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‘Þis worde of þe apostil longiþ to ȝow men & wymen of cristis Relygyon’: the translation of Edmund of Abingdon’s Mirror in BL MS Add 10053

Paper to be given at IES/Keio university conference on Old and Middle English Studies: Texts and Sources, 3-5th September


The Mirror of Holy Church is a Middle English translation of Edmund of Abingdon’s Speculum religiosorum/ecclesie, a work intended as a guide to the perfect life for members of a religious order, but which is also an important text in the development of vernacular theology in Britain. Very little recent work has been done on it, (more…)

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The anchoress of Colne Priory: a case study

I am giving this paper at the Medieval Anchorites in their Communities conference to be held at Gregynog Hall, Newtown, Powys, April 22-April 24, 2014; see Anchorites in their Communities

See also a short version of the paper I have published on

The trench dug at the Time Team excavation found no evidence of the walls of the small cell which had been seen in the geophysical survey.

A paper of mine, ‘Was there an anchoress at Colne Priory?’ was published in 2013 by The Essex Society for Archaeology and History. An excavation by Channel 4’s Time Team had uncovered a small cell which may have been that of an anchorite; one of the signatories to three late 12th century charters associated with the priory was Robert, filius recluse. This suggests the presence of a female, presumably widowed, anchorite who was well-enough known in her community to endow her son with a matronymic but who herself remained anonymous.


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Death and Judgment in Vices and Virtues

Vices and Virtues, a Middle English dialogue between the soul and Reason, existing uniquely in London, BL MS Stowe 34, was written at the turn of the thirteenth century at the time Jacques Le Goff claims Purgatory was born. It does not contain any mention of Purgatory, but it does refer to purgatorial cleansing and the possibility that the suffrages of the living can aid the dead.  (more…)

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Beyond Theory: From Body to Text?

This is the text of a paper I gave to a roundtable at the International Medieval Congress at Leeds in 2008, sponsored by the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship.

When I first saw the call for participants for this roundtable, I thought of books I’d looked at recently – Life After Theory and simply After Theory – and articles in newspapers and magazines questioning whether feminism was relevant to today’s young women (including an article in Marie Claire which asked three ad agencies to rebrand feminism).  There was also an article in the THES in January on ‘Last women standing’ on the decline and disappearance of women’s studies courses.  I thought of presenting a short paper on ‘Death of Theory: Death of the Body?’ questioning whether there is (still) a place in current literary study and criticism for feminist theory.  It seems feminism is still an issue . . . while I was preparing this, I read the email from Nicole Sidhu to the Med Fem list serv complaining of the continuing difficulty of getting feminist work published – but do we need to rethink the role feminism plays in academic studies when universities are themselves now seen as commercial providers of services to students who evaluate courses in terms of post-degree employability and income generation.

But I realised that I needed to answer a personal question: how far, if at all, did feminist theory (still) inform my own research and writing.  (more…)

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Bambi and Sir Peter Horsley

Now that all those who fought in the First World War have died, and those who fought in the Second are growing old, it is becoming more important to record their experiences. As we think about commemorating the centenary of the outbreak of the First World War, there seems to be more interest in remembrance than when I was a child. My own father, who served with the RAF at a meteorology station near Basra in Iraq, told only the odd amusing story of his time out there, and, as far as I can recall, never talked about his older brother, Frank, who was recorded as ‘missing in action’ and never came home. (more…)

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Peregrinations and Paths

Beginning of Pilgrimages
Beginning of Pilgrimages

The word ‘peregrination’ comes from the Latin peregrinatio meaning a journey through life; a pilgrimage; the act of travelling abroad or from place to place, a course of travel; the condition of living as a sojourner in a foreign land; a systematic going through a subject, writing, course of study etc  It is also the root for the English word ‘pilgrim’.

Pilgrimages remain popular, partly as a way of recovering the past. Recently a group of pilgrims walked from St Paul’s Cathedral, London to Bury St Edmunds, Suffolk, to mark the 1000th anniversary of the returning of St Edmund’s body to the shrine in the Abbey of St Edmund.


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Anonymous Then, Invisible Now: The Readers of Sermon a Dames Religioses

Paper delivered at Nuns’ Literacies Conference, Antwerp, 6th June 2013.

Incipit: Edmund of Abingdon wrote a guide to the religious life in the first part of the thirteenth century, known as the Speculum religiosorum or, in its lay form Speculum ecclesie; it is generally believed he composed it while staying at Merton Priory during the suspension of the schools at Oxford in 1213-14. The original Latin text no longer exists, although what is believed to be an accurate copy dating from the late-fourteenth or early-fifteenth century is found in Oxford Bodleian MS Hatton 26. Over the course of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, the Speculum was translated into Anglo-Norman (more…)

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Edmund of Abingdon’s Mirror of Holy Church

Edmund of Abingdon, Archbishop of Canterbury from 1234 until his death in 1240, was canonised soon after his death and a Life of St Edmund was written by Matthew Paris, but it is for his work, Speculum religiosorum (the only extant work apart from a ‘stray sermon’ [Lawrence, p. 27] and his Moralities on the Psalms, both of which remain unedited) that he is now known.  Edmund was a theologian educated in Paris and Oxford in the early days of both universities, (more…)

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Gender, Posts, Positions, Pay and Promotion: A Roundtable Discussion

At the International Medieval Congress at Leeds there was a roundtable on the evening of Monday 1st July on Gender, Posts, Positions, Pay and Promotion chaired by Liz McAvoy.

Liz McAvoy suggested I might like to contribute to this roundtable after I posted a message to the MedFem list asking about the technicalities of a British citizen applying for a job at an American university.  I joined the search for work late in life and was having no luck in applications to British universities (however apprporiate I may think my application was).  My lack of success in this search, however, means that I cannot justify the expense of attending the Leeds IMC but I still wanted to make a contribution to the discussion.  What I have to say is predicated on my personal experience, but I would like to make some comments that I hope may have a wider relevance, or at least provoke some general discussion. (more…)

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Texting the Devil

His death was both inevitable and, somehow, unexpected.  Like the proverbial creaking gate, he hadn’t been well for a long time; his blood pressure high, he was overweight and drank too much; he didn’t take any exercise.  And yet one expected him to go on.  Even when he was taken into hospital with a heart attack, I expected him to come home.  I sent him a text saying, ‘Get well you bugger.  I’m fed up with being polite.’  I found that text a few days after the funeral and wondered whether to delete it, whether to remove his number altogether.  It seemed silly to keep it in my phone memory and yet somehow disrespectful to remove it, as though I were finally removing him from my own memory.  (more…)

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