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Professor Luke Sunderland


Professor in the School of Modern Languages and Cultures+44 (0) 191 33 43458
Member of the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies+44 (0) 191 33 43458


My research interests lie in medieval French, Occitan and Franco-Italian culture. My current project focuses on the visual and verbal constructions of knowledge in vernacular encyclopaedias. I am thinking in terms of the 'complex singularities' (the cosmos, nature, knowledge, the body, the community) which structure ideas and create connections between diverse beings: angels, humans, animals, plants and stones. I ask how these ontological and epistemological systems are reconfigured as encyclopaedias were reshaped in different manuscript versions.

My work on the chansons de geste about rebel barons, as well as their chronicle and prose rewritings led to a book on resistance against royal power in medieval culture. I examine these works through lenses of medieval political theory and thought about vengeance, anthropological work on feud and rebellion, and histories of sovereignty. I have spoken on the Song of Roland on BBC Radio 4's In Our Time.

I have previously published on cyclical narratives, with a focus on the relationship between ethics and the figure of the hero in the Guillaume d'Orange cycle, the Lancelot and Tristan prose romances, and the Roman de Renart. My research interests include the materiality of medieval historiography and romance, medieval practices and concepts of translation, cosmopolitanism, textual geographies and hybrid languages, including the French of Italy.

Before coming to Durham, I was a graduate student at King's College London, and research fellow at Gonville and Caius College, Cambridge. In 2014-15, I was a fellow at the Stanford Humanities Center, and in autumn 2015, I was a visiting scholar in the Department of Romance Studies at Cornell University.

Postgraduate Supervision

I would be keen to hear from students interested in pursuing research in any area of medieval French and Occitan literature. 

Research interests

  • Medieval Encyclopaedias
  • The Visual Construction of Knowledge
  • Medieval French Literature
  • Medieval Occitan Literature
  • Franco-Italian Literature
  • Medieval Libraries
  • Medieval Translation


Authored book

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Supervision students