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Lydia Zeldenrust joined the department in 2016 as an Associate Lecturer in Medieval Literature, and she currently holds a Leverhulme Early Career Fellowship (Oct. 2019 – Oct. 2022). Lydia obtained her PhD at Queen Mary, University of London in 2016. She studied English at the University of Groningen and holds a Research MA in Medieval Studies from Utrecht University. For her doctoral project on the various Western European translations of the late medieval romance of Mélusine she received a Queen Mary Principal’s Studentship and was awarded grants from two Dutch scholarship programmes for talented young researchers, the VSB Fonds and the Cultuurfondsbeurs.
Lydia has previously held a lecturing post in the Netherlands, and she has also taught for the English department at Queen Mary. Her research interests include: late medieval and early Renaissance literature, the cross-cultural circulation and transmission of texts, translation studies, popular romance, Arthurian literature, textual materiality and book history, transitions from manuscript to early print culture, and stories about monsters and shapeshifters.
Lydia is a specialist in late medieval literature whose research often extends into the early modern period. Her research typically takes a comparative, transcultural approach, working across multiple languages, and she integrates literary study with historical and book-historical approaches. Lydia is particularly interested in the movement and transmission of texts across regional and linguistic borders, and in the place of English literary activity and book production in relation to continental Europe.
Lydia’s monograph The Mélusine Romance in Medieval Europe: Translation, Circulation, and Material Contexts has recently been published with Boydell and Brewer (2020). The study is the first to consider how the romance of Mélusine – about a beautiful fairy woman who is cursed to become a half-serpent once a week – transformed from a local legend to an international bestseller, analysing versions in French, German, Castilian, Dutch, and English. The book addresses timely questions on how to study medieval literature from a European perspective, moving beyond national canons, reading Mélusine’s bodily mutability as a metaphor for how the romance itself moves and transforms across borders. It analyses key changes to the romance’s content, form, and material presentation – including its images – and traces how the people who produced and owned/read this romance shaped its international transmission and spread.
Her current project ‘Continental Connections: European Bestselling Romances in England (c. 1400-1600)’ (Leverhulme-funded) examines a group of European bestselling, popular romances that arrive in Britain in the late medieval period and fuel new translation, copying, and printing activities. These romances have a complex international genealogy and have received little scholarly attention, as they do not fit in neatly with national canons or the usual focus on Anglo-French exchanges. The project breaks important ground by placing the English versions within a pan-European framework, to trace the international networks surrounding their production and readership, and to uncover to what extent these texts actively participate in European traditions and which features might set the English versions apart. The project sheds light on a period when English was not a world but a marginal language, and English literary culture was largely catching up with continental fashions.
Lydia has also published on topics such as inter-vernacular translation, and the international circulation and copying of woodcuts in the early period of printing.