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. "Review of Chaucerian Belief: The Poetics of Reverence and Delight by JM Hill." Medium Aevum 61.1 (1992): 126-128. (Review)

Aers, D. "Review of 'The Canterbury Tales' (Oxford Guides to Chaucer) by Helen Cooper." Medium Aevum 60.1 (1991): 116-118. (Review)

Aers, D. "Reflections on Current Histories of the Subject." Literature and History 2.2 (1991): 20-34.

Aers, D. "Review of The Language of Chaucer by D. Burnley." Literature and History 1.2 (1990): 88-89. (Review)

Aers, D. "Reading Piers Plowman: Literature History and Criticism." Literature and History 1.1 (1990): 4-23.

Aers, D. "Review of Negotiating the Past: The Historical Understanding of Medieval Literature by L. Patterson." Essays in Criticism: a quarterly journal of literary criticism 38.4 (October 1988): 325-334. (Review)

Aers, D. "Humanism Historicized." Essays in Criticism 38 (1988): 325-334.

Aers, D. "Rewriting the Middle Ages." Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 18 (1988): 221-40.

Aers, D. "Rewriting the Middle Ages, Some Suggestions." Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 18.2 (1988): 221-240.