Women's Literary Culture and the Medieval Canon

An International Network Funded by the Leverhulme Trust

The Enclosed Garden and Female Religious Identity

The Paradiesgärtlein (Garden of Paradise), c. 1410, The Upper Rhenish Master, Städel Museum, Frankfurt, Public Domain (Wikipedia Commons) When thinking about medieval women and the enclosed garden, we commonly recall the Song of Solomon or the Song of Songs: ‘hortus conclusus soror mea sponsa hortus conclusus fons signatus’ (4:12). Interpreted by the Church Fathers as […]


Could Agnes Paston Write? The Problem of Letter 13.

Letter from Agnes Paston to her husband, William Paston, Norfolk, 20 April 1440. (c) British Library Board: BL Additional MS 43488, f. 4r.   The literacy of the Paston women has been widely discussed by critics in recent decades. The Paston correspondence of the fifteenth century is a unique archive, that includes the largest collection […]


The Lost Blood of the Middle Age

The Crucifixion, Pietro Lorenzetti (1320-44), tempera and gold leaf on wood. From the Metropolitan Museum of Art (Purchase, Lila Acheson Wallace Gift and Gwynne Andrews Fund, 2002). Images and stories of bloodshed have been ubiquitous of late. Bloodied and wounded children in Syria are carried towards hospitals by wailing parents after being exploded by man-made weapons. Blood […]


‘A Good Conscience is a Continual Christmas’: The Manere of Good Lyving (Liber de modo bene vivendi): ‘A Devoute Tretes’ for Nuns

‘Cistercian nuns’, London, British Library, MS Yates Thompson 11, fol. 6r, Source Wikimedia Commons With the approaching festive season, many people will concur with the following saying, attributed to Benjamin Franklin: ‘there cannot be good living where there is not good drinking’. The Manere of Good Lyvyng perhaps surprisingly does not completely disagree: ‘Drynke (…) my […]


‛I am the rightful owner of this book’ : books owned by Icelandic women in the middle ages to the 18th century

ÍB 65 8vo. A common girl (born 1689) writes in her own hand that she owns this book of hymns. Picture Helgi Bragason, The National library of Iceland. Though published records have little to say about the bookish activities of secular women in Iceland in the high and late Middle Ages, the limited available evidence […]


Reading en route with Margery Kempe

The remains of the Franciscan monastery at Mount Zion, Jerusalem, which was the ‘headquarters’ of medieval European pilgrimage to the Holy Land. Photograph by Anthony Bale. During her difficult journey from her home in Norfolk to Jerusalem in the spring of 1414, the medieval mystic Margery Kempe was persistently bullied by her co-pilgrims. According to […]


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