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Jocelyn Wogan-Browne

Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Ph.D., New Mullarkey Chair

Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, Ph.D., is the Thomas F.X. and Theresa Mullarkey Chair in Literature.

Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, the Thomas F.X. and Theresa Mullarkey Chair in Literature, is an internationally recognized medieval literature scholar whose work has focused on the use of vernacular language and women’s narratives in medieval texts.

Her book Saints’ Lives and Women’s Literary Culture (Oxford University Press, 2001) initiated “virginity studies.” Since its publication, the book has influenced works by other scholars who have taken her work as a point of departure. The book contributed substantially, as well, to the history of women and books, and women’s intellectual lives.

At her installation ceremony in October, Wogan-Browne delivered her inaugural lecture, “Blood Matters: Reading with the Heart in English Devotional Poetry, ” which explored the relationship of medieval women to passion meditations—historically attributed to male Christian writers such as St. Anselm of Canterbury.

Women, Wogan-Browne said, actually played a large role in the creation of these meditations, not only in their patronage, but also by becoming “Brides of Christ” either before marrying or after widowhood.

She said she discovered the critical role of these women by studying literary histories often overlooked by scholars of medieval work because they were written in the French vernacular.

One such work, according to Wogan-Browne, was a 13th-century devotional poem written in French for Eleanor of Provence, the highly successful medieval queen of King Henry III, patron of the arts, and, eventually, a widowed “Bride of Christ.”

The poem Rossignos (Nightingale) contains a rich and flowing narrative of a virgin's assumption into Heaven, with decidedly female—and powerful—devotional sensuousness and symbolism, said Wogan-Browne. Thus, a bleeding Christ is a bush blooming with roses; the scent of a believer's heart is inhaled by God, whose exhale, like blood, fills its chamber and unites the corporeal and the cosmic.

The Thomas F.X. Mullarkey Chair in Literature was established by a gift from Thomas F. X. Mullarkey, FCRH ’54 and LAW ’59, a former chairman of the Fordham University Board of Trustees. When he passed away in 1993, Theresa Mullarkey took over the endowment in her husband’s memory.

   

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