‘Encountering The Book of Margery Kempe’, forthcoming November 2021!

My partner-in-crime Dr Laura Kalas and I are delighted to announce that our exciting new collection of essays on The Book of Margery Kempe will be published by Manchester University Press in November this year!

You can find the book on the Manchester University Press website at this link.

This is the blurb:

This innovative critical volume brings the study of Margery Kempe into the twenty-first century. Structured around four categories of ‘encounter’ – textual, internal, external and performative – the volume offers a capacious exploration of The Book of Margery Kempe, characterised by multiple complementary and dissonant approaches. It employs a multiplicity of scholarly and critical lenses, including the intertextual history of medieval women’s literary culture, medical humanities, history of science, digital humanities, literary criticism, oral history, the global Middle Ages, archival research and creative re-imagining. Revealing several new discoveries about Margery Kempe and her Book in its global contexts, and offering multiple ways of reading the Book in the modern world, it will be an essential companion for years to come.

The collection features a critical introduction by Laura and myself plus thirteen essays by leading Margery Kempe experts: Diane Watt, Liz Herbert McAvoy and Naoë Kukita Yoshikawa, Josephine A. Koster, Ruth Evans, Johannes Wolf, Katherine Lewis, Susan Maddock, Anthony Bale and Daniela Giosuè, Dorothy Kim, Sarah Salih, Tara Williams, and of course Laura Kalas and Laura Varnam.

We’re so excited to see this project come to fruition and we’re so grateful for all the hard work of the contributors (‘Team Margery’!) and the brilliant editors at Manchester University Press. Look out for Encountering The Book of Margery Kempe in November 2021!

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History Today: My review of Maria Dahvana Headley’s Beowulf translation

I was delighted to be asked to review Maria Dahvana Headley’s new Beowulf translation by History Today magazine! You can read my review here.

If you’d like to find out more about the history of Beowulf and its translations, we discussed the Headley version, alongside translations by Tolkien, Heaney, and Edwin Morgan, plus a range of adaptations and creative rewritings, on the Beowulf episode of Backlisted podcast, which you can find here: Beowulf on Backlisted (hosted by Andy Miller and John Mitchison, with Andrew Male and myself as guests).

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Moving Holy Women in the Middle Ages: GMS2021 Roundtable

This week it’s the fantastic Gender and Medieval Studies conference! The theme for this year’s papers is ‘Gender and Mobility’ and the conference is being held online, organised by the University of Surrey. More info available here.

I’ll be speaking on a roundtable on Wednesday afternoon entitled ‘Moving Holy Women in the Middle Ages’, sponsored by the Margery Kempe Society, alongside Laura Saetveit Miles, Jennifer N Brown, and my Margery Kempe collaborator Laura Kalas.

The abstract for our session is below and I’m sure I’ll be back to blog about the discussion later this week!

Moving Holy Women in the Middle Ages

Sponsored by The Margery Kempe Society

Within the patriarchal teachings and regulations of the medieval Church, religious women fashioned alternative routes of devotion which enabled the pursuit of a spiritual life. The practice of an “imitatio Christi with specifically feminine inflections” produced what Barbara Newman terms “the womanChrist model”, where women could attain “an exalted status in the realm of the spirit”. Women moved the boundaries of religious expression, creating ‘grey zones’ such as the Beguine life; moved geographically, travelling on pilgrimage; and moved hearts and minds through their teachings. Yet, as Sarah McNamer has explored in her work on affective meditation, compassion in the Middle Ages was scripted as feminine: just as holy women were affectively ‘moved’ by their devotions, so their devotions ‘moved’ other Christians, both in the Middle Ages and beyond. This roundtable explores the meanings of moving, and being moved, in the devotional experience and writings of medieval women and in modern responses to their charismatic mobility.

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Backlisted Podcast: Beowulf episode

I was absolutely delighted to be invited back as one of the guests on the award-winning podcast Backlisted to discuss one of my favourite medieval poems: Beowulf!

I joined hosts Andy Miller and John Mitchinson, and special guest Andrew Male, for the Halloween episode of the podcast: you can listen online here.

We discussed the original Old English poem, a wide range of modern translations (including Seamus Heaney, Tolkien, Edwin Morgan, and the brilliant new version by Maria Dahvana Headley) and a number of modern adaptations and interpretations, from the 2007 Beowulf movie to John Gardner’s Grendel and much more! We also talked about Robert Shearman’s brilliant short story collection We All Hear Stories in the Dark, which I absolutely loved.

