I'm Associate Professor of Renaissance and Magical Literatures at Exeter University in the UK. I write about witches, paganism and the supernatural in literature and culture from the middle ages to the present day.
My interest in stories of magic and witchcraft began when I first read accounts of witch trials in Elizabethan England: I realised that whilst I didn't believe that the accused people had been doing actual magic that worked, I had no good explanation of why they would confess that they had been, and tell such elaborate stories about it. What was going on here? From this simple question came my lifelong interest in storytelling about magical events and supernatural beings.
My current work is about pagan gods and goddesses as imagined in British literature from around 540 AD to the present. My book Imagining the Pagan Past is about why and how people told stories of these deities, what ideas scholars had about their origin and identity, and what kinds of satisfaction and pleasure stories of pagan worship offer to readers. I look at how Christian writers flirted with the notion of other kinds of deity and how goddesses in particular attracted writers from the middle ages onward. Some of the authors I discuss are Geoffrey of Monmouth, Bede, Camden, Spenser, Shakespeare, Milton, Dryden, Macpherson, Blake, Bulwer-Lytton and Wells. I bring the story up to date with writers like Naomi Mitchison, Ted Hughes, Mark Chadbourn and Victor Tapner, among others.