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Name: Cassandra Hunter

PhD: English Literature

Thesis Title: The Production and Reception of Middle English ‘Miscellanies’:

BL Harley 3810/1 and related MSS

Thesis Description:

My thesis aims to shed new light on the beliefs and behaviours of English book producers and readers in the late Middle Ages by examining and contextualising an under-researched 15th-century manuscript, London, British Library, Harley MS 3810/I.

The MS is one of three extant copies of the popular Middle English romance ‘Orfeo’ and also contains other less-known English texts. These texts were copied and read widely appearing in more than twenty-five other medieval manuscripts. This project explores the wider MS network through evaluation of Harley 3810/I and these manuscripts

I am interested in who produced and read these MSS, with what agenda, and how the religious and/or secular messages conveyed in these texts changed when they were read in different contexts. The detailed linguistic, palaeographical and codicological study of the MSS will reveal the scribal profiles of the producers and also invaluable information about what Wendy Scase called the ‘reading communities’ of late medieval Britain. This project will contextualise these ‘reading communities’ within wider society by examination of non-literary sources such as illustrations, wills and inventories, letters, court records and extant evidence of medieval scribal culture.

Extant evidence suggests the professionalization and amateurisation of scribes in a geographically wider and more secular setting in the early 15th C. than in the century prior (Horobin 2010). My research aims to uncover a wide network of scribes and readers around Harley 3810/I in this crucial period of the History of the Book. I will focus on provincial culture around Harley 3810/I, textual variants found in the Harley texts, and a wide network of related MSS. Via non-literary sources, I will study the origins of Harley 3810/I, somewhere near Baddesley-Clinton, and consider the cultural significance of this under-studied part of England.

Detailed textual analysis of extant versions of Harley texts will help me evaluate what it meant to produce, own and read Harley 3810/I as a miscellany, a MS form which echoes the idiosyncratic modern bookshelf. Existing editions of two other MSS containing ‘Orfeo’ (Wiggins 2003; Shuffleton 2008) gave me insights into the tastes and habits of their producers and readers and as part of my PhD, I will create an online digital edition of Harley 3810/I. This will complete the 21st C. reproduction of the known reading experiences of ‘Orfeo’ in the Middle Ages. My edition will fill scholarly gaps as I edit one text which was never edited before and five texts that haven’t been edited since the early 20th C. The literary quality of ‘Orfeo’ and its cultural significance in creative industries, especially with its popular Celtic elements, mean that my digital facsimile edition of the MS will have potential to be used widely.

I will then place Harley 3810/I in the wider textual culture through examination of the twenty-four MS witnesses. Dating from the early 15th C. to the latter half of the 16th C. they are widespread geographically, being identified as far apart as Devon, Dublin and Edinburgh. This PhD will contribute to scholarly knowledge of the ‘mobility’ of medieval MSS through the geographical mapping of textual copies (Pearsall 2000).


Supervisors and Institution(s):

Dr. Takako Kato, De Montfort University

Professor Wendy Scase, University of Birmingham


Scholarly / Public Engagement Activities / Awards:

  • Peer Mentor for Art, Design and Humanities UG's and PG's at De Montfort University (2018-2019)
  • DMU Representative on the Midlands3Cities Student Advisory Forum (2017-2018)
  • Member of the 2016-17 Graduate Conference for Adaptation and Textual Studies Organising Committee, Evolving Stories, De Montfort University, 2017
  • Event Coordinator, 'Adapting Medieval and Early Modern Culture' One-Day Academic Conference, The Centre for Adaptation Studies, De Montfort University, Leicester, 2017
  • Member of the Medieval Midlands 2017 CDF Events Committee, 2017
  • Post Graduate Member, The Royal Historical Society.
  • Member, The Association of Adaptation Studies.
  • Events Assistant, Quadrivium, De Montfort University, 2016.
  • Recipient of the De Montfort University 2015 Fred Rickard Award for most outstanding postgraduate work in the English Department for my MA Dissertation 'The Manuscripts of Sir Orfeo and their Readers'.
  • Research Assistant, The Caxton and Beyond Project, De Montfort University, 2015.
  • Member and Secretary of the Academic Committee, Graduate Conference for the Centres of Adaptation and Textual Studies, Texts in Times of Conflict, De Montfort University, 2015.

Other Research Interests:

  • Manuscript and Incunabula Studies
  • Text Technologies and the Digital Humanities
  • Medieval Adaptation in Text and on Screen
  • Arthurian Studies


University email address:



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