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Dr. Sarah Downey


  • B.A.: Latin, University of the South
  • Ph.D.: Medieval Studies, University of Toronto


Dr. Downey specializes in Old English, medieval Latin and the history of the English language. Her dissertation examines biographies of the Anglo-Saxon hermit Guthlac, whose story was told and retold in a number of languages and media throughout the Middle Ages. She has published in the scholarly journal Traditio and has written reviews for Notes and Queries. She has given conference papers at the International Congress on Medieval Studies, the Canadian Society of Medievalists Annual Congress and the Sewanee Medieval Colloquium. She has also written entries on Guthlac for "The J.R.R. Tolkien Encyclopedia." Currently, she is collaborating with the Wheaton College Lexomics Group on an article about sources of Old English poetry and is also working on translations of medieval Latin texts.


  • English Language Skills
  • English Composition I and II
  • English Grammar and Usage
  • History of the English Language
  • Introduction to Linguistics
  • Chaucer
  • Studies in Old and Middle English Literature

Research Interests

Dr. Downey studies the English language in its oldest recorded forms, along with some of the ways in which English has changed over time. Most of the literature she works on is from the Anglo-Saxon period (about 450-1100 C.E.), the time when "Beowulf" was written. A large number of English texts from the Anglo-Saxon period are translations from Latin, so she also studies the Latin language and the enormous influence it has had over English.

In The Classroom

She draws comparisons between ways in which the English language changed in the Middle Ages and ways in which it is changing now. In her classes, she frequently compares Internet-language and text-message-language to forms of English that were written by hand before the printing press.

Academic Department(s)

  • Department of English

Academic Program(s)

  • B.A. English

Contact Information



Azorsky Hall 223


"Language awareness is self-awareness; the more you know about the language you speak, the more you know about yourself. When I teach classes about where the English language has come from, why English is such a glorious mess and where English might be going in the future, I hope to inspire my students to think about how they use their language and what it says about them."

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