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Department of English Studies

Our Current and Recent Research Students

We have a thriving postgraduate community, with around 75 current PhD students, and many more MA students. The profiles of some of our current and recent PhD students can be found below. You can also see recent PhD students and their successful theses.

Dr James Mckinstry

Contact Dr James Mckinstry


Dr Jamie McKinstry holds a First Class B.A. (Hons) in English Literature, an M.A. in Medieval and Renaissance Literary Studies with Distinction, and a Ph.D., all awarded by Durham University. Whilst at Durham Dr McKinstry was awarded The Norton Prize for English (St. Cuthbert's Society, Durham University) (2006), a Durham University Faculty of Arts and Humanities M.A. Scholarship Award (2008-9), The Raman Selden Prize (for highest mark in the Department of English Studies' Taught M.A.) (2009), and an Arts and Humanities Research Council Doctoral Award (2009-12). He was also recognised with three Faculty of Arts and Humanities Scholars’ Awards in 2009, 2010, and 2011. Dr McKinstry is a member of the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies and the Centre for Medical Humanities. Dr McKinstry has also been the Postdoctoral Research Assistant to Professor Pamela Clemit for the “Letters of William Godwin” project (Oxford University Press). Dr McKinstry teaches on several medieval and Renaissance literature courses in the Department of English Studies, including: Myth and Epic of the North; Romance and the Literature of Chivalry; English: History, Use, Theory; Chaucer; Renaissance Literature; and Shakespeare.

Dr McKinstry’s Ph.D. was entitled “Challenging the Authority of Identity: The Spaces of Memory in Medieval English Romance” and was supervised by Professor Corinne Saunders. The thesis examined the creative uses of memory in a selection of Middle English romances through the lens of classical and medieval theories and philosophies of memory along with modern psychological research into the workings of the faculty. It was argued that memory plays an integral role in maintaining the thematic and moral unity of a romance which is performed at the level of character, audience, and poet/author. This research was published by Boydell and Brewer in 2015 as the monograph Middle English Romance and the Craft of Memory which is a volume in the series ‘Studies in Medieval Romance’.

Dr McKinstry is currently writing two further monographs. The first, Mind, Body, and Affect in the Poetry of William Dunbar,examines the work of this medieval Scottish poet through the lens of Medical Humanities and argues that the poet’s secular and religious poetry exploits the connections between physical symptom, cognition, and poetic expression. The second book project looks at the corporeal treatment, appreciation, and experience of extreme sadness or ‘heaviness’ in medieval medical and imaginative writing. Today we are familiar with the term ‘depression’ and its etymological associations of physical pressure along with the identification of actual bodily symptom such as insomnia and lethargy. Dr McKinstry is examining a similar understanding in the pre-Cartesian Middle Ages as reflected in the medical diagnoses and treatments of heaviness and its depiction in Chaucer, Dunbar, Henryson, Hoccleve, Julian of Norwich, and the medieval romances.

From 2009-10 Dr McKinstry was a co-chair of the Medieval and Renaissance Postgraduate Discussion Group in the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies and from 2010-11 he was Chairman of the Medieval and Renaissance Postgraduates in the Institute of Medieval and Renaissance Studies (now the Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies). He has organised three conferences: "Consuming the Past: Library Resources for Postgraduate Researchers in the Arts and Humanities - An Interdisciplinary Conference and Training Day for Researchers" (in June 2010, a joint project with Newcastle University and Northumbria University), "Remembrance of Things Past: Time and Memory in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance" (in July 2010 at Durham), and “Recognising Beauty in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance” (in June 2011 at Durham). For these events Dr McKinstry successfully secured funding from Vitae, the Durham Graduate School, the Durham Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, and the Durham History Department.

Dr McKinstry has delivered papers on a wide range of medieval and Renaissance literary topics at congresses, conferences, and seminars. He has also chaired around twenty papers, conference sessions, and lectures both at Durham and by invitation at other institutions, and contributed to the Supported Progression Summer School at Durham. His own recent papers include:

“To Cut, Look, and Question: Teaching about ‘New’ Bodies in Early Modern Dissections”, History of Education Society Annual Conference, Liverpool Hope University, November 2015.

“Rediscovering the ‘rafters’ of The Body: Literature, Anatomy, and Dissection from Medieval to Early Modern,” Beyond Leeches and Lepers: Medieval and Early Modern Medicine, University of Edinburgh, May 2015.

“Limitless Bodies: Exploring the Performative Space of Dissection in John Donne”, Society for Renaissance Studies Conference, University of Southampton, July 2014.

“Unforgettable Visions: Prophecy in Medieval Romance”, 21st International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, July 2014.,

“A Medieval Headache: Pain, Medicine, and Metaphor in the Middle Ages”, The Maladies, Miracles and Medicine of the Middle Ages, University of Reading, March 2014.

“Sickness and Sadness in the Middle Ages: Feeling the Physicality of a ‘Depression’.” Association of Medical Humanities Conference 2013, University of Aberdeen, July 2013.

“Old Bodies and Agile Minds: A Medieval Perspective of Ageing by William Dunbar.” What is Old Age Conference, University of Warwick, February 2013.

