Emily Houlik-Ritchey

My comparative research on the shared story traditions of medieval England and Castile focuses on literary representations of the medieval world’s multicultural interactions, geographic proximities, and the (sometimes disavowed) closeness of creedal communities. This work intersects profoundly with several recent movements in Medieval Studies: Mediterranean Studies, the study of race, and the global Middle Ages. I am the author of Imagining Iberia in English and Castilian Medieval Romance (University of Michigan Press, 2023; read it online here), which studies the intersection of religious ethics and intercultural contact in the genre of medieval romance from England and Castile. I have published articles on Chaucer, John Gower, and medieval romance and co-edited a special issue of Exemplaria on neighboring. The central thread of ethical relations across communities or differences unites all this work. I envision a second book project that will study the intercultural and interreligious registers of leprosy, analyzing how narratives of its so-called “blood cure” (the notion that the blood of innocents counteracts leprosy’s impurity) participate in medieval discourses of ethical and bodily deficiency that cast judgement upon gender, sexuality, disability, and religious identity.

My teaching centers active and collaborative learning, with particular attention to critical and feminist pedagogies and evidence-based teaching practices. I take a learner-centered approach and espouse a vision of education as a process of student empowerment (what bell hooks, following Paulo Freire, would call “education as the practice of freedom”). Across all scales and aspects of teaching, I emphasize the learning process and maximize opportunities for meaningful practice and timely feedback. These practices have been shown to boost student motivation, engagement, and learning. In pre-semester and mid-semester surveys, my students consistently tell me that they appreciate my enthusiasm, flexibility, and commitment to their learning process. For work such as this, I received the Sophia Meyer Farb Prize for Teaching in 2017 and the Faculty Teaching and Mentor Award in 2020; I have also received a George R. Brown Teaching Grant and a Rice Feminist Seminar grant for collaborative course development with graduate students. I have contributed essays on teaching medieval literature to edited collections on pedagogy, one of which won the Teaching Literature Book Award from the Idaho State University Department of English and Philosophy in 2019, and I am a Faculty Fellow of Rice’s Center for Teaching Excellence.

I use feminine pronouns, I obsessively collect pedagogy and writing advice books, and I spend my off-campus time hiking, swimming, and biking with my family.

Research Areas

Gender & Sexuality' Postcolonial & Transnational Studies; Race & Ethnicity; Ecocriticism & Environmental Humanities; Medieval Literature


B.A., The University of the South, 2002

M.A. in English Literature, Indiana University, 2007

Ph.D. in English Literature, Indiana University, 2013

Honors & Awards

CTE Faculty Fellow, 2021-24

Graduate Students Association Faculty Teaching and Mentor Award, 2020

George R. Brown Teaching Grant, 2020

McMurtry College Outstanding Faculty Associate, 2019

HRC Faculty Teaching Release Fellowship, 2019

McMurtry College Distinguished Faculty Associate, 2018

Sophia Meyer Farb Prize for Teaching, 2017


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