Abstract: This paper sketches a theory of identity creation, forging – or rather, excavating – the link between medieval hagiography and modern social media. It offers a framework for new ways of thinking through medieval saints’ lives, and our own online presence, grounded in a case study of one heavily online mystic in particular: Margery Kempe, with a deep dive into her many Twitter accounts. What can the specificities of her medieval text, the Book of Margery Kempe – especially the power dynamics structuring its composition – teach us about the tweeting Margeries’ use of social media, and our own? And, in turn, what can a close reading of the many Margeries’ tweets add to our understanding of the Book, and the ambiguous process of collaborative authorship? From Margery’s vantage point, social media becomes a vehicle for fabricating, authenticating – and advertising – the self, pulsing with an autohagiographic impulse that might yet make mystics of us all.
Bio: Dr Alicia Spencer-Hall is an Honorary Senior Research Fellow at Queen Mary, University of London. Her research specialises in comparative analyses of medieval literature and modern critical theory. She works extensively on medieval hagiography with her research inflected by contemporary visual, media, cultural, and gender studies. Her first book, "Medieval Saints and Modern Screens" (Amsterdam University Press, 2018) explores the intersections between divine visions in the lives of medieval holy women and our modern consumption of media. The essay collection, "Trans and Genderqueer Subjects in Medieval Hagiography", recently published with Amsterdam University Press and co-edited with Blake Gutt, demonstrates the presence of trans and genderqueer identities in the Middle Ages. You can download the volume Introduction and a language, terminology and usage guide for trans and genderqueer studies for free from the Press’ website. Right now, she’s working on a two-volume edited collection on disability in medieval hagiography, with Leah Pope Parker and Stephanie Grace-Petinos. Alicia blogs about pop culture, critical theory and medieval literature at medievalshewrote.com and you can find her on Twitter as @aspencerhall. Today, Alicia will be presenting material from her forthcoming second monograph, "Medieval Twitter" (ARC Humanities), which analyses similarities between medieval methods of communication and Twitter.
this seminar is free to attend, but booking in advance is required.