Emma Elizabeth Campbell

Society Fellow


Emma Campbell is Associate Professor/Reader in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures at The University of Warwick (U.K.). Focusing on medieval textual traditions written in French, Campbell’s research considers how the study of medieval culture can speak to modern and contemporary ideas, notably in relation to feminist, queer, and transgender studies, postcolonial theory, and translation studies. Her scholarship is interested in how the medieval past and critical theory unsettle received ideas and, in so doing, offer ways to explore alternative perspectives on familiar concepts and historical narratives. Campbell has published on a broad range of medieval French texts prior to the fourteenth century, including major traditions such as saints’ lives and bestiaries. Her work has been supported by numerous awards, including grants from U.K. funding bodies such as the Arts and Humanities Research Council. Her most recent book, Reinventing Babel in Medieval French: Translation and Untranslatability (c. 1120–c. 1250), contributes both to discussions of premodern authorship and textuality, and to debates about the importance of historical translation beyond medieval studies. Earlier publications on saints, including Campbell’s first book Medieval Saints’ Lives: The Gift, Kinship and Community in Old French Hagiography, explore how medieval hagiography provides an important site for challenging established social, sexual, and gender norms. Campbell is co-editor of Rethinking Medieval Translation: Ethics, Politics, Theory and of Troubled Vision: Gender, Sexuality and Sight in Medieval Text and Image. Her new book project, A Moral Ecology of Creation, explores the importance of another major medieval textual tradition for questions of enduring relevance to the present, by examining how medieval bestiaries have an unexpected significance for sex-gender histories.


Research Focus

A Moral Ecology of Creation: Gender and Sexuality in Medieval French Bestiaries

While at the Society for the Humanities, Campbell will work on a third monograph, provisionally titled A Moral Ecology of Creation: Gender and Sexuality in Medieval French Bestiaries. Medieval bestiaries are moralized accounts of the natural world that describe animals, birds, and stones and interpret them in Christian terms. These texts circulated widely in medieval Europe, often in illuminated copies. A Moral Ecology of Creation argues that bestiaries—particularly those in French—are part of the long history of sex-gender diversity and, within that setting, speak back to cultural discourses that presume nature’s timelessness and universality, including concepts of ‘natural’ sex and gender. This book project relates to the theme of ‘Crossings’ both by adopting an intersectional approach to the shifting forms that gender and sexuality take in bestiaries and by attending to the linguistic and formal crossings that condition how such texts participate in the history of sex-gender plurality. A Moral Ecology of Creation, the first in-depth study of sex and gender in Latin and vernacular bestiaries, explores how current research on sex-gender formations—including scholarship in transgender studies and animal studies—can elucidate bestiaries’ multifaceted treatment of gender and sexuality in text and image. It shows how the ‘moral ecology’ of bestiaries’ engagements with nature—the way these texts use non-human beings to reflect on the ethics of gendered embodiment, sexuality, and social behaviour among humans—varies over time and across different bestiary redactions. This imaginative shaping of gender and sexuality by reference to the natural, creaturely world opens new ways of understanding not only the historical complexity of sex and gender definition but also the capacious vision of gender and sexuality that defines pre-modern conceptions of nature.

SHUM Courses - Spring 2024