Laura Kalas Williams



College: College of Humanities
Discipline: English
Department: English and Medieval Studies
Research Centre/Unit: Medical Humanities

I was awarded my PhD in November 2016. My thesis was examined by Professor Vincent Gillespie (Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford). I am now working towards a postdoctoral project based upon medical discourse in medieval female visionary texts.

I was delighted to be the winner of the 2015 Gender and Medieval Studies Group annual graduate student essay prize. The essay is now published in Medieval Feminist Forum (Williams, Laura K., '"Slayn for Goddys Lofe": Margery Kempe's Melancholia and the Bleeding of Tears', Medieval Feminist Forum​, 52, no. 1 (2016)).

My PhD thesis - 'Transformational Pain: A Medical Approach to Text, Experience and Life Cycle in Additional MS 61823, The Book of Margery Kempe'  took an interdisciplinary approach. It focused primarily on the fourteenth-century mystic, Margery Kempe, her conceptualisations of pain and painful experience, and her journey through the life cycle. The thesis argued for the ways in which age and experience facilitate a growing reconciliation with and repurposing of pain and surrogate activity, enabling a trajectory towards a nexus with God.  

I have presented papers at a number of national conferences, including the 'Medicine and Words' conference at St Anne's College, Oxford, in September 2015, the Gender and Medieval Studies Group at Hull University in January 2016, and Bangor University in January 2015. I delivered a short piece on my PhD research at the Exeter Symposium at Charney Manor in 2010. I gave a paper at Exeter University's Centre for Medieval Studies Postgraduate Workshop, on 'Death and Dying in The Book of Margery Kempe'. I was an invited speaker at the Royal Historical Society conference, 'Emotion and Evidence in the Late Medieval and Early Modern World'; at Cardiff University in May 2016. 

As well as my publication in Medieval Feminist Forum, I am co-editing a volume Gender and Emotion in Medieval Culture: Uses, Representations, Audiences, which is currently in preparation. A chapter about medieval Christian women and Medicine is forthcoming in a multi-volume Routledge series. My monograph, Desiring Dis-ease: Surrogacy and Transformation in The Book of Margery Kempe is under consideration by Boydell and Brewer. 

My analytical article about the gender politics of the US election and medieval women was published in The Conversation and The IndependentMy research about the recipe in the manuscript of Kempe's Book was covered by The Guardian and the BBC History Magazine.

I also write blog pieces for my own project website, Medieval Metamorphoses.