Professor Diane Watt

Professor of Medieval Literature
+44 (0)1483 683779
19 AD 02
Tuesdays 2-3pm and 4-5pm and Thursdays 3-4pm. These will be held virtually so please email me.

Academic and research departments

School of Literature and Languages.


Areas of specialism

Medieval Literature; Gender and Sexuality; Women and Writing

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 Postgraduate Studies
Aberystwyth University
Charles A. Owen Jr. Distinguished Visiting Professor of Medieval Studies
University of Connecticut


In the media

Love, Ecgburg by Mary Wellesley
New York Review of Books
Forgotten Voices: Early Medieval Women Writers
The Medieval Magazine
Women Writers Were Overlooked
BBC History Magazine Christmas 2019


Research interests

Research projects

Research collaborations

Indicators of esteem

This academic year I am contributing to a number of seminars, and conferences including:

14 October 2020: Medieval English Research Seminar, University of Oxford 

9 March 2021: Medieval Literatures Seminar, University of York

15-16 April 2021: The Personal Correspondence in English, 1400-Present conference, Northampton University



Completed postgraduate research projects I have supervised

Postgraduate research supervision

My teaching

Courses I teach on

Postgraduate taught


My publications


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?
D Watt (2012)Margery Kempe, In: 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.
This thesis explores how contemporary postcolonial women writers reclaim a new position of writing that I define as postcolonial feminine writing, which mirrors and transcends the storytelling of Shahrazad in terms of theme and structure. Postcolonial feminine writing as a concept is drawn out of Frantz Fanon’s ‘Algeria Unveiled’, Hélène Cixous’s ‘The Laugh of Medusa’ and Shahrazad’s storytelling. The intersection of these theories and narrative styles allows for an interrogation into how it is not only possible for women writers to operate within patriarchal narrative discourse, but also how it is possible to undo and re-imagine the very norms of the patriarchal discourse from within. Thus, this concept offers an alternative to colonial and patriarchal discourses by questioning how non-Western women are denied access to voice as well as different power structures such as honour and the gaze and by seeking ways to move beyond these restrictions. I question the extent to which Shahrazad is employed as a liberating figure in contemporary postcolonial women’s narratives. The following chapters locate the potential of Shahrazadean narrative in Hanan al- Shaykh’s One Thousand and One Nights (2011), Elif Shafak’s The Gaze (2006), and Honour (2012) in order to challenge and re-imagine societal norms and structures. I argue that postcolonial feminine writing enables Shafak and al-Shaykh to re-create liberating spaces and rethink patriarchal literary discourses as embodied. By demonstrating how Shahrazad uses her body to access a narrative voice and intertwines narrative desire with sexual desire, I trace the potential of voice to the body through postcolonial feminine writing. Then, I identify how postcolonial feminine writing enables multiple and fluid gazing positions, allowing marginalised figures to be subjects of the gaze and re-define their gender and societal identities. By questioning the patriarchal binary oppositions of voice/silence and honour/shame, I explore how it is also possible for silence and shame to be alternative forms of communication. Consequently, I argue that postcolonial feminine writing enables temporary interventions into patriarchal and colonial discourses. It is the repetition of these interventions, albeit temporary, that undermines patriarchal power structures whilst re- inventing more subversive and liberating discourses as well as embodied potentialities.
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 (2010)Why men still aren't enough, In: GLQ: a journal of lesbian and gay studies16(3)pp. 451-464 Duke University Press
D Watt (2006)Margery Kempe's Overseas Pilgrimages, In: A place to believe in Pennsylvania State Univ Pr
Medievalists have much to gain from a thoroughgoing contemplation of place.
D Watt (2004)Margery Kempe and the Prophetic Tradition, In: 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 (2004)Critics, Communities and Compassionate Criticism: Learning from The Book of Margery Kempe, In: Maistresse of my witpp. 191-210 Brepols Publishers
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.
Explored in this book are women's contributions to letter writing in western Europe from the sixth to the sixteenth centuries.
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.
