About Me

Jeanne de Montbaston is the name of a medieval Frenchwoman, an artist who lived in Pacropped-jeanne-de-montbaston1.jpgris and who worked on some of the bestselling books of her time. One of her illustrations has taken on a life of its own, appearing on twitter, facebook and buzzfeed with regularity. It belongs with the scandalous, rude and misogynistic poem, the Roman de la Rose or ‘Romance of the Rose,’ and it features a tiny nun picking penises from a tree laden with phallic fruit. I’ve written about Jeanne’s work on this blog and spoken about it on BBC Radio 4, and it is one of my favourite examples of the ways in which medieval women made their own voices and views heard, even within the margins of texts written by men.

My name is Lucy Allen, and I’m a medievalist, working on the literature and visual culture of England and France in the thirteenth, fourteenth, and fifteenth centuries. My main interest at the moment is in the ways in which medieval writers and artists represented women, and I’m currently writing a book about Chaucer’s Legend of Good Women and Middle English romances written in the late fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. I’m also interested in the histories of sexuality and violence, and some of my blog posts here are about contemporary issues relating to feminism and sexuality, as well as about medieval studies. I live and work in Cambridge with my partner and my baby daughter, and you can also find me on twitter as @LucyAllenFWR.


28 thoughts on “About Me

    • Gosh … well, without more detail, I would say Henrietta Leyser’s ‘Medieval Women’ is a nice introduction. But there’s masses more out there, so if you let me know what you are interested in, I’ll try to have a think. And thank you for the kind comment!

  1. Thanks for replying – will check that one out!
    Just wondering, have you read ‘Medieval Misogyny and the Invention of Western Romantic Love’?

    • I have, yes! I think it’s a really interesting question, even if I’m not sure you can ‘invent’ something of that nature.

  2. Just discovered your website and read your “Should of Known…” blog. Very enjoyable. Question for you–on a (an) historical novelist forum lately there was a question about what the English (or the French for that matter)called the English Channel during the Middle Ages. There were many suggestions–none that totally rang true for me. I’m writing a novel set in the 11th century. Any idea about the Channel? Thank you.

    • I’m glad you like it!

      I have to admit, I actually don’t have the first idea, but I will ask people who might know. I would think both English and French would be writing about it in French and Latin, but I wonder if they used the same word?

      What a fascinating question.

  3. I’m writing a detailed commentary on Chaucer’s Wife of Bath’s Prologue and Tale which I hope to put on the Times Ed Supp website where it can be accessed for free by anyone who might have some interest in Chaucer. I’d love to quote some of your Codpieces and Demons blog – I found what you wrote about god-sibs and janglers and Tutivillus fascinating (and very relevant). I would, of course, acknowledge you and your website.
    Carola Beecham

    • Yes, please feel free – so long as it is acknowledged (with the blog hyperlink), that’s fine. It sounds like a great resource – I’d love a link to it, if I may?

      I’m glad you liked the blog.

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  5. Hello: I will be teaching a summer graduate course on Nicola Griffith’s Hild starting next week, and I wanted to let you know that I’m listing some of your entries on a list of sites that feature images from medieval manuscripts that feature women for students to see.

    They have to find five medieval images of women for two class assignments.

    I had originally hoped to have my students do digital archive searches in the digitized collections, but a few hours of playing around convinced me it would be too much for students in a literature department in a five-week term, so I did a search for images of women in medieval manuscripts, and one of your blog posts came up in the top Google results (along with the British library and a BBC history webpage).

    I am not a medievalist but do a fair amount of work in medievalisms relating to contemporary fantasy (Tolkien primarily), but now have this new major interest in Griffith’s work.

    I’ll be emphasizing issues of copyright, attribution, fair use, etc. in the assignments (which are an annotated bibliography, and a remix project on the novel using five images of medieval women along with other materials), and hope to have student projects online at the end if you’d like to see some of the results.

    I also plan to keep reading your blog (probably via an rss feed to Dreamwidth where I hang out in my fan persona).


    • Oh, that sounds like such a fascinating course! I hope the images are all useful – I don’t think I’ve anything I got from anywhere except the usual suspects (Wiki commons, the British Library’s non-copyright library, etc.), but if that’s what they’d find useful, that’s great!

  6. Hello Jeanne/Lucy, we are a website for adults and students with dyslexia. We do podcasts, articles and videos about dyslexia to provide help, advice or just a place for like-minded people. We are interested of what you are doing and wondering if you would up for a chat?
    Have a look at our website and let us know if you are interested. Cheers.

  7. Hi Lucy! I am a Medievalist too and I work on Medieval illuminated manuscripts produced in England and France in the thirteenth and fourteenth century! Nice to meet you virtually! I do really love your blog!

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  9. Hello Lucy, I recently listened to your brilliant seminar, ‘Queering the Womb’, and have a question about something you mentioned.

    In the seminar, you refer to the common, medieval notion of Christ taking on Mary’s ‘maternal flesh’. In turn, this got me thinking whether, in a sense, Christ’s body was ever conceived as female in medieval culture, due to this idea. After all, Christ’s conception was ‘free’ from male contribution.

    I am aware of medieval representations of an androgynous Adam. Was, therefore, Christ taking on the female flesh/male bodily form a return to the perfect state of androgyny? I’d be interested to know if you’ve ever found anything along those lines in your research.

    Many thanks,


    • Hello! I’m so sorry, I only just saw this. Thank you for your kind comments and your interest.

      Yes, there’s definitely a medieval understanding of Christ as feminine – Julian of Norwich is a good example of someone who sees Christ as a mother as well as a father. Picturing the wound in his side as a kind of womb is quite common, too.

      I’m not sure that the idea is so much a return to androgyny, though – it’s just the idea that Christ’s manhood is humanity rather than masculine gender (if that makes sense).

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