I had a fantastic time last year on the episode discussing Daphne du Maurier (available here). Thank you so much for inviting me back, the Beowulf discussion really was something special!

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Review of the Netflix Rebecca for The Conversation

Lily James and Armie Hammer as the De Winters in the new Netflix adaptation of Du Maurier’s Rebecca

This week I wrote my first review of the new Netflix adaptation of Du Maurier’s Rebecca for The Conversation. Follow this link to read the article. I discussed dreams and nightmares, interiority, and the boldness of the second Mrs de Winter, as well as reflecting on the ways in which Du Maurier’s novel speaks to our modern times.

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My Du Maurier Country, for Muddy Stilettos

In the week that saw the new adaptation of Rebecca appear on Netflix, I was delighted to talk to Rachel Buchanan at Muddy Stilettos about my favourite places to visit in Cornwall if you’d like to follow in the footsteps of Daphne du Maurier! Follow this link to check out my interview. I hope it won’t be long until I’m able to visit Du Maurier country again!

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Five Books Interview on Du Maurier’s Rebecca

This week I gave an expert interview to the website Five Books all about Daphne du Maurier’s most popular novel Rebecca, ahead of the release of the Netflix adaptation on 21st October. You can read the interview here: Five Books Rebecca.

I talked about the importance of Rebecca to Du Maurier’s literary reputation and its place within her canon of works. I explored the relationship of the novel to Jane Eyre, the significance of the nameless narrator, and the real-life inspiration behind Manderley. Finally I discussed adaptations of Du Maurier’s work on film and my anticipation and excitement for the new Netflix adaptation starring Lily James (pictured below).

In 2018 I gave an interview to Five Books which examined lesser-known works by Du Maurier, such as The Parasites and The Infernal World of Branwell Brontë. You can find my original interview here.

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Episode on Du Maurier’s The Scapegoat on the Modern Life Podcast

I was delighted to be invited as a guest on the Modern Life Podcast with Tabby Pawlitzki to discuss Daphne du Maurier’s 1957 novel The Scapegoat and the two adaptations of the novel: the 1959 film starring Alec Guinness and Bette Davis, and the 2012 television adaptation starring Matthew Rhys, Eileen Atkins, and Sheridan Smith (photoshopped image below!!)

You can listen to the podcast online at this link Please note that there are spoilers for the book and both adaptations! (We discuss the significance of the different endings of all three in some detail!)

If you’d like to find out more about the Alec Guinness adaptation, follow this link to my article on the Daphne du Maurier website.

Thank you, Tabby, for the fascinating discussion and for inviting me to take part. It was a pleasure!

Edited to note that the 2012 adaptation was first shown on ITV.

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Rebecca Readalong Resources

UPDATE 8.10.2020 Thank you to everyone who joined us for the readalong, it was fantastic talking to you all! This week I gave an interview to the website Five Books, all about Rebecca: its place within Du Maurier’s works, its importance for her literary reputation, the novel’s relationship with Jane Eyre, and much, much more! You can find the interview at this link: Five Books on Rebecca

Rebecca (novel) - Wikipedia

During September I am co-running a Rebecca readalong on Instagram with Kelly (Contrary Reader), in readiness for the new Netflix adaptation which will be released on 21st October (if you haven’t seen the trailer yet, you can find it here). The hashtag for the readalong is #Rebeccagetsread and we will be running the discussion in the week commencing 28th September. There will be prompts on my page and also on Kelly’s page. We’re looking forward to discussing it with you all! (Please note that many of the resources here contain spoilers! So if you are a first time reader of Rebecca, please finish the novel first!)

If you’d like to read around in the meantime, I thought I’d recommend some resources here, both online articles and books, that will give you more info on the novel and on Du Maurier herself.

The Rebecca Notebook: and other memories (Virago Modern Classics):  Amazon.co.uk: Du Maurier, Daphne: 9781844080908: Books

In 1981 Du Maurier published The Rebecca Notebook and Other Memories which includes the original plan for the novel (in ‘The Rebecca Notebook’) and the original ‘Rebecca Epilogue.’ There are a number of interesting differences between this material and the published version of the novel so it’s well worth a read!

The Rebecca Notebook and Other Memories also includes an essay that Daphne wrote in 1946 called ‘The House of Secrets’ which is all about Menabilly, the house in Cornwall which is the primary inspiration for Manderley.

