Lisa H. Cooper

Position title: Professor


Helen C. White Hall

Late medieval literature, material culture, literary theory

Degrees and Institutions

  • Ph.D., English and Comparative Literature, Columbia University
  • B.A., English and Art History, Amherst College

Research and Teaching Interests

My research and teaching interests span the 12th-15th centuries in western Europe, but especially in England and, in some cases, France and Italy. I have a particular investment in the intertwined histories of labor, technology, science, material culture, and the practices of daily life (farming, hunting, cooking, medicine, time-keeping, and more). I teach undergraduate and graduate courses on medieval romance, the poetry of Geoffrey Chaucer and his contemporaries as well as successors, medieval drama, and medieval travel narrative. I also frequently teach “Literature and Culture 1” (English 241), a foundational course for undergraduate English majors that covers the Middle Ages through the early 18th century.


  • Artisans and Narrative Craft in Late Medieval England. Cambridge University Press, 2011.
  • Ed., with Andrea Denny-Brown. The Arma Christi in Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture, with a Critical Edition of ‘O Vernicle’ (by Ann Eljenholm Nichols). Farnham, Surrey, UK: Ashgate Publishing, 2014.
  • Ed., with Andrea Denny-Brown. Lydgate Matters: Poetry and Material Culture in the Fifteenth Century. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008.

Selected Essays

  • “Agronomy and Affect in Duke Humfrey’s On Husbondrie.” Speculum 95/1 (January 2020): 36-88.
  • “Figures for ‘Gretter Knowing’: Forms in the Treatise on the Astrolabe.” Chaucer and the Subversion of Form, ed. Thomas Prendergast and Jessica Rosenfeld. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 2018. 99–124.
  • “Nothing Was Funny in the Late Middle Ages: The ‘Tale of Ryght Nought’ and British Library MS Egerton 1995,” The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 47.2 (2017): 221-53.
  • “Recipes for the Realm: John Lydgate’s ‘Soteltes’ and The Debate of the Horse, Goose, and Sheep.” In Essays on Aesthetics in Medieval Literature in Honor of Howell Chickering. Ed. John M. Hill, Bonnie Wheeler, and R.F. Yeager. Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2014. 194-215.
  • “Crafting Memory.” Middle English Literature: Criticism and Debate. Ed. Holly Crocker and D. Vance Smith. New York and London: Routledge, 2014. 183-91.
  • “‘His guttys wer out shake’: Illness and Indigence in Lydgate’s ‘Letter to Gloucester’ and Fabula duorum mercatorumStudies in the Age of Chaucer (2008): 303-34.
  • “Making Space for History: Galbert of Bruges and the Murder of Charles the Good,” in Place, Space, and Landscape in Medieval Narrative, ed. Laura L. Howes (University of Tennessee Press, 2008), pp. 1-36.
  • “The Poetics of Practicality,” in 21st-Century Approaches to Literature: Middle English, ed. Paul Strohm (Oxford, 2008), pp. 501-14.
  • “Bed, Boat, and Beyond: Fictional Furnishing in La Queste del Saint Graal,” Arthuriana 15.3 (2005): 26-50.

Current Projects

My first book (Artisans and Narrative Craft, Cambridge 2011) examined images of artisanal practice across a wide range of medieval genres. I am working on a second book that explores the relationship of medieval poetics and practical instruction in the later Middle Ages (tentatively entitled The Poetics of Practicality); this project has received support from the Vice Chancellor’s office for Research and Graduate Education, the Wisconsin Alumni Research Foundation, and the National Endowment for the Humanities. For a little more information, see here:


  • The Arma Christi in Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture cover
    Cooper (Editor), Lisa H., and Andrea Denny-Brown (Editor).“The Arma Christi in Medieval and Early Modern Material Culture.” 2014: n. pag. Print.

    This collection displays the fascinating range of intellectual possibilities generated by representations of these medieval ‘objects,’ and through the interdisciplinary collaboration of its contributors produces a fresh view of the multiple intersections of the spiritual and the material in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. It also includes a new and authoritative critical edition of the Middle English Arma Christi poem known as ‘O Vernicle’ that takes account of all twenty surviving manuscripts.

    The book opens with a substantial introduction that surveys previous scholarship and situates the Arma in their historical and aesthetic contexts. The ten essays that follow explore representative examples of the instruments of the Passion across a broad swath of history, from some of their earliest formulations in late antiquity to their reformulations in early modern Europe. Together, they offer the first large-scale attempt to understand the arma Christi as a unique cultural phenomenon of its own, one that resonated across centuries in multiple languages, genres, and media. The collection directs particular attention to this array of implements as an example of the potency afforded material objects in medieval and early modern culture, from the glittering nails of the Old English poem Elene to the coins of the Middle English poem ‘Sir Penny,’ from garments and dice on Irish tomb sculptures to lanterns and ladders in Hieronymus Bosch’s panel painting of St. Christopher, and from the altar of the Sistine Chapel to the printed prayer books of the reformation.

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  • Artisans and Narrative Craft in Late Medieval England cover
    Cooper, Lisa H.“Artisans and Narrative Craft in Late Medieval England.” 2011: n. pag. Print.

    Lisa H. Cooper offers new insight into the relationship of material practice and literary production in the Middle Ages by exploring the representation of craft labor in England from c.1000-1483. She examines genres as diverse as the school-text, comic poem, spiritual allegory, and mirror for princes, and works by authors both well-known (Chaucer, Lydgate, Caxton) and far less so. Whether they represent craft as profitable endeavor, learned skill, or degrading toil, the texts she reviews not only depict artisans as increasingly legitimate members of the body politic, but also deploy images of craft labor and its products to confront other complex issues, including the nature of authorship, the purpose of community, the structure of the household, the fate of the soul, and the scope of princely power.

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  • Lydgate Matters: Poetry and Material Culture in the Fifteenth Century cover
    Cooper (Editor), Lisa H., and Andrea Denny-Brown (Editor).“Lydgate Matters: Poetry and Material Culture in the Fifteenth Century.” 2008: n. pag. Print.

    This collection re-evaluates the work of fifteenth-century poet John Lydgate in light of medieval material culture. Top scholars in the field unite here with critical newcomers to offer fresh perspectives on the function of poetry on the cusp of the modern age, and in particular on the way that poetry speaks to the heightened relevance of material goods and possessions to the formation of late medieval identity and literary taste. Advancing in provocative ways the emerging fields of fifteenth-century literary and cultural study, the volume as a whole explores the role of the aesthetic not only in late medieval society but also in our own.

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