I studied English as an undergraduate and graduate at LMH and am delighted that I now teach here. I have also taught at the University of Sussex and was a visiting Professor at the University of Columbia, New York, in 2006.
My main research area is mostly in the late medieval period, but I have increasingly been drawn to thinking about literary culture between what is usually called The Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period. I am especially interested in demolishing these descriptions.
My most recent book (Transporting Chaucer) explores the consequences of finding Chaucer in places where we wouldn't ordinarily expect him to be. The book draws on sculptures by Antony Gormley and a variety of visual artefacts which include medieval architecture, obscene pilgrim badges, and mouldy bread to find Chaucer travelling between Canterbury and Southwark, and into Shakespeare and some other early modern plays.
More recently I have been writing on ideas of queer medieval blood, and the relationships between Chaucer and Spenser. My current project is a literary geography of Kent from 1100 to about 1630. My interest in literary geography was developed from researching the importance of Leicester in a recently published comprehensive history of medieval Europe. Sadly, the volume had already gone to press before Richard III was discovered in a car park, and before Leicester City won the Premier League.
I teach English on the Foundation Year.
Selected recent publications
Helen Barr, 'Litle herd gromes piping in the wind': The Shepheardes Calender, The House of Fame, and 'La Compleynt' in Reereading Chaucer and Spenser: Dan Geffrey with the New Poete, eds. Rac el Stenner, Tamsin Badcoe and Gareth Griffith (MUP 2019), pp. 37-59, Stories of the New Geography
Helen Barr, ‘Stories of the New Geography: The Refugee Tales’, Journal of Medieval Worlds, Vol. 1 No. 1, March 2019; (pp. 79-106) DOI: 10.1525/jmw.2019.100005
'Queer Blood' in Blood Matters, eds. Bonnie Lander Johnson and Eleanor Decamp (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2018), pp. 238-248
‘Religious Practice in Chaucer’s Prioresse’s Tale: Rabbit and/or Duck?’, Studies in the Age of Chaucer 32 (2010), 39-66
‘Wrinkled Deep in Time: Emily and Arcite in A Midsummer Night’s Dream’, Shakespeare Survey 65 (2012), 12-25
'Major episodes and moments in Piers Plowman B' in The Cambridge Companion to Piers Plowman eds., Andrew Cole and Andrew Galloway (Cambridge CUP, 2014), pp.15-32
Transporting Chaucer (Manchester: MUP, 2014)
- ‘Leicester’ in Europe: A Literary History, ed. David Wallace (Oxford: OUP, 2016), pp.285-97
Prof Barr in the media
- Demonstration Interview for English at LMH, Open Days, 3 July 2019
- ‘Re-Imagining the Language of Borders’, Refugee Tales, 8 June 2109