Vanessa  Wright

Vanessa Wright

IMS PhD Candidate

Summary: Thesis: The Function of the Cross-Dressing Motif in French Literature from 1200 to 1500

My PhD project examines the function of the literary motif of cross-dressing in French literature between 1200 and 1500. I aim to determine how and why this trope was used by authors as well as how the motif’s usage and representation changes across chronological and generic boundaries. This project will also explore the manuscript context of these literary texts with particular emphasis on visual representations in manuscript illuminations. 

This corpus of texts frequently engage with contemporary concerns. The issues raised in these texts are often closely connected with canon law debate and regulation. Consequently, this project explores the cross-dressing motif from a legal perspective.

This research project is funded by the School of History and IMS Postgraduate Research Scholarship. I am supervised by Professor Rosalind Brown-GrantDr Catherine Batt, and Dr Melanie Brunner.

I completed my undergraduate degree in 2012 at Royal Holloway, University of London with a BA Hons in French where my dissertation on literary representations of trial by combat was supervised by Professor Ruth Harvey. I was awarded the F. C Johnson award for the final year student showing the most promise in medieval French (RHUL 2012).

I then completed an MSt in Modern Languages at the University of Oxford in 2013, specialising in medieval French, and my dissertation on cross-dressing in thirteenth-century French literature was supervised by Dr Sophie Marnette. I began my PhD in 2015 at the University of Leeds, after two years working in Operations at an international development consultancy.

I was the Editor for volume 4 of Cerae: An Australasian Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies

Since, August 2016 I have worked as the Editorial Assistant for the journal Northern History.

I recently was awarded the 2018 Foremothers Fellowship from the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship. 


Wright, Vanessa, ‘Review: Male-to-Female Crossdressing in Early Modern English Literature’, Early Modern Literary Studies (in press)

Wright, Vanessa, ‘Review: Sexual Culture in the Literature of Medieval Britain’, Ceræ: an Australasian Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 2 (2016)


  • 2016/17; 2017/18: Introduction to Medieval European Literature.
  • 2017/18: Led two workshops for students (level 1-3) on medieval book culture, using items from the University of Leeds' Special Collections.

Other Responsibilities


  • Member of the Medieval Group seminar series steering committee (2015-18, Univ. of Leeds).
  • Postgraduate Representative on the International Medieval Congress Standing Committee.
  • Organiser and moderator for the ‘Memories of Empire’ session (sponsored by Cerae) at International Medieval Congress, July 2018.
  • Invited participant for the COST Action IS 1301 Final Meeting “New Communities of Interpretation” held in Rome (21st-23rd September 2018).
  • Member of the Organising Committee for the conference ‘Medieval Bodies Ignored’ (May 2018, Univ. of Leeds) and associated events and trips.


  • Student representative for the Institute for Medieval Studies 
  • Member of the Organising Committee for the two-day conference ‘Who Cares? The Past and Present of Caring’ (27-28th March 2017, Univ. of Leeds).
  • Organiser and moderator for the ‘Women and Francophone Literary Culture’ session at International Medieval Congress, 5th July 2017.
  • Member of the Organising Committee for the Postgraduate Colloquium (11th May 2017, School of History, Univ. of Leeds).
  • Participant at the COST Action IS 1301 Training School on ‘Late Medieval and Early Modern Book Culture’.
  • Postgraduate Representative for the Women, Gender, and Sexuality research cluster (School of History, University of Leeds).
  • Postgraduate Mentor for Students as Scholars programme (Univ. of Leeds)