Lynn Arner

Associate Professor

PhD, English, University of Rochester
Graduate Certificate in Gender and Women’s Studies, University of Rochester
MA, English, University of Rochester
MA, English, University of Manitoba
BA, English, McMaster University

Office: GLA 127
905 688 5550  x5673

Areas: Late Medieval English Literature, Critical Theory, British Cultural Studies, Feminist Theory, Gender Studies, Critical University Studies

Lynn Arner is trained in late medieval English literature, critical theory, British cultural studies, feminist theory, queer theory, and gender studies.

Professor Arner’s first book was entitled Chaucer, Gower, and the Vernacular Rising: Poetry and the Problem of the Populace after 1381 (Penn State University Press, 2013). This book examines the transmission of Greco-Roman and European literature into English during the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries while literacy was burgeoning among men and women from the nonruling classes. This dissemination offered a radically democratizing potential for accessing, interpreting, and deploying learned texts. Focusing primarily on an overlooked sector of Chaucer’s and Gower’s early readership, namely, the upper strata of nonruling urban classes, this historiographical study argues that Chaucer’s and Gower’s writings engaged in elaborate processes of constructing cultural expertise. These writings helped define gradations of cultural authority, determining who could contribute to the production of legitimate knowledge and granting certain socioeconomic groups political leverage in the wake of the English Rising of 1381. This book simultaneously examines Chaucer’s and Gower’s negotiations–often articulated at the site of gender–over poetics and over the roles that vernacular poetry should play in the late medieval social formation. This book investigates how Chaucer’s and Gower’s texts positioned poetry to become a powerful participant in processes of social control. [For more information, click here: ] Professor Arner also guest-edited a special issue of Exemplaria and has published a series of articles on late medieval literature.

Professor Arner is currently working on two book projects. The first book project examines class and gender in the professoriate in Canada and the U.S. at the current time. Focusing on the discipline of English, this book analyzes the ways in which terrain of academe differs for English professors, based on their socioeconomic backgrounds and on their gender. In dialogue with feminist theory, queer theory, British Cultural Studies, and the scholarship of Pierre Bourdieu, the book examines the ways in which scholars, throughout their careers, are perceived differently, occupy disparate positions, traverse dissimilar territory, and have divergent career trajectories because of their class backgrounds and gender. This project is supported by a grant from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada (SSHRC).

The second centers on civility in late medieval England. Firmly grounded in materialist histories, this study examines discourses of civility in relation to class and ethnicity. The project investigates the ways in which discourses of civility helped to produce the governance of the poorer ranks in England and simultaneously facilitated the colonization of England’s neighboring countries: many of the same conceptual and disciplinary apparatuses underpinning notions of civility were employed in England against the poor and against the Welsh, the Scots, and the Irish. After being tried first on England’s poor and on England’s neighbors, variants of such mechanisms were later exported by the English to the peoples of Africa and the New World.

Preceding her appointment at Brock, Professor Arner held a visiting faculty post at the University of Pittsburgh for several years. Professor Arner enjoys teaching at Brock in part because she grew up in this geographical region.

Chaucer, Gower, and the Vernacular Rising: Poetry and the Problem of the Populace after 1381. University Park, PA: Penn State University Press, 2013.

Work in Progress: Gender and Class in the Professoriate in the discipline of English

Work in Progress: Civility in late medieval England

Guest Editor, Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies 19.1 (Spring 2007).

“Feminism and the Academy: A Panel Discussion,” edited by Lynn Arner and Katherine French. Medieval Feminist Forum 29 (Spring 2000): 8-32.

“Pedigree and the Professoriate: English Doctoral Programs in Canada” (2020, forthcoming).

“Dirt Begets Dirt: Sexuality and Socioeconomic Status in the Middle Ages.” In Sexuality in the Middle Ages, edited by Michelle M. Sauer. Amsterdam University Press, 2020 (forthcoming).

“Working-Class Women on the Tenure Track.” In Staging Women’s Lives: Gendered Life Stages in Language and Literature Workplaces, edited by Michelle Masse and Nan Bauer-Maglin, 69-81. SUNY Feminist Theory and Criticism Series. Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 2017.

“Chaucer and the Moving Image in Pre-World War II America.” In Chaucer on Screen: Absence, Presence, and Adapting the “Canterbury Tales”, edited by Tison Pugh and Kathleen Kelly, 69-87. Columbus, OH: The Ohio State University Press, 2016.

“Survival Strategies for Working-Class Women as Junior Faculty Members.” In Working in Class: Recognizing How Social Class Shapes Our Academic Work, edited by Allison L. Hurst and Sandi K. Nenga, 49-64. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, 2016.

“Working-Class Women at the MLA Interview.” Rhizomes: Cultural Studies in Emerging Knowledge 27 (2014), Special Issue: “Working-Class Academics: Theories, Mythologies, Realities”;

“Civility and Gower’s Visio Anglie.” Accessus: A Journal of Premodern Literature and New Media 1.1 (2013);

Introduction, Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies 19.1 (Spring 2007): 1-15. Reprinted in Medieval Feminist Forum 43.1 (Summer 2007): 108-125.

“Trust No Man But Me: Women in Chaucer’s Short Poetry.” In Approaches to Teaching Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and the Shorter Poems, edited by Angela Jane Weisl and Tison Pugh, 71-75. New York: Modern Language Association, 2007.

“The Ends of Enchantment: Colonialism and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.” Texas Studies in Literature and Language 48:2 (Summer 2006): 79-101.

“History Lessons from the End of Time: Gower and the English Rising of 1381.” Clio: A Journal of Literature, History and the Philosophy of History 31 (2002): 237-255.

“Studied Indifference: Institutional Problems for Feminist Medievalists.” Medieval Feminist Forum 29 (Spring 2000): 8-12.

Review of Nowlin Steele, Chaucer, Gower, and the Affect of Invention. Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2016. Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies 93.4 (October 2018): 1243-1244.

“Literacy,” The Chaucer Encyclopedia, edited by Richard Newhauser. Wiley-Blackwell, 2019 (forthcoming).

“Cupid,” The Chaucer Encyclopedia, edited by Richard Newhauser. Wiley-Blackwell, 2019 (forthcoming).

“Why do we care more about Chaucer than Gower?” January 3, 2015;

Graduate Courses:

  • Historiography and the Middle Ages
  • Chaucer & the Beginnings of English Literature
  • Theoretical Foundations

Undergraduate Courses:

  • Feminist and Gender Theory
  • Medieval English Literature and Social Control
  • Medieval English Literature: Texts & Conquests
  • Chaucer
  • Structuralist & Post-Structuralist Theory
  • Introduction to Literary Theory

Professor Arner would be pleased to supervise graduate-level major research papers in the following areas: Chaucer; late medieval literature; late medieval English social history (especially literacy, education, rebellions, guilds, artisans, book production, labor, class, women); studies on the contemporary university in Canada or the U.S.; gender and/or class in contemporary American culture; topics in feminist theory; and topics structured by British Cultural Studies, Marxist cultural theory, queer theory, or psychoanalysis.