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William James Simpson (born 16 March 1954 in Melbourne) is an Australian-American medievalist.



Simpson has worked in academia in Australia, the UK, and the USA, where he has taught medieval Literature. He was a Fellow and College Lecturer at Girton College (1989–1999), a professor at the University of Cambridge (1999–2003), before accepting an appointment at Harvard University, where since 2006 he is the Donald P. and Katherine B. Loker Professor of English.[1]



His early work centred on literary analysis of poetry, especially the late 14th century English poem, Piers Plowman.[2] He later worked on Medieval Humanism. In 2002, he published an award winning literary history.[3] His most recent work, "Burning to Read"[4] centres on the fundamentalist Bible reading in the early 16th century.



  • Piers Plowman: An Introduction to the B-Text (Harlow, Essex: Longman, 1990)
  • Sciences and the Self in Medieval Poetry: Alan of Lille’s “Anticlaudianus” and John Gower’s “Confessio amantis” [13] , Cambridge Studies in Medieval Literature, 25 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995)
  • Reform and Cultural Revolution, 1350-1547, Vol 2 of The Oxford English Literary History [14] (Oxford University Press, 2002)
  • Piers Plowman: An Introduction to the B-Text [15] , second, revised edition (Exeter: Exeter University Press, 2007)
  • Burning to Read: English Fundamentalism and its Reformation Opponents [16] (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2007)
  • Under the Hammer: Iconoclasm in the Anglo-American Tradition [17] (Oxford University Press USA, 2011)
  • Reynard the Fox: A New Translation [18] (2015)


  • The Norton Anthology of English Literature, General Editors Stephen Greenblatt and M. H. Abrams; “The Middle Ages”, ed. Alfred David and James Simpson (New York: W. W. Norton, 2006), 1-484
  • John Lydgate: Poetry, Culture, and Lancastrian England [19] , ed. Larry Scanlon and James Simpson (Notre Dame, IN: University of Notre Dame Press, 2006)]
  • Images, Idolatry and Iconoclasm in Late Medieval England [20] , edited by Jeremy Dimmick, James Simpson and Nicolette Zeeman (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2002), xiv + 250 pp. 2005]
  • Medieval English Religious and Ethical Literature: Essays in Honour of G. H. Russell, edited by Gregory Kratzmann and James Simpson (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 1986, 250 pp. 133–153
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