Prof. Clare Lees (Institute of English Studies, University of London)
Full-day, from 10.00 - 17.00
Maximum: 15 students
Venue: Senate House

This course will explore the role of women in the making of medieval manuscripts, taking Latin manuscripts from the early Middle Ages as our examples.  Central to this day course will be questions of female patronage, scribal culture, literary production and collaboration.  We will look at women’s engagement with one of the earliest histories of the Life of Gregory the Great, associated with Whitby in the earliest centuries of the medieval period and preserved in a unique continental manuscript at the monastery of St Gall.  We will also consider women’s patronage of poetry and history (using the cases of Abbess Hild of Whitby, Leoba of Tauberbischofsheim, and the eleventh-century Encomium Emmae of Queen Emma).  We will also explore questions of queer manuscript culture and modern, illuminations of the past made by contemporary women artists.  The module assumes no prior knowledge of early medieval English or Latin palaeography, although it welcomes those who have some prior knowledge as well.  This course will use digital materials; students will be expected to work from their laptops, phones, or tablets, or to share them if possible.


Manuscripts for this course are available on-line and we will be exploring them in class. 

For editions and preliminary critical analysis, see:

B. Colgrave, ed. and trans. The Earliest Life of Gregory the Great (1966), Encomium Emmae Reginae, ed. and trans. A. Campbell, rev. Simon Keynes

Clare A. Lees and Gillian R. Overing, ‘Women and the Origins of English Literature’, in The History of British Women’s Writing, vol. 1, ed. Elizabeth McAvoy and Diane Watt (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2013), pp. 31-40

Lees, ‘Women Write the Past: Medieval Scholarship, Old English and New Literature,’ Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 93.2 (2017), 3-22

Elizabeth Tyler, England in Europe: English Royal Women and Literary Patronage c. 1000-1150 (2017).

For general reference and further reading, see also:

Clare A. Lees, ed. The Cambridge History of Early Medieval English Literature (2013)

Diane Watt and Roberta Magnani, eds., Queer Manuscripts, special issue, postmedieval 9.3 (2018).

All Latin texts are supplied also in English translation.