Professor Diane Watt

Professor in English and Creative Writing

Academic and research departments

School of Literature and Languages.


Areas of specialism

Medieval Literature; Gender and Sexuality; Women and Writing; Creative Nonfiction (Life Writing, History)

University roles and responsibilities

  • Chair, SLL EDI Committee
  • SLL Athena Swan Lead
  • Co-Director, SGS Research Centre

    My qualifications

    MA English Language and Literature
    University of Glasgow
    MA Medieval Studies
    University of Bristol
    DPhil Medieval English Literature
    University of Oxford

    Previous roles

    01 September 2011 - 30 August 2016
    Head of School
    Literature and Languages
    2007 - 2011
    Head of Department
    Department of English & Creative Writing, Aberystwyth University
    2006 - 2011
    Deputy Director
    Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Aberystwyth and Bangor Universities
    2003 - 2006
    Director of Graduate Studies
    Aberystwyth University
    Charles A. Owen Jr. Distinguished Visiting Professor of Medieval Studies
    University of Connecticut


    Research interests

    Research projects

    Research collaborations

    Indicators of esteem

    In 2022 I contributed to a number of seminars and conferences, including the Gender and Medieval Studies conference on RESILIENCE, PERSISTENCE, AND AGENCY at The American University of Paris on 5-7 January 2022. I delivered the 2022 Chaucer Lecture at the University of Kent on 19 May 2022.  I also gave a lecture on Margaret Paston at Mautby Church, Norfolk, on 27 July 2022, for the Paston Footprints Project, in celebration of Norfolk Day. 




    Completed postgraduate research projects I have supervised

    Postgraduate research supervision



    Diane Watt (2024)God's Own Gentlewoman Icon

    The Paston letters and papers comprise the largest archive of medieval family correspondence in the UK. They provide vivid insights into life in late medieval England and include eye-witness accounts of legal disputes, political conflicts, and in-fighting in fifteenth-century Norfolk in the turbulent decades of the Wars of the Roses. They also describe, at first hand, forbidden love affairs and clandestine marriages, family arguments and neighbourhood conflicts, battles and violent assaults, sieges and kidnappings, fear of plague and sudden deaths. The family matriarch, Margaret Paston, with the help of her scribes, was the most prolific letter writer in the collection. Her letters provide a unique woman’s perspective on life in fifteenth-century England. This project focuses on around twenty letters Margaret wrote across her lifetime, from the years immediately following her marriage to those leading up to her death. The events described in these letters become the starting point for a micro-biography – looking in detail at Margaret’s life at that moment – and for a broader exploration of social and cultural history. 

    Diane Watt (2018)Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages. By Robert Mills. Chicago University Press. 2015, In: History103(358)pp. 866-867 Wiley

    Robert Mills's generously illustrated new monograph is a welcome addition both to medieval studies and to gender and sexuality studies (including queer, transgender and feminist theory). Seeing Sodomy in the Middle Ages is an interdisciplinary study that brings together art history and literary analysis in order to explore ‘the relationship between sodomy and motifs of vision and visibility in medieval culture, on the one hand, and those categories we today call “gender” and “sexuality” on the other’ (p. 11). Mills's use of inverted commas in this quotation deliberately foregrounds the potential pitfalls of applying modern terminology to, and of adopting a modern perspective on, medieval images and texts, yet Mills makes a thoughtful and compelling case for self‐consciously and reflectively adopting what are often termed ‘strategic anachronisms’ in order to make sense of human desires in the more distant past. In interpreting the apparently invisible or unspeakable, Mills allows speculative readings to sit alongside careful historical contextualization, as evidenced in his starting point, a nuanced and adroit exploration of a remarkable miniature of St Jerome tricked into wearing a woman's dress found in the sumptuous early fifteenth‐century Belle Heures of Jean de Berry. Mills observes that medieval viewers of this image of Jerome's accidental cross‐dressing and gender inversion would understand the saint's reputation for chastity to be under attack, but they would not necessarily make a connection between effeminacy and sodomy or homoerotic desire. Nevertheless, as Mills goes on to suggest, Jean de Berry was himself subject to scandalous rumours, and so ‘although sodomy is not an explicit frame of reference . . . its deployment as a term of insult and abuse might have informed the ways in which the miniature was received’.

