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


  1. Williams, L. Margery Kempe's Spiritual Medicine: Suffering, Transformation and the Life-Course Woodbridge Boydell and Brewer
  2. Williams, L., Williams, L. 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 1 155 190
  3. Williams, L., Williams, L. "Slayn for Goddys lofe": Margery Kempe's Melancholia and the Bleeding of Tears Medieval Feminist Forum 52 1 84 100
  4. Williams, L., Williams, L. Julian of Norwich, Revelations of Divine Love: The Short Text and the Long Text English Studies 99 Taylor and Francis
  5. Williams, L., Williams, L. 'The Book of Margery Kempe', The Literary Encyclopedia The Literary Encyclopedia
  6. Williams, L., Williams, L. Medieval women can teach us how to smash gender rules and the glass ceiling (in The Conversation)
  7. Williams, L., Williams, L. Being lovesick was a real disease in the Middle Ages (in The Conversation)
  8. Williams, L., Williams, L. Meghan Markle reportedly seeks a private childbirth – medieval women really did have one (in The Conversation) The Conversation online
  9. Williams, L., Williams, L. Encountering The Book of Margery Kempe (Ed.), Manchester Manchester University Press
  10. Williams, L., Williams, L. The Materialisation of Book II: Elements of Margery Kempe's World (Ed.), Encountering The Book of Margery Kempe Manchester Manchester University Press

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  • 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-120 English Essentials

    This is a skills-based module which will equip students with the technical and critical expertise that is necessary for their academic journey in English Literature and Creative Writing. It is designed to support the transition from post-16 study to undergraduate study and to show students *how* to become successful scholars of English. How should we read texts? How do we write essays? Focusing on an exciting anthology of texts selected by the English academics at Swansea, this team-taught module uncovers the power of written language. We will explore how writers inspire and challenge their readers, how to think critically, how to close-read, how to construct powerful arguments and how to produce written work that is rigorous, academic and convincing. This module empowers students to think, write, and persuade.

  • 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-3051 Madness, Malady and Melancholia: Literature and Medicine from Genesis to Genomes

    This interdisciplinary, transhistorical, and medical humanities module explores representations of health, disease and disorder in literature from Genesis to the present day. By reading texts which might be considered as illness narratives, we will consider how the human experience of pain and illness can be written into text. How do religious and / or scientific contexts affect experience? How do evolving theories of medicine and the body play into the literary world? From ancient and medieval theories of bodily humours and constitutions, towards contemporary understandings of human existence, we will interrogate texts that seek to express the experience of suffering. In a cultural climate that increasingly emphasises the importance of mental health and wellbeing, an understanding of the textualisation of ill-health is more urgent than ever. Using theories of pain and suffering, the course will focus on the subjection and abjection of the body 'disordered', and ask how far reading and writing themselves might be considered to be acts of therapy.

  • 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.

  • HIMM02 Research Folder

    A course designed to help students to identify their dissertation subject, to prepare for it bibliographically, and to plan its research and writing.

  • 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.


  • Representations of the Mouth in Medieval Health and Culture (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Prof Patricia Skinner
  • Autoimmunity (current)

    Student name:
    Other supervisor: Dr Alan Kellermann

Administrative Responsibilities

  • Departmental Admissions Tutor

    2017 - Present

Career History

Start Date End Date Position Held Location
2016 2017 Postdoctoral researcher and Associate Tutor University of Exeter
2001 2016 Secondary English teacher Plymstock School, 2001 - 2016

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


    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.