoo is an early medieval burial site in Suffolk, UK, and a lavish seventh-century boat burial was excavated there in 1939. (The 1939 story was recently dramatised in The Dig on Netflix). Almost from the moment that Mound 1 was excavated, Sutton Hoo was brought into conversation with Old English literature – especially the Beowulf poem. My book examines how early medieval literature and archaeology have been used to make sense of each other, and, in the process, how contemporary people use medieval remains to construct ideas of self and other, community and nation, race and belonging.
I am also researching experimental poetry and sound art inspired by Old English literature and archaeology, and the use of Old English literature in heritage contexts. With Francesca Brooks (York) I organise ‘Revoicing Medieval Poetry’, a seminar/ workshop series dedicated to exploring new medieval literatures.
Recent invitations to present my work
- ‘Poetry, Emotions, and Sutton Hoo’, London Old and Middle English Research Seminar, May 2019.
- ‘Sutton Hoo and Old English poetry in 1939 newspapers’, Interdisciplinary Seminar on Medievalism, Institute of Historical Research, April 2019.
Before teaching at Reading, I studied for my BA, MA, and PhD in English Literature at King’s College London, and completed a foundation diploma at the University for Creative Arts, experimenting with film, photography, and book making. I previously taught at Queen Mary University London and King’s.
Alongside my studies and research, I’ve been an education volunteer and staff member at several museums and galleries. I regularly contribute to education and outreach workshops in museums and schools. In my spare time, I am one-third of the team currently organising Medieval Wiki, a project to improve Wikipedia with references to new and innovative work in medieval studies, especially research and researchers who bring medieval studies together with gender, sexuality, and critical race studies.
Forthcoming, 2022, ‘Old English poetry and Sutton Hoo in museums’, Old English Medievalism, edited by Rachel Fletcher, Thijs Porck and Oliver Traxel (under contract with Boydell Press).
Fran Allfrey, ‘Ethnonationalism and medievalism: reading affective “Anglo-Saxonism” today with the discovery of Sutton Hoo’, postmedieval, November 2021 <https://doi.org/10.1057/s41280-021-00209-9>.
Fran Allfrey and Beth Whalley, ‘Blending creative writing and history in KS2 and KS3: imagining a lost Anglo-Saxon poem’, Primary History, 86 (2020), 24-31.
Fran Allfrey, Francesca Brooks, Joshua Davies, Rebecca Hardie, Carl Kears, Clare Lees, Kathryn Maude, James Paz, Hana Videen, and Victoria Walker, ‘New Ways to Know The Medieval: Creativity, Pedagogy and Public Engagement’, Old English Newsletter, 46.3 (2017).
Fran Allfrey and Francesca Brooks, ‘A Gift for the Illuminated Sphere’, Textual Practice, 30.1 (2016), 15-17.