    Diane Watt (2021)Before Margery: The Book of Margery Kempe and its antecedents, In: Encountering The Book of Margery Kempe Manchester University Press

    The Book of Margery Kempe is often one of the earliest works by a women encountered by English literature students. As a consequence, it is sometimes read as a text without a pre-text. Yet although considerable evidence survives of English women’s engagement in a vibrant literary culture in Latin and subsequently French from the early Middle Ages onwards, the relationships between The Book of Margery Kempe and her literary antecedents are still relatively unknown or unexplored. This chapter asks what happens if we encounter The Book not at the start of a tradition or canon of women’s writing, but in the middle of one. It does not make claims for direct influences between Margery Kempe and her Book’s literary antecedents. Rather it unravels intriguing parallels with texts associated with some of the earliest women writers in the English tradition, including the eighth-century letters of Boniface’s early medieval women correspondents, Hugeburc of Heidenheim’s Hodoeporicon [or voyage narrative] of St Willibald (written c. 778–80), and Rudolf of Fulda’s Life of Leoba (written c. 836). Particular attention is paid to the treatment of travel and pilgrimage in these earlier texts that anticipate Kempe’s own accounts of her journeys around England and Europe and to the Holy Land; to the representations of the subjects’ encounters with other people, countries and cultures; and to the gendered construction of authority within the texts, and the tensions that often emerge between subject and scribe.

    Diane Watt (2012)Paston, Margaret Mautby (c.1421-1484), In: Oxford Dictionary of National Biography

    A biographical account of Margaret Paston

    D Watt (2001)Sins of Omission: Transgressive Genders, Subversive Sexualities, and Confessional Silences in John Gower’s Confessio Amantis, In: Exemplaria: a journal of theory in medieval and Renaissance studies13(2)pp. 529-551 Maney Publishing
    Laura Saetveit Miles, Diane Watt (2020)Introduction, In: Studies in the Age of Chaucer42pp. 285-293 The New Chaucer Society

    Most medievalists working on English literature would now consider Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich “canonical.” These two visionaries’ rise in modern popularity, both in research and teaching, shows the impact of the last four decades or so of ground-breaking work on women and their diverse roles in medieval English literature. Some scholars might think the surge in feminist scholarship and the canon wars of the ‘80s and ‘90s to be done, over, old news. Others would disagree. In fact, beyond these two figures, much of the rest of scholarly exploration on women’s literary culture, especially women and religious writing, doesn’t actually seem to have had the same radical effect on mainstream views of what we should read and how we should read – i.e. the canon and canonical reading practices. Why is this? What is still at stake, so many years later, in continuing the push to decentralize the canon away from male, secular writers? What more is there to learn about how “the other half” of the population shaped medieval literature, and why should we care?

    Diane Watt (2020)The Paston Women and Chaucer: Reading Women and Canon Formation in the Fifteenth Century, In: Studies in the Age of Chaucer42pp. 337-350 The New Chaucer Society

    There they stood at Paston—eleven volumes, with the poems of Lydgate and Chaucer among them, diffusing a strange air into the gaunt, comfortless house, inviting men to indolence and vanity, distracting their thoughts from business, and leading them not only to neglect their own profit but to think lightly of the sacred dues of the dead. For sometimes, instead of riding off on his horse to inspect his crops or bargain with his tenants, Sir John would sit, in broad daylight, reading. There, on the hard chair in the comfortless room with the wind lifting the carpet and the smoke stinging his eyes, he would sit reading Chaucer, wasting his time, dreaming—or what strange intoxications was it that he drew from books?

    Catherine A.M Clarke, Adam Miyashiro, Megan Cavell, Daniel Thomas, Stewart Brookes, Diane Watt (2020)Twenty-five Years of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ Studies: Looking Back, Looking Forward, In: Catherine E. Karkov, Anna Klosowska, Vincent W.J van Gerven Oei (eds.), Disturbing Times: Medieval Pasts, Reimagined Futurespp. 317-350 Punctum Books
    D Watt (2010)Why men still aren't enough, In: GLQ: a journal of lesbian and gay studies16(3)pp. 451-464 Duke University Press
    R Magnani, Diane Watt (2018)Towards a Queer Philology, In: Postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies9(3)pp. 252-268 Palgrave Macmillan
    R Magnani, Diane Watt (2018)On the Edge: Chaucer and Gower’s Queer Glosses, In: Postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies9(3)pp. 269-288 Palgrave Macmillan

    In the Introduction to the Man of Law’s Tale, the pilgrim implicitly compares favourably the poet Chaucer to his contemporary and friend Gower, stating that (unlike Gower, to whom we assume he is alluding), Chaucer ‘no word ne writeth he’ of the ‘wikke ensample’ of Canace or of the ‘cursed kyng Antiochus’ (III.77-8, 82). The reason we assume the Man of Law is alluding to Gower is that both the Tale of Canace and Machaire, and the story of Antiochus in the Tale of Apollonius of Tyre are related within Gower’s Confessio Amantis, with the latter appearing as the last and longest narrative in this expansive collection. Critics have long argued about the significance of this passage, one of a handful in their works in which the poets refer to one another either directly or indirectly. In this article, however, we are less interested in seeing in this passage evidence of either a feud or a friendly rivalry, than in thinking through what it might reveal about the ways in which these poets, and their readers, might be experimenting with ideas of authority and interpretation. Our argument here is that both Gower, Chaucer and indeed some of their readers—as revealed through the glossing of Gower’s English text, and the glossing in Chaucer’s manuscripts—are acutely aware of the risks, and sometimes the pleasures, of misprision or queer (mis-)interpretation.

