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Philippa Semper


Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I currently supervise postgraduate students working in the areas of Old English language and literature and Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. This work includes the interpretation of the Old English Phoenix (MPhil), the myth of the woman in the water in Beowulf (MPhil), the labours of the months in two Anglo-Saxon calendars (MPhil), the uses of landscape in Anglo-Saxon poetry (PhD) and the discourses of knowledge and power in relation to sexuality in Old English literature (PhD).

I also supervise postgraduates working on fantasy literature, including Susan Cooper (PhD) and C19th vampire literature (MRes).

I welcome enquiries from graduate students wishing to study for Masters and PhD projects on the following: Old English literature, especially the prose of secular learning and poetry containing runes; text-image relationships in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts and in later medieval manuscripts of secular texts; modern fantasy literature.


Research activity per year

Personal profile


After completing my PhD I tutored in Medieval English at the University of Exeter, and then went to Ireland to teach at University College Dublin for several years. I moved back to the UK when I joined the English Department at the University of Birmingham.

Research interests

My interests centre on Old English literature and the ways in which it was written, read and understood in the Anglo-Saxon period. Much of my research is interdisciplinary in nature, and examines the relationships between text and image in medieval manuscripts, focusing in particular on medieval diagrams. I am interested in the various reading strategies required by differing forms of visual exposition, and the implications of such strategies for both the production and the use of manuscripts, and am currently working on a book which addresses these issues.

I also work on modern fantasy writing. This has included work on the medievalism of fantasy and modern Arthurian fantasy such as Kevin Crossley Holland's Arthur trilogy and the BBC Merlin. My work now has a strong focus on the work of Lord Dunsany and Neil Gaiman.

Research groups

I am part of the Medieval English Research Group in the Department of English and lead for the Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages in the College of Arts and Law, whose research seminar programme I convene.


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