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Women Write the Past: Medieval Scholarship, Old English and New Literature

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3-22
Number of pages20
JournalBulletin of the John Rylands Library
Issue number2
Early online date1 Sep 2017
Accepted/In press27 Apr 2017
E-pub ahead of print1 Sep 2017
PublishedNov 2017


King's Authors


This article explores the contributions of women scholars, writers and artists to our understanding of the medieval past: its history, literature and culture as well as its creative use in the modern and contemporary present. It begins with a contemporary artist’s book by Liz Mathews that uses a few lines of one of Boethius’s Latin lyrics from the Consolation of Philosophy as translated by Helen Waddell (1889-1965). It then explores a network of medieval women scholars of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries who can be associated with Manchester and with the John Rylands Library, such as Alice Margaret Cooke and Mary Bateson. It concludes by examining the engagement of Eavan Boland, contemporary poet, with the Old English poem, ‘The Wife’s Lament’. The art of Liz Mathews and poetry of Eavan Boland together with the scholarship of women like Alice Cooke, Mary Bateson, Helen Waddell, and Eileen Power indicates how women’s writing of the past – creative, public, scholarly – forms one strand of the archive of women’s history that is still being put together.

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