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Photo of Taylor Cowdery, taken by Sarah Boyd

Associate Professor of English / Lumiansky Scholar / Director of the Program in Medieval and Early Modern Studies

2016 Ph.D. English, Harvard University

2009 B.A. English, Columbia University


I study the literature and culture of later medieval England, with a special focus on matters of literary history, poetics, style, and social class.

My first book, Matter and Making in Early English Poetry: Literary Production from Chaucer to Sidney (Cambridge University Press, 2023), is a study of several canonical early court poets. In the book, I argue that these poets conceived of literary labor not in the modern terms we typically use to figure it (such as “authorship” or “creativity”) but as a process wherein pre-existing materials (or “matter”) were remade into some novel form (through the practice of what was called “making”). The book contributes to the history of early English poetics and the study of premodern literary theory; it features chapters on the work of Geoffrey Chaucer, John Gower, Thomas Hoccleve, John Lydgate, John Skelton, and Thomas Wyatt, with a brief epilogue on Philip Sidney.

I’m currently engaged in two new research projects. The first, in collaboration with Dr. Megan Cook (Colby College) and Dr. R. D. Perry (University of Denver), is a new critical edition of John Lydgate’s shorter works. The second is a monograph, The Middle Classes of Medieval London: A Literary History, which reconstructs patterns of literary taste associated with the guildspeople and merchants of later medieval Britain, and which gives special consideration to the manuscripts associated with these groups. An early essay drawn from this project, “Common Style and the Bourgeois Ethos in Lydgate’s Dietary,” is forthcoming in 2024.

At UNC, I serve as the current Director of the Program in Medieval and Early Modern Studies (or MEMS), an interdisciplinary organization that offers community to more than one hundred faculty across twelve departments and that provides grants, fellowships, and event programming for scholars of the premodern in Chapel Hill. (You can read more about MEMS here.) I also teach courses on a wide range of topics, including the history of the book, queer theory, critical theory, and the history of sexuality. You can find me on Twitter @TaylorCowdery.

To read more, visit my website



  • Matter and Making in Early English Poetry: Literary Production from Chaucer to Sidney (Cambridge University Press, 2023)

Selected Essays:

  • “Common Style and the Bourgeois Ethos in John Lydgate’s Dietary.” Forthcoming in Literary Forms and Cultural Power in Medieval and Early Modern Literature: A Book for James Simpson, ed. Daniel Donoghue, Sebastian Sobecki, and Nicholas Watson (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer).
  • “Hoccleve’s Formulary and the Matter of Everyday Life.” In Thomas Hoccleve: New Approaches, ed. Jenni Nuttall and David Watt (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2022), 167-96.
  • “Lydgate and the Surplus of History.” ELH 85.3 (2018): 567-98.
  • “Translation for ‘Sentence’ in Middle English Poetry: the Case of John Walton.” In The Legacy of Boethius in Medieval England, ed. A.J. McMullen and Erica Weaver (Tempe, AZ: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2017), 193-214.
  • “Hoccleve’s Poetics of Matter,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer (2016): 133-64.


  • A. W. Mellon Fellowship in Medieval Studies, Institute of Medieval Studies, University of Notre Dame (2017-18)
  • DAAD Fellowship (Berlin, 2009-10)
  • Junior Faculty Development Award, Provost’s Office, UNC (2022-23)
  • Schwab Academic Excellence Award, Institute for the Arts and Humanities, UNC (2020)

Courses Taught:

  • ENGL 89: “Apocalypse When?”
  • ENGL 120: “Introduction to British Literature, 800-1800”
  • ENGL 153: “Sex, Gender, and Sexuality in the Premodern World”
  • ENGL 224: “The Ricardian Poets”
  • ENGL 329: “Medieval Feminisms”
  • ENGL 821: “Piers Plowman and Method” (Spring 2023), “Feeling in Medieval Literature” (Spring 2021), “Premodern Style” (Spring 2019)

Curriculum Vitae / Resume