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Professor Luke Sunderland


AffiliationRoom numberTelephone
Professor in the School of Modern Languages and CulturesA47, Elvet Riverside I+44 (0) 191 33 43458
Fellow of University College  
Member of the Centre for Intercultural Mediation +44 (0) 191 33 43458
in the Centre for the History of Political Thought  
Member of the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies +44 (0) 191 33 43458


My research interests are in medieval French, Occitan and Franco-Italian literature. My current project focuses on vernacular encyclopaedias, looking at the visual and verbal constructions of knowledge in encyclopaedic manuscripts and at the ontologies they vehicled. I am thinking about these texts in terms of the connections they elaborate between diverse beings: angels, humans, animals, plants and stones. I consider how these ontological and epistemological systems are reconfigured as encyclopaedias were reshaped and reglossed in different mansucript versions. This work develops within the context of an international group of medievalists looking at translation, with a current focus on how the ideas of Bruno Latour about networks and forms might be used to examine medieval materials. I co-ordinate a research group on History of the Book, and would be keen to hear from colleagues Durham or elsewhere with interests in the study of the material and visual forms of texts and the histories of libraries, book collecting and reading. I have worked collaboratively on the culture of medieval libraries. The results can be seen in a special issue of French Studies.

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, modern thought about the ethics of violence, 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, morals and the figure of the hero in the Guillaume d'Orange cycle, the Lancelot and Tristan prose romances, and the Roman de RenartOther current research interests include medieval practices and concepts of translation, textual geographies, cross-cultural traffic and hybrid languages, including the French of Italy and the multilingual literary culture of medieval Venice.

Before coming to Durham, I was a graduate student at King's College London, and then 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
  • Medieval Libraries
  • Franco-Italian Literature
  • Medieval Translation


Authored book

Chapter in book

Journal Article

Supervision students