    D Watt (1998)‘Behaving Like a Man? Incest, Lesbian Desire and Gender Play in Yde et Olive and its Adaptations’, In: Comparative Literature50(4)pp. 265-285 Duke University Press on behalf of the University of Oregon
    D Watt (2013)The Earliest Women's Writing? Anglo-Saxon Literary Cultures and Communities, In: Women's Writing20(4)pp. 537-554 Taylor & Francis

    Who were the first women writers in the English literary tradition? This question continues to preoccupy feminist scholars in the twenty-first century, but very few would look back to the centuries before the Norman invasions in order to find the answer. Focusing on the religious houses of Ely and Whitby in the seventh and early eighth centuries this article reviews some of the surviving evidence of the first monastic women’s writing. Looking for traces of early texts by women, it re-examines the lives of the Abbesses Æthelthryth of Ely and Hild of Whitby found in the fourth book of Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, alongside the account of Hild found in the Old English Martyrology, and, more speculatively, it reconsiders the case for women’s involvement in the production of the anonymous first Life of Gregory the Great. This article argues that texts by women were ‘overwritten’ by the earliest male monastic writers, a process reinforced by later scholarship. By focusing on texts associated with religious houses ruled by women, and by seeing them as the productions not of individuals but of communities, it is possible to get a fuller and more balanced understanding of women’s writing in this earliest period of English literary history.

    D Watt (2017)A Fragmentary Archive: Migratory Feelings in Early Anglo-Saxon Women’s Letters, In: Journal of Homosexuality64(3)pp. 415-429

    The letters by Anglo-Saxon women in the Boniface correspondence are connected by cultural practices and emotions centred on the conversion mission that functioned to maintain connections between the Anglo-Saxon diaspora. A striking recurring focus of these letters is on loss and isolation, which connects them to the Old English elegies. Many of the letters describe the writers’ traumatic experiences that result from the death or absence of kin. These are women who endured the trauma of being left behind when others migrated overseas, or who in travelling away from their homeland, found themselves isolated in an alien environment, displaced in time as well as space. This article offers an analysis of the letters, focusing on the queer temporalities they explore, the queer emotions they evoke, and the queer kinships that they forge. It argues that the women’s letters represent fragments of an early queer archive of migratory feelings.

    C Mahn, D Watt (2014)Relighting the Fire: Visualizing the Lesbian in Contemporary India, In: Journal of Lesbian Studies18(3)pp. 223-236 Routledge, Taylor & Francis

    This article revisits the controversy surrounding Deepa Mehta’s Fire (1996), India’s first publicly-released film depicting female same-sex desire. The film has become a touchstone for discussions of the representation of queer and LGBT lives in India. While the majority of critical accounts of the film have rejected the use of “lesbian” on the basis of its Anglo-American specificity, this article seeks to recast lesbians at the heart of Fire by filtering them through the lens of transnational protest, and by offering a close reading of the film’s own play on religious and cultural symbolism. Viewed almost two decades after its release, in the light of the Delhi rape case of December 2012 and subsequent events, including the upholding of a law criminalizing gay sex in November 2013, the film now more than ever seems to offer a fantasy of the future, rather than a viable reality in the present day. Within Fire, the circumnavigation of heteronormative power and desire is certainly queer, but the film's labelling as “lesbian” subsequent to its release in India opened up an important public forum for a debate about female desire and independence that continues to resonate today. This article does not attempt to offer a conclusive argument about the use of the term “lesbian” to label the relationship between women that is depicted within the film, but it does examine the way in which the film itself visualizes desire between women, and in particular the use of Hindu narratives, imagery and motifs. The film’s interpellation into lesbian politics is facilitated by the strong emphasis on a female-centred desire that is not defined by motherhood, that cannot be contained, and that demands to be seen.

