Michelle Karnes

Profile Karnes

Associate Professor of English

Specialty: Late medieval literature, philosophy, and religion

Degrees: BA, University of California, Berkeley; MA and PhD, University of Pennsylvania

Michelle Karnes studies late medieval literature in its philosophical and religious context. Her forthcoming book, Medieval Marvels and Fictions in the Latin West and Islamic World (University of Chicago, 2022) investigates marvels like the evil eye and enchanted rings in both philosophy and literature, in both the Latin West and Islamic communities. It argues against the common notion that marvels are objects of belief, credulously accepted by a simple-minded people, and proposes instead that they are near impossibilities that demand scrutiny and investigation. They rely on the faculty of imagination, which is unrestricted by the distinction between the real and unreal, the true and the false. In her reading, the faculty gives marvels their indeterminacy and significance. Her first book, Imagination, Meditation, and Cognition in the Middle Ages (University of Chicago Press, 2011), explores the role of imagination in medieval religious meditations and theories of cognition to show how the intellectual force of imagination contributes to its narrative power. Her current project focuses on the representation of animals and the role of species diversity in medieval literature and philosophy, again drawing on Arabic sources as well as ones from the Latin West. Along with Sebastian Sobecki, she is also editor of Studies in the Age of Chaucer.


Selected Publications

  • “Medieval Latin Rhetoric and the Internal Senses,” in Cambridge History of Rhetoric Vol. 2: 350-1415, ed. Jill Ross and Frédérique Woerther. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (forthcoming)
  • “The Possibilities of Medieval Fiction,” New Literary History 51:1 (Winter 2020): 209-28.
  • “Marvels in the Medieval Imagination,” Speculum 90:2 (Spring 2015): 327-65.
  • “Will’s Imagination in Piers Plowman,Journal of English and Germanic Philology 108:1 (Winter 2009): 27-58.
  • “Nicholas Love and Medieval Meditations on Christ,” Speculum 82:2 (Spring 2007): 380-408.


Contact Information
520 Flanner

Postal address
Department of English
233 Decio Hall
Notre Dame, IN 46556