Professor Liz Herbert McAvoy
Personal Chair
English Literature & Creative Writing
Telephone: (01792) 602462
Room: Academic Office - 207
Second Floor
James Callaghan
Singleton Campus

Liz Herbert McAvoy is a specialist in medieval women’s literature and is particularly interested in how representations of gender are played out within medieval texts by, for or about women. She has recently completed a book on intersections of gender and space within texts written by, for and about medieval anchorites and her options at levels 2, 3 and at MA level all reflect this and associated interests.

Liz has published widely in the area of gender and medieval women’s literature and is the author of Authority and the Female Body in the Writings of Julian of Norwich and Margery Kempe (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2004). She has also produced an abridged translation of The Book of Margery Kempe (Cambridge: D.S. Brewer, 2003) and has co-edited two volumes of essays on gender in medieval literature: Consuming Narratives: Gender and Monstrous Appetite in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2002) and Anchorites Wombs and Tombs Intersections of Gender and Enclosure in the Middle Ages (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2005). She has also edited several other volumes of essays, including Rhetoric of the Anchorhold: Space, Place and Body within the Discourses of Enclosure (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2008); A Companion to Julian of Norwich (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2008); and Anchoritic Traditions of Medieval Europe (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2010). She has recently published two further books: a monograph on the cultural meanings attached to the anchoritic life: Medieval Anchoritisms: Gender, Space and the Solitary Life (Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2011 ); and, edited with Diane Watt, The History of British Women's Writing. Vol. 1 700-1500 (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2012); In addition to her publications, she continues to be active in conference and conference-session organisation.

Areas of Expertise

  • Medieval hortus conclusus
  • Anchoritism
  • Gender
  • Medieval Religion
  • medieval writing
  • female mysticism


  1. (in press). Co-editor Women’s Literary Culture and the Late Medieval English Canon with Diane Watt, with co-authored Introduction to special issue of The Chaucer Review (‘Medieval Women’s Literary Culture and the Canon’) and essay solely by Liz Herbert McAvoy, ‘”O der lady, be my help”: Women’s Visionary Writing and the Devotional Literary Canon’.
  2. & Strange Fruits: Grafting, Foreigners, and the Garden Imaginary in Northern France and Germany, 1250–1350. Speculum 94(2), 467-495.
  3. A Revelation of Purgatory: An Edition and Facing-Page Translation. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer.
  4. ‘Bathing in Blood: The Medicinal Cures of Anchoritic Devotion’, for Medicine, Religion and Gender in Medieval Culture, eds. Naoe Kukita Yoshikawa. In Medicine, Religion and Gender in Medieval Culture.
  5. “Flourish Like a Garden”: Pain, Purgatory, and Salvation in the Writing of Medieval Religious Women. Medieval Feminist Forum 50(1), 33-60.

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  • 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-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-266 Medieval Encounters

    Many of the elements of our culture were first imagined or developed in the medieval period, but have continued to speak to post-medieval readers. This module will introduce students to the literature of the medieval period, with a particular emphasis on contacts or encounters between medieval texts and more modern cultures via literary translations and transformations. These translations will include both medieval responses to earlier classical and biblical traditions, and modern re-imaginings of medieval texts and ideas (including the notion of 'medievalism'). A major theme of the course will be the cultural continuities and discontinuities between medieval literature and later texts, and the ways in which medieval narratives and images were adapted to meet the needs of other cultural circumstances. Students will develop an awareness of key aspects of medieval literary culture including ideas of authorship and authority, religious traditions, and romance codes. Students will also gain an understanding of the functions of translation and re-appropriation in literary and cultural production. Although all texts will be available in modern English and fully-glossed versions, the module will equip students with the necessary linguistic skills to read and analyse Middle English texts.

  • EN-3011 Discovering Old English

    This module will draw on sources from Anglo-Saxon literary and material culture ¿ textual and archaeological evidence ¿ to offer insights into the period. Texts will be read in translation, but there will also be some opportunities to encounter Old English in the original. We will explore major cultural transitions in the period, including shifts from orality to literacy and from a secular warrior society to Christianity. We will also think about how texts interact with their historical contexts and how we can recover Anglo-Saxon cultural values, politics and debates through close textual reading and analysis.

