1. University of Virginia
  2. Arts & Sciences

Bruce Holsinger


406 Bryan Hall

Office Hours:

T/R 1230-200

Class Schedule:

T/R 1100-1215
T 330-600


Ph.D. Columbia, 1996
M.A. Minnesota, 1992
B.A. and B.Mus.A. Michigan , 1989

Bruce Holsinger specializes in the literature and culture of the medieval world, with additional interests in historical fiction, modern and contemporary theory, the history of the book, and premodern religious cultures. He is currently finishing a book called Archive of the Animal: Science, Sacrifice, and the Parchment Inheritance, which explores the parchment record of the Western tradition from a number of different angles (environmental history, animal studies, zooarchaeology, theologies of sacrifice, etc.). A longer-term book project, The Work of God: Liturgical Culture and Vernacular Writing in Britain, 550-1550, examines the shaping role of liturgical culture in the history of literary writing, from the earliest known vernacular survivals in the sixth century to the coming of common prayer in the sixteenth.  

His previous books, including The Premodern Condition: Medievalism and the Making of Theory (Chicago 2005) as well as Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror (Chicago/Prickly Paradigm, 2007), have explored the shaping role of the medieval in the making of modern critical thought and political discourse, part of his broader interest in the subject of medievalism. His first book, Music, Body, and Desire in Medieval Culture: Hildegard of Bingen to Chaucer (Stanford 2001), won the Modern Language Association Prize for a First Book, the John Nicholas Brown Prize from the Medieval Academy of America, and the Philip Brett Award from the American Musicological Society.

He has also published two historical novels set in Ricardian London and featuring John Gower and Geoffrey Chaucer. A Burnable Book (HarperCollins/William Morrow 2014) won the John Hurt Fisher Prize, was selected as an Editor's Choice by the New York Times Book Review, and was named one of the top crime novels of 2014 by the American Library Association. The Invention of Fire (HarperCollins/William Morrow 2015), his most recent book, explores the beginnings of gun violence in the Western world. Both novels have been widely reviewed in publications such as The New York Times, The Washington Post, and the Sunday Times of London, and his fiction writing has been featured several times on National Public Radio. His scholarly work on historical fiction includes a special issue of the journal postmedieval, "After Eco: Novel Medievalisms" (co-edited with Stephanie Trigg); as well as a forthcoming book, Historical Fiction: A Very Short Introduction, to be published by Oxford University Press in 2018.


Critical Theory, Medieval


The Invention of Fire, HarperCollins/William Morrow, 2015

(historical novel)

A Burnable Book, HarperCollins/William Morrow, 2014

(historical novel)

Neomedievalism, Neoconservatism, and the War on Terror, Prickly Paradigm Press: Chicago, 2007
The Premodern Condition, University of Chicago Press, 2005
Music, Body, and Desire in Medieval Culture, Stanford University Press, 2001


  • "Object-Oriented Mythography," forthcoming in Minnesota Review (2013)
  • "'Historical Context' in Historical Context: Surface, Depth, and the Making of the Text," New Literary History 42 (2011)
  • "Parchment Ethics: A statement of more than modest concern," New Medieval Literatures 12 (2010)
  • "Medievalization Theory: From Tocqueville to the Cold War," American Literary History 22 (2010)
  • "Of Pigs and Parchment: Medieval Studies and the Coming of the Animal," PMLA 124 (2009)
  • "Empire, Apocalypse, and the 9/11 Premodern," Critical Inquiry 34; reprinted in Andrew Cole and D. Vance Smith, eds., The Legitimacy of the Middle Ages: On the Unwritten History of Theory (Duke UP, 2010).
  • “Liturgy.”  21st-Century Approaches to Literature: Middle English. Ed. Paul Strohm.  Oxford: Oxford University Press (2007).
  • “The Parable of Caedmon’s Hymn: Liturgical Invention and Literary Tradition.”  Journal of English and Germanic Philology 106 (2007).
  • “Lyric Inventions: The Short Poems,” in The Yale Companion to Chaucer, ed. Seth Lerer (2005).
  • “Lollard Ekphrasis: Situated Aesthetics and Literary History,” in Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (2004).
  • “Medieval Literature and Cultures of Performance,” in New Medieval Literatures (2003).
  • “Medieval Studies, Postcolonial Studies, and the Genealogies of Critique,” in Speculum (2002).
  • “Vernacular Legality: The English Jurisdictions of The Owl and the Nightingale,” in The Letter of the Law: Legal Practice and Literary Production in Medieval England, ed. Emily Steiner and Candace Barrington (Cornell, 2002).
  • “Ovidian Homoerotics in Twelfth-Century Paris: The Letters of Leoninus, Poet and Polyphone,” in Gay and Lesbian Quarterly (2002), co-authored with David Townsend.
  • “The Ovidian Verse‑Epistles of Master Leoninus,” in Journal of Medieval Latin (2000), co-authored with David Townsend.
  • “Langland’s Musical Reader: Liturgy, Law, and the Constraints of Performance,” in Studies in the Age of Chaucer (1999).
  • “The Vision of Music in a Lollard Florilegium: Cantus in the Middle English Rosarium Theologie ( Cambridge, Gonville and Caius College MS 354/581),” in Plainsong and Medieval Music (1999).
  • “The Color of Salvation: Desire, Death, and the Second Crusade in Bernard of Clairvaux's Sermons on the Song of Songs,” in The Tongue of the Fathers: Gender and Ideology in Twelfth-Century Latin, ed. David Townsend and Andrew Taylor (Penn, 1998).
  • “Sodomy and Resurrection: The Homoerotic Subject of the Divine Comedy,” in Premodern Sexualities, ed. Louise Fradenburg and Carla Freccero (Routledge, 1996).

Book Reviews

  • Review of L.O. Aranye Fradenburg, Sacrifice Your Love: Historicism, Psychoanalysis, Chaucer (Minnesota, 2003), Studies in the Age of Chaucer 27 (2005).
  • Review of Patricia Ingham, Sovereign Fantasies: Arthurian Romance and the Making of Britain (Pennsylvania, 2001), MLQ 66 (2005): 119-24.
  • Review of David Matthews, The Invention of Middle English: An Anthology of Primary Sources (Penn State, 2000), Speculum 77 (2002).
  • Review of Barbara Newman, ed., Voice of the Living Light: Hildegard of Bingen and Her World (California, 1998), Journal of Religion 81 (2001): 351-53.
  • Review of J. Stephen Russell, Chaucer and the Trivium: The Mindsong of the Canterbury Tales (Florida, 1999), Studies in the Age of Chaucer 22 (2000): 531-34.


  • John Nicholas Brown Prize from the Medieval Academy of America, 2005
  • MLA Prize for a First Book, 2002
  • Philip Brett Award from the American Musicological Society, 2001
  • John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation Fellowship, 2004
  • Frederick Burkhardt Fellowship, American Council of Learned Societies, 2004-2005
  • National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship, 2000-2001
  • Visiting Professor, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, UCLA, Nov. 1999
  • Javits Fellowship, 1993-1996