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Mae Lyons-Penner

Mae Lyons-Penner

Comparative Literature
Researchers in the humanities often use literature as a source for studying the ideas of a culture, but their traditional methods of analysis often lack systematicity, are difficult to replicate at scale and/or elide the unique complexities of literary form. In my research, I study the social thought of thirteenth-century Western Europe through the popular fiction of the period, focusing especially on the claims placed on the human body as an instrument of society. The sources I study are too lengthy, too hard to categorise as one genre or another, and too divergent from modern notions of literature to be appropriate objects for "close reading", the method which has dominated the study of literature for the past century. And yet, as pseudo-historical imaginative fictions, such sources tend to be viewed with suspicion by historians. I am therefore working to adapt existing methods for the computational analysis of language to map these texts in different ways, in order to support more robust analyses of their latent ideological priorities. In doing so, I hope to foster a more discursive process for thinking through literary works which can be applied to texts from a wide range of cultures.
 
I am currently a fifth-year doctoral candidate in the Department of Comparative Literature. I have a BA in modern and medieval languages from the University of Oxford and an MA in medieval history from University College London, and have previously been a visiting student at the Institut d'Études Politiques de Paris (Sciences Po) and a visiting researcher at the École Normale Supérieure (Paris). In 2017-18, I was a Digital Humanities Fellow at Stanford's Center for Spatial and Textual Analysis (CESTA). Outside of my degree work, I manage an open-access project which produces machine-readable editions and translations of medieval texts, the Global Medieval Sourcebook.