    The twentieth and twenty-first centuries have seen a sustained recovery of women’s writing across the Globe. Yet despite this process of reclamation, in the period between 500 and 1500 CE, there were still far fewer women authors. While it is difficult to generalize about the challenges that faced women writers living and working in diverse civilizations and centuries, barriers arising from the perceived inferiority of women, such as their exclusion from definitions of, and positions of, authority and their more limited access to formal education, as well as their frequent confinement to the domestic sphere, were all too present in a wide array of cultures. Much of the early women’s writing that does survive--in the Middle East, Africa, and Asia as well as in Europe–is spiritual or devotional in content, no doubt because it was primarily through religion that women could claim a voice otherwise denied to them. Yet we do know that women also composed works on secular matters–in the form of court poetry or personal letters, to give just two examples. Furthermore, the last three decades of research into medieval women’s writing have offered far greater insights into the complexities of women’s engagements with literary texts, not only as writers, but also as archivists, commentators, compilers, patrons, readers, scribes, and translators. Consequently, this encyclopedia includes works for as well as by women across the Globe, to give a fuller picture of women’s literary culture in the period under scrutiny, the thousand-year period between what is, in Western terms, 500-1500 CE.

    Diane Watt, Corinne Saunders (2023)Women and Medieval Literary Culture Cambridge University Press

    This multi-authored reference volume treats the complex relationships of women with medieval literary culture from the early Middle Ages to the sixteenth century. While the primary emphasis is on England, the volume also includes Latin, French, German, Welsh and Gaelic literary culture. It places writing within Britain in a wider European context, and also looks beyond this, for instance, to Arabic influences on European writing. Essays explore book production and authorship; receptionl linguistic, literary, and cultural contexts and influences; women’s education and spheres of knowledge; women as writers, scribes and translators; women as patrons, readers and book owners;  and women as subjects. Providing a long view, the volume surveys women’s literary culture from the early Middle Ages through to the eve of the Reformation and emphasises the multilingual and multicultural contexts of women’s literary culture, looking beyond England to consider wider British, European and Arabic influences.

    Biographical essay on Margaret Paston.

    D Watt (2009)John Gower, In: L Scanlon (eds.), The Cambridge companion to medieval English literature, 1100-1500pp. 153-164 Cambridge University Press
    D Watt (1997)Secretaries of God. D.S. Brewer

    Diane Watt sets aside the conventional hiatus between the medieval and early modern periods in her study of women's prophecy, following the female experience from medieval sainthood to radical Protestantism. The English women prophets and visionaries whose voices are recovered here all lived between the twelfth and the seventeenth centuries and claimed, through the medium of trances and eucharistic piety, to speak for God. They include Margery Kempe and the medieval visionaries, Elizabeth Barton (the Holy Maid of Kent), the Reformation martyr Anne Askew and other godly women described in John Foxe's Acts and Monuments, and Lady Eleanor Davies as an example of a woman prophet of the Civil War. The strategies women devised to be heard and read are exposed, showing that through prophecy they were often able to intervene in the religious and political discourse of the their times: the role of God's secretary gave them the opportunity to act and speak autonomously and publicly.

    Diane Watt sets aside the conventional hiatus between the medieval and early modern periods in her study of women's prophecy, following the female experience from medieval sainthood to radical Protestantism. The English women prophets and visionaries whose voices are recovered here all lived between the twelfth and the seventeenth centuries and claimed, through the medium of trances and eucharistic piety, to speak for God. They include Margery Kempe and the medieval visionaries, Elizabeth Barton (the Holy Maid of Kent), the Reformation martyr Anne Askew and other godly women described in John Foxe's Acts and Monuments, and Lady Eleanor Davies as an example of a woman prophet of the Civil War. The strategies women devised to be heard and read are exposed, showing that through prophecy they were often able to intervene in the religious and political discourse of the their times: the role of God's secretary gave them the opportunity to act and speak autonomously and publicly.

    D Watt (2003)Amoral Gower. Language, Sex, and Politics38 University of Minnesota Press

    “Moral Gower” he was called by friend and sometime rival Geoffrey Chaucer, and his “Confessio Amantis” has been viewed as an uncomplicated analysis of the universe, combining erotic narratives with ethical guidance and political commentary. Diane Watt offers the first sustained reading of John Gower’s “Confessio” to argue that this early vernacular text offers no real solutions to the ethical problems it raises—and in fact actively encourages perverse readings. Drawing on a combination of queer and feminist theory, ethical criticism, and psychoanalytic, historicist, and textual criticism, Watt focuses on the language, sex, and politics in Gower’s writing. How, she asks, is Gower’s “Confessio” related to contemporary controversies over vernacular translation and debates about language politics? How is Gower’s treatment of rhetoric and language gendered and sexualized, and what bearing does this have on the ethical and political structure of the text? What is the relationship between the erotic, ethical, and political sections of “Confessio Amantis”? Watt demonstrates that Gower engaged in the sort of critical thinking more commonly associated with Chaucer and William Langland at the same time that she contributes to modern debates about the ethics of criticism.

