University of South Florida
College of Arts and Sciences
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Nicole Guenther Discenza
Office: CPR 358-B
Email: ndiscenza (at) usf.edu
I enjoy teaching Old English language and literature, Middle English language and literature, and the History of the English Language. My PhD and Master of Medieval Studies are from the University of Notre Dame.
My research focuses primarily on early medieval England. My book Inhabited Spaces (University of Toronto Press, 2017) explores how early English writers described the structure of the universe, from the earth’s place in the cosmos to where different peoples lived in the known world and even to the intimacy of the hall. Contrary to what we may have heard, they did not believe the earth was flat! Instead, they described it as a ball or a nut at the center of a spherical universe. English texts connected their little island to many peoples around the world and the great cities of Rome and Jerusalem. Writers also reflected on how their home connected to the transcendent space of heaven.
Another strand of my research focuses on the translations of Alfred the Great and his circle in late ninth-century England. My monograph The King’s English (New York, 2005) argues that the Old English Boethius reflects a coherent set of strategies to translate the Latin Consolation of Philosophy while sharing classical and patristic knowledge with English audiences and validating certain early medieval English values. In addition, I have written several articles and chapters in the area, and I co-edited A Companion to Alfred the Great (Leiden, 2015) with Paul E. Szarmach.
My current projects include further work on early English representations of place and a newer project on attitudes towards wonder and curiosity in early medieval England. I am also the bibliographer for Old English Newsletter.
I teach History of the English Language and medieval literature from Beowulf and the Old English elegies to Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and Margery Kempe. In recent courses, I’ve paired medieval and modern texts: Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales with Patience Agbabi’s Telling Tales; Old English short poems with The Unstill Ones: Poems by Miller Oberman; and Beowulf with The Mere Wife by Maria Dahvana Headley. I enjoy working with students on honors theses as well, and I’ve taught English Honors Seminars titled “Rebooting Beowulf, Challenging Chaucer” and “Heroes and Villains in Medieval Literature.” My former students work as lawyers, educators (both K–12 and college), writers, managers, and more.
I work especially with students with interests in early English literature, in conceptions of place and space, and in developments in the English language. I teach graduate courses in Old and Middle English language and literature and History of the English Language. I am open to a variety of topics for master portfolio papers and dissertations. My master’s students have written portfolio papers on topics including the significance of English and French in Henry V, children’s adaptations of Chaucer, the apocalypse in Beowulf, and conventions in texting. Recent dissertations I’ve supervised have covered queer authority in Old and Middle English, depictions of charity in medieval and early modern texts, and the drama of death and judgment in late medieval and early modern literature. My former students include college and middle-school teachers, writers, and consultants.