David Aers

Office Hours: 

Tuesday 1:00 p.m.  - 3:00 p.m. 

James B. Duke Professor of English

External Address: 
402 Allen Bldg, Durham, NC 27708
Internal Office Address: 
Box 90015, Durham, NC 27708-0015
(919) 684-5065

David Aers works especially on medieval and early modern literature, theology, ecclesiology and politics in England. His publications range from studies of Augustine to studies of early 19th century writing and culture. Publications include: Piers Plowman and Christian Allegory (Arnold 1975); Chaucer, Langland and the Creative Imagination (Routledge, 1980); Literature, Language and Society in England, 1580-1680, written with Bob Hodge and Gunther Kress (Barnes and Noble, 1980); Chaucer (Harvester, 1983); Community, Gender and Individual Identity, 1360-1430 (Routledge, 1988);  Powers of the Holy, written with Lynn Staley (Penn State, 1996); a two edited volumes: Medieval Literature: Criticism, Ideology, History  (Harvester, 1986) and Culture and History, 1350-1600 (Wayne State, 1992). In 2000 he published  Faith, Ethics, and Church: Writing in England 1360-1410 (Brewer) and also a collection of essays entitled Medieval Literature and Historical Inquiry: Essays in Honor of Derek Pearsall (Brewer). In 2004 he published Sanctifying Signs: Making Christian Tradition in Late Medieval England (Notre Dame). In 2009 he published a work that moved from Augustine to Langland and Julian of Norwich: Salvation and Sin: Augustine, Langland and Fourteenth-Century Theology (University of Notre Dame Press, 2009) . He has just (2015) completed a book for the University of Notre Dame Press entitled: Beyond Reformation? An Essay on Langland and the End of Constantinian Christianity. This work continues to develop his interests in Christian traditions, theology and political culture while also engaging with some issues raised by current grand narratives of modernity. Centered on Langland's Piers Plowman, a story is told that runs from Ockham to Milton and, very tentatively, Milton's ecclesiology here called "congregationalism." Since completing Beyond Reformation? in 2015, he has continued to work across the great divide between the medieval and the early modern still institutionalized in most English Departments in contemporary universities. This work includes an essay on philosophy and theology in Chaucer's Troilus and Criseyde and an essay on the Calvinist Arthur Dent (Plain Man's Pathway to Heaven, 1601). His current project develops lines of inquiry initiated in the book just completed (Beyond Reformation?): This involves concentrating particularly on conflicts and transformations in the later Middle Ages, with particular attention to Ockham, Marsillius of Padua, Langland, Chaucer and Wyclif. 

David Aers continues as co-editor of  the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies. He has edited a number of special issues of JMEMS, most recently one with Nigel Smith on the English Reformations: currently he is preparing a special issue, with Russ Leo (Princeton) on Brad Gregory's work exploring the "unintended"  Reformation. He is co-editor,  with Sarah Beckwith (Duke) and James Simpson (Harvard) of the Notre Dame  University Press series entitled REFORMATIONS. He is also currently working with Sarah Beckwith on a special  issue  of JMEMS on "Conversion: medieval and early modern." David Aers is the James B. Duke Professor of English and Historical Theology with appointments in both the English Department and in the Divinity School.


  • Ph.D., University of York 1971
  • B.A., University of Cambridge (UK) 1968

Aers, D, and Staley, L. Powers of the Holy: Politics and Devotion, 1350-1409. Penn State University Press, 1996.

Culture and History: 1350-1600. Ed. D Aers. Harvester Wheatsheaf and Wayne State UP, 1992. (Edited Book)

Medieval Literature: Criticism, Ideology and History. Ed. D Aers. Harvester, 1986. (Edited Book)

Aers, D. Chaucer. Harvester, 1985.

Aers, D, Cook, J, and Punter, D. Romanticism and Ideology (1765-1850). Routledge KP, 1981.

Aers, D, Hodge, B, and Kress, G. Literature, Language and Society in England, 1580-1680. Gill and Macmillan, Barnes and Noble, 1981.

Aers, D. Piers Plowman and Christian Allegory. Arnold, 1975.


Aers, D. "Interpreting Dreams: Reflections on Freud, Milton and Chaucer." Reading Dreams: The Interpretation of Dreams from Chaucer to Shakespeare. Ed. P Brown. Oxford UP, 1999.

Aers, D. "Vox Populi and the Literature of 1381." Cambridge History of Medieval English Literature. Ed. D Wallace. Cambridge UP, 1999.

Aers, D. "Reflections on Gower as ’Sapiens in Ethics and Politics." Re-Visioning Gower. Ed. RF Yeager. Pegasus, 1998.

Aers, D. "Christianity for Courtly Subjects: Reflections on the Gawain-poet." A Companion to the Gawain-Poet. Ed. D Brewer. Brewer, January 1997.

Aers, D. "Class, Gender, Medieval Criticism and Piers Plowman." Class and Gender in Early English Literature. Ed. BJ Harwood and GR Overing. Indiana UP, 1994.

Aers, D. "Justice and wage-labor after the Black Death: some perpexities for William Langland." The Work of Work: Servitude, Slavery and Labor in Medieval England. Ed. AJ Frantzen and D Moffat. Cruithre Press, 1994.

Aers, D. "’Darke texts need notes’: Versions of Self in Donne’s verse Epistles." Critical Essays on John Donne. Ed. AF Marotti. Hall/MacMillan, 1994. 102-22.

Aers, D. "Introduction and A Whisper in the Ear of Early Modernists." Culture and History. Ed. D Aers. 1992.

Aers, D. "Medievalists and Deconstruction: An exemplum." From Medieval to Medievalism. Ed. J Simons. Macmillan, 1992.


Aers, D. "New historicism and the Eucharist (Hermeneutics and ideology: Reading medieval and early modern texts)." JOURNAL OF MEDIEVAL AND EARLY MODERN STUDIES 33.2 (2003): 241-259. Full Text

Aers, D, and Beckwith, S. "Introduction - Sacrifice: Medieval and Early Modern." JOURNAL OF MEDIEVAL AND EARLY MODERN STUDIES 31.3 (2001): 443-444. Full Text

Beckwith, S. "Sacrifice: Medieval and Early Modern." Ed. D Aers and S Beckwith. JMEMS 31 (2001).

Aers, D. "Visionary Eschatology: Piers Plowman." Modern Theology 16 (2000): 3-17.

Aers, D. "Written Work: Review Essay." YLS 12 (1998): 207-217.

Aers, D. "Faith, ethics, and community: Reflections on reading late medieval English writing." JOURNAL OF MEDIEVAL AND EARLY MODERN STUDIES 28.2 (1998): 341-369.

Aers, D. "Preface + From medieval Christianities to the Reformations." JOURNAL OF MEDIEVAL AND EARLY MODERN STUDIES 27.2 (1997): 139-143.

Aers, D, and Hauerwas, S. "Reformation is Sin." Perspectives 11.8 (October 1, 1996): 10-11.