Sarah Tolmie

Associate Professor

Sarah Tolmie

PhD, University of Cambridge
MA, University of Toronto
BA, University of Toronto

Extension: 36795
Office: HH 266


Sarah Tolmie is an Associate Professor who was trained as a medievalist at the University of Toronto and Cambridge. She teaches medieval and early modern literature, general British literature, and creative writing. Her research interests are in historiography, visionary poetry and embodiment. She has published articles on Middle English and Scots literature, as well as on Langland’s Piers Plowman.

As a creative writer, she has recently published the alternate-Renaissance novel The Stone Boatmen and the satirical short fiction collection NoFood, both with Aqueduct Press, and the chapbook Sonnet in a Blue Dress and Other Poems with Baseline Press. A 120-sonnet sequence, Trio, will be published by McGill-Queen’s in April 2015 in the MacLennan Poetry series. Further information, including a schedule of readings, can be found at

She began to practice contact improvisation, a modern dance form, in 2009 and immediately became enamoured of both its expressive and analytical potential. This led to the founding of the Raw Nerve Research Group, a small interdisciplinary ensemble that uses dance and movement exercises and improvisations to explore research questions and as a form of interactive data visualization. Further information can be found at She has performed and conducted workshops with various ensembles in the US, UK and in Canada since 2010, including the Guelph Jazz Fest and the International Arts Centre in Banff.

She sits on the boards of the Waterloo Institute for Complexity and Innovation (WICI) and The Independent Studies Program (IS) as an Arts representative.

Selected Publications

NoFood, short fiction, Aqueduct Press, Seattle, 2014

The Stone Boatmen, novel, Aqueduct Press, Seattle, 2014.

Sonnet in a Blue Dress and Other Poems, chapbook, Baseline Press, London, 2014.

Guest editor, with Randy Harris, of Metaphor and Symbol, special issue on Cognitive Allegory, 2011.

“The Book of the World as I Found It: Langland’s Piers Plowman and Wittgenstein’s Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus,Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies 20.4 (2008).

“Langland, Wittgenstein and the Language Game,” Yearbook of Langland Studies 22 (2008).

"The Professional: Thomas Hoccleve,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 29 (2007): 341-73.

"Sacrilege, Sacrifice and John Barbour’s Bruce,” International Review of Scottish Studies 32 (2007): 7-32.

"Langland, Wittgenstein and the End of Language,” Yearbook of Langland Studies 20 (2006): 115-39.

"The Priue Scilence of Thomas Hoccleve,” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 22 (2000): 281-309.

Fellowships & Awards

  • 2015. Canada Council, Mid-Career Writer's Grant for the novel The Little Animals
  • 2014. Ontario Arts Council, In-Progress Grant for  the novel The Little Animals
  • 2014. University of Utrecht, Descartes Centre for the History of Science, Junior Fellowship
  • 2012 Ontario Arts Council In-Progress grant for the sonnet sequence Trio.
  • 2010-12. Lois Claxton/Robert Hardyng Award, The Salvation Suit.
  • 2010-11. SSHRCC Research-Creation Grant, The Salvation Suit, 4A
  • 2009-10. SSHRCC Research-Development Grant, The Salvation Suit, 4A
  • 2008. Grain Prize, Dramatic Monologue
  • 2007. UW Travel Grant

Current Research

I am presently revising a short article on cognition and mnemonics in John Barbour’s Bruce for a forthcoming book of essays that emerged from the conference celebrating the 700th anniversary of the battle of Bannockburn, held in Stirling this past summer. I will be on sabbatical in 2015 and spending part of it at the Descartes Centre for the History of Science, Utrecht on a fellowship, working on my new novel, which is about Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek, the 17th-century microscopist. I am likewise working on a new poetry collection and a new short fiction collection. The Raw Nerve Research Group will be doing a workshop and presentation called Dancing the Math of Complex Systems in the UW Bridges Lecture series, which exists to further connection between math and the humanities, in March 2015.

Areas of Graduate Supervision

  • Middle English literature and historiography
  • Middle Scots literature and historiography
  • Premodern theory of mind and embodiment
  • Creative writing
  • Cognitive poetics
University of Waterloo

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