Daphne du Maurier's Cornwall
Daphne du Maurier and her children at Menabilly (Kits, Tessa, and Flavia)

Du Maurier’s Rebecca celebrated its 80th anniversary of publication back in 2018. You can read my article in The Independent on why we can’t help being drawn to return to Manderley at this link. I also explore some of the ways in which the novel might resonate with a twenty-first century audience and I’ll be keen to hear from all the readalong participants why you think it still captures our imagination in 2020.

I’d also recommend this super article by Flora Watkins from the 80th anniversary: follow this link. Flora interviewed Daphne’s son Kits Browning, daughter Lady Tessa Montgomery, and nephew Rupert Tower, in her research for this piece.

I know that many of you are huge fans of the 1940 Hitchcock adaptation of the novel. If you are, you can read all about it in my article on the Du Maurier website: follow this link. I discuss the casting, the adaptation (including the changes that were required by the Motion Picture Production Code at the time) and Hitchcock’s relationship with Du Maurier.

Rebecca. 1940. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock | MoMA
Joan Fontaine as Mrs de Winter and Judith Anderson as Mrs Danvers

Last summer I wrote an article for the period drama website Willow and Thatch on what I’d be looking out for in the new Netflix adaptation. Follow this link to find out more and to read about the 1979 and 1997 television adaptations too.

Further Information on Daphne du Maurier

If you’d like to learn more about Daphne du Maurier more broadly, I gave an interview about her to the website Five Books: follow this link. In this interview essay, I focus on four less well known Du Maurier books: The Parasites, The Infernal World of Branwell Bronte, The King’s General, The Birds and other stories and I recommend Tatiana de Rosnay’s wonderful biography Manderley Forever. I discuss Daphne’s life, literary reputation, adaptations of her work (nb. spoilers!), and much more!

If you are based in the UK, you can watch the fascinating 1971 interview with Daphne du Maurier at Kilmarth (the house that she moved into after her lease at Menabilly ran out). Follow this link.

You can also listen to Daphne’s appearance on Desert Island Discs in 1977 at this link. And there are plenty of other fascinating articles on the Daphne du Maurier website too, including this one about the real life location of Rebecca’s boathouse by Ann and David Willmore (click here).

Kelly and I are looking forward to the discussion on Instagram later in the month! Do join us on the hashtag #Rebeccagetsread and share your thoughts… and your editions! There are so many amazing copies of Rebecca out there, we’d love to see yours!

Daphne du Maurier's 'Rebecca' comes to The Folio Society | The Arts Shelf
The Folio Society Rebecca
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Top Tips for Writing your First Journal Article

Prompted by a discussion with a colleague on Twitter, I thought I’d crowdsource some advice on writing your first academic article in the humanities. Thank you to everyone who replied to my tweet with their top tips! It can feel very intimidating to start working on your first journal article and you might not know where to start, so I hope that this post will offer some helpful advice and encouragement. This post isn’t exhaustive and is based on my own, and others’, personal experiences, so if you have any additional suggestions, please comment below or tweet me.

Best laptop for Writing a Book - Top Picks & Reviews in 2020 ...

So, what material should I base my article on?

It’s a good idea to start small, perhaps with an offshoot of your thesis or something that builds out of a 20-minute conference paper. You need to have a tight argument in an article and so the focus needs to be specific and circumscribed (and not hampered by the baggage of the entire thesis, otherwise the article will balloon! It might also end up sounding like a survey rather than a specific new intervention in the field). You’ll probably be thinking about turning the thesis into a monograph at some stage (see my post on this particular topic here) so you might not want to siphon off too much of the thesis (although of course you might want to publish a stand-alone chapter from your thesis as a way of getting your research out there and establishing your voice in the field).

My first article was based on a conference paper that I gave on The Book of Margery Kempe. I’d worked on Kempe in my thesis but this was a new idea, partly inspired by the conference and slightly adjacent to my main research area, and it focused on one specific moment in Margery’s Book. I gave a 20 minute paper on this idea and received some great feedback at the conference and I then gave a 40 minute version the following year, when I wanted to develop the surrounding context and importance of the argument for medieval devotional culture more broadly. It’s definitely worth thinking about conferences and talks as opportunities to get feedback and to develop material in this way.

Choosing a journal

You will need to choose your journal carefully so that you have the best chance of your article being accepted! You can get advice on this from your supervisor/mentors (and from twitter! I had an article published in a journal that I hadn’t really come across before asking for twitter advice. I also contacted the editor of the journal to gauge their interest in my proposed topic, as it was somewhat outside my usual area). You should also look at the research you’ve been doing- is there a journal that pops up frequently for the text/topic/approach that you’re working on? That might be a good place to start.

