This year Irina Dumitrescu and Mary Wellesley returned to the LRB with a twelve-part Close Readings series, Medieval Beginnings, exploring the strange and wonderful literary landscape of the Middle Ages. Starting in January 2023, the series considered well-known works such as Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, as well as many lesser-known texts, from across the European continent, that have all helped to lay the foundations of English literature. Listen to a sample here from their first episode, on Beowulf.
Encounters with Medieval Women
In their 2023 podcast miniseries, Mary Wellesley and Irina Dumitrescu looked at the lives and voices of women in medieval literature through four key texts, ranging roughly from the year 300 to 1500. The episodes featured Mary of Egypt, Julian of Norwich, Margery Kempe and the Wife of Bath.
Episode 1: Repentant Sinner
Episode 2: Anchoress
Episode 3: Storyteller
Episode 4: Firebrand
As part of his Something Understood series, BBC broadcaster Mark Tully investigates the resurgence of interest in Mother Julian of Norwich.
MOTHER JULIAN was an anchoress, or hermit, who shut herself up in a cell, following a series of visions of Christ during a dangerous illness. She referred to herself as “a simple creature” and yet has been described as “the greatest English theologian”.
Mark looks at the earliest manuscripts of her Revelations of Divine Love with bibliographic historian Dr Mary Wellesley at the British Library, and discusses the powerful appeal of the book considered to be the first by a woman writing in English.
The readers are Jane Whittenshaw and David Westhead.
Presenter: Mark Tully
Producer: Frank Stirling
A 7digital production for BBC Radio 4.
Julian of Norwich
London Review of Books
Two worlds collide in this Close Readings fusion episode in which Mary Wellesley talks to Mark Ford about the medieval in Thomas Hardy and the wider Victorian imagination. They discuss why Hardy liked to present himself as an Arthurian knight, his satirisation of the chivalric ideal in his novel A Pair of Blue Eyes, and the way his training as an architect influenced his devotion to poetic spontaneity and experimentation.
Thomas Hardy’s Medieval Mind
with Mary Wellesley and Mark Ford