Jennifer Neville

Jennifer Neville


  • TW20 0EX

Personal profile

Personal profile

I was born in Ottawa, Canada.  I completed a BA (Honours) in the English Department| at the University of Alberta|, where I received the Governor General's Award for the top graduate in the Faculty of Arts in 1990.  Following an MA in the English Department| (with courses at the Centre for Medieval Studies|) at the University of Toronto| (1992), I took up a Commonwealth Scholarship to pursue a PhD in the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic| at Cambridge University| (completed 1996). I joined the English Department at Royal Holloway as a Lecturer in Medieval Literature in 1997. I was promoted to Senior Lecturer in August 2004 and Reader in January 2012.

See also: Old English at Royal Holloway

Research interests

My current project is a book-length study of the riddles of the Exeter Book, provisionally entitled Truth is Trickiest: Enigmatic Tropes in the Exeter Book Riddles.  In it I argue that modern readers' emphasis on finding final, authoritative solutions misrepresents the nature of the texts themselves.  Rather than questions with answers, the Exeter Book Riddles are questions without answers, questions that force their audiences, whether Anglo-Saxon or contemporary, to scrutinise how information is conveyed and, perhaps most importantly, how value is ascribed to it.  They thus challenge their audiences to examine the ways through which the Anglo-Saxons understood and expressed their physical, social, and religious worlds.  By focusing attention on these tropes rather than solely on solutions, I hope to show that the Exeter Book Riddles reveal a self-consciousness not often observed in other genres of Old English poetry.

My previous publications include articles on astronomy, the relationship between the soul and the body, travel, horses, the Assumption of the Virgin, plants, the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, monsters, law codes, and the seasons.  I have also written on the presentation of women in Beowulf and Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings.

My first book, entitled Representations of the Natural World in Old English Poetry, is available in hard-back, paper-back, and electronic versions from Cambridge University Press.  


cover of book

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 16 - Peace, Justice and Strong Institutions


  • old english poetry
  • riddle
  • exeter book
  • anglo-saxon literature
  • beowulf
  • old english
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