Elizabeth Allen

picture of Elizabeth  Allen

Professor and Chair, English
School of Humanities

B.A., Yale University
Ph.D., University of Michigan

Phone: (949) 824-6712
Fax: (949) 824-2916
Email: eallen@uci.edu

University of California, Irvine
173 MKH
Mail Code: 2650
Irvine, CA 92697
Research Interests
Sanctuary; Romance; Chaucer, Gower, Gawain-Poet; exemplary literature, chronicle, episodic form; intersections between ethics and politics, politics and religion; hospitality, sovereignty, legal history of England
Research Abstract
My book Uncertain Refuge: Sanctuary in the Literature of Medieval England argues that sanctuary is not as safe as we think. In literature, the idea of sanctuary encompasses caves, forests, hidey-holes and ruins, in stories that range from saints' lives to Robin Hood ballads, romances of Gawain to news of the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s. Sanctuary across time offers precarious and temporary havens, by endowing fugitives with unusual significance. Specifically under medieval common law, felons could seek sanctuary in any church, for up to 40 days, and then they had to give up all their belongings and go into exile. Sanctuary operates by making such refugees symbolic in order to allow them a bare-minimum survival.

I have also published a book on exemplarity (False Fables and Exemplary Truth, Palgrave 2005) and assorted essays on Chaucer, the Gawain-poet, and medieval romance, among other topics. I am interested in stories--how they are formed from tradition and innovation, who tells them and how they are told, what moral and political purposes they serve, how they reflect and influence history. I write about narratives in history with particular interests in refuge, sacred space, time and temporality, cross-period resonances (periodization), and the moral lessons of narrative.

I teach Arthurian romance, the Bible as Literature, Chaucer, and other topics courses on medieval (and sometimes later) literature. I am currently Chair of the English Department.


Uncertain Refuge: Sanctuary in the Literature of Medieval England, University of Pennsylvania Press, 2021

False Fables and Exemplary Truth in Later Middle English Literature, Palgrave, 2005

“Ecology and the Gawain-Poet,” in Becoming the Pearl-poet: Perceptions, Connections, Receptions, ed. Jane Beal, Lexington Books; forthcoming 2022.
“Death and Romance in Sir Orfeo,” in Narrating Death, eds. Daniel Jernigan and Walter Wadiak, Routledge, 2018.
“A Once and Future King: Sanctuary, Sovereignty, and the Politics of Pity in the Histories of Perkin Warbeck,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, 47:2 (2017): 327-358.
“Teaching Pearl and Landscape,” Approaches to Teaching the Middle English Pearl, ed. Jane Beal and Mark Bradshaw Busbee, Modern Language Association of America, 2017.
“Sanctuary and Sovereignty: Hubert de Burgh in the Chronica Majora,” New Medieval Literatures 15 (2014 for 2013).
“Flowing Backward to the Source: Criseyde’s Promises and the Ethics of Allusion,” Speculum 88.3 (June 2013).
“ ‘As mote in at a munster dor’: Sanctuary and Love of This World,” Philological Quarterly 87 (2008): 105-133.
“Episodes,” Twenty-first Century Approaches to Literature: Middle English, ed. Paul Strohm (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007), 191-206.
"Newfangled Readers in Gower's Apollonius of Tyre," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 29 (2007), 419-64.
"Chaucer Answers Gower: Constance and the Trouble With Reading," English Literary History 63 (1997).
Magazine and newspaper articles

“Pandemic / Protest Teaching,” Oh! The Humanities, Thursday, July 23, 2020

“What’s the History of Sanctuary Spaces and Why Do They Matter?” The Conversation,
November 23, 2017

“How ‘Dreamers’ Are Ignored: Mockery of Justice,” The Globe Post, Sept. 6, 2017

“Pope Francis’s Call to House Refugees Echoes Church History,” The Conversation, September
23, 2015

“Why Sanctuary Cities Must Exist,” op-ed, Los Angeles Times, September 17, 2015.
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