Miles, Laura Saetveit. The Virgin Mary’s Book at the Annunciation: Reading, Interpretation, and Devotion in Medieval England (Woodbridge, UK: D.S. Brewer, 2020).
An exploration of the Annunciation scene (Luke 1:26-38) in the literature and art of the Middle Ages, this monograph presents the first full-length analysis of the motif of Mary’s book and argues that her reading offered one of the most powerful models of reading and devotion for medieval readers – particularly enclosed religious women and female visionaries.
NEWS ABOUT THE BOOK
Video recording of Book Launch Webinar 25 March 2020
Boydell & Brewer 'Proofed' Blog Post 25 March 2020
INTRODUCTION TO TRANSLATION
Miles, Laura Saetveit. “Introduction” (pp. vii-liii) and translation of “To Hugh Hermit” (pp. 149-155), in The Works of Richard Methley, trans. Barbara Newman. Cistercian Studies Series No. 286 (Liturgical Press, Jan 2021)
In this volume, late-medieval Carthusian mystical author Richard Methley’s original works in Latin are translated for the first time by Barbara Newman, and I contribute the “Introduction” and a translation of the short Middle English letter “To Hugh Hermit.” The “Introduction” offers a comprehensive overview of Methley, his works, their manuscript context, sources and traditions, audience and subsequent influence. This is the most in-depth analysis of Methley’s texts yet published and synthesizes detailed examinations of surviving manuscript evidence as well as the treatises’ content. I make the claim that these works should be seen as part of a late-medieval fluorescence of Carthusian spirituality that was remarkable for England at the time. The publication of this volume will likely jump-start a long overdue, renewed scholarly interest in Methley.
“This book makes available in modern English one of the most significant contributions to the contemplative tradition of fifteenth-century England. By fusing in such a sophisticated way the apophatic and the cataphatic approaches to the contemplative life as part of his experience, Methley’s writings challenge our contemporary desire for categorization and division. The excellent translations by Barbara Newman bring to light the daily mystical experiences and the pastoral concerns of a Carthusian monk following a strict monastic life. Her notes and the outstanding general introduction by Laura Saetveit Miles provide a wealth of information about the rich religious tradition from which Methley’s corpus emerged.”
Denis Renevey, Professor of Medieval English Language and Literature, University of Lausanne
Miles, Laura Saetveit. “Beinecke MS 317 and its New Witness to the Latin Door Verses from London Charterhouse: A Story of Carthusian and Birgittine Literary Exchange” in Manuscript Culture and Medieval Devotional Traditions: Essays in Honour of Michael G. Sargent, ed. Jennifer N. Brown and Nicole R. Rice (York Medieval Press / Boydell & Brewer, March 2021), pp. 3-24.
A previously unidentified copy of a set of monastic contemplative poetic couplets is described and analyzed for the first time in this essay. These acrostic Latin door verses once each adorned the wall over each cell door of the London charterhouse and offer an important view into the literary culture of late-medieval monastic orders. In light of this new identification, I examine the manuscript context of Beinecke MS 317 and its links to both the Birgittines of Syon Abbey and the Carthusians. I argue that the texts and annotations in MS 317 testify to the fluid literary exchange which defined the close relationship between these contemplative monastic orders in late-medieval England.
Miles, Laura Saetveit. “Canon, Anon., a Nun: Queering the Canon with Medieval Devotional Prose.” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 42 (2020): 295-310.
Miles, Laura Saetveit and Diane Watt. “Introduction” to 'Special Colloquium: Women’s Literary Culture and the Medieval English Canon: Gender and Genre.' Studies in the Age of Chaucer 42 (2020): 285-293.
Volume 42 of the annual journal Studies in the Age of Chaucer presents a Special Colloquium on 'Women's Literary Culture and the Medieval English Canon: Gender and Genre,' a gathering of six essays co-edited by myself and Prof. Diane Watt (University of Surrey). In our co-authored 'Introduction,' we explain the impetus for examining questions of gender and genre, how we see the canon working today, and the international network behind the colloquium. In my single-authored article "Canon, Anon., a Nun," I propose that the fluid anonymity of much devotional prose can be seen as a queer challenge to the modern canon of medieval literature.
Miles, Laura Saetveit. "The Living Book of Cambridge, Trinity College MS B.15.42: Compilation, Meditation, and Vision" in Late Medieval Devotional Compilations in England, ed. Marleen Cré, Diana Denissen, Denis Renevey (Brepols, 2020), pp. 363-384.
Trinity College MS B.15.42 contains Richard Rolle's The Commandment, the anonymous compilations Meditaciones domini nostri and Contemplations of the Dread and Love of God, as well the purgatory visions of Tnugdal and the monk of Eynsham, among other texts. Yet it has never before been studied comprehensively. This article proposes that the manuscript draws the reader’s attention to the interconnectedness of body, contemplation, and vision, and the necessity of their juxtaposition for moral living and salvation. I weave together close readings of the individual texts with several codicological and paleographical factors: the order of the texts, their mise-en-page, the scribe’s use of rubrication, the addition of marginal drawings, and other evidence of reader use of the manuscript.
