Karen Smyth
  • 2.31 Arts

Accepting PhD Students

PhD projects

I have supervised medieval literature and interdisciplinary PhDs with Creative Writing, History, Art History and Digital Humanities. I am keen to hear from prospective students working in the areas listed above, especially the Pastons, early East Anglian literature or medievalism projects.

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Personal profile


Karen researches  medievalism and early modernism in dialogue with heritage studies, in relation to early East Anglian literary cultures. She is currently exploring the 15th to 17th century Paston letters. 

Research impact legacies are arising, in the form of the Paston Footprints NHLF funded project, of which Karen is Co-Director, in collaboration with the Paston Heritage Society, Norfolk Record Office and multiple heritage, educational, creative, wellbeing, religious and tourism partners. 'Finding Paston Footprints', a major research exhibition from August-October 2021 is being held at the Norfolk Record Office, with dual digital immersive delivery and a Paston series of webinars, In Conversations, and workshops. In addition, the creation of 8 new Paston Footprints' heritage walks and 2 cycle rides in Norfolk is enabling research into heritage storytelling, early archives and wellbeing connections: Heritage Walks | Paston Footprints   

Karen is a Senior Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern Literature. Prior to joining UEA, she held a lectureship in Old and Middle English at the University of Nottingham, after being the Bloomfield Visiting Fellow at Harvard University, having completed her degrees at the Queen's University of Belfast.

External Activities

  • Advisory Content Panel Member for the Museums and Heritage Annual Show, London, 2018-ongoing
  • Member of the AHRC Peer Review College, 2017-20
  • Public Ambassador for the National Co-ordinating Centre for Public Engagement, 2013-15
  • Profiled in RCUK's 'Inspiration to Engage: Concordat for Public Engagement with Research', 2013
  • UEA Engagement Executive project award, for 'outstanding contribution', 2013
  • Shortlisted for the 2012 European Society of the Study of English first book prize 
  • Advisor for HEFCE’s ‘Involving Disabled People in Higher Education’ , 2010-14

Public talks/workshops/archival training events for historical societies, church groups, schools and charities, as well as participation in national festivals, and co-productions with a variety of sectors, from wellbeing groups to tourism partners. Regional and national media interviews. Topics have included: the Pastons, John Lydgate, Margery Kempe, Julian of Norwich, Medieval Pageants in Norwich, Medieval Reading Merchants in Norfolk, William Cunningham.

Key Research Interests and Expertise

As Co-PI of the NHLF funded Paston Footprints project, my focus is on ways various demographics in today's society and recent centuries connect with and mediate the Paston letters, legends and heritage, which has developed from my AHRC project on archival legacies. 

In my monograph Imaginings of Time in Lydgate and Hoccleve’s Verse, in a co-edited interdisciplinary volume of essays, Medieval Lifecycles: Continuity and Change, and in numerous articles on Chaucer and fifteenth-century authors, I have examined time as a cultural construct inherently linked to issues of authorship, authority and artistic eloquence.


  • ESRC Impact Accelator Fund: Paston Footprints with Norwich Castle, 2018-19
  • HLF Heritage Grant: '600 Paston Footprints', 2017-2021, PI with Paston Heritage Society
  • HLF Heritage Grant Development Phase: 'Paston Footprints 600', 2016, PI with Paston Heritage Society.
  • AHRC Connected Communities: 'Preserving Place: A Cultural Mapping Exercise', 2014-15, Co-PI with A.Power (Uni of Southamptom) and R.Martin (Community Action Norfolk)
  • Uni of London 'Being Human' Co-PI with Will Rossiter, 'From Humanism to Human', 2014 
  • AHRC Research Fellow on a Connected Communities project, 2013
  • HEART/Harry Watson Bursary, 2013
  • UK Bibliographical Society grant, 2008
  • British Academy Research grant, 2007
  • English Subject Centre conference grant, 2005
  • Morton Bloomfield Visiting Fellowship, Harvard University, USA, (Barker Center), 2004
  • Medieval Academy of America travel grant to State University of New York, Binghamton, 2004

Key Responsibilities

  • LDC Library Liaison
  • Personal Advisor


  • Eastern Arc Digital Humanities UEA Lead (2015-18)

  • University Research Ethics Committee (2016-17)

  • University Research Data Management Committee, 2014-16
  • School's Public Engagement Director, 2014-15
  • Medieval & Early Modern Research Impact Lead, 2014-16
  • Equal Opportunities Rep. (for students and faculty), 2011-14
  • Student-Staff Liaison Committee member, 2013-14
  • Medieval and Early Modern seminar series organiser, 2012-14
  • CHASE (PhD consortium) Medieval and Early Modern UEA link, 2012-14
  • Q300 (BA English Literature) Course Director, 2008-12
  • PhD Working Party member, 2013
  • Erasmus Co-ordinator, 2012
  • Deputy Plagiarism Officer, 2011
  • Library Committee, 2011
  • Disability Officer, 2008-10
  • Q200 (Comparative Literature) Course Director, 2009


Medieval literature, drama and culture - from the 13th to early 16th centuries. Special interests in the Pastons, Chaucer, Lydgate, Hoccleve, Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich; street carnival, processions and pageantry; and medievalism - how the medieval past is interpreted in today's culture.

Areas Of Expertise

Pastons, Medieval Literature and Culture, Chaucer, Lydgate, East Anglian Heritage, Medieval Horology