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Carolyn Dinshaw

The Julius Silver, Roslyn S. Silver, and Enid Silver Winslow Professorship; Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis , English

Ph.D. 1982, (English literature), Princeton; A.B. 1978, Bryn Mawr College.

Office Address: 

20 Cooper Square, Room 416 New York, New York (US) 10003

Office Hours: 

Fall 2016: Mondays & Wednesdays: 5:00pm-6:00pm


(212) 992-8303


(212) 995-4433

Areas of Research/Interest: 

English and Western European medieval literature and culture; feminist studies; lesbian/gay/bisexual/transgender studies; history of sexuality; theories of history and historiography; theories and experiences of temporality; ecology and ecocriticism; history of maps and mapping

External Affiliations:

New Chaucer Society (President, 2010-12); Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship; Society for the Study of Homosexuality in the Middle Ages; Committee for Lesbian and Gay History, AHA; John Gower Society; Lollard Society; Modern Language Association of America; Medieval Academy of America; Editorial Board, postmedieval; Advisory Board, Exemplaria (2008-13); founding Co-Editor, GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies


Carolyn Dinshaw has been interested in the relationship between past and present ever since she began to study medieval literature. Her 1982 dissertation, subsequently published as Chaucer and the Text in 1988, explored the relevance of new critical modes for older literature, while in her 1989 book, Chaucer's Sexual Poetics, she investigated the connection of past and present via the Western discursive tradition of gender. In Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern (1999), she traced a queer desire for history. In her most recent book, How Soon is Now? Medieval Texts, Amateur Readers, and the Queerness of Time (2012), she looks directly at the experience of time itself, as it is represented in medieval works and as it is experienced in readers of those works. In the classroom, she regularly teaches materials past and present, in courses ranging from Medieval Misogyny to Queer New York City.

In graduate courses such as “Time and Temporality in Medieval Literature,” she has explored expanded notions of history and time—affective history, embodied history, and the feeling of being a body in time—in texts ranging from Boethius’s Consolation of Philosophy to Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde to Washington Irving’s “Rip van Winkle,” Derrida’s Specters of Marx and Henri Bergson’s Matter and Memory. Dinshaw has recently taught "Ecological Approaches to Medieval Literature," in which students read medieval texts (especially those featuring a figure of Nature) in relation to theoretical materials by, among many others, Timothy Morton, Martin Heidegger, Bruno Latour, Catriona Sandilands and Bruce Erickson, and Dipesh Chakrabarty. Her work in the Department of Social and Cultural Analysis (where she is jointly appointed with the English Department) has provided a rich context in which to develop these ideas theoretically and cross culturally.

Dinshaw’s current research projects extend her interests into the visual field. It’s Not Easy Being Green focuses on the eerie figure of the foliate head – a decorative motif well nigh ubiquitous in medieval church sculpture in Western Europe that became known in the 20th century as the Green Man. This imagined mixture of human and vegetable (a head sprouting leaves or made up of vegetation) is the point of departure for her research on human/non-human relations, queerness and queer sexual subcultures now, "the ecological thought" (as Timothy Morton puts it), and what medieval literature can tell us about it all.

The second project, Exploring Nowhere: Mirages, Digital Maps, and the Historical Problem of Location, is undertaken with visual artist Marget Long. It is a project that explores paradoxical places where time and space operate differently from all other places on earth – “nowheres that are somewhere” (to adapt Alessandro Scafi’s resonant phrase for medieval representations of Paradise). Long and Dinshaw look to the optical phenomenon of the mirage—a strange and elusive "nowhere"—to explore the broad concepts of location and locatability. They investigate the mirage’s visual and cultural history through a wide array of materials: medieval maps and legends of Paradise (which was in at least one instance thought to be a mirage), early 20th-century Arctic exploration, and photographs and video works from Long’s project on mirages. Long and Dinshaw take a long view of the mirage—an illusion that prompts an irrational experience of time and space—in order to imagine (among other things) how to work and play with current digital mapping technologies intended to work us.


Distinguished International Visiting Fellowship, Center of Excellence for the History of Emotions, Australia Research Council; John Edward Taylor Fellowship, University of Manchester, UK; Distinguished Editor Award, Council of Editors of Learned Journals; MLA Crompton-Noll Award, Special Citation; MLA Crompton-Noll Award for "Getting Medieval: Pulp Fiction, Gawain, Foucault"; Marta Sutton Weeks Fellow, Stanford Humanities Center; President's Fellowship, University of California; Medieval Academy, John Nicholas Brown Prize for Chaucer's Sexual Poetics

"All Kinds of Time." Presidential Address. Studies in the Age of Chaucer 35 (2013): 3 – 25.

“Ecology.” In Marion Turner, ed. A Handbook of Middle English Studies. West Sussex: John Wiley, 2013. Pp. 347 – 62.

How Soon is Now? Medieval Texts, Amateur Readers, and the Queerness of Time. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012.

"Born Too Soon, Born Too Late: The Female Hunter of Long Eddy, circa 1855." In 21st-Century Gay Culture. Ed. David A. Powell. Newcastle: Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2008. Pp. 1-12.

"Temporalities." In Twenty-first Century Approaches: Medieval. Ed. Paul Strohm. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2007.

“Theorizing Queer Temporalities: A Roundtable Discussion.” With Lee Edelman, Roderick A. Ferguson, Carla Freccero, Elizabeth Freeman (moderator), Judith Halberstam, Annamarie Jagose, Christopher Nealon, and Nguyen Tan Hoang. GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 13:2-3 (2007): 179-95.

"Medieval Feminist Literary Criticism." Cambridge History of Feminist Literary Criticism. Ed. Susan Sellers and Gill Plain. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2007. Pp. 11-26.

"Touching on the Past." In The Boswell Thesis: Essays for the Twenty-Fifth Anniversary of John Boswell's Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality. Ed. Matthew Kuefler Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 2006. Pp. 57-73.

"The History of GLQ, Volume One: LGBT Studies, Censorship, and Other Transnational Problems." GLQ: A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies, 12 (2006): 5-26.

The Cambridge Companion to Medieval Women's Writing. Ed. Carolyn Dinshaw and David Wallace. Cambridge, Eng.: Cambridge University Press, 2003.

"Pale Faces: Race, Religion, and Affect in Chaucer's Texts and Their Readers," Studies in the Age of Chaucer 23 (2001): 19-41.

"History's Queer Touch: A Forum on Carolyn Dinshaw's Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern." With Elizabeth Castelli, Rosemary Drage Hale, Amy Hollywood, Mark D. Jordan, Ann Pellegrini, and Angela Zito. Journal of the History of Sexuality 10 (2001): 202-212.

Getting Medieval: Sexualities and Communities, Pre- and Postmodern. Series Q. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 1999.

Chaucer's Sexual Poetics. Madison, WI and London: University of Wisconsin Press, 1989.

Chaucer and the Text: Two Views of the Author. New York and London: Garland Press, 1988.

Updated on 09/12/2016