    Contemporary ideals of science representing disinterested and objective fields of investigation have their origins in the seventeenth century. However, 'new science' did not simply or uniformly replace earlier beliefs about the workings of the natural world, but entered into competition with them. It is this complex process of competition and negotiation concerning ways of seeing the natural world that is charted by the essays in this book. The collection traces the many overlaps between 'literary' and 'scientific' discourses as writers in this period attempted both to understand imaginatively and empirically the workings of the natural world, and shows that a discrete separation between such discourses and spheres is untenable. The collection is designed around four main themes-'Philosophy, Thought and Natural Knowledge', 'Religion, Politics and the Natural World', 'Gender, Sexuality and Scientific Thought' and 'New Worlds and New Philosophies.' Within these themes, the contributors focus on the contests between different ways of seeing and understanding the natural world in a wide range of writings from the period: in poetry and art, in political texts, in descriptions of real and imagined colonial landscapes, as well as in more obviously 'scientific' documents.

    LH McAvoy, D Watt (2011)Writing a History of Women's Writing from 700 to 1500, In: LH McAvoy, D Watt (eds.), The History of British Women's Writing, 700-1500pp. 1-30 Palgrave Macmillan

    How can a history of British women’s writing be written? Such a project must necessarily be collaborative if it is to attempt to be comprehensive, but even then any claim to comprehensiveness has to be qualified: paradoxically the more expansive the history, the more partial it will be. The challenges of writing such a history are perhaps even greater for scholars working in the early periods because we are forced to confront and to rethink many deeply ingrained assumptions about women’s writing. This introductory essay focuses on a period of literary history that is often marginalized in accounts of women’s writing in English: the Middle Ages. It is a widely accepted view that there are only two women writers in English in the period before 1500, and therefore there is little to be said for an age (or ages) when women writers were so much an exception. Furthermore, the two medieval English women writers whose names are widely known, Julian of Norwich (1342/3-after 1416) and Margery Kempe (c.1373-after 1439), did not think of themselves as writers or authors. Nor were they responsible for literature as it is thought of today—they did not compose poetry, or romances, or fiction of any sort. Even these two ‘named’ women writers do not comfortably fit established evolutionary models of women’s literary history over the longue durée, with their emphases on the spread of literacy, the bias towards print culture, and the emergence of the woman poet, and ultimately of the professional author of drama or fiction. Yet the difficulty of locating how the medieval period fits in to literary history is not unique to women’s writing: medieval understandings of authorship, literature, and national identity, and the contexts and processes of writing and textual circulation were quite distinct from later periods and therefore deemed problematic more generally. This essay explores some of these issues and reflects on the difficulties we face writing a history of early women's writing.

    D Watt (1997)Medieval women in their communities University of Wales Press

    The lives of women in religious communities in late medieval Europe are the main focus of this volume which brings together a body of original research by historians and literary scholars and disucsses a variety of such communities in France, Germany and Wales. The perspective is also broadened to include the lives of women in relation to the local community in places as far apart as East Anglia and southern Italy.

    D Watt (2008)St Julian of the Apocalypse, In: LH McAvoy (eds.), A companion to Julian of Norwichpp. 64-74 DS Brewer

    In this essay, I explore Julian of Norwich's relationship to a other women prophets in England in the later Middle Ages, focusing particularly on both the recluse, then nun and, later, prioress, Christina of Markyate (c.1096-after 1155), and Julian’s younger East-Anglian lay contemporary, Margery Kempe (c.1373-after 1439).

    R Phillips, D Watt, D Shuttleton (2000)De-centring sexualities. Politics and representations beyond the metropolis Routlegde, Taylor & Francis

    This book of critical rural geography breaks new ground by drawing attention to sex and sexualities outside the metropolis. It explores sexualities and sexual experiences in a variety of rural and marginal spaces with international contributions from a wide range of disciplines. These include: literary and cultural studies, lesbian and gay studies, geography, history and law. Among the topics uncovered are: * a lesbian in rural England * sexual life in rural Wales * sexuality in rural South Africa * scandal in the American South: sex, race and politics * nature and homosexuality in literature * Derry/Londonderry as a sexual space * how 'country folk' are sexualised in popular culture.

    D Watt (1994)‘Nationalism in Barbour’s Bruce,’, In: Parergonn.s. 1pp. 89-107
    D Watt (1993)‘”No Writing for Writing’s Sake”: The Language of Service and Household Rhetoric in the Letters of the Paston Women', In: K Cherewatuk, U Wiethaus (eds.), Dear Sisterpp. 122-138 Univ of Pennsylvania Pr

    Explored in this book are women's contributions to letter writing in western Europe from the sixth to the sixteenth centuries.

