Profile picture of Martha Bayless

Martha Bayless

Professor, English; Program Head, Humanities
Director, Folklore and Public Culture
English, Folklore Program, Food Studies, Humanities Program, Medieval Studies
Phone: 541-346-3930
Office: 344 PLC
Office Hours: Not teaching Spring 2024, available by email every weekday
Research Interests: Folklore, Medieval Studies, Cultural Studies, Food Studies


• PhD in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge

• BA/MA in Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge

• BA in English, Bryn Mawr College


My field is medieval popular culture, in particular games, magic, humor, and food. I draw material from most of the languages used in medieval Britain, particularly Latin, but also medieval Welsh as well as Old and Middle English.

With my collaborator Debby Banham of Cambridge University, I am founder of the Early English Bread Project, which studies the role of bread in early medieval English culture, supported by a grant from the American Council of Learned Societies.

I am the guest curator of the 2021-2022 exhibit “Magic in Medieval Europe,” at the University of Oregon Museum of Natural and Cultural History.

Among the courses I teach regularly are “Games and Culture,” “Celtic Mythology,” “Medieval Magic,” “Oral Traditions in Ancient and Modern Culture,” “Humor and Vulgarity in Medieval Culture,” “Legend, Rumor, and Scandal in Medieval Culture,” and Old English.

If you’d like to hear me speaking in the media, here are some appearances:

On the history of unicorns, on the public radio Colin McEnroe show:

On King Arthur, on the NPR podcast “Imaginary Worlds":

“Magical History Tour,” interview and PowerPoint presentation for the Deschutes Public Library:

       On medieval fairies on the NPR podcast “Imaginary Worlds”:

On medieval popular culture, on the Jefferson Exchange public radio:


A Cultural History of Myth in the Medieval West, ed. Martha Bayless (London: Bloomsbury Academic). In preparation.

Gender and Status Competition in Pre-Modern Societies, ed. Martha Bayless, Jonas Lillequist, and Lewis Webb (Turnhout: Brepols, 2021).

A Cultural History of Comedy in the Middle Ages (London: Bloomsbury Academic, 2020).

Fifteen Medieval Latin Parodies (Toronto: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2018).

Sin and Filth in Medieval Culture: The Devil in the Latrine (New York and London: Routledge, 2012).

Collectanea Pseudo-Bedae, ed. Martha Bayless and Michael Lapidge (Dublin: Dublin Institute for Advanced Studies, 1998). This is an edition and commentary of an 8th-century compendium of learned and folk sources.

Parody in the Middle Ages: The Latin Tradition (Ann Arbor: University of Michigan Press, 1996).

On games:

“Early Medieval Board Games: Issues of Power and Gender," in Gender and Status Competition in Pre-Modern Culture, ed. Martha Bayless, Jonas Lillequist, and Lewis Webb (Turnhout: Brepols, 2021), pp. 185–207.

“Alea, Tæfl, and Related Games: Vocabulary and Context” in Latin Learning and English Lore, ed. Katherine O’Brien O’Keeffe and Andy Orchard, 2 vols. (University of Toronto Press, 2005), II, pp. 9-27.

On medieval bread:

“Women, Bread, and the Supernatural in Early Medieval Culture,” in Cultivating the Earth and Nurturing the Body and Soul: Daily Life in Early Medieval England, ed. Christine Voth (Brepols, in press, forthcoming 2022.)

“The Long Life of Tiny Bread,” Folklore 130 (2019), 352–72

On magic:

“Fairies from Walter Map to European Folklore,” in Latin Literatures in Medieval and Early Modern Times, ed. Francesco Stella, Lucie Doležalová, and Danuta Shanzer (John Benjamins, forthcoming 2022).

On humor:

“Medieval Humour in Serious Contexts: Speaking Humour to Power,” in The Palgrave Handbook of Humour, History, and Methodology, ed. Daniel Derrin and Hannah Burows (London: Palgrave Macmillan, 2021), pp. 257–73.

 “The Pleasures of the Ludic,” in Il gioco nella società e nella cultura dell’alto medioevo (Spoleto: CISAM, 2018), pp. 95–110.

“Merriment, Entertainment, and Community in Anglo-Saxon Culture,” in The Daily Lives of the Anglo-Saxons, ed. C. Biggam, C. Hough and D. Izdebska (Tempe: Arizona Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, 2018), pp. 239–56.

“Is the Comic World a Paradise for Women? Medieval Models of Portable Utopia,” in Humour, Laughter, and the (Un)making of Gender: Historical and Cultural Perspectives, ed. Anna Foka and Jonas Lillequist (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2015), pp. 32–45.

“Subversion” in A Social History of England, 900-1200, ed. Julia Crick and Elisabeth van Houts (Cambridge University Press, 2011), pp. 402-409.

“Humour and the Comic in Anglo-Saxon England” in English Medieval Comedy, ed. Sandra Hordis and Paul Hardwick (Turnhout: Brepols, 2007), pp. 13-30.

“Alcuin’s Disputatio Pippini and the Early Medieval Riddle Tradition” in Humour, History and Politics in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages, ed. Guy Halsall (Cambridge University Press, 2001), pp. 157-78.

On dance:

“The Fuller Brooch and Anglo-Saxon Depictions of Dance,” Anglo-Saxon England 45 (2016), 183–212.

            [Awarded the bi-annual Best Essay prize by the International Society for the Study of Early Medieval England, 2018.]

On the medieval in modern popular culture:

“Disney’s Castles and the Work of the Medieval in the Magic Kingdom,” in Disney’s Medievalisms, ed. Susan Aronstein and Tison Pugh (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012), pp. 185-99.

“Danny Kaye and the ‘Fairy Tale’ of Queerness in The Court Jester,” in Queer Movie Medievalisms, ed. Kathleen Coyne Kelly and Tison Pugh (Ashgate, 2009), pp. 185-200.