Call for Papers: New Chaucer Society Panel

Voices in Middle English Literature
Melissa Raine (
This panel focuses on ‘hearing’ the voice of a literary character inside one’s own head. ‘Voice’ is a perennial topic of fascination within literary scholarship, while the lived experience of ‘hearing voices’, both internal and external in origin, receives sustained attention within the human sciences. Can these fields engage in a mutually illuminating dialogue? How might listening for chronologically distant literary voices inflect such a conversation? What kind of theoretical paradigm could support such an exchange? Papers might also address medieval theories of voice and literature; reading silently, reading aloud, and auditing readings, from medieval practices to modern recordings, as well as considering the valorisations of internal voices associated with models of mental health.


Edited Collection

For a Profile of the collection and editors, see The ANZAMEMS Blog

Contemporary Chaucer across the centuries

Edited by Helen M. Hickey, Anne McKendry and Melissa Raine

This unique and exciting collection, inspired by the scholarship of literary critic Stephanie Trigg, offers cutting-edge responses to the writings of Geoffrey Chaucer for the current critical moment. The chapters are linked by the organic and naturally occurring affinities that emerge from Trigg’s ongoing legacy; containing diverse methodological approaches and themes, they engage with Chaucer through ecocriticism, medieval literary and historical criticism, and medievalism. The contributors, trailblazing international specialists in their respective fields, honour Trigg’s distinctive and energetic mode of enquiry (the symptomatic long history) and intellectual contribution to the humanities. At the same time, their approaches exemplify shifting trends in Chaucer scholarship. Like Chaucer’s pilgrims, these scholars speak to and alongside each other, but their essays are also attentive to ‘hearing Chaucer speak’ then, now and in the future.

Articles and Chapters

Humor and Humoralism: Representing Bodily Experience in the Prologue of the Siege of Thebes

See my forthcoming blog on this piece (18/4/19):

Journal of English and Germanic Philology, 2018

Searching for Emotional Communities in Late Medieval England

In Emotions and Social Change: Historical and Sociological Perspectives, ed. David Lemmings and Ann Brooks, Routledge 2014.

How successfully can we retrieve emotional engagement by readers with the texts of past periods? Norbert Elias’ Civilizing Process informs this search for how medieval emotional communities negotiated the popular Middle English “Dietary” by John Lydgate. Although dismissed by critics as seemingly banal health advice, the opportunities for introspection provided by the “Dietary” to pre-modern, embodied selves are clarified by attending to the discursive and material aspects of the text, as well as the reading practices of medieval readers.

Full knyghtly he ete his mete: Consumption and Social Prowess in Malory’s Tale of Gareth

Viator 43.1 (2012)

The Tale of Gareth combines Malory’s interest in the ethics of the chivalric body with an emphasis on Gareth’s conduct around food. Beginning his time in Arthur’s court as a kitchen hand, he is deprived of courtly alimentation, particularly meat, and the associations of social entitlement that come with the consumption of such meals. Gareth proves his chivalric worth not only by fighting, but also through his exemplary behavior whilst consuming increasingly refined meals throughout the tale, culminating in his own wedding feast. Not only do these meals articulate the non-combative qualities that attest to Gareth’s social superiority; they establish Gareth as a fitting symbolic successor to Arthur and his legacy, and thus offer an assurance of the inherent worthiness of the Arthurian regime despite its eventual tragic demise.  

“Fals Flesch”: Food and the Embodied Piety of Margery Kempe

New Medieval Literatures 7 (2005): 101-126.

Nominated article of the month, Feminae, Medieval Women and Gender Index, June 2006:

“Indexers select an article or essay at the beginning of each month that is outstanding in its line of argument, wealth of significances, and writing style. We particularly look for pieces that will be useful as course readings.”

Abstract: In examining Margery Kempe’s various interactions with food which include feeding the poor, fasting, receiving the Eucharist, and eating at the tables of prominent people, Raine does not find gender a highly significant factor. Rather Margery acts out of highly individualized motivations including a concern to establish and enhance her own standing. In her conclusion Raine questions Caroline Walker Bynum’s approach to women and food in Holy Feast and Holy Fast, finding the methodology and assumptions inadequate for the historical realities of gendered expectations and devotional practices. [Abstract supplied by Feminae.]