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, CA Lees (2011)Age and Desire in the Old English Mary of Egypt: A Queerer Time and Place?, In: Middle-Aged Women in the Middle Ages(6)pp. 53-68 DS 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 (2004)Gender and Sexuality, In: 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 (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 (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 (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
D Watt (2010)Authorizing Female Piety, In: 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
D Watt (2009)John Gower, In: The Cambridge companion to medieval English literature, 1100-1500pp. 153-164 Cambridge University Press
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 (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 (1997)Read My Lips: Clippyng and Kyssyng in the Early Sixteenth Century, In: Queerly phrasedpp. 167-177 Oxford University Press, USA
This text examines the relationship between language and the construction of gender and sexuality.
D Watt (2008)St Julian of the Apocalypse, In: 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).
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.
Essays on the influence of continental holy women on their English counterparts.
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 (2001)Medieval Millenarianism and Prophecy, In: 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 ...
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.
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.
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.
D Watt (2002)Consuming Passions in Book 8 of John Gower’s Confessio Amantis, In: Consuming narrativespp. 28-41 University Of Wales Press
LH McAvoy, D Watt (2011)Writing a History of Women's Writing from 700 to 1500, In: 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)‘Reconstructing the Word: The Prophecies of Elizabeth Barton,’, In: Renaissance Quarterly50pp. 132-159
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
R Magnani, Diane Watt (2018)Towards a Queer Philology, In: Postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies9(3)pp. 252-268 Palgrave Macmillan
Diane Watt (2018)Queer Manuscripts, In: postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies - special issue9(3) Palgrave Macmillan
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.
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’.
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 (1996)The Posthumous Reputation of the Holy Maid of Kent, In: Recusant History23pp. 148-158
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.
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: Disturbing Times: Medieval Pasts, Reimagined Futurespp. 317-350 Punctum Books
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 (1994)‘Nationalism in Barbour’s Bruce,’, In: Parergonn.s. 1pp. 89-107
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.
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 (2012)Literature in Pieces: female sanctity and the relics of early women’s writing (500-1150), In: The Cambridge History of Early Medieval English Literature(14) Cambridge University Press
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.
This thesis uses queer theory to examine nonnormative identities and desires in five medieval literary texts: Bisclavret, Lanval, Sir Orfeo, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, and The Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale. In particular, it uses recent explorations of queer temporalities and spatialities, such as, Judith ‘Jack’ Halberstam’s In a Queer Time and Place: Transgender Bodies, Subcultural Lives, Elizabeth Freeman’s Time Binds: Queer Temporalities, Queer Histories and Carolyn Dinshaw’s How Soon is Now?: Medieval Texts, Amateur Readers, and the Queerness of Time to analyse the ways in which queer identity is connected to time and space and how these concepts are used in medieval literature to destabilise heteronormative ideologies. This study is divided into five chapters with each chapter focusing on a medieval romance or lay. Chapter I analyses Bisclavret’s hybrid nonhuman identity in Bisclavret and examines his queer desire for privacy that identifies him as out of time and synchronisation with normative temporalities and life schedules. Chapter II interrogates the ways in which the female characters display female masculinity in Lanval and argues that the Fairy Maiden provides Lanval with a superior, alternative (female) space. Chapter III looks at the destabilising, queer touch of the fairies in Sir Orfeo. It argues that the fairies disrupt the heteronormative life trajectory of Sir Orfeo, Heurodis, and their kingdom. In Chapter IV, the primary focus is on the role of Morgan Le Fay in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It argues that Morgan orchestrates the narrative to test Gawain, and re-appropriate the courtly ideals of chivalry at Arthur’s court. Finally, Chapter V focuses on Geoffrey Chaucer’s the Wife of Bath. It indicates that Alisoun has a queer relationship with time, and her Tale provides a space for female agency and feminine desires that do not comply with patriarchal heteronormative structures.
