Hunter Phillips


I am a first-year PhD student focusing on medieval literature, with a particular focus on Old English literature and poetry. I am interested primarily in emotional expression--understanding how narrators describe their emotional life and negotiate their environments emotionally. I study how Old English diction and meter characterizes emotional expression, and how this helps us define and re-define poetic genres such as "elegy" and "heroic poetry."

I received my B.A. from the College of WIlliam & Mary in English and History, and in my honors thesis titled "Geomorlic or Eorlic? Uncovering Early English Emotional Communities in "The Wanderer," "Deor," and "The Wife's Lament," I discuss how these three Old English elegies feature narrators who nuance and contextualize their emotional life through common heroic poetic tropes. Narrators invoke what I call a "heroic emotional avatar," a word or phrase like eorl (man/warrior) in order to emotionally align, distance themselves from, or appropriate the heroic associations of such a word. By doing so, they create an affective link with an audience familiar with such tropes, and capitalize on this link to highlight their own grievances, desires, and longings.

I am building off this work, expanding into the realm of Old English historical and religious prose working with texts like the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and Aelfric's Lives of the Saints, in order to build a more nuanced picture of the early English emotional life. In my work I seek to understand how historical "myths" such as the myth of the Germanic migrations not only formed the basis of the early English worldview, but also carried emotional resonances and affect.  I am also interested in Anglo-Latin authors such as Bede and Alcuin and Old Norse saga literature, and how these interacting bodies of texts and languages contextualized experiences emotionally.

Research Focus

  • Medieval Literature 
  • Affect Theory 
  • Poetry