Research the journal. You’ll need to know practical things such as the word length that they typically accept, their house style etc, but you should also see if they are accepting submissions and how frequently. Do they publish four times a year or once a year? Have they got ‘special issues’ coming up which means that they won’t be accepting general submissions for a while? (A ‘special issue’ could of course be just the thing for your current research, so keep an eye on for those!). You should read through recent issues of the journal that you decide upon so as to see what kind of articles they are publishing and their style- how do these articles place themselves in the critical field, what sorts of research are they doing (close readings, historical studies, theoretical approaches etc). It’s no good sending a theory-heavy piece to a journal that focuses on historical readings. For my most recent article, on Christianity and medieval pity in the Harry Potter series, I read through recent issues of my chosen journal (Studies in Medievalism) to see how the articles positioned themselves in medievalism studies and in particular how they substantiated an approach which involved bringing modern and medieval texts into conversation. I hadn’t done this directly in my research before so it was great to see how other successful articles had approached this question.

Write an abstract

Just as you would do for a conference submission, it can be really helpful to write an abstract. This can help you to articulate and hone your argument. (Check out this post on writing conference abstracts, some of the same advice will apply!). If you can’t sum up the contribution that your article makes in a paragraph, you probably have more thinking to do! An article needs to have a tight-knit and specific argument otherwise it is unlikely to be accepted.

I always say to my students when they are writing their essays- what’s at stake here? Why does this argument matter, to the specific text that you’re working on and more broadly (in the critical field, in our current times). Being able to articulate this will lead to a clearer and stronger throughline in your article.

Scholarship and drafting

Make sure that you are up-to-date on recent scholarship in the field! (And especially in the journal that you are planning to submit your article to- when I read through back issues of Studies in Medievalism there was an article that asked why there weren’t more medievalism articles on religious topics, so I was able to address this question directly in my article on medieval Christian values in the Harry Potter series). It will be a red flag to a peer reviewer if your citations seem to stop at the year 2000 or if you are ignoring an important recent article in the journal you’ve submitted to! You’ll need to situate your article in relation to current debates in the field and state how your argument develops, complicates, or adds to those questions.

When you start writing the article, try not to worry too much about getting it perfect straightaway. For me, it’s all in the editing! I tend to need to write it all out- get all the material out of my head and onto the page- which is often messy and full of sections that don’t fit together! But that’s the ‘rubbish first draft’ stage and then I can start to figure out what goes where and how to make the structure work. I often do my best thinking when I’m writing so I often need to just start writing, and then I’ll figure out precisely where I’m going and what else I need to do to get there! Sometimes at this stage, I’ll write without stopping to fill in the references as that can interrupt the flow and make me start to feel more cautious or nervous. It can help to find ‘your’ voice by just writing exactly what you think first and then making sure you’ve situated yourself in the field.

When you’re redrafting, make sure that you check that you have a clear statement of your argument and purpose in the opening of the article (to signpost where you are going and make this clear to the reader and reviewer) and that your conclusion returns to these questions at the end. I often like to have an opening ‘vignette’, a passage or example that sets up the key issues and questions that I’ll be writing about, and I’ll often save a little passage of close reading for the conclusion too- something that will enable me to draw together my argument, state why it was significant, and perhaps gesture towards a broader debate.

You don’t have to do it alone!

Get advice– from your supervisor, examiners, peers and mentors, and your twitter communities! Your supervisor or examiners will be well placed to help you to identify material that will work well for an article and they may also have good suggestions for journals to target. Colleagues who have published in that journal might be able to offer you advice about their experience.

You will also want to get several friends and mentors to read your article before you submit it– both for advice on structure, argument, and content, and also for their thoughts on the clarity and precision of your writing. I often find it helpful to have a specialist reader, who will be able to tell me if I’m missing something key in a primary text or if I’ve omitted some important recent criticism, and if the argument as a whole ‘stands up.’ But it’s also great to have readers outside of your specialism who can give you a sense of whether it works as an article, without getting distracted by the contents. They won’t be bogged down in the nitty gritty of the material and it can be so helpful to have an outside opinion, especially because not everyone who reads your article will necessarily be researching your specific area (although many will be, of course). You will probably want your article to be accessible to a range of readers, for example, in my case, those who might be there for the theory or the theme rather than the particular text (or conversely, those who are there for the text but not the topic). I also personally believe that articles should be accessible to undergraduates too. (I’m privileged in this regard as I am able to teach topics from my research but I also think it’s important that my work be useful to students and general readers where it can be, otherwise I’m not quite sure what I’m doing it for!!). All of your readers can also pick up any spelling or grammatical errors because you’ll need to proof read carefully for those!

