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Personal profile


My research interests include medieval and early modern literature, medievalism (contemporary creative and cultural responses to the medieval), critical heritage studies and the emerging field of Medical Humanities. I am a Fellow of the Royal Historical Society and of the Royal Society of the Arts. I serve on a range of heritage bodies, cultural panels and have been a member of the AHRC Peer Review College. My previous posts include a Lecturership in Old and Middle English at the University of Nottingham, the Bloomfield Visiting Fellow at the University of Harvard, USA and I held a Medieval Academy of America grant at SUNY, Binghamton, USA. The Queen's University of Belfast is where I completed my BA(hons), PhD and PGCHET.

Key Research Interests

“I gasp after your letters every day … your conversation by penn is the pleasantest thing in the world to mee” – Robert to Rebecca Paston (5 June, 1678).

Digging deep into Norfolk's archives enables me to shine light on the untold stories from across three hundred years of the Paston correspondence, which is the earliest collection of family letters in English. Medieval and Tudor walking and wellbeing discourses and interdisciplinary studies of the Paston epistolarly cultures are my current strands of research. My research also involves creative-critical investigations into how diverse demographics in today's society connect with and mediate the Paston letters, landscapes and landmarks, which is opening dialogues between Medievalism and heritage studies, Medical Humanities and creative practitioners. This work is profiled at: Exploring Health through the Medical Humanities - CreativeUEA

Impact legacies are evident through 'Paston Footprints', a major UEA Civic cultural, health and creative partnership programme with over 60 organisations (so far!), of which I am founder and Co-Director. Winner of UEA's Innovation and Impact 2022 award for Social and Cultural impact: Dr Karen Smyth: Paston Footprints - YouTube, the project began in 2016 and, to date, this work has been kindly funded by the NHLF, ESRC IAA, Arts Council, Historic England HAZ and UEA PVC Impact fund. Inspiring creative practitioners to enage new audiences, we have co-produced a series of Heritage Walks | Paston Footprints, which have novel immersive writing in the landscape practices and dynamic new digital interpretations of the Paston story. Cultural and economic impact in Paston community hubs through skills training, community research, heritage branding, permanent displays, festivals and performances, have also resulted in an unique interactive crowdsourced Paston portal, co-produced with the Paston Heritage Society and the Norfolk Record Office, at: This Is Paston: Welcome to the World of the Pastons  A newly emerging impact strand is developing with 3rd sector health organisations with a focus on how people with disabilities often have a unique lens to interpret spaces, through their embodied, sensory experiences and situated knowledge. This collaboration is offering a fresh way to tell the stories of Norfolk's rich cultural heritage and curate future making of heritage interpretation.

This interest in the impact of cross-cultural archive interactions has developed from my publications on heritage, health and place with the social geographer, Dr Andrew Power (Uni. of Southampton), in our AHRC ‘Preserving Place’ project on mapping community archival practices. Research into the wellbeing effects of community heritage was inspired by my experience of working with UEA’s landscape historians on the ‘All Our Stories’ AHRC Connected Communities project. This work built on the previous decade, during which I initiated multiple community co-production projects (on East Anglian authors such as John Lydgate, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe and William Cunningham), for which I was profiled in RCUK's National Concordat for Engagaing the Public with Research.

In addition, in my monograph Imaginings of Time in Lydgate and Hoccleve’s Verse, in a co-edited interdisciplinary volume with Prof. Isabelle Cochelin (Uni. of Toronto), Medieval Lifecycles, and in numerous articles on Chaucer and fifteenth-century authors, I have examined time as a cultural construct inherently linked to issues of authorship, artistic eloquence and how past and present worlds relate.

I have experience of teaching across a range of modules in the Literature  curriculum, including specialist medieval and early modern options and of interdisciplinary co-teaching with the School of Art. I currently teach on the survey level one Literature modules, a final year module that explores how a literary legend is culturally translated across the centuries, and supervise undergraduate dissertations. At postgraduate level, using the Paston Footprints' project, I teach on the Applied Arts and Health module on the Medical Humanities MA. I have sucessfully supervised PhDs focusing on medieval literature, as well as joint creative-critical and history PhDs and welcome expressions from interested candidates.

Key Responsibilities

  • LDC Library Liaison, 2019 - 
  • Eastern Arc Digital Humanities UEA Lead, 2015-18
  • HUM Research Ethics Committee, 2016-17
  • University Data Management Committee, 2014-16
  • LDC Public Engagement Director, 2014-15
  • Medieval & Early Modern seminar series organiser, 2012-14
  • CHASE (PhD consortium) Medieval & Early Modern UEA lead, 2012-14
  • Q300 (BA English Literature) Course Director, 2008-12
  • Erasmus Co-ordinator, 2012
  • LDC Deputy Plagiarism Officer, 2011
  • Q200 (Comparative Literature) Course Director, 2009
  • LDC Disability Officer, 2008-10

Expertise related to UN Sustainable Development Goals

In 2015, UN member states agreed to 17 global Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) to end poverty, protect the planet and ensure prosperity for all. This person’s work contributes towards the following SDG(s):

  • SDG 3 - Good Health and Well-being
  • SDG 10 - Reduced Inequalities