Martin Foys

Position title: Director of Graduate Studies; Nancy C. Hoefs Professor of English

Pronouns: He/him/his


Website: Complete CV and Updated Research

Helen C. White Hall, Rm. 7195F

Martin Foys

Personal Statement

The core of my research concerns pre- and post-Conquest England, with special attention to the intersection of literature and other visual, material and media modes of cultural expression – e.g. maps, tapestries and sculpture, and, most recently, more ephemeral and abstracted aspects of early medieval expressive production – auditory culture, technological alteration of bodies, transliteracies and ecologies of media forms, and the process of temporal decay or obsolescence. Recent work includes essays on widows, witchcraft and medieval real estate deals (2018), medieval media, human bodies and digital technology (2017)  media archaeology and manuscript studies (2015), a sensual philology for Anglo-Saxon England (2014),  “Media” for the Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Studies (2012), as well as co-editing a volume of articles on “Becoming Media” for the journal postmedieval (2012), for which submissions were also vetted through an experimental online crowd review. I am currently at work on a book on the nature of early medieval media, as well as editing a set of early medieval maps for the Virtual Mappa project, based at the British Library.

Major publications include the Bayeux Tapestry Digital Edition (2003 & 2013),  Virtually Anglo-Saxon: Old Media, New Media, and Early Medieval Studies in the Late Age of Print (2007), and Bayeux Tapestry: New Interpretations (2009). I also co-direct the DM Project, a digital resource for the open annotation of digital images and texts, which has been funded by a multi-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, with earlier support from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and by a generous UW2020 grant from the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

Research Interests

Old English language and literature, digital editing of Old English, early medieval materialism and media, digital medievalism, digital humanities, new media theory

Degrees and Institutions

  • Ph.D. Loyola University-Chicago

Recent Publications

“The Anonymous, Executed Widow of Ailsworth,” for Anglo-Saxon Women: A Florilegium, eds. Emily Butler, Irina Dumitrescu, and Hilary E. Fox (2024): forthcoming.

“Digital Editions and the Medieval Untext” ARCHIV. Theorie & Praxis 77 (2024): 33-39

“The Body as Media in Early Medieval England” for Medieval English and Dutch Literatures: the European Context, eds. Larissa Tracy and Geert Claassens (Boydell & Brewer, 2022): 65-88.

“How a Widow Becomes a Witch: Land, Loss and Law in Charter S. 1377”, English Studies (2020): 1-18.

The Remanence of Medieval Media,” for Digital Medieval Literature and Culture (Routledge Handbook series), ed. Jen Boyle and Helen J. Burgess (Routledge: 2018), 9-30.

The Undoing of Exeter Book Riddle 47: ‘Bookmoth’,” in Transitional States: Cultural Change, Tradition and Memory in Medieval England. Ed. Graham Caie and Michael D.C. Drout. Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies (ACMRS: 2018), 101-130.

Beowulf: lines 2248-2267 (“The Lay of the Last Survivor”), for Beowulf by All. Eds. Elaine Treharne and Jean Abbot (Stanford Universities Text Technologies: 2018):

“Redacting Harold Godwinson in William of Malmesbury’s Gesta Regum and the Vita Haroldi,” in Textiles, Text, Intertext: Essays in Honour of Gale R. Owen-Crocker, eds. Jill Fredrick and Maren Clegg-Hyer (Boydell and Brewer Press: 2016), 239-53.

Medieval Manuscripts: Media Archaeology and the Digital Incunable,” for The Medieval Manuscript Book: Cultural Approaches, eds. M. Van Dussen and M. Johnston (Cambridge University Press: 2015), 119-139.

A Sensual Philology for Anglo-Saxon England.” Postmedieval, 5.4 (volume on Philologies and the Futures of Humanism) (2014): 456-472.

Hwæt sprycst þu?: Performing Ælfric’s Colloquy.” Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching 22.2 (Fall 2015) (special issue: Practical Strategies for Teaching and Learning Old English), ed. H. Momma and H. Estes, 66-71.

“The Piers Plowman Electronic Archive and the Process of Durable Mutation” (review essay). Yearbook of Langland Studies 26 (2012 [2013]): 277-286.

“Media: Some Definitions Disguised as Maxims” & “Media in ‘The Husband’s Message’.” A Handbook to Anglo-Saxon Studies (Critical Theory Handbooks), ed. Jacqueline A. Stodnick and Renée R. Trilling (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell), 2012, 133-148.

