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William Matthews memorial lectures

In 1981 Birkbeck received a bequest from the estate of the late Professor William Matthews for an annual lecture on either the English language or medieval English literature. The lecture alternates between these subjects.

YearSpeakerTitle of lecture
2018 Bernardine Evaristo

Mongrel Tongues/Mongrel Nation
Validating the Vernacular through Literature: abi? know what I’m sayin? ya get me? seen?


2017 Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (George Washington University)

At Sea in the Middle Ages: Noah's Ark and Life During Climate Change

Watch the lecture here

2016 Marina Warner (Birkbeck)

Translumination or travesty?

2015 Elizabeth Robertson (Glasgow) Chaucer's and Wordsworth's Vivid Daisies
31 May 2013 Philip Hensher Are you talking to me? Greetings and Negotiations, Bro-ing and Mate-ing in English Conversation
2012 Mary Carruthers (New York University) Ordinary Beauty in the Middle Ages
22 March 2011 Anne Carson UNCLE FALLING
21 May 2009 Steven Kruger Professor of English and Medieval Studies, City University of New York The Late-Medieval Literature of Conversion
2008 John Simpson Degrees of Certainty: historical lexicography in the twenty-first century
2007 Professor Elaine Treharne Old English Texts and Manuscripts: The Good, the Bad, the Ugly
2006 Professor Colin MacCabe In Words we are made Flesh: towards a new Cambridge Philology
2005 Professor David Wallace Margery Kempe in Gdansk, 1433
2004 Ali Smith It Don’t Mean a Thing
2003 Professor Helen Cooper, DLitt Playing with Fire
2002 Professor Terence Brown, BA, MA, PhD Yeats, Beckett and the Ghost in the Machine
2001 Professor Sarah Beckwith How to do Words with Things: Medieval Drama and the Sense of Instruction’
2000 Professor Michael Wood
1999 Professor Tom Shippey Bibliophobia: Hatred of the Book in the Middle Ages:
Part One: The Canterbury Tales.
Part Two: Poems from Harley MS 2253
1998 Professor Douglas Dunn Reaching Down for the Language
1997 Professor Paul Strohm, BA, MA, PhD Sir John Oldcastle: Another Ill-Framed Knight
1996 Maggie Gee, PhD How May I Speak in My Own Voice? Language and the Forbidden
1995 Professor Lee Patterson Putting the Wife in Her Place
1994 Neil Bartlett The Uses of Monotony: Repetition in the Language of Oscar Wilde, Jean Genet, Edmund White and Juan Goytisolo
1993 Professor J A Burrow, FBA Thinking in Poetry: Three Medieval Examples
1992 J H Prynne, MA Stars, Tigers and the Shape of Words
1991 Professor Jill Mann, FBA The Narrative of Distance, the Distance of Narrative in Malory's Morte Darthur
1990 Professor John Barrell, MA, PhD The Flight of Syntax: Percy Bysshe Shelley and Tom Raworth
1989 Professor V A Kolve, MA, DPhil
1987 Professor Edward Said, MA, PhD
1986 Robert Latham, CBE, FBA
1985 Professor Christopher Ricks, FBA
1984 A C Spearing, MA 'Renaissance Chaucer' and 'Father Chaucer'. Published in English (1985) 34: 1-38.
1983 Peter Dronke, MA, FBA
1982 Professor Derek Brewer, LittD, FSA