Medieval Women and their visions

Swansea expert to give free public lecture on “Women’s Visions: Visionary Women”

In 1955, the medieval scholar, David Knowles, famously posited the opinion that, during the course of the fifteenth century, the so-called ‘purity’ of English medieval theological and ascetical religious tradition was radically ‘contaminated’ by another current: namely, the rise to prominence of writings by women which documented visions, divine revelations and what Knowles termed other forms of ‘unusual behaviour’.

Liz Herbert McAvoy, professor of English Literature at Swansea University and an expert in medieval women’s literature, will be giving an inaugural public lecture on visionary women’s writing on Thursday 29 January 2015.


Entitled “Women’s Visions: Visionary Women”, the hour-long lecture, taking place at Swansea University, will consider Knowles’ claims with reference to the extraordinary abundance of visionary women's writing that dominated literary circles from the thirteenth century to the end of the Middle Ages, at which point their importance was almost entirely forgotten. In reintroducing the work of some of these medieval visionary women, the lecture will demonstrate ways in which medieval women’s visions were deeply influential upon the wider socio-religious climate of fifteenth-century England, and how that influence can still speak resonantly to us today.   

Liz Herbert McAvoy

Professor Herbert McAvoy joined Swansea University in 2005 after holding posts at Aberystwyth, Lampeter and Leicester and completing a twenty-year career in secondary school teaching. She is the current Head of the Department of English Language and Literature and was appointed to a personal Chair in English in 2014. She has published widely in the area of gender and medieval women’s literature and is an expert in women’s visionary literature and medieval anchoritism.

Deputy Director of the Research Institute for Arts and Humanities (RIAH), Dr Elaine Canning, said:

“Professor Herbert McAvoy joins some very high profile speakers in our event series this year; she is a highly distinguished literary scholar and this lecture promises to provide fascinating insights into the impact of medieval women’s visions upon fifteenth-century England.”

The lecture forms part of the Research Institute for Arts and Humanities public lecture and event series which annually welcomes many high-profile speakers to Swansea.

Date and Time: The lecture will take place on Thursday 29 January 2015 – light refreshments will be available before the lecture from 6pm; lecture commences at 6.30pm.

Place: The venue is the Wallace Lecture Theatre, Wallace Building, Swansea University SA2 8PP.

Admission:The lecture is open to the public and admission is free.

For more information and enquiries please contact:; Tel: 01792 295190

Picture 1. Framed miniature of Dante roused by Matilda (Italy, Emilia or Padua), Egerton MS 943, f. 122v. Courtesy of the British Library.

Picture 2. Professor Liz Herbert McAvoy, Head of the Department of English Language and Literature, Swansea University.