12 September 2023
Two medievalists win prestigious research fellowships
The awards made by the Leverhulme Trust will enable scholars in the School of English, Communication and Philosophy and School of History, Archaeology and Religion to research and write new books.
Reader in English Literature Dr Megan Leitch has been awarded a 2023 Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship to work on her third monograph, The Medieval Middlebrow: Romance and the Body Politic, 1300-1534.
This book project explores the democratization of literary culture in later medieval England by both investigating middle-class book ownership and analysing middle-class characters' interventions in romance narratives, and it takes an intersectional approach to the politics of gender, class, race, religion, and dis/ability.
The project aims to address overlooked but significant synergies among the ways in which those in newly powerful late-medieval social occupations, such as merchants, servants, scholars, and ladies-in-waiting, were participating in unprecedented social mobility, while also being represented as characters in a textual culture formerly the preserve of the upper classes. In so doing, it investigates the relationship between society and literary representations of society at a time of widening participation in both political life and pleasure reading.
Reader in Medieval History Dr Jenny Benham has been awarded a 2023 Leverhulme Trust Research Fellowship to work on spies and espionage in the early medieval world. Her 2024/25 Senior FRESCO Fellowship will result in additional related academic articles.
‘Little birds’ (e.g., ravens, jackdaws, starlings) – metaphorically denoting men, women, children, disabled, religious minorities, and outcasts engaging in spying activities – are frequently found in the Latin and vernacular literature of Europe in the period 700-1200.
The historical context of ‘little birds’ demonstrate that spies, their networks and activities played a vital role in the politics of the medieval world. They feature in documentary and material sources, demonstrating that spies, their networks and activities played a vital role in the politics of the medieval world, from the jackdaw spying on travellers in the little-known 11th-century epic the Ruodlieb, to the starling used by Bronwen to send secret messages and letters to the king of Britain in the Welsh tales The Mabinogion.