Martin Foys is a Professor of English at the University of Wisconsin-Madison. He was previously a Senior Lecturer in pre-1300 English at King’s College London, and has held posts at Drew University, Hood College and Florida State University.
My primary field and discipline, the study of early medieval England, traditionally called “Anglo-Saxon Studies”, is one that for centuries operated within an insular, hegemonic and racist habit of whiteness. Trained within this tradition, I was ignorant of its reality for far too long. While this has been the past of the field, I have learned in the past few years that it does not need to be its future. To begin with, the name needs to change, as Anglo-Saxon today is a term inseparable from modern beliefs of white supremacy and the exclusion or denigration of others. It also needs to work more actively to include students and scholars from all races, religions and genders, not just ones derived from its own constructed historical foundation and canonicity. It needs to change what is taught from the early medieval period, and how it is taught. While I have much to learn, and will continue to do so, the future work I do is done in support of such goals.
My scholarship has explored pre- and post-Conquest England, with special attention to the intersection of literature and other visual, material, technological and media modes of cultural expression – e.g. maps, tapestries and sculpture, and, most recently, more ephemeral and abstracted aspects of early medieval English expressive production – auditory culture, technological alteration of bodies, transliteracies and ecologies of media forms, and the process of temporal decay or obsolescence. There’s also a lot of digital humanities theory and praxis in the mix. Recent scholarship includes work on widows, witchcraft and medieval real estate deals (2018), editing a digital cohort of early medieval maps for the British Library (2018), overseeing an ongoing digital collection of Old English Poetry facsimiles (2019), medieval media, human bodies and digital technology (2017), discovering three Anglo-Carolingian texts previously unknown in pre-Conquest England (2017), a bilingual edition (Latin and Old English) of an early medieval treatise on bells (2017-2019) media archaeology and manuscript studies (2015), a sensual philology for early medieval England (2014), “Media” for the Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Anglo-Saxon Studies (2012), as well as co-editing a volume of articles on “Becoming Media” for the journal postmedieval (2012), for which submissions were also vetted through an experimental on-line crowd review.
Most recently, I have been working on aspects of ethnic homogenization in the Battle of Maldon, as well as producing a modern translation of the late Middle English romance Tars and Damas. The digital work I am doing directing the Digital Mappa project (see below) champions open access platforms for scholarship and teaching resources.
Major publications include the Bayeux Tapestry Digital Edition (2003 & 2013), Virtually Anglo-Saxon: Old Media, New Media, and Early Medieval Studies in the Late Age of Print (2007), and Bayeux Tapestry: New Interpretations (2009). I also direct the Digital Mappa Project, a digital resource for the open annotation of images and texts that is based at the Schoenberg Institute for Manuscript Studies (SIMS) and the UW-Madison Center for the History of Print and Digital Culture (CHPDC), and which has been funded by a multi-year grant from the National Endowment for the Humanities, with earlier support from Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, and currently by a generous UW2020 grant from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. DM 2.0 was released in March 2020, along with several new and rebooted open-access scholarly publications for early medieval digital material under my direction. See the digitalmappa.org site for details.
I also love to teach. Current courses include ones on Beowulf, Tolkien and the birth of modern fantasy, on medieval wonder, race, monster and worldmaking, on really Old English, and on the nature of medieval media, and on new media literatures.