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Helen Lawson

Research Postgraduate

Research Postgraduate in the Department of English Studies


I am a PhD student researching gendered textual interventions in medieval women's writing from the fifteenth century, with a specific focus on Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Marguerite Porète, and an anonymous nun of Winchester. My goal is to pose--or at least attempt to answer--the question: to what extent can we trust the material we have from women when their works were so often mediated by men? Within the editing/reading practices of the later Middle Ages, do we see a gendered response to women's texts over men's? Is this something one can even attempt to 'read' for? And, if women's texts were being interacted with, what aspects of their work were highlighted or changed, and does this offer us an insight into the reception of medieval women's works?

As an undergraduate, I studied English Literature at Durham University from 2016-2019. I then pursued a Master's at St Anne's College, Oxford from 2019-2020, specialising in medieval literature (650-1550). There, I received training in palaeography, book history, and manuscript studies, and took classes on Old Norse, literature post-Conquest, and a course on contexts and approaches to the medieval period more broadly. While there, I began researching feminist approaches to women's works/portrayals in medieval literature, wherein I wrote extended essays examining Christina of Markyate's self-construction as a spiritual mediator in her Vita/Life; scribal authority in The Book of Margery Kempe; ventriloquised voices in A Revelation of Purgatory Showed to a Holy Woman; and the socio-political prowess of Guðrún's mead-hall massacre in 'Atlakviða'.

I also have secondary research interests in unstable, or 'queered', bodies in the romances of Le Roman de Silence, 'Yde et Olive', and Christine de Pizan's Livre de la Cité des Dames; the world-building practices of de Pizan and Margaret Cavendish; and eco-feminist approaches to Tolkien's Middle-earth legendarium.

I am funded by the Northern Bridge/AHRC.