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John D. Niles

Professor Emeritus of Humanities

University of Wisconsin –Madison


Professor Emeritus of English

University of California – Berkeley

1460 Riverside Ave.

Boulder CO 80304



Welcome to my personal home page. This site is meant to be of use to anyone interested in my background, interests, and career.


Curriculum Vitae offers an outline of my academic career, my teaching experience and specialties, my higher degrees, some awards I have received, and my professional affiliations.

Publications lists in six categories my books, editions, essays, and works in progress.

CURRENT NEWS (updated July 2016):

Since retiring from teaching at the University of Wisconsin - Madison in 2011 I have been remained active in research. Three new books have appeared in print from 2011 to 2016, and a fourth is at proof stage as of July 2016.

The book on which I worked the longest, and the most significant one from my personal perspective, is The Idea of Anglo-Saxon England 1066-1901: Remembering, Forgetting, Deciphering, and Renewing the Past (Wiley-Blackwell, 2015). This deals with the history of Anglo-Saxon studies from their medieval beginnings to the twentieth century. (See Publications for details about this publication and my others.)

A companion volume, brought out earlier this year, is Old English Literature: A Guide to Criticism with Selected Readings (Wiley-Blackwell, 2016). This book addresses changing trends in the critical reception of the literature of the Anglo-Saxons during the twentieth and twenty-first centuries.

I am pleased to have co-edited, with Matthew Hussey, a festschrift honoring a friend and former colleague at the University of Wisconsin - Madison. This is The Genesis of Books: Studies in the Scribal Culture of Medieval England in Honor of A.N. Doane (Brepols, 2012). The volume includes contributions by a number of leading experts in early medieval English studies.

The book whose publication is currently awaited is Anglo-Saxon England and the Visual Imagination (Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, ca. 2016). This essay collection, which includes contributions by eminent senior scholars as well as some younger ones, was co-edited by Stacy Klein, Jonathan Wilcox, and myself. It represents an outgrowth of a conference of the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists that I hosted at Madison in 2011 while serving as president of that organization.

In addition to completing these books, I have recently edited two special journal issues on topics of interest to folklorists and specialists in oral literature. These are (1) Western Folklore, vol. 72, issue 3 (2014) on the theme "From Word to Print - and Beyond," and (2) Journal of American Folklore, vol. 129, no. 513 (2016) on "Living Epics of China and Inner Asia." The first of these publications is devoted to the theory and practice of textualizing works of oral literature. Based on the proceedings of a conference, sponsored by the Institute for Research in the Humanities, that I organized at UW-Madison in 2001, it features articles by three leading folklorists and a substantial introductory essay written by myself. The special issue of JAF grew out of a conference in which I took part in western China in 2012. It features articles on the epic poems Gesar and Manas written by specialists from China, Europe, and North America, plus a substantial introduction written by myself.

As for my current research, it falls into three somewhat different areas of inquiry. These are (1) the Exeter Book of Old English poetry, with the whole contents of that manuscript studied in an integrated fashion; (2) Anglo-Saxon texts of healing, a collective two-volume edition which I am helping to prepare for publication by the Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library; and (3) the impact of the Huns and other peoples of the steppe on the formation of early "Germanic" identity, with a particular focus on early Anglo-Saxon England.

In pursuit of this last theme, I am grateful to have been able to make a fairly systematic set of visits over the past few years to the leading archaeological and historical museums of northern Europe and certain parts of Asia.

I also have a long-standing interest in Scottish traditions. One focus of this research is the adjoining islands of Mull and Iona in the Inner Hebrides, seen as a region that encapsulates a number of cultural transformations over time. Another focal point is a single gifted storyteller and singer whom I recorded at length in the 1980s, Duncan Williamson of Loch Fyne and Fife (1928-2007), who was both a dear friend and the source of much of the little wisdom that I possess.

(On Williamson see