Sebastian Sobecki

Professor; Graduate Faculty; Undergraduate Instructor; Faculty, Centre for Medieval Studies
Jackman Humanities Building, Room 715, 170 St. George Street, Toronto, ON M5R 2M8


Areas of Interest

  • Late Medieval and Early Modern Literature
  • Authorship and Literary History
  • Law and Politics
  • Travel Writing and Global Medieval Literature
  • Palaeography, Archives, and Manuscripts


  • BA, Cambridge
  • MPhil, Cambridge
  • PhD, Cambridge


Sebastian Sobecki is Professor of Later Medieval English Literature, University of Toronto, St George, with a cross-appointment in the Centre for Medieval Studies. He is a Fellow of the English Association and the Royal Historical Society, and has also held fellowships with All Souls College (Oxford), Harvard University, the Huntington Library, Magdalen College (Oxford), and Yale University. He is a recipient of the John Hurt Fisher Prize from the John Gower Society and has received research funding from SSHRC, the British Academy, Québec's FQRSC, the German Research Foundation (DFG), and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). His board memberships include The Journal of the Early Book Society, the Index of Middle English Prose, Maritime Humanities 1400-1800 (Routledge), and Texts and Transitions: Studies in the History of Manuscripts and Printed Books (Brepols). He is a former trustee of the Hakluyt Society and edited the journal Studies in the Age of Chaucer from 2018 until 2023. He currently serves as a trustee of the New Chaucer Society.

His research and teaching extend to a wide area of late medieval and early modern literature, with a focus on ideas of the self, life writing, and materiality in the literary history of the long fifteenth century. He is particularly interested in Chaucer, Hoccleve, Kempe, Lydgate, Skelton, and Hakluyt. Authorship, law, travel, manuscripts, and palaeography are central to his practice. His work has been covered widely by the press and media, including the BBC, The Chronicle of Higher Education, The Guardian, The New Republic, The New York Times, The New Yorker, the TLS. His essays have appeared in ELH, EHR, The Chaucer Review, Renaissance StudiesThe Review of English StudiesSAC, and Speculum, among others. He has produced two volumes for the Oxford edition of Richard Hakluyt’s Principal Navigations, 1598-1600 (forthcoming), and he is completing the edited volume A Global History of Medieval Travel Writing: European Perspectives (Cambridge UP). Ongoing editorial projects include The Cambridge History of London Literature: Vol. 1, The Beginnings to 1666 (Cambridge UP), with Stephanie Elsky, and, with Emily Steiner, The Oxford Handbook of Middle English Prose (Oxford UP). In addition to writing The Marvels of John Mandeville (Reaktion Books), completing the monograph The Invention of Colonialism: Richard Hakluyt and Medieval Travel Writing (Cambridge UP), and co-writing a book on Christine de Pizan with Misty Schieberle and Elizaveta Strakhov, he is working on two book-length studies, on Chaucer and authorial intention in fifteenth-century literature and on the handwriting and literary culture of London's bureaucratic clerks.  



The Invention of Colonialism: Richard Hakluyt and Medieval Travel Writing (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press), forthcoming

An Edition of Miles Hogarde's Mirroure of Myserie (New York: Punctum Books, 2021)

Last Words: The Public Self and the Social Author in Late Medieval England (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019)

Medieval English Travel: A Critical Anthology, with Anthony Bale (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019; paperbacked in 2021)

Unwritten Verities: The Making of England's Vernacular Legal Culture, 1463-1549 (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2015)

The Sea and Medieval English Literature (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2008)

Edited Volumes

(ed.) A Global History of Medieval Travel Writing: European Perspectives (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)

(ed.) Richard Hakluyt's Principal Navigations, vol. 1 (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming)

(ed.) Richard Hakluyt's ‘Principal Navigations', vol. 2, co-edited with Angela Byrne (Oxford: Oxford University Press, forthcoming)

(ed.) Form and Power in Medieval and Early Modern English Literature: A Book for James Simpson, co-edited with Daniel Donoghue and Nicholas Watson (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2024)

(ed.) Studies in the Age of Chaucer, vol. 45, co-edited with Michelle Karnes (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2024)

