Centre for the Study of the Viking Age

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Abigail Williams

Research Student,


Research Summary

Research Topic:

'Reconsidering Representations of Women and Instruction in Old English texts'.

Research Summary:

My thesis concerns the representation of women as teachers, students, and advisors, in Old English literature (700 - 1000AD). Currently, I am researching the vocabulary associated with women and education across Old English and Latin texts. These involve an array of women from different backgrounds who engaged with academic and religious instruction in alternative ways. This study highlights the precise patterns used by male authors to present women not only as educated, capable students, but proficient advisors and educators in religious and social areas. I use quantitative and textual analysis of Old English lexemes associated with 'instruction' as learning, teaching, and 'instructing' to argue that different groups of women are represented as engaged in these areas in specific ways.

Research Interests:

Women in Early Medieval England

Medieval Gender

Anglo-Latin and Old English texts

Old English lexicology


(I mostly focus on medieval gender and the participation of women in Early English society but I am keen to investigate the possibilities of an interdisciplinary approach).

Research Supervisor/s:

Associate Professor in Viking Studies, Dr. Christina Lee

Associate Professor in Middle English and Older Scots, Dr. Joanna Martin

Conference Papers & Presentations:

'To Teach or not to Teach? Women in Old English texts', TOEBI Annual Conference, Nov. 2020.

'Reaching Out with Words: Overcoming Immobility in the Latin Letters of Berhtgyth', Gender and Medieval Studies, Jan. 2021.

'Quantity and Quality: Examining Representations of Women and 'Instruction' in Old English Texts', ISSEME Biennial Conference: Contributions, June 2021.

'Crossing Gender Boundaries: Spiritual Knowledge and Gender Fluidity in Ælfric's Lives of Saints', IMC Leeds, July 2021.

Additional Information:

Postgraduate Representative of TOEBI: http://www.toebi.org.uk/committee/ (2019 -)

Contributor Liaison for the Journal of Languages, Texts and Society (Nottingham) (2019 -).

Postgraduate Representative (3rd Yr) for University of Nottingham, School of English (2020 -).

Member of SMFS (Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship).

Member of ISSEME (International Society for the Study of Early Medieval England).

Centre for the Study of the Viking Age

Trent Building
The University of Nottingham
University Park

telephone: +44 (0) 115 951 5900
fax: +44 (0) 115 951 5924
email: csva@nottingham.ac.uk