 “Where does it hurt, exactly?: Medicine, Metaphor, and Speaking to Doctors in the Middle Ages.” Inventions of the Text, Durham University, November 2012.

 “’tis but a scratch: Bodies, Wounds and Identity in Medieval Romance,” Durham University, April 2012.

 “‘That never happened, I was there!’: Treachery, Trickery, and Middle English Romance,” Inaugural Conference of the North-East Medieval and Early Modern Symposium, Newcastle University, January 2012.

 “Who are you again?: Disguise and Dressing-Up in Medieval Romance,” Durham Late Summer Lectures in English, Bede’s World, Jarrow, October 2011.

 “Who are you again?: Disguise and Dressing-Up in Medieval Romance,” Durham Late Summer Lectures in English, Durham, October 2011.

 “Earning Memorial Golde in Sir Isumbras,” 18th International Medieval Congress, University of Leeds, July 2011.

 “The Dangers in a 'Chamber of Love': Recollecting and Forgetting in the Middle English Sir Degrevant,” Institute of Medieval and Renaissance Studies, October 2010.

 “‘Highly Wrought Memories’: Redaction or Re-collection of Narratives in Middle English Romance,” Consuming the Past, Northumbria University, June 2010.

 “‘doughty Artours dawes’: Re-collecting “Lost” Territory through Middle English Romance,” My Territory: Postgraduate Conference, School of English, University of Leicester, April 2010.

 “‘doughty Artours dawes’: Working Through Romance Fictions in Late Medieval England,” Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Durham University, February 2010.

 “The Bawdy Body in William Dunbar,” Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Durham University, July 2009.

Dr McKinstry has published essays and articles on medieval and Renaissance literary topics, memory studies, philosophy, medicine, and the Medical Humanities. He is guest editor (with Professor Corinne Saunders) of a special issue of the international journal postmedieval entitled ‘Medievalism and the Medical Humanities’ which will be published in 2017.

Dr McKinstry regularly peer reviews articles for academic journals, including Durham’s Kaleidoscope, the Medieval and Early Modern Student Association, and Postgraduate English. He is a member of the Early English Text Society, the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literatures, and the Society for Renaissance Studies.

Selected Publications

McKinstry, Jamie. ‘Living with Disabilities: William Dunbar’s Reactions to Bodily Pain and Suffering’. Corporealities of Suffering: Dis/ability and Pain in the Middle Ages. Ed. Bianca Frohne and Jenni Kuuliala (Amsterdam: Amsterdam University Press, 2017).

McKinstry, Jamie and Corinne Saunders, eds. Medievalism and the Medical Humanities. postmedieval 8.2. (2017).

McKinstry, Jamie. ‘Heaviness: Illness, Metaphor, Opportunity’. postmedieval 8.2 (2017).

McKinstry, Jamie. ‘Medical Humanities and Medieval Culture’. postmedieval 8.2 (2017).

McKinstry, Jamie. 'Dissecting, Looking, and Learning: The Anatomical Poetics of Male Bodies from Late Medieval to Early Modern'. The Male Body in Medicine and Literature. Ed. Andrew Mangham and Daniel Lea (Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 2016).

McKinstry, Jamie. Middle English Romance and the Craft of Memory. Studies in Medieval Romance 19 (Cambridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2015).

McKinstry, Jamie. ‘Medicine and Metaphor: A Medieval Headache’. Hektoen International Journal of Medical Humanities 6.1 (2014).

McKinstry, Jamie. ‘Perpetual Bodily Trauma: Wounding and Memory in the Middle English Romances’. Medical Humanities 39 (2013): 59-64.

McKinstry, Jamie. ‘Research Conversation: Spaces of Memory in Medieval English Romance’. Research in English at Durham. January 2013.


McKinstry, Jamie. Challenging the Authority of Identity: The Spaces of Memory in Medieval English Romance. Diss. University of Durham. September 2012 <>.

McKinstry, Jamie and Niall Hodson. ‘Pen and Scalpel: Literature and the Medical Humanities’. Research in English at Durham. July 2012. <>.

McKinstry, Jamie. ‘Recognizing Beauty in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance, Durham 2011’. PJMS 1 (2012).

McKinstry, Jamie. ‘“Thow haste foryete what thou was”: Earning through Moving Memorial Gold in the Middle English Romance of Sir Isumbras’. PJMS 1 (2012).

McKinstry, Jamie. ‘Dirty Politics and the Physical Poetry of William Dunbar’. Peer English 6 (2011): 18-32.

McKinstry, Jamie, ‘Challenging Expectations Across Medieval Romance: Expectations of Romance: The Reception of a Genre in Medieval England’. Pennsylvania Literary Journal 2.1 (Summer 2010): 34-40.

McKinstry, Jamie, ‘“Be still, my tuchan and my calfe': Female Bodies of Desire in the Poetry of William Dunbar (c.1456-c.1513)’. Bodies of Work :Women and the Arts 2 (2010).

McKinstry, Jamie, ‘Studying AS Law’. A-Level Law Review 1 (2005): 14-15.

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