Andrew Kraebel, Ph.D.
- Associate Professor , English
Describing his task as a commentator on classical Latin poetry, the late Don Fowler said that he aimed “to multiply problems, not to solve them.” This likewise describes the task I set myself in my teaching and research. In the classroom, I try to lead students to close, sustained, and careful engagement with texts in ways that open up multiple meanings and create more problems than they solve. In my research, I am especially interested in the history of literary criticism in the Middle Ages, working to recover the many different ways in which men and women from the ninth to the fifteenth centuries engaged with their most authoritative (and also most persistently problematic) texts, especially the Bible and the poetry inherited from Latin antiquity. To this end, I study medieval commentaries on these authoritative texts, as well as the history of the book, the material forms in which medieval readers encountered such texts.
My first book, Biblical Commentary and Translation in Later Medieval England: Experiments in Interpretation (Cambridge, 2020), focuses on the rich culture of scholastic literary criticism that flourished in fourteenth- and fifteenth-century England, continuing up to and even through the Reformation. I have also begun work on two new monographs. The first, tentatively entitled Authorizing Chaucer, focuses on the various strategies for cultivating a sense of the vernacular poet’s authority in manuscripts and early printed editions of the Canterbury Tales. My work on this book has been helped by digital humanities projects in my upper-level Chaucer seminar (Engl. 4401), where my students have been undertaking original work on the complex textual history of this foundational collection of English poetry. The second, Before Theory: Four Medieval Ideas about Poetry, explores the complex and contradictory understandings of literature that developed across late antiquity and the Middle Ages, setting out the many different contributions of medieval critics to theoretical and interpretive problems that persist today.