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Paul Megna

Assistant Professor of Literature

Paul Megna is an Assistant Professor in the Literature department at Purchase College. His research interests include medieval and Early Modern literature and culture, the history of emotions, and existential philosophy.

More About Me

He is currently at work on a book about dread in Middle English religious writing. He is the co-editor of Hamlet and Emotion (Palgrave 2019), in which he has an essay on Hamlet, Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead, and un-existential anxiety. His writing has appeared in PMLA, Exemplaria, postmedieval, Glossator, and The Conversation. He teaches courses on medieval literature, Shakespeare, and all things emotional.


“Shakespeare’s Hamlet and Stoppard’s Guildenstern Leap between Un-Existential Anxiety and Un-Absurdist Happiness,” in Hamlet and Emotion, ed. Paul Megna, Bríd Phillips, R. S. White, Shakespeare Studies Series, Palgrave (2019), 289–318

“Dreadful Devotion,” in The Routledge History of Emotions in Europe, 1100-1700, eds. Andrew Lynch and Susan Broomhall, Routledge (2019), 72–85

Affeccioun in Middle English Devotional Literature,” in Before Emotions: The Language of Feeling (400-1800), eds. Michael Champion, Kirk Essary and Juanita Feros Ruys, Routledge (2019), 142–55

“Emotional Medievalism and Existentialist Identity Politics in Simone de Beauvoir’s The Useless Mouths,” Exemplaria 30.3 (2018), 241–56

“Chaucerian Parrhesia: World-Building and Truth-Telling in The Canterbury Tales and ‘Lak of Stedfastnesse,’” postmedieval 9.1 (2018), 30–43

“Teaching Feeling: Medieval Literature, Emotional Ethics and the Case of Compassion,” The Once and Future Classroom 13.1 (2017)

“Courtly Love Hate is Undead: Sadomasochistic Privilege in Geoffrey Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde,” in Everything You Ever Wanted to Know about Literature but Were Afraid to Ask Žižek: SIC 10, ed. Russell Sbriglia, Duke UP (2017), 267–89

“Better Living through Dread: Medieval Ascetics, Modern Philosophers, and the Long History of Existential Anxiety,” PMLA 130.5 (2015), 1285–1301

“Dread, Love, and the Bodies of Piers Plowman A.10, B.9, and C.10,” The Yearbook of Langland Studies 29 (2015), 69–96

“Fitt VII: Blysse / (Envy),” Glossator 10 (2015), 132–53

“Langland’s Wrath: Righteous Anger Management in The Vision of Piers Plowman,” Exemplaria 25.2 (2013), 130–51

“Sacrificial Thriving,” in Still Thriving: On the Importance of Aranye Fradenburg, ed. Eileen A. Joy, punctum books (2013), 33–40

Presentations / Conferences

“Psychoanalysis, Affect Theory, History of Emotions,” The Time of Psychoanalysis, New Chaucer Society Congress, 2020, Durham U

“Christ’s Whip: Anti-Institutional Affect and Divine Violence in the Chester Mystery Cycle,” Institutional Affects, New Chaucer Society Congress, 2018, U of Toronto

“Lemony Snicket’s Lachrymose Didacticism,” Emotion in Children’s Literature, 2018, U of Western Australia

“Skepticism, Shock, and Conversion in Middle English Drama,” God and Art: The Aesthetics of Christian Belief, Art and Affect, 2017, U of Queensland

Parrhesia and Law in The Second Nun’s Tale and The Manciple’s Tale,” Chaucer and the Law: Biennial London Chaucer Conference, 2017, U of London

“The Power of Shock in Middle English Drama,” The Power of Shock, Powerful Emotions/Emotions and Power, c. 400-1850, 2017, U of York

“Striating Dread in Late Medieval England,” Fear and Anger in Late Medieval English Writing, 2017, Queen Mary U of London

“Why We Still Watch Passion Plays,” Why We Read (Medieval) Literature, International Congress on Medieval Studies, 2017, Western Michigan U

“Prudence’s ‘Semblant of Wratthe’ and the Limits of Chaucer’s Feminism,” The Poetics of Rage: Gender, Anger, and Form, International Congress on Medieval Studies, 2017, Western Michigan U

“‘Fear! The crack that might flood your brain with light’: Un-Existential Anxiety in Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead,” Hamlet Spinoffs, Hamlet and Emotions: Then and Now, 2017, U of Western Australia

“Comic Medievalism and Trans-Historic Emotion in Anthony Minghella’s Two Planks and a Passion,” Medieval Religion and Emotion in Modern Medievalist Genres, Australia and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Moden Studies Conference, 2017, Victoria U of Wellington

“Existentialist Medievalism and Emotional Ethics in Simone de Beauvoir’s The Useless Mouths,” ARC Centre of Excellent for the History of Emotions Research Seminar, 2016, U of Western Australia

“Of Farts and Friars, Revolution and Wrath: A Response to Thomas Dixon,” ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, Biannual Meeting, 2016, U of Adelaide

“Intimacy, Alterity, and Compassion in Denys Arcand’s Jesus of Montreal and Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ,” Feeling (for) the Premodern, 2016, U of Western Australia

“Chaucerian Anger,” Emotions at Law, New Chaucer Society Congress, 2016, Queen Mary U cvas of London

“Chaucerian Parrhesia,” Chaucer as Translator/Translating Chaucer, 2016, U of Western Australia

“Isaac’s Lingering Dread: Proto-Existentialism and Post-Traumatic Stress in the Brome Play of Abraham and Isaac,” Middle English Study Day V: Emotional Practices, 2016, U of Melbourne

“Hoccleve’s Existential Crisis,” Touching Hoccleve, International Congress on Medieval Studies, 2016, Western Michigan U