    Diane Watt (2018)Queer Manuscripts, In: postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies - special issue9(3) Palgrave Macmillan
    D Watt, EH McAvoy (2016)Women's Literary Culture and Late Medieval English Writing, In: The Chaucer Review51(1)1pp. 3-10 Penn State University Press
    D Watt (1996)The Prophet at Home: Elizabeth Barton and the Influence of Bridget of Sweden and Catherine of Siena, In: R Voaden (eds.), Prophets abroadpp. 161-176 Boydell & Brewer

    Essays on the influence of continental holy women on their English counterparts.

    Medieval Women's Writing is a major new contribution to our understanding of women's writing in England, 1100-1500. The most comprehensive account to date, it includes writings in Latin and French as well as English, and works for as well as by women. Marie de France, Clemence of Barking, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, and the Paston women are discussed alongside the Old English lives of women saints, The Life of Christina of Markyate, the St Albans Psalter, and the legends of women saints by Osbern Bokenham. Medieval Women's Writing addresses these key questions: Who were the first women authors in the English canon? What do we mean by women's writing in the Middle Ages? What do we mean by authorship? How can studying medieval writing contribute to our understanding of women's literary history? Diane Watt argues that female patrons, audiences, readers, and even subjects contributed to the production of texts and their meanings, whether written by men or women. Only an understanding of textual production as collaborative enables us to grasp fully women's engagement with literary culture. This radical rethinking of early womens literary history has major implications for all scholars working on medieval literature, on ideas of authorship, and on women's writing in later periods.

    D Watt (2010)Authorizing Female Piety, In: EM Treharne, G Walker, W Green (eds.), The Oxford Handbook of Medieval Literature in Englishpp. 240-255 Oxford University Press

    This essay explores aspects of female religious authority in England from the Anglo-Saxon period until the end of the Middle Ages. It addresses questions of theory and methodology and offer new analyses of some familiar medieval women visionaries. One key problem in any consideration of women and piety that extends across several hundred years is the imposition of a teleology or narrative of decline. Aristocratic religious women certainly appeared to have more power in the period before the Norman Conquest. Another difficulty is the absence of a continuous tradition of women’s religious writing. How familiar were the writers of English devotional texts by, for, or about women in the later Middle Ages with earlier models of female piety and their visions and writings? In exploring and negotiating these issues, this essay will look at a range of pious women from different periods, starting with the narratives of holy women and nuns in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History (especially the nuns of Barking, Etheldreda or ᴁthelthryth, and Hild), moving on to Christina of Markyate in the twelfth century, and finishing with Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, and the anonymous visionary (probably recluse) of Winchester responsible for the early fifteenth-century ‘Revelation of Purgatory’. Important themes to be explored include the centrality of visions of dying, death and the afterlife, and their significance in the authorizing of female piety and in the construction of communities of devout women

    LH McAvoy, Diane Watt (2012)The History of British Women's Writing, 700-15001 Palgrave Macmillan

    This volume focuses on a period of literary history that is often marginalized in accounts of women’s writing in English. It argues that the picture of women’s writing in Britain in the period before 1500 is a very complex one. Britain was, then as now, multicultural and multilingual. At the same time, Britain enjoyed close links to the continent. These factors have to be taken into account in looking at the earliest women’s writing. Works in Latin and French need to be considered alongside works translated into English and/or circulated in England. Furthermore a wide range of genres of writing not normally thought of as ‘literary’ has to be examined. Equally important in considering women’s writing in this period are the dismantling of the boundaries between translation and authorship; a widening of focus to include anonymous and collaborative authorship; and a wider consideration of women’s engagement with literary production and culture.

    D Watt (1999)‘Literary Genealogy, Virile Rhetoric and John Gower’s Confessio Amantis,’, In: Philological Quarterly: devoted to scholarly investigation of the classical and modern languages and literatures78pp. 387-413
    D Watt (2004)Gender and Sexuality, In: S Echard (eds.), A companion to Gowerpp. 197-213 Ds Brewer

    An introduction to Gower and his work, focusing on his sources, historical context and literary tradition; special attention is paid to Confessio Amantis.

    D Watt (2004)Critics, Communities and Compassionate Criticism: Learning from The Book of Margery Kempe, In: L D'Arcens, JF Ruys (eds.), Maistresse of my witpp. 191-210 Brepols Publishers
    D Watt (2012)'Margery Kempe'. In Oxford Bibliographies in British and Irish Literature. Ed. Andrew Hadfield. New York: Oxford University Press

    This online annotated bibliography introduces the reader to key criticism and studies of The Book of Margery Kempe and its contexts. It offers an overview of the field, followed by a review of scholarly texts, editions, text books and translations, and anthologies. Covering religious and historical contexts, it looks at mysticism, hagiography, orthodoxy and heterodoxy, English and European contexts, and geographies of belief. It considers issues of authority, authorship and voice, and of gender and sexuality, including feminist approaches, queer readings, and studies of the body. The final sections look at Kempe's reputation and the afterlife of the Book and at fictionalizations of Kempe's life.

