Authorship and Authority:

Barking Abbey and Its Texts

Martin E. Segal Theatre

Dedicated to the memory of Jo Ann McNamara

CUNY Graduate Center, September 11, 2009


Conference Aims:

Writing by women in England during the later Middle Ages, especially by Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe, has for some time captured  the attention of medievalists. And yet, texts composed by women of an  earlier period, when French was both a spoken and a literary language for the English court and the English aristocracy generally, have  been studied far less (perhaps with the one exception of Marie de France). Barking Abbey, already known in the twelfth century for its tradition of Latin letters and for the Latin biographies of its founding mothers, became the site of significantly rich work in French during the reign of King Henry II. Royal and abbatial  interests often coincided, and the abbey appears to have enjoyed a special closeness to the court. This symposium explores Barking's Anglo-Saxon heritage, its multilingual literary production, its patrons and patronage, the networks of influence it enjoyed as its texts and manuscripts circulated outside the abbey, and its links with other religious houses. Two full-length lives of saints, St. Catherine of Alexandria and King Edward the Confessor, both produced at Barking and, as far as we know, the only female-authored lives of those figures, will be a particular focus of the conference.

A special panel on the topic at this summer’s International Medieval Congress at Leeds (July 13 - 16, 2009) precedes this symposium. A published collection of the papers given at this conference will follow.

Presented with the support of the following institutions:

  • City University of New York, Graduate Center
  • Center for Medieval Studies, Fordham University
  • University of Illinois at Springfield

Last modified: May 6, 2009
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