Miles, Laura Saetveit. “Queer Touch Between Holy Women: Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe, Birgitta of Sweden, and the Visitation” in Touching, Devotional Practices and Visionary Experience in the Late Middle Ages, ed. David Carrillo-Rangel, Delfi I. Nieto-Isabel, and Pablo Acosta-Garcia (Palgrave, 2019), pp. 203-235.
This essay takes a new approach to the well-known meeting between two late-medieval English visionary women, Margery Kempe and the anchoress Julian of Norwich, as described in The Book of Margery Kempe. In this analysis their conversation subtly evokes a long history of women concentrating their subversive power through intimate, spiritual exchange. By examining Margery and Julian’s encounter, Luke’s Visitation passage, its depiction in a late-medieval Book of Hours, and comparing two different Middle English translations of a Visitation vision in Birgitta of Sweden’s Revelations, the full transgressive effect of queer touch between women—or even its unspoken possibility—emerges.
Miles, Laura Saetveit. “‘Syon gostly’: Crafting Aesthetic Imaginaries and Stylistics of Existence in Medieval Devotional Culture,” in Emerging Aesthetic Imaginaries, ed. Lene Johannessen and Mark Ledbetter (Lexington Books, 2018), pp. 79-91.
In this essay I use Marielle Macé’s reader-response theory on how literature shapes the way we see the world, to examine how devotional texts borrow from Birgitta’s Revelations to train readers to see like her. Syon Abbey, in particular, cultivated a bespoke textual style rooted in the power of the female visionary.
Miles, Laura Saetveit. “An Unnoticed Borrowing from the Treatise Of Three Workings In Man’s Soul in the Gospel Meditation Meditaciones Domini Nostri,” Journal of the Early Book Society 20 (2017): 277-284.
In this Nota bene piece, I draw attention to how an understudied Middle English life of Christ known as Meditaciones Domini Nostri borrows the long Annunciation passage from the treatise Of Three Workings in Man's Soul. This added focus on Mary's mystical prayer builds on the meditation's broader concern with women's visionary and contemplative abilities.
Miles, Laura Saetveit. “The Origins and Development of Mary’s Book at the Annunciation,” Speculum 89 (2014): 1-38.
Winner, 2014-2015 Prize for Best Article, Society of Medieval Feminist Scholarship
Article of the Month, May 2015, Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index
This ground-breaking article surveys a huge range of artistic and textual sources, from the second century through the twelfth century, to pinpoint for the first time the rise of Mary’s reading in its historical context. Here I argue for its origins in monastic reforms and its later meaningful associations with enclosed religious women.
Miles, Laura Saetveit. “Looking in the Past for a Discourse of Motherhood: Birgitta of Sweden and Julia Kristeva,” Medieval Feminist Forum 47.1 (2011): 52-76.
Winner, 2010 Prize for Best Article by a Graduate Student,
Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship
Julia Kristeva wrote a provocative early piece, "Stabat Mater," where she invoked the Virgin Mary's long cultural history to reflect on her own motherhood. I put Kristeva in conversation with Birgitta of Sweden, and compare their parallel – but different – relationships to the Mother of God.
Miles, Laura Saetveit. “Richard Methley and the Translation of Vernacular Religious Writing into Latin” in After Arundel: Religious Writing in Fifteenth Century England, ed. Vincent Gillespie and Kantik Ghosh (Turnhout: Brepols, 2011), pp. 449-466.
This article examines the translations of The Cloud of Unknowing and Marguerite Porete's Mirror of Simple Souls from Middle English to Latin, by Carthusian monk Richard Methley (d. 1527). I argue that his exceptionally difficult Latin serves to ‘cloister’ advanced texts from both inexperienced readers and from over-sensitive clerical authorities on the look-out for heresy.
Miles, Laura Saetveit. “Playing Editor: Inviting Students Behind the Text,” Early Modern Cultures Online 6 (2015): 41-47.
Miles, Laura Saetveit. “St Bridget of Sweden” in The History of British Women’s Writing, Vol. 1: 700-1500, ed. by Diane Watt and Liz Herbert McAvoy (London: Palgrave, 2012), pp. 207-215.
Miles, Laura Saetveit. “Scribes at Syon: The Communal Usage and Production of Legislative Texts at the English Birgittine House” in Saint Birgitta, Syon and Vadstena. Papers from a Symposium in Stockholm 4-6 October 2007, ed. by C. Gejrot, S. Risberg & M. Åkestam (Stockholm: Kungl. Vitterhets Hist. och Antikv. Akademien, 2011), pp. 71-88. [read]
Miles, Laura Saetveit. “Space and Enclosure in Julian of Norwich’s A Revelation of Love” in A Companion to Julian of Norwich, ed. by Liz Herbert McAvoy (Cambridge: Boydell & Brewer, 2008), pp. 154-165. [read]
Miles, Laura Saetveit. “Julian of Norwich and St. Bridget of Sweden: Creating Intimate Space with God” in Rhetoric of the Anchorhold: Space, Place and Body within the Discourses of Enclosure, ed. by Liz Herbert McAvoy (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2008), pp. 127-140. [read]