Jessica Brantley appointed Frederick W. Hilles Professor of English

Brantley, a scholar of medieval reading cultures as reflected in manuscripts, illuminates the connection between material culture and devotional practices.
Jessica Brantley
Jessica Brantley

Jessica Brantley, a scholar of medieval reading cultures as they are reflected in manuscripts, and whose writing has illuminated the connection between material culture and devotional practices, has been appointed the Frederick W. Hilles Professor of English, effective immediately.

She is a member of Yale’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences (FAS), where she is currently the chair of the Department of English.

A graduate of Harvard College, Brantley holds an M.Phil. in medieval literature from Cambridge University and an M.A. and Ph.D. in English literature from the University of California, Los Angeles. She joined the Yale faculty as an assistant professor of English in 2000, was tenured in 2009, and was promoted to full professor in 2015. In addition to her teaching and mentoring, and serving as chair of the Department of English, she is a member of the executive committee of the Program in Medieval Studies.

Brantley’s work has been widely published in leading academic journals, and she has authored two books, with a third under advance contract with the University of Chicago Press. In 2008, her first publication, “Reading in the Wilderness: Private Devotion and Public Performance in Late Medieval England” (University of Chicago Press, 2007) was named Book of the Year by the MLA Conference on Christianity and Literature. Her second book, “Medieval English Manuscripts and Literary Forms” (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2022), is a wide-ranging survey of manuscript culture that provides new interpretive frameworks for understanding the literary implications of the material book in the Middle Ages and beyond. Her current project, “The Book of Hours in English Literary History,” reveals new evidence for connections both broad and specific between books of hours and vernacular reading in late medieval England.

In addition to these monographs, Brantley is the co-editor of “Reassessing Alabaster Sculpture in Medieval England” (Medieval Institute Publications, 2020), which places studies of literature in conversation with studies of the visual arts, and puts medieval English sculpture in dialogue with 21st-century scholarship on pre-modern visual culture. Brantley’s numerous articles and reviews have appeared in PMLA (the journal of the Modern Language Association of America), Studies in the Age of Chaucer, English Manuscript Studies, the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and other top journals in the field, as well as in numerous collections of essays.

She has been honored with fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies (held at the Folger Shakespeare Library), the National Humanities Center (Research Triangle, North Carolina), and the Fulbright Commission (UK). Her work in the digital humanities, which focuses on computer analysis of medieval manuscripts, has been supported by the Mellon Foundation. Her scholarship has also been supported by multiple publication and travel grants from Yale’s Whitney Humanities Center.

At Yale, Brantley offers undergraduate courses on medieval literature, addressing Middle English poetry, the history of manuscripts, medieval women’s writing, and early performance, as well as courses that span historical periods and genres, exploring connections between medieval and modern drama, and between manuscript culture and contemporary digital culture. Her graduate course offerings range from seminars focused on authors such as Chaucer, the Gawain-poet, and Julian of Norwich, to topic-based courses on visionary writing and medieval performance, to methods courses on manuscript study and pedagogy. She has mentored dozens of graduate students in English and in Medieval Studies.

Brantley is a distinguished citizen of the university. As chair of Yale’s English department, she has successfully stewarded a number of ambitious ladder faculty searches. She previously served as Director of Undergraduate Studies (DUS) in English, acting Director of Graduate Studies (DGS) in English, and acting chair and DGS of the Program in Medieval Studies. She is also a member of the Advisory Committee to the Library and the Executive Steering Committee of the Women’s Faculty Forum, and previously served on the Poorvu Center Advisory board, the Working Group on Instructional Faculty, the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences Executive Committee, and the Standing Advisory and Appointments Committees for the Divinity School, and the Schools of Art, Architecture, Drama, and Music, as well as numerous other FAS- and university-wide bodies. Beyond Yale, she has held leadership roles in the Medieval Academy of America and the New Chaucer Society, and has served on panels for the Mellon Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, and the National Endowment for the Humanities.

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