Recently, I met with Dr Hollie Morgan to discuss her newly published monograph Beds and Chambers in Late Medieval England: Reading, Representation and Realities.
This volume is the first interdisciplinary study of the cultural meanings of beds and chambers in late medieval England and sheds new light on how medieval people felt about their domestic space and how this shaped their ideas about wider concepts such as of love, God, sex and politics.
This monograph draws from Hollie’s doctoral research which she completed at the University of York in 2014. Hollie says that she did not face many problems while writing and publishing her study, but confessed to feeling like she had to resurrect the metaphorical PhD monster ‘only to slay it again’ with the publication of this book!
In Beds and Chambers, Hollie draws on an array of literary, pragmatic and visual sources including romances, saints’ lives, lyrics, plays, wills, probate inventories, letters, church and civil court documents, manuscript illumination and physical objects. When asked what her favourite source to work with was, Hollie replied that she has always liked medieval romances, her favourite of these being Sir Gawain and the Green Knight which appears at the start and conclusion of her book. In our meeting, Hollie strongly advocated the use of a range of source materials as well as an interdisciplinary approach to Medieval Studies in order to nuance our understanding of the period: a methodology that is successfully employed in her own work.
I was particularly interested to find out more about the manuscript illumination on the cover of the volume. Hollie chose to use the historiated initial ‘A’ of ‘Adulterium’ from James le Palmer’s Omne bonum, an encyclopaedia of universal knowledge, which shows a man and woman in bed, with the explanation ‘Adulterium est alieni thori violacio’: adultery is the violation of the bed of another. Hollie explained that this renders the bed itself the focus of the illumination, making it a highly fitting and intriguing image for the front cover of this volume.
Hollie’s long term research goal is to understand what ‘home’ meant in late medieval England. With this in mind, Hollie plans to examine the cultural meanings of hearths and halls in her future research.
Congratulations Hollie on the publication of your book, and thank you for a lovely meeting!