Dr Graham Williams

Senior Lecturer in the History of English


Jessop West 
1 Upper Hanover Street 
Sheffield, UK 
S3 7RA 


Originally from the climes of Upstate New York, Sheffield has been home since joining the School of English as Lecturer in the History of English in 2012. Prior to coming to England, I completed my PhD under Professor Jeremy J. Smith and Dr. Alison Wiggins at University of Glasgow.


Broadly speaking, I work on medieval and early modern Englishes, but I am also interested in Anglo-Norman, Scots, Old Norse and Latin, and how these languages have impacted on the history of English language and literature. More particularly, my perspective tends to be of a pragmatic or stylistic bent, and most recently I have been exploring how these areas interact with the history of emotions. I maintain an especial interest in historical letters, but my research deals with texts of all types, from Old English homilies to late medieval verse.

I also have strong research interests in manuscript studies, paleography, digital editing and corpora - in particular, the implications these perspectives have for the historical study of English.


I convene and/or contribute teaching to the following modules:

  • ELL114 - History of English (convener)
  • ELL118 - Early Englishes
  • LIT108 - Studying Poetry
  • ELL236 - Introduction to Middle English (convener)
  • ELL360 - Historical Pragmatics (convener)
  • ELL364 - Constructed Languages

I also teach historical linguistics options on the MA in English Language and Linguistics


I would be happy to supervise students with an interest in any area of my research expertise.

Public engagement

I am strongly committed to sharing experience and expertise with the wider public and have featured as a speaker on BBC Radio Scotland, and worked with National Trust volunteers at Hardwick Hall as part of my role in the AHRC Letters of Bess of Hardwick Project. I have also spoken about areas of my research at public events such as Sheffield's annual Festival of the Mind.


Articles and chapters
  • 'Written like a "gwd" Scotswoman: Margaret Tudor's use of Scots', Scottish Language (forthcoming).
  •  'Language' (with the late David Burnley), in A Companion to Chaucer, second edition (forthcoming), ed. Peter Brown (Oxford: Blackwell Publishers).
  • 'wine min Unferð: A reconsideration of (supposed) sarcasm in Beowulf'. Journal of Historical Pragmatics 18:2 (forthcoming).
  • 'Glossing over the Lamb: Phonaesthetic Gl- in Middle English and Aural Scepticism in Pearl', Review of English Studies (online 2013; in print 2014)
  • 'Publishing the Archive' (co-editor), Archive Journal 4 (Spring 2014)
  • ‘“my evil favoured writing”: Uglyography, Disease and the Epistolary Networks of George Talbot, sixth earl of Shrewsbury’, The Huntington Library Quarterly (forthcoming, 2015).
  • ‘“that thought never ytt entered my harte”: Rhetoricalities of Sincerity in Early Modern English’, English Studies 93:7 (2012), 809-32.
  • Searching for verbal irony in historical corpora (?): a pilot study of mock and scorn in the Corpus of Middle English Prose and Verse. Studies in Variation, Contacts and Change in English, Volume 11: Developing Corpus Methodology for Historical Pragmatics,
  • ‘“I haue trobled wth a tedious discours”: Sincerity, Sarcasm and Seriousness in the Letters of Maria Thynne, c. 1601-1610’. Journal of Historical Pragmatics 11:2 (2010), pp. 169-93.
  • ‘“yr Scribe Can proove no nessecarye Consiquence for you”?: The Social and Linguistic Implications of Joan Thynne’s Using a Scribe in Letters to Her Son, 1607-1611’. Women and Writing, c.1340-c.1650: The Domestication of Print Culture. Ed. Phillipa Hardman and Anne Lawrence-Mathers. Suffolk: Boydell and Brewer, 2010, pp. 131-45.
Digital edition and transcriptions