Developing Digital Mappaemundi: An Agile Mode for Annotating Medieval Maps” (with Shannon Bradshaw). Digital Medievalist 7 (2011).

“Vanishing Transliteracies in Beowulf and Samuel Pepys’ Diary” (with Whitney Trettien). Essays and Studies –‘Textual Cultures: Cultural Texts,’ ed. Elaine Treharne and Orietta Da Rold (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer), 2010, 75-120.

“New Media and the Nunburnholme Cross.” Cross and Cruciform in the Anglo-Saxon World, ed. Karen Jolly, Sarah Keefer, and Catherine Karkov, (Morgantown: West Virginia University Press), 2010, 340-368.

“Pulling the Arrow Out: The Legend of Harold’s Death and the Bayeux Tapestry.” The Bayeux Tapestry: New Interpretations (2009, see below), 158-175.

The Reality of Media in Anglo-Saxon Studies.” The Heroic Age; A Journal of Early Medieval Northwestern Europe 11 (2008).

“An Unfinished Mappamundi from Late Eleventh-Century Worcester: CCCC 265 and the Evidence for a Family of Late Anglo-Saxon Maps.” Anglo-Saxon England 35 (2006): 271-284.

The Virtual Reality of the Anglo-Saxon Mappamundi.” Literature Compass 1 (2003): ME 016, 1-14.

All’s Well that Ends: Closure, Hypertext, and the Missing End of the Bayeux Tapestry.” Exemplaria 15.2 (2003): 39-72.

Digital Scholarship:

Digital Mappa (DM for short) is a Digital Humanities platform for the collection and curation of digital images and texts. DM’s suite of tools enables users assemble digital materials (both image and text), and then highlight areas of interest specific areas of interest on these documents. These highlights are then active, and users can create commentary for them, or link between them and other highlight on the same or other documents in the same DM project.  DM has been funded by a multi-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, with earlier support from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and by a generous UW2020 grant from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. You can learn all about how DM works at:

Please note: for DM 1.0 and 2.0 projects, Chrome or Firefox browsers are recommended.

Some projects remain in the earlier DM 1.0 prototype, while others have already been ported to the (vastly) improved 2.0 platform:

Virtual Mappa is a project in partnership with the British Library that so far has virtually collected and fully annotated a cohort of eleven early English maps of the world, including the famous Cotton Map and the massive Hereford Map (1100 inscriptions!). Significantly, by editing within the DM environment, all of this content is now searchable across all maps included. With the completion of this first phase, more maps will be gradually added, as new contributors publish maps within the resource.  For an earlier summary of the scope of the project, see this British Library announcementVirtual Mappa is hosted and published by the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies.

Old English Poetry in Facsimile, ed. Martin Foys et al. (UW-Madison Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture, 2019-):

A collaborative, open-access resource to re-edit the 400+ works of the complete Old English poetic corpus to digital facsimile, linking digital manuscript images, transcriptions, and translations of Old English poetry to editorial commentary. Editions practice “restorative retention” in an effort to better preserve & understand linguistic & poetic heterogeneity in early medieval England. Over 250 editions and 22,000 lines of poetry already published – some 70% of the poetic corpus; estimated completion: 2028. Since public release in June, 2021, this resource has been used over 30,000 times by 16,000 users.

Amalarius’s Bells: An Old English and Medieval Latin Edition (DM 2.0 version), ed. Martin Foys (Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, 2019):

Amalarius’s Bells is designed as a resource for students of all levels of Old English, medieval Latin, paleography, and medieval translation, and also as a detailed resource for scholars. Provides full editions of a short Latin text and its subsequent Old English translation, digital facsimiles of both manuscript versions, Latin and Old English glossaries, editorial commentary, and detailed discussion of the manuscripts and their contexts.

Four Anglo-Carolingian Minitexts from Cotton Vespasian MS D. xv (DM 1.0 version), ed. Martin Foys (Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies, 2019):

The Four Anglo-Carolingian Minitexts work publishes a set of editions for four recently identified short Carolingian Latin texts in a late tenth-century English manuscript; three of these texts were not previously known to be in England before the Norman Conquest. The editions themselves link together digital manuscript facsimiles, transcriptions, editorial commentary and modern English translations.

Courses Taught

Old English; Beowulf, Tolkien and the Birth of Modern Fantasy, Medieval Worldmaking: Race/Body/Wonder/Monster/Map

Recent Books

  • Foys (Co-editor), Martin, and Jen Boyle (Co-editor).“Postmedieval: Becoming Media.” 2012: n. pag. Print.