(ed.) Our Sea of Islands, co-edited with Matthew Boyd Goldie (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2023)

(ed.) Studies in the Age of Chaucer, vol. 44, co-edited with Michelle Karnes (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2023)

(ed.) 'The Case of Geoffrey Chaucer and Cecily Chaumpaigne: New Evidence'Chaucer Review (special issue) 57:4 (2022), co-edited with Euan Roger

(ed.) Studies in the Age of Chaucer, vol. 43, co-edited with Michelle Karnes (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2022)

(ed.) Studies in the Age of Chaucer, vol. 42, co-edited with Michelle Karnes (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2021)

(ed.) Studies in the Age of Chaucer, vol. 41, co-edited with Michelle Karnes (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2020)

(ed.) A Companion to Medieval English Law and Literature, co-edited with Candace Barrington (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019)

(ed.) A Critical Companion to John Skelton, co-edited with John Scattergood (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2018)

(ed.) ‘Our Sea of Islands: New Approaches to British Insularity in the Late Middle Ages'Postmedieval (special issue) 7:4 (2016), co-edited with Matthew Boyd Goldie

(ed.) The Sea and Englishness in the Middle Ages: Maritime Narratives, Identity, and Culture (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2011)

Selected Essays and Chapters

'Response: Quo vadis, Adam Pinkhurst?  Scripts, Scribes, and the Limits of Paleography’, Speculum (2024), forthcoming

Gens sans argent: A New Holograph Manuscript by Thomas Hoccleve', The Library 25:2 (2024), forthcoming

On raptus, Quitclaims, and Precedents in Staundon vs Chaucer-Chaumpaigne: An Afterword’, co-authored with Euan Roger, Chaucer Review 59:1 (2024), 10-21

‘The Author's Three Bodies: Codicological Intentionalism and the Medieval Text', in ‘Interpreting Intention Now and Then', ed. James Simpson, special issue of The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 53:3 (2023), 573-96

‘Authorised Realities: The Gesta Romanorum, BL MS Harley 219, and Thomas Hoccleve's Poetics of Autobiography'Speculum 98:2 (2023), 538-58

With Euan Roger, 'Geoffrey Chaucer, Cecily Chaumpaigne, and the Statute of Laborers: New Records and Old Evidence Reconsidered'The Chaucer Review 57:4 (2022): 407-33.

Communities of Practice: Thomas Hoccleve, London Clerks, and Literary Production', Journal of the Early Book Society 24 (2022), 51-106

The Handwriting of Fifteenth-Century Signet Clerks and the King's French Secretaries', in Scribal Cultures in Late Medieval England, ed. Margaret Connolly, Holly James-Maddocks, and Derek Pearsall (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2022), 83-124

‘The Handwriting of Fifteenth-Century Privy Seal and Council Clerks', Review of English Studies 72:304 (2021), 253-79

Wards and Widows: Troilus and Criseyde and New Documents on Chaucer's Life', ELH 86:2 (2019), 413-440

Pilgrimage and Travel', A New Companion to Chaucer, edited by Peter Brown (Oxford: Wiley-Blackwell, 2019), 331-344.

Hares, Rabbits, Pheasants: Piers Plowman and William Longewille, a Norfolk Rebel in 1381', Review of English Studies 69:289 (2018), 216-36

‘A Southwark Tale: Gower, the Poll Tax of 1381, and Chaucer's Canterbury Tales'Speculum 92:3 (2017), 630-60

"The writyng of this tretys:" Margery Kempe's Son and the Authorship of Her Book', Studies in the Age of Chaucer 37 (2015), 257-83

Ecce patet tensus: the Trentham Manuscript, In Praise of Peace, and John Gower's Autograph Hand', Speculum 90:4 (2015), 925-59

Lydgate's Kneeling Retraction: The Testament as a Literary Palinode', Chaucer Review 49:3 (2015), 265-93

‘John Peyton’s A Relation of the State of Polonia and the Accession of King James I, 1598–1603’, The English Historical Review 129:540 (2014), 1079–97

Mandeville's Thought of the Limit: The Discourse of Similarity and Difference in The Travels of Sir John Mandeville', The Review of English Studies 53:211 (2002), 329-43