our words make worlds

Rachel Scott


After doing an interdisciplinary MA in Medieval Studies at King’s College London, I went on to complete my doctorate in 2015, also at King's. I have taught a variety of undergraduate courses in Medieval and Renaissance Spanish literature at King’s, and lectured at Queen Mary University of London, where I was Director of the longstanding Medieval Hispanic Research Seminar. I am also a member of the Seminario de Poética Europea del Renacimiento, an international research group at the Universitat Autònoma de Barcelona, one of the project’s international partners.

My research focuses on late medieval and early modern Spanish literary and textual culture; I am particularly interested in cross-cultural intersections and the reception of medieval literature in early modern Europe. I have won several awards for my research (Elsevier Outstanding PhD Thesis Prize, 2015; Association of Hispanists of Great Britain & Ireland Award for Most Distinguished Doctoral Thesis, 2016) and my monograph on the reception of Celestina in sixteenth-century Spain and Italy was published in October 2017 with Tamesis.


Recognition of the power and importance of language has always been central to my academic research; but languages have also had a longstanding presence in my personal life. My languages journey began at the age of 5, when my parents sent me off alone (yes, at the age of 5!) to buy croissants from the shop on the French campsite where we were holidaying. I distinctly remember standing in front of the counter with its pile of pastries, looking up at the commerçant, and saying the only number I could remember: dix. Within the decade I was acting as the family translator on our annual travels around France. Beyond the practical communicative aspects of this experience (dealing with the usual holiday situations of food, drink, directions etc.), as my confidence grew so too did the pleasure of discovering what felt like a different ‘terrain’ through words; the realisation that with another language came access to other people, places, and – importantly for my future academic-self – other narratives and histories. This pleasure and awareness has stayed with me throughout my career. The process of encountering other languages has shown me just how far our perspective on the world is shaped by the tongues that we speak.

Discovering medieval Iberia, with its diverse languages and cultures, during my undergraduate studies was another key point in my career. My work has been influenced by scholarship that challenges established narratives of national identity and history, and eurocentric views of cultural transmission, and that works across the narrow disciplinary boundaries of modern academia. I seek to place Iberia within broader global networks, and to emphasise how meaning (of texts, culture, ideologies) evolves as the context of reception and use change. Aspects of this approach were explored most recently in my 2017 book on the early modern Spanish and Italian reception of the canonical medieval work Celestina, but they have appeared also in earlier research on mudejar architecture and social cohesion and female authorship in medieval Spain and England, as well as in my teaching of topics such as convivencia and cultural translation. 

Joining the Travelling Concepts strand of Language Acts and Worldmaking has allowed me to bring together the different areas of my research expertise: literary reception, the multicultural spaces of medieval and early modern Iberia, and the power of language as a material force in the world. It also allows me to put into practice my interest in public engagement and my experience working between academia and the cultural and education sectors, gained through the Cultural Institute at King’s.

For more details on my publications, see my academia.edu page.


My contribution to Travelling Concepts charts the reception of a collection of exemplary fables which originated in India, where it was known as the Panchatantra, and came to Western Europe via the famous Arabic version, Kalila wa-Dimna. My study, which will culminate in a monograph, looks at the vernacular translations made in Spain, Italy, and England between the XIII and XVII centuries. For more on this project, see here.

I am also collaborating with my colleagues Julian Weiss and AbdoolKarim Vakil on the ‘Global Iberias’ teaching resources.

In addition to my scholarly research, I am working with the P21 Gallery on Kalila wa Dimna: Ancient Tales for Troubled Times, an art exhibition and public programme developed in collaboration with artists, curators, and community organisations. The project, which is also funded by Arts Council England, is inspired by the global journeys of Kalila wa-Dimna across time and place, language, religion and culture. You can find out more here: https://www.kalilawadimnaexhibit.com/