The Rorschach ink blot test was first developed by Hermann Rorschach in 1921. This thesis explains the history of the test in Britain throughout the 20th century. This is a history of a test which has power, is able to do things, and has become embedded into popular culture like no other. My approach to this history in this thesis is critical and interdisciplinary: I borrow from Psychology, History, Sociology, Gender Studies and Comic Studies. I use a particular queer feminist lens through which to approach this research and in doing so I aim to tell a more hidden history. I pay particular attention to the marginal, invisible and ‘white spaces’ of the history of the Rorschach. In regards to these ‘white spaces’ I specifically consider where the ink from the blots has metaphorically ‘bled’ in and out of Psychology. Chapter 1 introduces the thesis as a whole and based on this, Chapter 2 provides the theoretical underpinnings of the thesis and situates it within the history of Psychology more generally. Chapter 3 provides the core British history of the Rorschach. This is developed further in Chapter 4, where I pay closer attention to queer women and develop my own form of analysis for the history of Psychology. Chapter 5 provides a specific analysis of the graphic novel Watchmen which I argue exemplifies a significant ‘loop’ of Psychology into popular culture, and Chapter 6 concludes the thesis. In all, I provide an account of the Rorschach in Britain which allows for those who used the Rorschach; those who were tested with it; and the public; to be included. I argue that this interdisciplinary study of the history of the Rorschach test in Britain exemplifies what is possible when the marginal aspects of history are included. Consequentially, this has the power to allow historians of Psychology to re-imagine more normative histories. After all the Rorschach is all about imagination.
This thesis fills a gap in knowledge by systematically identifying ways in which Julian of Norwich’s 'Revelations of Love' and William Langland’s 'Piers Plowman' were influenced by the biblical Apocalypse and exegetical writings. It considers the implications of areas of confluence such as spiritual warfare and other salient thematic elements of the Apocalypse which both writers reapply and emphasise. It contends that the exegetical approach to the Apocalypse is more extensive in Julian’s 'Revelations' and more sophisticated in 'Piers Plowman' than previously thought, whether through primary or secondary textual influences. The thesis explores concepts of authority and medieval interpretations of the Apocalypse within the orthodoxy versus heterodoxy debate. It considers Julian’s explications of her vision of the soul as city of Christ and all believers – the fulcrum of her eschatologically-focussed Aristotelian and Augustinian influenced pneumatology. It explores the liberal soteriology implicit in her Parable of the Lord and the Servant in its Johannine and Scotistic Christological emphasis, the Bernadine influenced concept of the Motherhood of God, the absent vision of hell, and the eschatological ‘grete dede’, vis-à-vis a possible critique of the prevalent hermeneutic. It contextualises Julian’s writing by considering contemporaneous Apocalypse-influenced women writers such as Marguerite Porete and Margery Kempe. The thesis argues that Langland transposes Apocalypse 1-17 onto fourteenth-century England as a loose template for his own apocalypse. It considers his poetics with reference to Bakhtinian theoretical concepts which Langland employs within nuanced re-applications of the Apocalypse. It explores the agrarian metaphor and apocalyptic imagery in the poem’s opening, and the innovative employment of the allegorical dream vision genre. In discussing Langland’s apocalyptic dreams’ openings and personifications it highlights his re-imaginings of sections of the Apocalypse, arguing that the didactic oraculum of his personification, Lady Holy Church, bears similarities with Apocalypse 2-3. It reconsiders Lady Meed as Whore of Babylon and Langland’s evocation of the Antichristus Mysticus comparable to the perceived threat to the nascent Christian community in the Apocalypse. Key Words: Apocalypse; Mikhail Bakhtin; Christ; eschatology; harrowing of hell; Joachite; Julian of Norwich; William Langland; Piers Plowman; Revelations of Love; spiritual warfare