Amy Appleford

Associate Professor of English Director, Medieval Studies Program

  • Title Associate Professor of English
    Director, Medieval Studies Program
  • Phone 617-358-2551
  • Education BA, MA, University of Guelph
    PhD, University of Western Ontario

For CV click here

I specialize in late medieval religious writing, urban and civic literature and culture, the history of the body, women’s literary cultures, visionary writing, reformation writing, the history of the book, and medieval and sixteenth-century drama. I also offer courses at the undergraduate and graduate levels on theory and method, with a particular focus on disability studies, health humanities, gender and sexuality studies, and performance theory.

My first book, Learning to Die in London, 1380-1530 (UPenn 2015), argues that the structured awareness of death and mortality was a vital aspect of medieval civic culture, critical not only to the shaping of single lives and the management of families and households but also to the practices of cultural memory, the building of institutions, and the good government of the city itself. Disputing the historical stereotype that names the fifteenth century as decadent and morbid, the book demonstrates that death in the period was an instrument: an imaginative and creative tool for artistic, psychological or political analysis and expression for poets and other cultural makers, and a practical one for the urban city elite, as they used post mortem bequests from their predecessors to fund the projects that literally built the city during the course of the century. This project was supported by grants and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies; the Leverhulme Trust (U.K); the Stanford University Humanities Center; and the Boston University Center for the Humanities.

My current project, Perilous Bodies: Asceticism and the Imagination of Illness and Disability in Medieval England, is a study of late medieval ascetic writing and cultures. The explicit aim and desire of ascetic practice in the period is to utilize the body as a theological and devotional resource, in order to access the divine in some way in this life as well as paving the way for salvation in the next. However, medieval English ascetic writing is also marked by a stark realization of embodied precarity, often displaying anxiety around the ways in which the contingencies of the body have the potential to interrupt or undermine ascetic goals. In their accounts of the sufferings and struggles that attend embodiment and shape the ways in which a person interacts with their community and with God, ascetic texts engage with a number of concerns associated with embodiment in medieval culture, including the social, theological and philosophical meanings of illness, health, and debility.

Selected Publications
  • “Reading Women in the Medieval Information Age: The Life of Elizabeth of Spalbeek and The Book of Margery Kempe.” Studies in the Age of Chaucer 42 (Dec 2020): 253-281. [with Corinne Saunders]
  • “Singing the Dirige: Lyric and Vernacular Liturgy in Fifteenth-Century England.” Church and City in the Middle      Ages: Essays in Honour of Clive Burgess, Proceedings of the 2017 Harlaxton Symposium, edited by David Harry and Christian Steer, Shaun Tyas Publications, 2019, pp. 432-448.
  • “Askesis, Dissent, and the Tudor State: Richard Whitford’s Rule for Lay Men,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 46.2 (May 2016)
  • “Into the Sea Ground and the London Street: The Limits of the Ascetic Body in Julian of Norwich and Thomas Hoccleve,” The Chaucer Review 51.1 (January 2016)
  • “Performance in Households and Merchant Halls.” In Oxford Handbooks Online, New York: Oxford University Press (December 2015). https://www.oxfordhandbooks.com/view/10.1093/oxfordhb/9780199935338.001.0001/oxfordhb-9780199935338-e-93.
  • Learning to Die in London, 1380-1540, The Middle Ages Series (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2015) (monograph)
  • “The Good Death of Richard Whittington: Corpse to Corporation,” The Ends of the Body in Medieval Culture, eds. Suzanne Akbari and Jill Ross (2012)
  • “Julian of Norwich,” History of British Women’s Writing. Vol. 1: 1350-1500, eds. Diane Watt and Liz Herbert McAvoy (2012)
  • Amy Appleford and Nicholas Watson, “Merchant Religion in Fifteenth-Century London: The Writings of William Litchfield,” The Chaucer Review 46.1 and 2 (2011)
  • “Shakespeare’s Katherine of Aragon: Last Medieval Queen, First Recusant Martyr,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 40.1 (Winter 2010)
  • “The Dance of Death in London: John Lydgate, John Carpenter, and the Daunce of Poulys,” Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 38.2 (Spring 2008)
  • “The ‘Comene Course of Prayer’: Julian of Norwich and Late Medieval Death Culture,” Journal of English and Germanic Philology 107.2 (April 2008)
Work in Progress
  • Perilous Bodies: Asceticism and the Imagination of Illness and Disability in Medieval England
Honors, Grants, and Awards
  • American Council of Learned Societies Fellowship, 2020-21
  • Leverhulme International Network Grant, 2015-2018: Women’s Literary Culture and the Medieval Canon
  • Frank and Lynn Wisneski Award for Excellence in Teaching, College of Arts and Sciences, 2016
  • Boston University Center for the Humanities Junior Fellowship, 2012-13
  • Stanford Humanities Center External Faculty Fellowship, Stanford University, 2010-11
  • Certificate of Teaching Excellence, Harvard University, 2008, 2007, 2006, 2005

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