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


Fields of Study

Areas of Interest

  • Late Medieval and Early Tudor 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. Before coming to Toronto, he taught for two years at Bochum University in Germany, three years at McGill University, and twelve years at the University of Groningen in the Netherlands. He is a recipient of the John Hurt Fisher Prize from the John Gower Society, and he has received research funding from SSHRC, the British Academy, Cambridge University, Québec's FQRSC, the German Research Foundation (DFG), and the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO). His visiting fellowships include All Souls College (Oxford), the Huntington Library, Magdalen College (Oxford), and Yale University. He is the Morton W. Bloomfield Fellow for 2023 at Harvard University’s English Department.

His research extends to a wide area of late medieval literary culture, especially law, travel, politics, authorship, manuscripts, and palaeography. He is particularly interested in Gower, Chaucer, Hoccleve, Kempe, Lydgate, and Skelton. His work has been covered widely by international media, including The New York Times, The New Yorker, The Guardian, the BBC, the TLS, The New Republic, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and many others. His articles have appeared in Speculum, The Review of English Studies, The Chaucer Review, English Literary History, Studies in the Age of Chaucer, Renaissance Studies, and The English Historical Review among others. He has just finished editing all the medieval texts printed by the early modern travel writer Richard Hakluyt in his Principal Navigations (Oxford UP, in two volumes). He has also completed the edited collection Global Medieval Travel Writing: A Literary History (Cambridge UP) and is preparing The Oxford Handbook of Middle English Prose (Oxford UP) with Emily Steiner, and, with Jennifer Richards, the first volume of the Cambridge History of London Literature (Cambridge UP). In addition to writing a general-audience book on early global travel writers, he is working on two monographs: The Invention of Colonialism: Richard Hakluyt and Medieval Travel Writing (Cambridge UP, Elements series), and a study of the handwriting and literary culture of London's bureaucratic clerks. His board memberships include The Journal of the Early Book Society, the Index of Middle English Prose, Maritime Humanities 1400-1800: Cultures of the Sea (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, together with Michelle Karnes, edits the journal Studies in the Age of Chaucer.


Books and Volumes

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

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

(ed.) 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)

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

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

(ed.) Studies in the Age of Chaucer, vols. 41-45 (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2019-2023), co-edited with Michelle Karnes

(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

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

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

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

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 24 (2023) forthcoming

‘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 (2023), forthcoming

‘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

‘New World Discovery', in The Oxford Handbook of Medieval and Tudor Literature, Oxford Handbooks Online (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2015)

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

‘Bureaucratic Verse: William Lyndwood, the Privy Seal, and the Form of the Libelle of Englyshe Polycye', New Medieval Literatures 12 (2010) [2011], 249-86

‘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