Laura Kalas Williams specialises in medieval women’s literature and medicine. Her research is interdisciplinary, and within the field of the medical humanities. Laura is a member of MEMO (Swansea’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Research) and is a Lecturer in English Literature. She teaches modules on the literature and culture of the Middles Ages, gender and medicine, and literature more broadly.

Laura is interested in the phenomena of medieval women's visionary, or ‘mystical’, experience, medieval theories of physiology, the senses, the emotions, and the medicalization of spirituality. Beyond this, she seeks to explore the convergences between the medieval and the modern, particularly in relation to questions of health and wellbeing.

Laura was the winner of the 2015 international Gender and Medieval Studies Group essay prize, the journal article of which is published in Medieval Feminist Forum: A Journal of Sexuality and Gender (2016). Her first book – Margery Medica: Pain, Surrogacy and Healing in ‘The Book of Margery Kempe’, is forthcoming with Boydell and Brewer. She is co-editing, with Roberta Magnani (Swansea), the medieval volume of a multi-volume Routledge series called A Cultural History of Women in Christianity, and has written the chapter about Women and Science in the Middle Ages. She has also contributed to The Literary Encyclopedia and has published articles in The Conversation and The Independent. Her work on the recipe at the end of The Book of Margery Kempe has been featured in The Guardian and in the BBC History Magazine.

As well as completing a journal article about the recipe and the ‘sweetness’ of spirituality in The Book of Margery Kempe, Laura is also working on the significations of sight and light in Mechtild of Hackeborn’s The Boke of Gostlye Grace.In her next book-length project, she will research the lives and writings of several European visionary women of the Middle Ages in relation to their spiritual experiences, healing practices, senses, and bodily metamorphoses.

Laura would be interested to receive enquiries from prospective postgraduate researchers who would like to study PhD topics that relate to the above. 

 

Sees Also:

 

Areas of Expertise

  • Medieval literature and medicine
  • The religious women of the Middle Ages
  • Spirituality
  • Health and wellbeing
  • Sensory experience
  • Medical humanities

Publications

  1. The Swetenesse of Confection: A Recipe for Spiritual Health in London, British Library, Additional MS 61823, The Book of Margery Kempe. Studies in the Age of Chaucer 40
  2. "Slayn for Goddys lofe": Margery Kempe's Melancholia and the Bleeding of Tears. Medieval Feminist Forum: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality 52(1), 84-100.
  3. Margery Kempe and Spiritual Medicine (Boydell and Brewer).
  4. (2018). Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love: The Short Text and the Long Text. (English Studies No. 99). : Taylor and Francis.
  5. Science and Technology: Ways of viewing the bodies of women and the contribution of women to these areas (Routledge). In A Cultural History of Women in Christianity: Volume 2 'Women in Christianity in the Medieval Age, 1000 - 1400.
  6. (in press). The Literary Encyclopedia: 'The Book of Margery Kempe'. (The Literary Encyclopedia).
  7. (2017). Being lovesick was a real disease in the Middle Ages (in The Conversation).
  8. (2016). Medieval women can teach us how to smash gender rules and the glass ceiling (in The Conversation).

Teaching

  • EN-112 Approaches to Gender in English Literature

    The development of the feminist theory has brought about increased awareness for literary scholars of the importance of gender in shaping the perceptions, expectations and subjectives of both cultures and individuals - and the texts which they produce. This module therefore aims to introduce students to some of the primary issues connected with the workings and analysis of gender in English literature and the gendered contexts in which that literature is produced. It will, therefore, incorporate an introduction to some of the basic tenets of gender theory and its application as a means of reading literary texts from a range of periods. It will focus on a small variety of poetic, dramatic and fictional texts, examining the ways in which gender relationships are portrayed within them and the extent to which they reflect, perpetuate and/or challenge the cultural values of the period and the social contexts within which they are produced.

  • EN-113 Literature and Society in Medieval Europe.

    This module provides an introduction to medieval literatures and cultures from 900 to 1500. The module introduces key moments in medieval literary history, together with major cultural and linguistic developments. It provides a basic overview of the Middle Ages which will form the basis for more specialised studies. Topics include significant social and cultural issues of medieval life, such as war and chivalry, gender, courtly love, literature and learning, identity and power. Major texts such as `The General Prologue¿ from Chaucer¿s The Canterbury Tales, will be read in translation alongside extracts from a range of other medieval texts such as Beowulf, The Romance of the Rose and The Book of Margery Kempe. This is a compulsory module for the Honours programme in Medieval Studies, and it is also open to students enrolled in any BA programme.

  • EN-119 The Stage Play World

    The Stage Play World is an introductory module which combines an overview of performance history -- from classical Greek theatre to the present-day stage presentations -- with the development of reading and analytical skills. The module teaches students how to read and understand a stage script and then moves on to a consideration of how to analyse what is being read. The course also teaches students how to argue persuasively from that analysis. The module has been designed to emphasise the continuous development of drama, together with its links to social and historical events and to movements in other forms of art and literature. There are a number of set texts, with additional extracts that will be considered in lectures.

  • EN-237 Exploring the Bloody Chamber: Medieval to Postmodern

    This module will analyse narratives of female enclosure and gender conflict in a selection of texts from the fourteenth to the twenty-first centuries. Our specific focus is the story of the serial wife-killer Bluebeard: we will begin by examining variants of this fairy-tale narrative before both tracing it back to its mediaeval antecedents and following its continuing presence as an influence on more contemporary texts. In the process, we will discuss theories of gender, race and class in order to account for the persistent presence of this story in Western culture.

  • EN-3031 Dissertation - English Literature

    The Dissertation is an optional, two-semester, 40-credit module designed to develop high-level academic skills and intellectual independence in the students. A first-semester skills-building programme will include: research skills, summary skills, bibliographic skills, ability to synthesise succinctly, planning and organisational skills, correct presentation of a thesis and bibliography, presentational skills and public speaking. Students conduct research on a subject of their choice, devised in consultation with a member of the English literature staff. The topic will be devised to fall within staff research and teaching specialisms, broadly defined. Students attend group sessions on research skills in Semesters 1 and 2, and have individual meetings with supervisors in Semester 2.

  • EN-M31 Dissertation

    Individual project devised and defined in discussion between supervisor and student.

  • EN-M41 Research Practice in English / Contemporary Writing / Welsh Writing in English

    Supervised project on research methodology in practice. Students build a detailed bibliographical plan for their MA dissertation project.

  • HIMM04 Introduction to Advanced Medieval Studies 2: Themes and Sources

    This module aims to apply the skills and approaches learned in the module HIMM01: Introduction to Advanced Medieval Studies 1: Skills and Approaches to a range of important themes in Medieval Studies, including gender, identity, laws and customs, spirituality, heritage. The module is interdisciplinary and draws on historical, literary and visual sources. The content of the module will be arranged in 2-weekly blocks, with the first week in each block dedicated to introducing students to the specific theme and the second week being used as a practical application of this knowledge to a source or text.

Administrative Responsibilities

  • Departmental Lead for Schools Outreach programme

    2017 - Present

  • Module Convenor for EN112 Approaches to Gender in English Litera

    2017 - Present

Career History

Start Date End Date Position Held Location
2016 2017 Postdoctoral researcher and Associate Tutor University of Exeter

External Responsibilities

  • Senior A level External Examiner , Organisation/department/group: AQA

    2009 - Present

Research Groups

  • MEMO

    Swansea’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Research

  • GENCAS

    The Centre for Research into Gender and Culture in Society is an interdisciplinary research body working within the College of Arts and Humanities at Swansea University.