Rosemary Woolf Fellow & Tutor in Old and Middle English; Associate Professor of English
At Somerville, I teach Old English to first-year students and Middle English to the second years.
I also supervise finalists who have chosen to write dissertations on Anglo-Saxon or later medieval topics and authors.
In the English Faculty, I teach a wide variety of medieval literature to undergraduates, though I particularly enjoy lecturing on religious texts and cultures of the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In conjunction with these lectures, I regularly take students to workshops in the Ashmolean, where we have the opportunity to view, handle and discuss the Museum’s extensive collection of devotional objects. I also play a role in the provision of teaching for second and third-year students who have chosen to specialise in the literature and language of the medieval period (we call this Course 2). At graduate level, I supervise a range of MSt and DPhil students, particularly those who work on religious and biblical literature, and on devotional texts written by and for women. Current and recent DPhil students have worked on the language of suffering in thirteenth-century pastoral texts for women, the practice of prayer in early medieval and contemporary contexts, the manuscripts of devotional texts, and the Wycliffite translation of the Bible.
In my own research, I am interested in English religious literature of the early Middle Ages, particularly that which was intended for the use of female audiences. At the moment I am working on a collection of thirteenth-century prayers which were apparently composed for (and possibly by) a group of women living on the borders between England and Wales. These women seem to have been highly intelligent individuals, very possibly from wealthy backgrounds. Yet they chose to spend their lives in seclusion, voluntarily locked into small cells in which they could focus their attention on God. I am fascinated by what motivated them to live such lives, and by the books that they read in their isolation. My edition of these prayers (known collectively as the ‘Wooing Group’) is to be published by Liverpool University Press. Below is a list of my further publications.
English Psalms in the Middle Ages, 1300-1450 (OUP, 2015)
‘‘In eching for the best’: The Fourteenth-Century Prose Psalter and the Art of Psalm Translation’ in Leneghan and Atkin (eds.), The Psalms and Medieval English Literature (Boydell and Brewer, 2017)
‘The Wycliffite Psalms’ in Solopova (ed.), The Wycliffite Bible: Origin, History and Interpretation (Brill, 2016)
‘Psalms as Polemic: The Middle English Translation Debate’ in Suerbaum, Thompson and Southcombe (eds.), Polemic: Language as Violence in Medieval and Early Modern Discourse (Ashgate, 2015)
‘Julian of Norwich’ in Taylor (ed.), The Handbook of Women Biblical Interpreters (Baker Publishing Group, 2012)
‘Performing the Penitential Psalms in the Middle Ages’ in Suerbaum and Gragnolati (eds.) Aspects of the Performative in the Middle Ages (De Gruyter, 2010)
‘Comfortable Wordis’: The Role of the Bible in The Doctrine of the Heart’ in Renevey and Whitehead (eds.), A Companion to the Doctrine of the Heart (University of Exeter Press, 2010)
‘The Middle English Mystics and the Bible’ in Rowland, Joynes, Lemon, Mason and Roberts (eds.), The Blackwell Companion to the Bible in English Literature (Wiley-Blackwell, 2009)
‘English Psalms in the Middle Ages’, Bodleian Library Record, 28 (2009)
‘All my rites of holy church: Julian of Norwich and the liturgy’ in Herbert McAvoy (ed.), A Companion to Julian of Norwich (Boydell and Brewer, 2008)
‘Biblical Text and Spiritual Experience in Richard Rolle’s English Epistles’, The Review of English Studies, New Series, 56, no. 227 (2005), 695-711
‘The Chastising of God’s Children – A neglected text’ in Barr and Hutchison (eds.), Text and Controversy from Wyclif to Bale – Essays in Honour of Anne Hudson (Brepols, 2005)
‘‘oure feyth is groundyd in goddes worde’ – Julian of Norwich and the Bible’ in Jones (ed.), The Medieval Mystical Tradition Exeter Symposium VII (Boydell and Brewer, 2004)
‘The dating and authorship of the Cloud corpus – a reassessment of the evidence’ Medium Aevum vol. lxxi, 2002, 82-100