    D Watt (2012)Literature in Pieces: female sanctity and the relics of early women’s writing (500-1150), In: CA Lees (eds.), The Cambridge History of Early Medieval English Literature(14) Cambridge University Press
    D Watt (1997)Read My Lips: Clippyng and Kyssyng in the Early Sixteenth Century, In: A Livia, K Hall (eds.), Queerly phrasedpp. 167-177 Oxford University Press, USA

    This text examines the relationship between language and the construction of gender and sexuality.

    D Watt (2012)Lost Books: Abbess Hildelith and the Literary Culture of Barking Abbey., In: Philological Quarterly91(1)pp. 1-22 Department of English, University of English

    This article explores the literary culture of Barking Abbey, a vital centre of Anglo-Saxon learning, when it was under the rule of its second abbess, Hildelith, in the late seventh and early eighth century. Particular attention is given to the intersection of lived practice at Barking and the literary record, focusing on three pieces of evidence: Bede’s account of the early history of Barking in his Ecclesiastical History, written in 731; Aldhelm’s De Virginitate (c.675-680), which was written for Hildelith and her fellow nuns; and a letter written by Boniface around 716 in which he relates the vision of the monk of Much Wenlock. Taken together, the three texts reveal that, under the rule of the academically-minded Abbess Hildelith, Barking Abbey was at the centre of a vibrant network of textual exchange between the abbess and nuns and prominent churchmen and other religious communities.

    N Giffney, MM Sauer, D Watt (2011)The Lesbian Premodern Palgrave MacMillan

    When has using the term “lesbian” not been considered an anachronistic gesture? This question lies at the heart of this important new collection of essays. The Lesbian Premodern engages key scholars in the field of lesbian studies and queer theory in an innovative conversation in print. Transgressing traditional period boundaries The Lesbian Premodern challenges those interested primarily in contemporary lesbian theory, history and literature to pay full attention to significant and often overlooked theoretical, empirical and textual work on female same-sex desire and identity in premodern cultures. This provocative and innovative collective book offers a radical new methodology for writing lesbian history, geography, literary criticism and theory.

    D Watt (1997)‘Reconstructing the Word: The Prophecies of Elizabeth Barton,’, In: Renaissance Quarterly50pp. 132-159
    D Watt (2004)Margery Kempe and the Prophetic Tradition, In: J Arnold, KJ Lewis (eds.), A companion to The book of Margery Kempepp. 145-160 Ds Brewer

    Margery Kempe and her Book studied in both literary and historical context.

    D Watt, CA Lees (2011)Age and Desire in the Old English Mary of Egypt: A Queerer Time and Place?, In: S Niebrzydowski (eds.), Middle-Aged Women in the Middle Ages(6)pp. 53-68 D.S. Brewer

    This article offers a reading of the Life of Mary of Egypt that addresses issues of time, age, gender and desire within this Old English saints’ life. Our concerns are not, however, limited to these themes within a specific early medieval text but they extend to the discipline of medieval literary studies more widely. Our work on this text, separately and collectively, prompts us to examine broader critical issues concerning temporality, gender, sexuality and medieval studies. We have a dual focus: we offer a rethinking of the Life of Mary of Egypt and we demonstrate how that rethinking has benefitted from our collaborative efforts to understand core questions about the field we study as scholars of Anglo-Saxon and later Medieval Studies. When were the Middle Ages? Whose Middle Ages are they? Are they the Middle Ages of Anglo-Saxonists as well? At what point do the Middle Ages of Anglo-Saxonists and Medievalists meet?

    D Watt (2001)Medieval Millenarianism and Prophecy, In: S Hunt (eds.), Christian millenarianismpp. 88-97 C. Hurst & Co. Publishers

    This timely book examines the impact of Christian millenarian ideas from a comparative and historical perspective, with a special emphasis on contemporary ...

