David Aers

Office Hours: 

Tuesday 1:00 p.m.  - 3:00 p.m. 

David Aers

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. Salvation and Sin: Augustine, Langland, and Fourteenth-Century Theology. Notre Dame University Press, April 2009.

Beckwith, S. Hermeneutics and Ideology: Reading Medieval and Early Modern Texts. Ed. D Aers and S Beckwith. 2003.

Beckwith, S. Sacrifice. Ed. D Aers and S Beckwith. 2001.

Medieval Literature and Historical Inquiry. Ed. D Aers. Brewer, 2000. (Edited Book)

Aers, D. Desire: Its Subjects, Objects, and Histories. Ed. D Aers and A Wharton. 1997.

Christianities: Medieval and Early Modern. Ed. D Aers. 1997. (Edited Book)


Aers, D, and Beckwith, S. "The Eucharist." Cultural Reformations. Ed. J Simpson and B Cummings. Oxford University Press, 2011.

Aers, D, and Beckwith, S. "Discerning the Body." Collection on Medieval and ReformationCulture. Ed. B Cummings and J Simpson. Oxford UP, 2008.

Aers, D. "The Laborer’s Two Bodies." Yearbook of Langland Studies. 2007. 226-236.

Aers, D. "Langland." Oxford University Press Encyclopaedia on Medieval Literature. 2006.

Aers, D. "The Testimony of William Thorpe: Reflections on Self, Sin and Salvation." Studies in Late Medieval and Early Renaissance Texts in Honor of John Scattergood. Ed. AMD Arcy and AJ Fletcher. Four Courts Press, LTD., 2005. 21-34.

Aers, D. "Walter Brut’s Theology of the Sacrament of the Altar." Lollards and Their Influence in Late Medieval England. Ed. F Somerset, J Havens, and D Pitard. Woodbridge: Boydell, 2003. 115-126.

Aers, D. "Practices of growing old in the Middle Ages." The Christian Practice of Growing Old. Ed. S Hauerwas. Eerdmans, 2003.

Aers, D. "The Sacrament of the Altar in Piers Plowman and the Late Medieval Church in England." Images, Idolatry, and Iconoclasm in Late Medieval England. Ed. J Dimmick, J Simpson, and N Zeeman. Oxford UP, 2002.

Aers, D. "Chaucer’s Tale of Melebee: Whose Virtues?." Medieval Literature and Historical Inquiry: Essays in Honor of Derek Pearsall. Ed. D Aers. Brewer, 2000.

Beckwith, S. "Absent Presences: Resurrection Theatre in York." Festschrift for Derek Pearsall. Ed. D Aers, B Woodbridge, and Brewer. 2000.


Aers, D, and Leo, R. "Unintended Reformations?." Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 46.3 (September 2016): 455-483. Full Text

Aers, D. "Langland on the Church and the End of the Cardinal Virtues." JOURNAL OF MEDIEVAL AND EARLY MODERN STUDIES 42.1 (2012): 59-81. Full Text

Aers, D, and Smith, N. "English Reformations." JOURNAL OF MEDIEVAL AND EARLY MODERN STUDIES 40.3 (2010): 425-438. Full Text Open Access Copy

Aers, D, and Smith, N. "English Reformations: Historiography, Theology, and Narrative." Ed. D Aers and N Smith. JMEMS 40 (2010). (Introduction)

Aers, D. "This is my body. The presence of Christ in Reformation thought." JOURNAL OF ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY 60.2 (April 2009): 368-368. Full Text

Aers, D. "Salvation and sin: Augustine, Langland, and fourteenth-century theology." Salvation and Sin: Augustine, Langland, and Fourteenth-Century Theology (2009): 1-284.

Aers, D, and Beckwith, S. "Reform and cultural revolution: Introduction." JOURNAL OF MEDIEVAL AND EARLY MODERN STUDIES 35.1 (2005): 3-11. Full Text

Aers, D. "Wyclif, Poverty and the Poor." Yearbook of Langland Studies 17 (2003): 55-72.

Aers, D, and Beckwith, S. "Hermeneutics and ideology: Introduction (Religious writing in the medieval and early modern periods)." JOURNAL OF MEDIEVAL AND EARLY MODERN STUDIES 33.2 (2003): 211-213. Full Text