Events Convened

Childhood and emotions: a study day

With Stephanie Trigg


‘The Childhood of Christ’

With Rob Grout

In this podcast, Melissa Raine, an Honorary Associate Investigator with the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, and Rob Grout, a PhD candidate at the University of York, examine medieval childhood and emotions in their discussion of the fifteenth-century poem, ‘The Childhood of Christ’. This poem survives in a manuscript owned and compiled by Robert Thornton. It is now housed in the British Library


Forms of individuality and literacy in the medieval and early modern periods, by Arlinghaus, Franz-Josef, ed., (Utrecht Studies in Medieval Literacy, 31), Turnhout, Brepols, 2015.  

Childhood disability and social integration in the middle ages: Constructions of impairments in thirteenth- and fourteenth- century canonization processes, by Kuuliala, Jenni, (Studies in the History of Daily Life (800-1600), 4), Turnhout, Brepols, 2016. In Parergon, Vol. 35, No. 1, June 2018: 179-181  

Melissa Raine, review of Mitchell, J. Allan. Becoming Human: The Matter of the Medieval Child.

The Style of Gestures: Embodiment and Cognition in Literary Narrative by Guillemette Bolens

From Boys to Men: Formations of Masculinity in Late Medieval Europe 

Consuming Narratives: Gender and Monstrous Appetites in the Middle Ages and Renaissance

Learning and Literacy in Medieval England and Abroad (Parergon 2005)

Non-medieval texts

Review of ‘The First Stone: Some Questions About Sex and Power, with a New Afterword by the Author’. Women’s Studies International Forum, Vol 21(3), May-Jun, 1998. pp. 324. [Review-Book], Database: PsycINFO

Blog pieces

From Middle English To Modern Australia – My Research Journey Blog for We The Humanities describing the development of my research interests.

Reading Faces: Bodies, Senses, Lives Blog entry discussing the “Reading the Face” Collaboratory, University of Melbourne, June 2015  

The first happy child in English literature? Blog piece on Jack and His Stepdame for Children’s Book Week  

Jack Goody and the History of Emotions Reflections on Goody’s insistence on the role in literacy in understanding emotion within specific cultural contexts.


Hospitality and good governance : food and the embodied self in fifteenth century english writing

The relationship between the self and the text is a familiar topic within literary studies. However, few of the textual methods used to study this relationship were developed specifically with medieval versions of selfhood and textuality in mind. The dualistic models of self-experience upon which many forms of literary criticism are based limit our ability to explore both the role of language in medieval concepts of selfhood, as well as excluding embodied forms of experience from consideration. I wish to inquire into one specific aspect of embodied experience, the practice of eating, and the focus of that activity, food, within the textual field. Food exists in a particularly close relationship with the body; it is both essential for survival and heavily socially mediated. The topic of food, particularly food consumption, is found in a variety of fifteenth-century Middle English texts, suggesting that eating was endowed with considerable symbolic weight in late medieval England. To give serious consideration to the place of food within human society of any period or place is inherently challenging to conceptions of personhood that privilege the mind and intellect over a demeaned concept of the physical body as the site for emotion, irrationality, and involuntary or machine-like behaviours. Exploring the significance of food and eating in Middle English writing assists in breaking down dualistic models of selfhood, and thus permits a more open inquiry into medieval people’s beliefs about, and experiences of, their own persons, including their uses of texts. The first section of the thesis considers humoral discourse on food, and the forms of embodied self-experience and introspection suggested by Lydgate’s “Dietary”. This is followed by a discussion of Lydgate’s emulation or parody of Chaucer in the “Prologue” to the Siege of Thebes, where humoral discourse and food participate in an ideological contest over monastic bodies. The second section is concerned with issues of taste, and the coherence of communities around foods and food-related practices. Malory’s Tale of Gareth provides, through Gareth’s relationship with food, an idealised expression of both Gareth’s and the Arthurian elite’s entitlement to rule, which also proves significant for understanding the subsequent unravelling of the fellowship. The Book of Margery Kempe demonstrates considerable awareness of food’s capacity to express and maintain social, as well as spiritual communities; Margery’s presence at many tables provides a basis for the “everyday” aspects of her life as a spiritual authority. The letters of John Shillingford provide an unusually fresh account of a medieval individual’s self-presentation during social and legal interactions, some involving food, and offering valuable insight into the lived negotiation of conventional behaviour. Each of these readings maintains alertness to the limitations of the “disembodied” nature of contemporary reading practices, which are capable of projecting dualistic conceptions of selfhood onto these texts through their assumptions about the nature of language. Instead, productive alternatives are proposed for rethinking the connections between language, food, and selfhood at the close of the English Middle Ages.