    In media studies circles, it is now almost trite to discuss the term remediation: the liminal, ambivalent staging of a media life caught between older and newer forms, and the functional tussle that happens between them. Nevertheless, scholars today work within this oscillating, in-between space – a space fraught with cross pressures of how we used to do things and how we ought to do things. As (post)medievalists, we study the very old with the very new, but remain constrained by the cultural logic of earlier and increasingly archaic media production. So the theme ‘Becoming Media’ applies as much to the entire process of this issue and its own immediately historical context as to its organizing theme and published product – a product realized here traditionally in print and then again, digitally and differently, on postmedieval’s website. This process has been in many ways a stochastic one, infused with prediction, probability and randomness. We guessed about the new as we studied the old: the form and function of the online crowd review for early drafts of our contributors’ essays necessarily developed out of the moment, as there was relatively little precedent for how such a process would or should work. We experimented with alternatives to the standard modes of publishing scholarship, even as we here produce such scholarship in such modes.

    The in-between of media and mediation is as much a historical investment as it is a phenomenological and ontological problem. On the one hand, the ‘new’ in our refrain of ‘new media’ betrays the uncritical assumption that media can appear from the ether as novel innovations unfettered by their remediations in and through the past. On the other, there is a tendency to reify the media object as a ‘lure’ to ‘demonstrating its past’; that is, media objects lure us toward an archeology of their present that is rooted in a chronology of progressive succession. What of historically abject media, of the object resistant entirely to a telos of mediation ‘for’ …?”

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  • Foys (Co-editor), Martin, Dan Terkla (Co-editor), and Karen Overbey (Co-editor).“The Bayeux Tapestry: New Interpretations.” 2009: n. pag. Print.

    In the past two decades, scholarly assessment of the Bayeux Tapestry has begun to consider issues beyond its sources and analogues, dating, origin and purpose, and site of display.” “This volume demonstrates the utility of more recent interpretive approaches to this famous artefact, especially with regard to newer concepts of gender, materiality, reception theory, cultural criticism, performativity, spatial narrative, New Historicism, and post-structuralism.” “The essays frame vital issues for the future of Tapestry scholarship: they provide original perspectives, and engage with myriad critical concerns: the (New-) historical layering of meaning, representational systems of gender difference, visuality, memory and architecture, modern obsessions with author-like patronage, post-colonial notions of territory and saintly relics, and the function of historiography and media.” “A bibliography of three centuries of critical writings completes the work.

    • International Society of Anglo-Saxonists [ISAS] Best First Book Publication Prize
    • Finalist for the Modern Language Association’s First Book Prize

    Foys argues that early medieval culture did not favor the representational practices privileged by the modern age and that five hundred years of print culture have in effect shut off modern readers from interpretations of text and image that would have been transparent to a medieval audience. Examining print and post-print ways of reading medieval literature and art, he derives alternative models of understanding from the realm of digital media, considering pre-print expression through a range of post-print ideas and producing new and vital understandings of visionary Old English poetry, Anglo-Saxon maps of the world, 11th-century Benedictine devotional writings, medieval mathematical systems, stone sculpture of Viking settlers, and the famous Bayeux Tapestry.

    Building chapter upon chapter into a sustained discussion of New Media theory and medieval interpretation, Foys provides a field-defining investigation of how digital technology and expression can refine and revitalize early medieval studies.


  • Foys, Martin.“The Digital Edition of the Bayeux Tapestry.” 2003: n. pag. Print.
    • Choice Outstanding Academic Title
    • International Society of Anglo-Saxonists [ISAS] Best Edition Publication Prize

    “The Bayeux Tapestry presents its story of the Norman Conquest of England in words of such simplicity and images of such power that it has long determined the view we take of the momentous events of 1064-6. This digital edition creates new and exciting ways of viewing the Tapestry, with additional features in the form of a brilliantly-conceived array of supporting material. It transforms the way in which students and teachers alike will be able to approach, to use and to enjoy one of the most remarkable of all our sources for the middle ages.” – Simon Keynes, Elrington and Bosworth Professor of Anglo-Saxon, University of Cambridge.

    This online edition presents full images of the tapestry itself, magnifiable so that individual stitches can be seen, with images of three facsimiles, and of many related artifacts. They are accompanied by authoritative translations of seventeen historical sources concerning the events of 1066, maps, genealogies, bibliography, and full commentary, in an attractive interface. Read More

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