Postgrad / unwaged ECR Travel Bursaries

Attention all postgrads / unwaged ECRs!

Please note that we have travel bursaries available for you to claim all or some of your travel to and from the conference. These bursaries will be available after the conference. The ‘pot’ of funds will be divided equally between all applicants. Please ensure that you keep all travel receipts as we will not be able to process claims without them.

If you are unsure about your eligibility for this scheme or would like further information, please email us on


Laura KW and Laura V



Provisional Programme



5th -7th April 2018

We are grateful for the support of:

The John Fell Fund, Oxford University

University College, Oxford

Society for Medieval Languages and Literatures

Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship




09.30-10.00    Registration and coffee

10.00-10.15    Welcome and opening remarks

10.15-11.15    Plenary 1: Professor Anthony Bale: “Whose Margery Kempe?”

Chair: Diane Watt

11.15-11.45    Coffee

11.45-13.15    Panel 1: Space and Self

Chair: Laura Varnam

Alicja Kowalczewska: Kempe and Glück: Performance of Transgressive Self

Ruth Evans: Margery Kempe’s Internal Reality

Juliana Dresvina: Creating a Margery-Sized Space: Margery Kempe’s Psychological Defences and Offences

13.15-14.15    Lunch

14.15-15.45    Panel 2: Care and Cure

Chair: Annie Sutherland

Ivan Day (food historian): Medieval Food and the Medicinal Use of Sugar

Laura Kalas Williams: The Swetenesse of Confection: A Recipe for Spiritual Health in London, British Library, Additional MS 61823

Michael Leahy: The Intimacies of Care: Margery Kempe and her Patients

15.45-16.15    Coffee

16.15-18.00    Panel 3: Sights, Sounds, Senses

Chair: Hannah Lucas

Rachel Moss: Falling in Love and Crying: Academic Culture and What Margery Can Teach Us

Laura Varnam: Framing The Book of Margery Kempe: How the Good Mystic Taught her Readers

Katherine Lewis: ‘And þerfore sche dede no þing wryten but þat sche knew ryghth wel for very trewth’: Margery Kempe, Oral History, and the Value of Subjective Memory

Einat Klafter: ‘Boldly take me in the armys of thi sowle’: The Eschewing of Somatic and Erotic Language in Margery Kempe’s Unio Dei

18.00-19.30    Wine reception (sponsored by the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship) and Poster session. A toast will be proposed by Clarissa Atkinson, author of Mystic and Pilgrim: The Book and the World of Margery Kempe.

Posters will be presented by: Charlotte Knight, Martin Laidlaw, William Storm, Meagan Khoury, and Eva Sanchez.



09.15-10.45    Panel 4: Dialogues

Chair: Liz Herbert McAvoy

Clarck Drieshen: The Fourteenth-Century Christi Leiden in einer Vision geschaut as a Source for Margery Kempe’s Visions of the Passion

Diana Denissen: Social Exclusion as Self-Representation in Margery Kempe’s Book and Alijt Bake’s Boecxhen

Godelinde Perk: Channel-Hopping Saints: Margery Kempe as Modern Devout Mystic

10.45-11.15    Coffee

11.15-12.45    Panel 5: Historicity

Chair: Laura Varnam

Susan Maddock: ‘Comyn hom into Lynne’: The Historicity of Margery Kempe’s Book in Relation to her Home Town

Pat Cullum: Monitoring, Mentoring, and Admonition: Margery Kempe and the Prelates

Vincent Gillespie: The Latin Margery Kempe

12.45-13.45    Lunch

13.45-14.45    Plenary 2: Dr Sarah Salih: Margery and Marina: The Book of Margery Kempe as Performance Archive”

Chair: Vincent Gillespie

14.45-15.15    Coffee

15.15-17.15    Panel 6: Performances

Chair: Laura Kalas Williams

Margaret Sheble: Queer Eye for God: Reading Margery Kempe as Female Masculine

Hannah Lucas: Clad in Flesch and Blood: The Sartorial Body and Female Self-Fashioning in The Book of Margery Kempe

Tara Williams: Revisiting Margery and Julian’s Holy Dalyawns

17.15-17.30    Comfort break and move to college chapel

17.30-19.30    Marge & Jules performance

19.30               Conference dinner (University College dining hall)



09.30-11.00    Panel 7: Devotions and Receptions

Chair: Pat Cullum

Sue Niebryzdowski: ‘Wolcomyd and mech made of in dyvers placys’: The Shared Piety of the Citizens of York and Margery Kempe

Josephine Koster: ‘I cry the mercy, blisful Lord’: The Prayers of Margery Kempe and the Construction of Orthodoxy

Sarah Macmillan: Margery in Print: Asceticism and Imitatio

11.00-11.30    Coffee

11.30-13.00    Plenary 3: Professor Liz Herbert McAvoy and Professor Naoë Kukita Yoshikawa: “Many a good boke of hy contemplacyon . . . & swech oþer:  The Intertextual Dialogue and Conversational Theology of  Mechthild of Hackeborn and Margery Kempe”