If you have an article idea, it can be helpful to present a version of it as a conference paper so that you can take advantage of the captive audience for advice and feedback, as I suggested above. This is especially helpful when you’ve finished the PhD because you don’t automatically have your supervisor to call on for feedback and so you will be looking to cultivate other communities for support. It can also be helpful to join an online writing group or to pair up with a friend to encourage each other, read each other’s work, and set each other deadlines for accountability when things get tough!

Don’t be afraid to aim high but also don’t be afraid of the feedback!

You’ll probably be aware of the top journals in your field and you shouldn’t be afraid to aim high when submitting an article (obviously assuming you’ve done your research and checked that the journal will be interested in the kind of work that you do.) You might want to make a list of journals, however, because your piece might not be accepted by the first journal you send it to, so where could you try next? I can often be a process, getting your first piece accepted, so think about the alternatives.

I’ve written elsewhere about the emotional side of article rejections and let’s face it, none of us wants to receive ‘reviewer 2’ style feedback (and peer reviewers, don’t be that person! Check out my blogpost here about doing your first peer review). But feedback from the peer review process, when done properly, is there to give you specific and constructive advice to improve your work and make it stronger and, importantly, publishable. Use it and welcome it, even though it may be difficult to hear at first. Thanks to @mediaevalrevolt on twitter for this comment: ‘Think about peer review as an opportunity to get feedback, not (just) as an obstacle to surmount in order to get published.’

I had some amazing feedback on my first peer-reviewed article, without which I never would have been able to publish it. It came back with a ‘revise and resubmit’ from the journal and one of the reviewers had spotted that one of the problems that I was having, was that I was trying to evidence two arguments, the first of which had actually already been accepted in the field (about the status of images in late medieval devotion), whereas the more interesting and original argument was the second strand of my discussion (the use of images as an opportunity for the performance of devotional identity; here’s a blogpost on my article if you’d like to find out more about that!). This feedback helped me to streamline and strengthen my argument. The reviewer also suggested that I needed to be more specific and grounded in the evidence from art history, and recommended a number of studies that I should consult and work into my piece, which I did. Following the specific and practical advice of the peer reviewer lead to a much stronger argument and an acceptance, for which I’m very grateful!

Don’t forget…

You will, of course, want your article to be the best that it can be when you send it out but remember that it doesn’t have to be absolutely perfect! You will inevitably have to make revisions during the peer review process so if you are happy with the stage that you’ve got to, you’ve run it past trusted friends and colleagues, and you’ve made sure it meets the house style, just send it off!

And if the article is rejected, that’s not the end of the story! Think about the feedback and after you’ve had a little time to regroup, work on it and send it off to another journal! This seems obvious but I wish I’d been given this advice earlier in my career. I had an article rejected from my chosen journal and I sort of thought, well that’s it, it’s no good if it’s been rejected, so I just put it in a drawer and tried to forget about it. What I should have done was returned to it, worked on it, and resubmitted it elsewhere! Just because a piece is rejected from one journal, doesn’t mean it isn’t any good at all or that it wouldn’t be perfect for another journal. Try not to be disheartened. Pick yourself up and have another go!

Finally…

Dr Lieke Smits recommended this book on twitter: Writing Your Journal Article in Twelve Weeks by Wendy Laura Belcher. I haven’t read it myself but I’ve heard good things about it so it might be worth checking out! I particularly like the title and the idea because it shows that you can produce a journal article in a specific period of time if you get organised and make a plan of attack!

Thanks to all of the following for contributing their ideas and helping me to write the above post: Jenni Nuttall, Daisy Black, Emma Smith, Laura Kalas Williams, Charlie Rozier, Fiona Noble, Frank Lough, Jenny Noble, Richard Cassidy, Colin Veach, Roberta Ann Quance, Laura Tisdall, Andrew Buck, Bjorn Weiler, Elizabeth Lehfeldt, Jennifer Brown, Eleanor Baker, Dean Irwin. (Apologies if I’ve missed anyone, I hope not!)

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