Rebecca F. McNamara

McNamara, Rebecca

Assistant Professor of English
Phone: (805) 565-7179
Office Location: Reynolds Hall 103

Office Hours
Spring 2018
MWF 2:00 - 4:00 PM
and by appointment

Medieval literature, the history of emotions, death studies, law and politics in Middle English literature, sociolinguistic approaches to literature, Chaucer.

Rebecca has studied, researched, and taught medieval literature around the globe, from Waco to Oxford and Sydney to Los Angeles. After a decade abroad in England and Australia, this native Texan is delighted to join the English Faculty at Westmont and to make Southern California home. Besides researching difficult questions (how do we find out about emotions in the medieval past?), Rebecca enjoys continuing to learn more about literature with her students and mentoring them along the way. Some of her most valued time with students was spent providing pastoral care for undergraduates and graduates as the Junior Dean of Exeter College at the University of Oxford. Rebecca is grateful for the experiences she has had working on multiple continents and the interesting people she has met (especially her husband, James). Her biggest piece of advice to students is to get to know people and places (and books and writers) that are unfamiliar to you—such changes in perspective will teach you more than you can imagine about yourself, other people, and the world around you.



  • D.Phil., University of Oxford, 2010
  • M.St., University of Oxford, 2006
  • B.A., Baylor University, 2005

Selected Publications

  • A is for Affeccioun: Strategies for the History of Emotions in the Classroom,” The Once and Future Classroom 13.1 (2016), 1-22.
  • “The History of Emotions and Middle English Literature,” Literature Compass 13.6 (2016), 444-56 (with Stephanie Downes).
  • “Wearing your Heart on your Face: Reading Lovesickness and the Suicidal Impulse in Chaucer,” Literature and Medicine 33.2 (2015), 235-55.
  • “The Sorrow of Soreness: Infirmity and Suicide in Medieval England,” Parergon 31.2 (2014), 11-34.
  • “Emotional Responses to Death and Dying in Medieval and Early Modern Europe,” Parergon 31.2 (2014), 1-10 (with Una McIlvenna).
  • “Unlocking the Silences of the Self-Murdered: Textual Approaches to Suicidal Emotions in the Middle Ages,” Exemplaria 26.1 (2014), 58-80 (with Juanita Feros Ruys).
  • “ ‘Diversity in setting of words makes diversity in understanding’: Bureaucratic and Political Language in Thomas Usk’s Testament of Love,” New Medieval Literatures 14 (2012), 165-199.

Research Interests

Rebecca researches the literature and language of medieval England and the history of emotions in the Middle Ages. Her current research focuses on the suicidal impulse and emotions in medieval English literature and culture, identifying and theorizing emotions related to suicide in England (c. 1200-1500) in literary texts, legal records, chronicles, and manuscript illuminations. Rebecca is also interested in the effects of language on literary form and meaning and, more broadly, the impact of historical change upon language—ideas that shaped her doctorate: “Code-Switching in Medieval England: Register Variety in the Literature of Geoffrey Chaucer, Thomas Usk, and Thomas Hoccleve” (Oxford, 2010). There Rebecca examines the ways in which Chaucer’s, Usk’s, and Hoccleve’s professional textual environments in law, London guilds, factional politics, and bureaucracy affected their literary writing. She finds that the variety of linguistic registers in their work challenges our received ideas of literary and vernacular language in late medieval England.


  • Westmont
    ENG 002: Composition
    ENG 046: Survey of British Literature to 1800
    ENG 190: Internship
    ENG 060: Writers in Conversation
    ENG 165: Topics in World Literature
  • UCLA (Lecturer)
    Chaucer: Canterbury Tales
    Chaucer: Troilus and Criseyde and Minor Poems
  • University of Sydney (Postdoctoral Research Fellow & Associate Lecturer)
    The Canterbury Tales
    Language, Texts, and Time
    Life and Literature in the Age of Chaucer
    Deceit and Disguise in Medieval Narrative
    Sex and Sin in the Middle Ages
  • University of Oxford (College Tutor)
    J.R.R. Tolkien’s Fiction (Hertford College)
    Introduction to Medieval English Literature (Oriel College)
    General Linguistics (Exeter College)
    Special Topics in Sociolinguistics (Exeter College)
    English Literature from 1100-1509 (Magdalen College)

