Close Readings: Encounters with Medieval Women

A podcast miniseries with Irina Dumitrescu and Mary Wellesley

438 words

NB: Irina and Mary have a new series of podcasts about the literary landscape of the Middle Ages named Medieval Beginnings, part of our Close Readings programme for 2023, which begins in January. Tap here to find out more and sign up!

In a new podcast miniseries, Irina Dumitrescu and Mary Wellesley look at the lives and voices of women in medieval literature through four key texts, ranging roughly from the year 300 to 1500. The episodes will feature Mary of Egypt, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe and the Wife of Bath.

Listeners can buy all four books direct from the London Review Bookshop, and get a free 'Julian of Norwich' bookmark.

Buy the books


Episodes will be released on our website and on the LRB Podcast.

Irina Dumitrescu is a professor at the University of Bonn. The Experience of Education in Anglo-Saxon Literature is out now in paperback.

Mary Wellesley’s Hidden Hands: The Lives of Manuscripts and Their Makers is out now.

Episode 1: Repentant Sinner

Saint Mary of Egypt, who (if she existed) lived sometime between the 3rd and 6th centuries, led a wild and licentious youth before serving penitence in the desert, and went on to teach the value of living an imperfect life. Several accounts of her life were written in the Middle Ages, including one in Old English that appears in a manuscript with Ælfric’s Lives of the Saints.

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Episode 2: Anchoress

Julian of Norwich (c.1343-after 1416) lived in permanent seclusion for much of her life. Her Revelations of Divine Love is the first book in English known to be written by a woman.

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Episode 3: Storyteller

The Wife of Bath’s prologue in Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales challenged many of the conventions of a woman’s role in medieval society.

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Episode 4: Firebrand

Irina and Mary look at the life and work of pilgrim, entrepreneur and visionary mystic Margery Kempe, who dictated what is thought to be the first autobiography in English.

Listen here

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