Professor Mark Williams

Fellow and Tutor in English Language and Literature

Mark Williams read Classics and English as an undergraduate at Lady Margaret Hall (1998-2001), before moving to Jesus College in 2002 to do an MPhil and subsequently a DPhil in Celtic Studies. After that he was appointed to a Research Fellowship at Peterhouse, Cambridge, followed by five years as Darby Fellow and Tutor in Old and Middle English at Lincoln College, Oxford.

After a year teaching medieval Irish in Cambridge’s Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic, he returned to Oxford with jobs in two different subjects: from 2017-9 he was Departmental Lecturer in Celtic in the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, and simultaneously held the Fitzjames Fellowship in Old and Middle English at Merton. Mark took up his faculty position and post at St Edmund Hall in January 2019.

Mark teaches literature in English across the period 650-1550, which includes the earliest English writing which has survived, that of the Anglo-Saxons, which undergraduates study in their first year. In the second year students move on to later medieval material, including major authors such as Geoffrey Chaucer, the unknown poet of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and Sir Thomas Malory. Mark also teaches the Shakespeare paper to the second and third years, as well as half of the first-year introduction to English language and literature.

As a Celtic specialist, Mark is also responsible for teaching the extraordinary and beautiful literatures of medieval Wales and Ireland, which can be studied (in the original languages) by English students as special options in their final year. He also teaches the minor Celtic languages – Cornish, Scottish Gaelic, Breton, and Manx.

He specialises in medieval Irish saga, Irish mythology, the intellectual and cultural relationship between the Celtic-speaking countries and the wider medieval world, magic and the supernatural in Welsh and Irish literature, and ecocriticism. He is also interested in and has published on the reception and afterlife of Celtic literatures in the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, especially in the Irish Revival.

He has two published monographs, Fiery Shapes: Celestial Portents and Astrology in Ireland and Wales, 700-1700 (OUP, 2010), and Ireland’s Immortals: A History of the Gods of Irish Myth (Princeton UP, 2016). He is currently working on three books. The first, Celtic Magic, is collection of interconnected essays about enchantment in medieval Irish and Welsh literature, while the second is a comparative study of the work of the Irish poet W. B. Yeats and that of the Swiss psychologist C. G. Jung. The third is a popular book for Thames & Hudson on Celtic mythology.

Mark is a keen gardener and painter, and is training in his spare time as a Jungian psychoanalyst, which fuels his deep interest in the relationship between poetry, magic, and the unconscious.

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English Language and Literature

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English and Modern Languages

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History and Modern Languages

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Celtic Magic

24 Apr 2019

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