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J. D. Sargan

Blurred image of the arch used as background for stylistic purposes.
Assistant Professor

J. D. Sargan (he/him) specializes in medieval English Literature, paleography, codicology, and the history of the book. He is the co-editor of The Routledge Handbook to the History of the Book in Medieval Western Europe, 650–1550 (forthcoming 2025) and of the medieval volume of A Cultural History of Trans Lives (forthcoming 2027).

Dr Sargan's research occupies three overlapping spheres. His first book project, Reading Early Middle English Books, is invested the multiplicity of partial literacies exhibited by readers of manuscripts from 1066–1300. In it he uses critical approaches to non-verbal evidence—marks, dirt, and the haptics of binding—to show that reading was a social act that extended the written word to those far beyond the limits of traditional considerations of literacy.

His interest in the haptics and handling of books lead to Dr Sargan’s work investigating binding structures using scientific imaging. His research in this area has been funded by the Leverhulme Trust, Zeno Karl Schindler Foundation, and the European Union’s Horizon 2020 Marie Skłodowska-Curie independent research fellowship. Collaborations on this research have produced proof on concept studies on the use of micro-CT in researching no longer extant binding structures (published in Digital Philology, 2022); the use of such imaging for conservation planning and decision making (in preparation, Care and Conservation of Manuscripts); and the visualization of medieval fragments reused in the production of early modern bindings. UGA students interested in this work are welcome to contact Dr Sargan directly.

Finally, both of these research areas have been a prompt to critical thinking about methodology. Dr Sargan’s second book project, Trans Histories of the Medieval Book: Experiments in Bibliography (forthcoming 2025), take a theoretical approach to traditional methods in the study of manuscripts, assessing their historical roots in imperialist intellectual traditions and proposes an alternative approach grounded in queer and trans liberation. An initial trial of this approach can be found in “What Could a Trans Book History Look Like? Toward Trans Codicology”, criticism 64.3-4 (2023). Dr Sargan teaches a class on Queer Bibliographies for California Rare Book School.   


DPhil, English (to 1550), University of Oxford, 2018

MSt, Medieval Studies, University of Oxford, 2013

BA, English and History, Queen Mary University of London, 2012


2022-2023, Marie Skłodowska-Curie Research Fellow, School of English, Irish, and Communication and the Glucksmann Library, University of Limerick

2021-2022, ZKS-Lendrum Assistant Professor (Research) in the Scientific Study of Manuscripts and Inscriptions, Durham University

2019-2021, Leverhulme Trust-funded Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Old Books, New Science Lab, University of Toronto 

2015-2017, Arts and Humanities Research Council of the UK funding for doctoral study

Selected Publications:

‘Filling in the Gaps: Early Middle English, Nationalist Philology, and Reparative Codicology’, Textual Practice (forthcoming 2023)

‘What Could a Trans Book History Look Like? Toward Trans Codicology’, criticism 64.3-4 (2023), 571–86

‘Middle English: Manuscript and Technical Studies’, Year’s Work in English Studies 101 (2022), 14-34

with Jessica J. Lockhart, Andrew J. Nelson, D. L. Meert-Williston, and Alexandra Gillespie, ‘The Ghosts of Bindings Past: Micro Computed X-Ray Tomography for the Study of Bookbinding’, Digital Philology 11 (2022), 142-73

‘Uniting the Early Middle English in the Margins of Cambridge, Emmanuel College, MS 27’, Early Middle English 3.2 (2021), 75-92

‘Scribal Readers: Reading in the Variants of Poema Morale’, Journal of English and Germanic Philology 120.3 (2021), 381-405

‘Middle English: Manuscript and Technical Studies’, Year’s Work in English Studies 100 (2021), 16-32

‘Buttonhole Bookmarks for Twelfth-Century English Bindings?’, Journal of the Early Book Society 22 (2019), 249-63

‘The Scarlet Letter: Experimentation, Design and Copying Practice in the Coloured Capitals of MS Digby 86’, Interpreting MS Digby 86: A Trilingual Book from Thirteenth-Century Worcestershire, ed. Susanna Fein (Woodbridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2019), 219-54

‘Psalmic Authority in the Life of a Twelfth-Century Holy Woman: Christina of Markyate and Psalm 37’, English Studies98 (2017), 73-83

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