Chair: Katherine Lewis

13.00-14.00    Lunch

14.00-15.30    Panel 8: Theorising Identity

Chair: Einat Klafter

Christina Hildebrandt: The Book of Margery Kempe, Disability, and the Power of Discourse

Johannes Wolf: Margery Kempe as De-Facement: Pathology, Autobiography, and ‘this Creatur’

Dorothy Kim: Margery Kempe in Jerusalem: Sonic Wars, Religious Soundscapes, and Christian Noise

15.30-16.00    Coffee

16.00-17.15    Plenary 4: Professor Diane Watt: “Growing Old With Margery Kempe: Reflections and Responses”

Chair: Laura Kalas Williams

17.15-17.30    Reflections

A PDF of the provisional programme can be downloaded here: Updated MK Programme 18.3.18


Kempe Conference Call for Papers


Margery Kempe in the 21st Century

University College, Oxford, 5th – 7th April 2018

Organisers: Dr Laura Varnam (University College, Oxford) and Dr Laura Kalas Williams (Swansea University)

The Book of Margery Kempe (c.1448) has gained extensive scholarly attention since the discovery of the only surviving manuscript in 1934. Margery Kempe’s Book is considered to be the first female autobiography in the English language and is now recognised as an important text in the canon of English literature. Her infamous form of dramatic, visceral, and unapologetically-loud piety has been subject to multiple interpretations. Scholarship has focused upon the Book’s authorial complexity, its orthodoxy, its codicology, its value as a work of protofeminism, its medical significations, its historicity, and its crucial interplay with other European writings, influences, and transmissions. Recent work has included important discoveries of related, medieval documents from Poland, and the deciphering of the elusive recipe from the manuscript’s final folio.

This landmark, international conference seeks to bring together Kempe scholars, both long-standing and new, to interrogate the status quo and significance of Margery Kempe Studies in the 21st century. In the age of multidisciplinary scholarship, and in the light of the striking renewal of energy for Kempe Studies, this three-day conference will reassess critical approaches to The Book of Margery Kempe and invite new and innovative research avenues. As a perhaps unprecedented event in its singular focus upon Margery Kempe’s text, life, and afterlife, this conference will enable scholars working in diverse fields to engage in valuable dialogue and to consider the future of Kempe Studies.

As well as critical responses to Margery Kempe’s life and text, the conference will also incorporate artistic and creative interpretations which will further broaden this rich and pioneering field. We are delighted to be able to showcase Máirín O’Hagan and Sarah Anson’s play Marge & Jules, an exciting performance based on the meeting of Margery Kempe and Julian of Norwich, documented in Margery’s Book.

We are delighted to confirm the keynote speakers as Professor Anthony Bale (Birkbeck), Professor Liz Herbert McAvoy (Swansea), Dr Sarah Salih (King’s College, London),  Professor Diane Watt (Surrey), and Professor Naoë Kukita Yoshikawa (Shizuoka).

We invite abstracts of 300 words for proposals for 20 minute papers on topics that might include, but are by no means limited to:

  • Twenty-first century approaches to Kempe and her Book
  • The role of the Book as a literary work and / or its place in the literary canon
  • The Book as situated within the context of Medieval Studies
  • Margery Kempe’s place, or liminality, in medieval society
  • The place of the Book within Gender Studies and / or feminist and / or queer theory
  • Margery Kempe within her European context and textual transmission
  • Theological approaches to Kempe: her orthodoxy, heresy, marginality
  • The historicity of the Book and the ramifications thereof
  • Palaeographical or codicological concerns
  • Methodological and epistemological approaches to the Book
  • Kempe in relation to the institution of the Church and its representatives
  • Weeping / crying, both contextually and philosophically
  • Scientific, medical and / or psychological interpretations and contexts
  • Aspects of mysticism and spiritual rapture or ecstasy
  • Issues of spiritual embodiment and physiology
  • The Book in relation to the history of emotion and / or the senses
  • Representations of domesticity, family, life cycle and kinship in the Book
  • The materiality of the Book and / or Kempe’s experience
  • Visual or iconographic culture as played out in the Book
  • Place and / or space: locality, travel, movement, pilgrimage
  • The archaeology or architecture of Kempe’s world
  • Food, fasting, the Eucharist, and the politics of consumption
  • Voice-hearing, visionary experience, metaphysicality

This is an exciting opportunity to bring together esteemed and emerging scholars of Kempe from around the world to explore the implications of our growing and nuanced understandings of the Book in the context of 21st century multidisciplinary scholarship, and its place in the canon of literature.

**We anticipate that this landmark event will generate global interest, and numbers will be limited. Therefore, priority for registration will be given to those individuals who have papers accepted.**

Paper abstracts of no more than 300 words, plus a short biography, should be sent to Dr Laura Varnam and Dr Laura Kalas Williams, at no later than 1st October 2017.

We are very grateful to University College, Oxford for their generous support in funding the conference and to the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship.

For more information, please follow us on twitter @ConfMKempe and stay up to date on the website. To download this cfp as a PDF file, click here: MK Conference cfp final