Photo of Robin Norris

Robin Norris

Degrees:B.A. (Tulane), M.A. (Ohio State), M.A., Ph.D. (Toronto)
Phone:613-520-2600 x 4195
Office:1813 Dunton Tower

Research Interests:

Masculinity and emotion in early medieval literature and culture, gender and genre in Old English hagiography, early medieval litanies of the saints, Saint Guthlac.

Current Research:

I have two major projects underway. First, I am finishing a monograph entitled The Litany of the Saints and the Taxonomy of Sanctity in Early Medieval England. The litany of the saints was a form of prayer the became a touchstone of early medieval English culture. Throughout the period, authors and artists employed the litanic hierarchy and its terminology to classify the saints and to conceptualize their various modes of sanctity. This was no mere commonplace but a habit of mind shared by all who prayed to the saints. When an early medieval Christians thought of the saints in heaven, what s/he envisioned was the litanic hierarchy. To answer questions about the saints – different types, what to call them, their relative prestige – it was to the litany that they turned. Yet very little work has been done on the early medieval litany of the saints. My work focuses on the framework shared by all these prayers and the cultural work this structure performs in early medieval England. For example, why are all female saints – regardless of their historical context, manner of death, or physiology – categorized as virgins? And why is the Virgin Mary deliberately separated from them within the litanic hierarchy?

Second, I am working with Johanna Kramer (University of Missouri) and Hugh Magennis (Queen’s University Belfast) to edit and translate twenty-two texts for Anonymous Old English Saints’ Lives, to be published by Harvard University Press for Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library. At the time of our volume’s publication, the standard editions of nine of these texts will be 100 years old. For six of these texts, ours will be the first edition in English. For twelve of these texts, ours will be the first published translation. Moreover, the fact that these texts exist in 15 different editions proves a logistical barrier for anyone who wishes to peruse the corpus as a whole. It is no surprise, therefore, that these texts have largely been read in isolation, when they have been read at all. Yet putting these lives in dialogue gives us new perspectives on hagiography as a corpus. For example, the various subgenres of saints’ lives become apparent, revealing that saints who die of natural causes are usually accompanied by mourning men.

Recent Awards:  

University of Toronto, W. John Bennett Distinguished Visitorship, Fall 2019

Forthcoming Publications:

Anonymous Old English Saints’ Lives. Ed. Johanna Kramer, Hugh Magennis, Robin Norris. 2 vols.

Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library. Harvard University Press. In press.

Entries on Mildred, Petronella, and Theophista for A Florilegium of Anglo-Saxon Women, ed. Emily

Butler, Irina Dumitrescu, and Hilary Fox. In press.

Feminist Approaches to Early Medieval English Literary Studies. Ed. Robin Norris, Rebecca

Stephenson, Renee Trilling. A special issue of English Studies. In press.

Feminist Approaches to Early Medieval English Studies. Ed. Robin Norris, Rebecca Stephenson,

Renee Trilling. A volume of sixteen essays under consideration with ACMRS.

The Litany of the Saints and the Early Medieval Taxonomy of Sanctity. Monograph in progress.

“Sad Men in Beowulf.” Solicited by Dan Remein and Erica Weaver for Dating Beowulf: New

            Essays on Intimacy. In press.

Papers Presented:

“Another Angle on the Old English Life of Saint Machutus,” International Congress on Medieval

Studies, Western Michigan University, May 2018.

“Fostering a Feminist Renaissance in Anglo-Saxon Studies,” International Congress on Medieval

Studies, Western Michigan University, May 2018.

“Crossing Borders in Old English Hagiography,” Teachers of Old English in Britain and Ireland

Annual Conference, University College Cork, October 2017.

“Interlace in the Hagiographic Archive,” Seafaring: An Early Medieval Conference on the Islands

of the North Atlantic, University of Denver, November 2016.

Plenary speaker, “Eadui Basan: Prince of Litanists?”, Toronto Old English Colloquium, May 2015.

Graduate supervisions:

I welcome enquiries from students who may be interested in working with me, especially on a Masters Research Project or MA thesis.