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Nicola McDonald



Educated at the Universities of Toronto (BA, MA) and Oxford (MPhil, DPhil), Nicola McDonald came to York from a lectureship at St John's College, Oxford. Her current research focuses on a number of different projects:

  • The cultural audacity of Middle English popular romance, the most important secular genre to emerge from the middle ages and one that has been systematically diminished in modern academic discourse. This project takes as its starting point that romance (the ancestor of the modern novel as well as most forms of popular fiction) is a precocious space for the making of fiction and for the exploration of cultural norms, boundaries and transgressions.
  • Mulier ludens: medieval women at play. Recent research on late medieval women has demonstrated their sophisticated devotional literacy and important role in networks of piety. This project seeks to complicate our picture of medieval women's cultural practices by examining the fragmentary evidence of ludic culture. It focuses in particular on erotic verbal games, conduct and comic verse and the rare insight these offer into women's social and sexual worlds.
  • England’s Immigrants, 1330-1550: Resident Aliens in the Later Middle Ages.  Co-Investigator on this major AHRC funded project (, she has primary responsibility for the culture research strand.

Nicola McDonald's other research interests include Gower, Chaucer, manuscript illumination, space in text and image, the practice of fiction, crossing boundaries (of chronology, discipline, genre), and the obscene. She co-organizes the international Medieval Romance Society and, at York, she organizes the Romance Research Group and is a lead member of the interdisciplinary Household Research Group.

She has recently edited the online Database of Middle English Romance:



Nicola McDonald has supervised PhD dissertations on a range of single and interdisciplinary topics, including:

  • Aristocratic Executions and Burials, c.1150-1330: Cultures of Fragmentation
  • Repetition and the Happy Ending in Middle English Romance
  • Fatherhood in Late Medieval Gentry and Mercantile Letters and Romance
  • Richard Coeur de Lion: An Edition from the London Thornton Manuscript
  • The Textual Household: Reading the “Whole Book” in Chetham’s Library MS 8009
  • Sacred Space in Middle English Romance
  • Gender and Transgression in the Late Medieval English Household
  • Desiring the East: A Comparative Study of Middle English Romance and Modern Popular Sheikh Romance

She is currently supervising the following projects:

  • Mental Disability in the Later Middle Ages
  • Reading and Visual Processing in Late Medieval English Manuscripts
  • Beds and Chambers in Later Medieval England
  • Time in Middle English Romance
  • Racial and Religious Minorities in the Textual and Cultural World of Robert Thornton

She welcomes PhD proposals on most aspects of medieval English romance, whether single discipline or interdisciplinary (at the intersections of literature with history, art history or archaeology). In addition, she is interested in supervising topics on women and gender, Gower, late medieval vernacular culture and more generally topics that seek to break period and discipline boundaries.

Nicola McDonald

Contact details

Dr Nicola McDonald
Department of English and Related Literature
University of York
Y010 5DD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 323920
Fax: 44 1904 323372