  • 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-398 The Masculine and Monstrous in the Middle Ages

    Focusing on a variety of medieval texts written by both men and women within a variety of genres, this co-taught module will utilize a dynamic and interdisciplinary approach to examine the ways in which the male body is gendered in medieval texts and how that body interacts with sin, sexual aberrance and monstrosity. Using as a point of reference medieval and contemporary theories of masculinity and monstrosity, it will examine the complex and often paradoxical constructions of masculinity in the texts under scrutiny and the purposes such constructions may have served in defining both the `Same¿ (men) and the `Other¿ (anybody/anything else). The module will complement work on medieval texts undertaken at Level 2 (although this is not a prerequisite), as well as offering a more focused examination of masculinity within specific medieval socio-religious contexts. It is hoped that many of the readings offered and produced during the module will be student-led, and will demonstrate the continued relevance and importance of medieval literature as a means of understanding the roles played by gender and monstrous discourse within culture and society to this day.

  • 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.

  • EN-M76 Discovering Old English

    This module will draw on sources from Anglo-Saxon literary and material culture ¿ textual and archaeological evidence ¿ to offer insights into the period. Texts will be read initially in translation, alongside the development of an expertise in the Old English language to facilitate eventual understanding of the original. Students on this module will explore major cultural transitions in the period, including shifts from orality to literacy and from a secular warrior society to Christianity. They will also think about how texts interact with their historical contexts and how Anglo-Saxon cultural values, politics and debates may be recuperated through close textual reading and analysis.

  • EN-M82 Was Eve Framed? Theorising the Medieval Walled Garden

    According to Julia Kristeva, the gendering of many of the cultural positions with which we are familiar today can be traced back to medieval concepts of Eve¿s transgression within the Garden of Eden, as recounted in the biblical book of Genesis. Antifeminist sentiments based on this `grand narrative¿ account of the Creation within the walled garden of the earthly paradise were taken up with great enthusiasm by medieval commentators and theologians alike and frequently used against women to keep them subjected and under control. Is this the end of the story, though? Whilst a handful of modern commentators have concertedly re-assembled the evidence to suggest that Eve was, indeed `framed¿ (by the walled garden, the narratives concerning her, and those cultural attitudes towards women they generated), what has not been widely examined is the way in which many medieval discussions and representations of Eve also disrupt the stereotypes attached to her and, instead, present her as ideal wife and mother whose flourishing is fundamental to human development ¿ and in all these revisionary treatments, the walled garden plays a central role. This module will examine both medieval and contemporary re-readings of Eden as the original medieval walled garden, reading it through medieval and modern theories of gender, time and space. Taking as its base text the Book of Genesis, it will also incorporate canonical as well as lesser known medieval texts, some written by religious women, others written anonymously, but all of which seek to interrogate the role of Eve, and thus all women, as much impugned cultural scapegoat.

  • 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.


  • Christa, Christus: Gendering Christ's wounds and Blood in Late-Medieval Europe.«br /»«br /»«br /»«br /»«br /»«br /»«br /»«br /»«br /»«br /»«br /»«br /»«br /»«br /»«br /»«br /» At the moment, this title is still current (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Dr Roberta Magnani
  • Women, Empowerment and the Natural World in Medieval Literature 1200-1500. (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Dr Roberta Magnani
    Other supervisor: Dr Eoin Price
  • Rhiannon of the Mabinogi and her People: a critical study. «br /»«br /» (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof Christine James
  • Floral Utopias and Otherworlds: Representations of the Enclosed Garden in Chaucer and his Contemporaries (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Dr Roberta Magnani
  • Supernatural Abductions in Medieval Literature (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Dr Roberta Magnani
  • Authority and the Polysemy of Silence in Medieval Texts (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Dr Roberta Magnani