Selected Presentations

  • “The Emotional Language of the Law in Chaucer’s Poetry,” Department of English, University of California Santa Barbara, Nov 2016.
  • “The Emotional Language of the Law: A Case study of Anelida and Arcite,” New Chaucer Society International Congress, London, July 2016.
  • “The Hidden History of Emotions at Law in Late Medieval England,” Medieval Emotions & Contemporary Methodologies: A Research Workshop, Birkbeck University of London, July 2016.
  • “A is for Affeccioun: Strategies for the History of Emotions in the Classroom,” International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, May 2015.
  • “Anatomizing the Suicidal Impulse in The Book of the Duchess and The Knight’s Tale,” Medieval Renaissance Research Seminar, Baylor University, Waco, TX, Feb 2015.
  • “The History of Emotions and Middle English Literature” (with Stephanie Downes), Discourses of Passion, Politics, Nurture, and Feeling: Emotions in Middle English Literature III, CHE, University of Melbourne, Sept 2014.
  • “Wearing Your Heart on Your Face: Reading Lovesickness and Suicide in Chaucer,” History of Emotions Seminar, University of Adelaide, Sept 2014.
  • “Governing and Emotions in Late Medieval Law,” New Chaucer Society International Congress, University of Iceland, Reykjavík, July 2014.
  • “Weapons of Self-Destruction: Materiality and Suicide in the Middle Ages,” International Congress on Medieval Studies, Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI, May 2014.
  • “Feel the Pain: Medieval Trauma,” MLA Convention, Chicago, IL, Jan 2014.
  • “A Lesser Evil? The Violence of War and Suicide in the Middle Ages,” Representing War and Violence in the Pre-Modern World Conference, Pembroke College, University of Cambridge, Sept 2013.
  • “The Law on Feeling: Finding Emotions in Medieval Legal Texts,” Sourcing Emotions in the Medieval and Early Modern World Conference, CHE, University of Western Australia, Perth, June 2013.
  • “Dying on the Edge: The Suicides of Criminals in Medieval England,” Medieval Academy of America Annual General Meeting, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, April 2013.
  • Pro timore: Criminal Suicide in the Middle Ages,” Australia and New Zealand Association of Medieval and Early Modern Studies Conference, Monash University, Melbourne, Feb 2013.
  • Bodies in Distress: collaborative research project and art installation (with Una McIlvenna, Mimi Kelley, Carolyn McKay, and Grace Turner) exhibited at the “Critical Animals” Creative Research Symposium at the “This is Not Art” Festival, Newcastle, NSW, Sept 2012.
  • “The Sorrow of Soreness: Infirmity and Suicide in the Middle Ages,” Danse Macabre: Emotional Responses to Death and Dying from Medieval to Contemporary Times, University of Sydney, Sept 2012.
  • “Fever, Madness, Anguish: Suicide and Emotions in Thirteenth-Century English Legal Records,” Society for the Social History of Medicine and Queen Mary Centre for the History of Emotions Conference, Queen Mary, University of London, Sept 2012.
  • “Afterlives of the Self-Murdered: Imagining Suicide and Emotions in England’s Medieval Legal Records,” South African Society of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Stellenbosch, Aug 2012.
  • “Infirmity and Compassion: Emotions of Suicide Case Petitions to the English Crown, 1200-1400,” Australian Historical Association Conference, University of Adelaide, July 2012.

Fellowships, Awards, and Grants

  • 2015-Present, Honorary Research Associate, Australian Research Council Centre for the History of Emotions, University of Western Australia
  • 2015-2016, Mayers Fellowship, The Huntington Library
  • 2015-2016, Honorary Research Associate, Medieval and Early Modern Centre, University of Sydney
  • 2011-2014, Australian Research Council Postdoctoral Research Fellowship
  • 2010, New Chaucer Society Travel Grant
  • 2008 & 2010, Exeter College, Oxford, Academic Travel Grant
  • 2008 & 2010, Meyerstein and Maxwell Fund, Oxford English Faculty, Travel Grant
  • 2003-2004, John L. Howard Scholarship for English Studies, Baylor University
  • 2001-2005, Baylor University Dean’s List
  • 2001-2005, Baylor University Presidential Scholarship