    D Watt (2012)Margery Kempe, In: LH McAvoy, D Watt (eds.), The History of British Women's Writing, 700-1500Ipp. 232-240 Palgrave Mcmillan

    While some critical scrutiny has been given to Kempe’s relationships with her male spiritual advisors, and the extent to which she relied on them to authorize her controversial piety, other scholars have paid close attention to the ways in which she framed her spirituality around her experiences as a mother. Some, most significantly Kathy Lavezzo, have focused not on biological relationships, but instead examined the importance of female same-sex bonding within the Book. Yet a gap remains within feminist scholarship on The Book of Margery Kempe: consideration of Kempe’s troubled, earthly (though not strictly or narrowly familial or spiritual) relationships with other women. In this essay I look at two examples of such marginalized female presences in The Book – Margery Kempe’s daughter-in-law and her maid—which appear in the thematically and structurally foregrounded accounts of her major overseas pilgrimages. My focus is, then, not on the women who love Margery Kempe, but on those who do not.

    D Watt (1996)The Posthumous Reputation of the Holy Maid of Kent, In: Recusant History23pp. 148-158
    D Watt (2016)Small Consolation: Goscelin of Saint-Bertin's Liber confortatorius and Pearl, In: Chaucer Review: a journal of medieval studies and literary criticism51(1) Penn State University Press

    Goscelin of Saint-Bertin wrote the Liber confortatorius for Eve of Wilton sometime shortly after 1080, following Eve’s decision to leave England and become a recluse in Angers. It takes the form of an extended letter ostensibly offering guidance to the recluse in her new spiritual life. The Liber confortatorius is significant because it is the earliest surviving guide for a female recluse in the English literary tradition. Other famous later examples of such works include Ælred of Rievaulx’s De institutione inclusarum, and the Middle English Ancrene Wisse. Yet Goscelin’s text is very different from these later examples, not least because, despite its form and avowed intention, its emphasis is far less on giving advice and on regulating the conduct of the recluse than on describing the author’s sense of abandonment and loss. As a book of consolation, it seems to be directed more to the needs of the author-narrator than to those of the reader, whether Eve or any other recluse or individual seeking spiritual comfort. In this respect, I suggest that the Liber confortatorius is closer to the Middle-English poem Pearl than to other later anchoritic works. Within the Liber, Goscelin develops to its fullest extent the metaphor of the recluse as dead to the world, a metaphor which was to become a commonplace in later anchoritic literature. Even though she is still alive at the time of writing, Eve, as Goscelin conjures her, resembles a spirit reanimated, who, from the afterlife brings to the bereaved writer consolation, and perhaps some spiritual guidance. The Liber thus seems to anticipate Pearl, in which the dreamer encounters the spirit of one he has lost, and indeed there are rather striking similarities between the two texts, both of which focus on the ambiguous, troubling, relationship between an adult man stricken by grief, and an idealized and virginal girl or young woman. Yet, thinking through fully the connections between the Liber confortatorius and Pearl, forces to confront the differences between the two texts.

    D Watt (2002)Consuming Passions in Book 8 of John Gower’s Confessio Amantis, In: LH McAvoy, T Walters (eds.), Consuming narrativespp. 28-41 University Of Wales Press
    D Watt (2004)The Paston women: Selected letters DS Brewer

    The Paston letters form one of only two surviving collections of fifteenth-century correspondence, in their case especially rich in letters from the women of the family. Clandestine love affairs, secret marriages, violent family rows, bickering with neighbours, battles and sieges, threats of murder and kidnapping, fears of plague: these are just some of the topics discussed in the letters of the Paston women. Diane Watt's introduction seeks to place these letters in the context of medieval women's writing and and medieval letter writing. Her interpretive essay reconstructs the lives of these women by examining what the letters reveal about women's literacy and education, life in the medieval household, religion and piety, health and medicine, and love, marriage, family relationships, and female friendships in the middle ages.

    D Watt (2006)Margery Kempe's Overseas Pilgrimages, In: CA Lees, GR Overing (eds.), A place to believe in Pennsylvania State Univ Pr

    Medievalists have much to gain from a thoroughgoing contemplation of place.

    D Watt (2015)Mary the Physician: Women, Religion and Medicine in the Middle Ages, In: Medicine, Religion and Gender in Medieval Culture(1)pp. 27-44 D S Brewer

    Current preoccupations with the body have led to a growing interest in the intersections between religion, literature and the history of medicine, and, more specifically, how they converge within a given culture. This collection of essays explores the ways in which aspects of medieval culture were predicated upon an interaction between medical and religious discourses, particularly those inflected by contemporary gendered ideologies. The essays interrogate this convergence broadly in a number of different ways: textually, conceptually, historically, socially and culturally. They argue for an inextricable relationship between the physical and spiritual in accounts of health, illness and disability, and demonstrate how medical, religious and gender discourses were integrated in medieval culture

    D Watt (1999)A Note on John Dering’s Tract de Duplice Spiritu, In: Notes and Queries: for readers and writers, collectors and librarians244pp. 326-328