Michael Alexander

Old Member (1959)

Michael Alexander is Emeritus Professor of English Literature at the University of St Andrews. Educated at Downside, Trinity and the Universities of Perugia and Princeton, Michael’s interests are chiefly in English poetry, medieval and modern; translation, and literary history. His most recent books are The First Poems in English, verse translations from Old English (Penguin Classics, 2008), Geoffrey Chaucer, an illustrated life (Scala, 2012), Reading Shakespeare, an introduction (Palgrave Macmillan, 2012) and a third edition of A History of English Literature (Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), which has a new chapter on modern fiction.

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Featured Publications

Medievalism: the middle ages in modern England

Medievalism: the middle ages in modern England

Publisher: Yale University Press

Publication date: Paperback edition, 2017

‘Medievalism … takes a panoramic view of the “recovery” of the Medieval in English literature, visual arts and culture … Ambitious, sweeping, sometimes idiosyncratic, but always interesting.’
Times Literary Supplement

‘Deeply researched and stylishly written, Medievalism is an unalloyed delight that will instruct and amuse a wide readership.’
Books & Culture

‘Why should an age of industrial revolution, technological advance and “progressive” thought have harked back so insistently to an apparently barbaric age? Thoughtful, full of fascinating insights and beautifully illustrated, this book wrestles with one of the great paradoxes of modern creativity.’

‘A coherent account of the whole medievalist phenomenon from 1760 … This is an intelligent and well-researched book. It is also very amusingly written, with marvellous throwaway remarks in every other line.’
Literary Review

‘A welcome contribution to the renewed debate on the value of Victorian culture.’

Reading Shakespeare

Reading Shakespeare

Publisher: Palgrave Macmillan

Publication date: January 2013

This brief yet comprehensive introduction offers a clear narrative of Shakespeare’s writing career. The book examines the texts of twenty widely-studied plays, and the Sonnets, illuminating both their original contexts and their later reception. Lucidly written, with no jargon, this is an invaluable overview of Shakespeare’s life and works.

‘There are other good short introductions to Shakespeare, but few are as ‘helpful’ (Alexander’s aim) and none packs so much – and with such elegance – into the space. Infinite riches in a little room.’
Times Literary Supplement

‘In barely 160 pages, he provides wonderfully succinct introductions not only to more than half of Shakespeare’s plays, but also to the Sonnets, the biography, and the theatre of his day … Alexander is interested in the heart of the matter, not its fringes, and his book explores it with admirable insight and concision.’
– Lukas Erne, Around the Globe

‘A miracle of compression and readability, covering so much of Shakespeare so illuminatingly … No other author of a comparable book brings quite the Alexander mix of gifts to the task of seeing Shakespeare whole.’
– Ewan Fernie, The Shakespeare Institute, University of Birmingham

‘Reading Shakespeare almost always finds something new to say about this multi-faceted genius … Michael Alexander provokes thought throughout this fascinating little book.’ – Alexander Lucie-Smith, Tablet

‘A concise, informed, and lively introduction to Shakespeare’s life, times, theater, and plays.’
– Richard McCoy, City University of New York