Dr Catherine Batt

Dr Catherine Batt

Senior Lecturer in Medieval Literature

+44 (0)113 343 4758

Summary: Medieval literature: in particular translation studies, gender studies, romance, hagiography, devotional literature, Anglo-Norman, Hoccleve, Malory, medievalism, material culture.

Research Interests

Translation, in all its manifestations, linguistic and cultural, across time and tongues, is a central and continuing focus of my research interests, which include: multilingual medieval cultures; English/French literary relations; Saints’ Lives; the Gawain-poet; Caxton; Thomas Hoccleve; material culture; Thomas Malory and Arthurian Literature; Middle English Romance; poetics and the representation of women; women’s writing; twentieth-century medievalism (including the work of V. S. Naipaul, and Sylvia Townsend Warner); medieval medical cultures; devotional literature and the language of spiritual selfhood; Sloth, from sin to pathology

Questions of translation are at the heart, not simply of medieval communication, but also of artistic invention, and I am a medievalist because medieval culture offers such rich resources for knowing and understanding ourselves and the wider world. The artefacts of medieval culture continually surprise me by challenging the tenets of modern preconceptions, not only about the Middle Ages, but about humanity and human interaction in general. Medieval cultures have different ideas about originality and inspiration from prevalent contemporary notions of artistic originality, and from the beginning of my interest in the medieval I have been engaged with translation’s creative dimensions. My MA dissertation (University of Liverpool) considered issues of imitation and originality in versions of the Saint Katherine legend, including the Latin Vulgate, the Anglo-Norman verse Vie by the nun Clemence of Barking, and early and later versions in Middle English poetry and prose. My PhD work (also at the University of Liverpool) considered English literary responses to French Arthurian cyclic romance. In Malory’s Morte Darthur: Remaking Arthurian Tradition (New York: Palgrave, 2002), I explored how Malory’s dual inheritance of insular and continental material informs a text that expresses a desire for social, political and literary stability, but also acknowledges, inter alia, the failures of social and legal institutionalizations of violence, in what becomes a critique of both literary form and social order.

Some of my more recent work involves practical translation: my translation of and commentary on Henry, duke of Lancaster’s Anglo-Norman penitential treatise, Le Livre de seyntz medicines / The Book of Holy Medicines (1354) is forthcoming in the French of England Translation Series (University of Arizona Press), gen. eds Thelma Fenster and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne. This fascinating work, the anguished outpourings of a soul acknowledging his sin and crying to God for grace, immediately catches the attention with its central metaphor of the spiritual self as a body wounded by sin, whom Christ the Physician treats with the salvific balm of his own blood. This text, which demonstrates the cultural dynamism of the fourteenth-century Anglo-Norman world, is an important witness to how a medieval lay writer can conceptualize selfhood and spirituality. In a related project, concentrating on a neglected unedited treatise (of which Henry VIII’s library had two copies), I hope to reconsider the significance and influence of Anglo-Norman writings to medieval insular devotional culture in the fifteenth century and beyond.

Other current projects include: violence to women as romance trope; the representation of women and genre-mixing in chronicle writing; medieval writers’ use of medical metaphors in the Penitential Psalms and their commentaries; the heart as metaphor of selfhood in medieval and Early Modern literature. Also forthcoming is an essay on Hoccleve, Christine de Pizan, and the self-consciousness of translation in a multilingual environment, for a festschrift on translation I am also co-editing.

Before I came to Leeds, I taught at Durham, and at Royal Holloway and Bedford New College, Queen Mary and Westfield College, and Birkbeck College, University of London. In 2007-2008 I was a visiting associate professor in the Department of English, Fordham University, The Bronx, New York.

PhD topics I have supervised include translation and vernacularity, medievalism, poetic form, medical metaphors, textual editing, romance, and the works of the Gawain-Poet, Chaucer and Malory (see also the list of current and recent PhDs below). I welcome applications for doctoral study in any aspect of medieval literature and culture in which I have expertise, especially Anglo-Norman, devotional, translation and gender studies.

Recent Activities

2013 July 8-12: ‘Learned Authority, Vernacular Authenticity? Forms of Authorization in Latin, Anglo-Norman, and Middle English Prayer and Devotion’. Paper for ‘Translation and Authority; Authorities in Translation: The Medieval Translator Conference, KU Leuven 2013’.

2013 June: External Examiner, English Literature and Cultural Criticism BA programme, Cardiff University.

2012 June 19: Durham, The Institute of Advanced Study: Seminar Series: ‘Beauty in the Middle Ages and the Renaissance’. Paper: ‘Beauty, Memory and Morality in Late-Medieval Allegory: the case of Guillaume de Deguileville.’

2012 March 24-26: ‘Eleanor of Provence and Rosamonde in the Croniques de London: Romance and Political Occlusion’, for ‘Romance in Medieval Britain’ biennial conference, St Hugh’s College, Oxford.

2011 July 21-23: ‘Henry, duke of Lancaster ’s debt to Deguileville, and the difference it makes’; ‘The Allegory of Guillaume de Digulleville in Europe’ conference, University of Lausanne , Switzerland .

2011 July, Leeds International Medieval Congress: ‘Gender, Religion, and Pathology: Medical Imagery and the Penitential Psalms in Late Medieval Devotional Literature’ (for a panel organised by Naoë Kukita Yoshikawa, on ‘Religion, Medicine and Gender in Late Medieval Culture’).

2011 May 13: Organiser of Day Colloquium (supported by the Leeds Humanities Research Institute) at the University of Leeds Medical Humanities Centre: ‘Reading Medical Cultures Across Time: A Day of Talks, Workshops and Conversation’, for the University of Leeds ‘Reading Medical Cultures Across Time’ research group.

2010 July: The Medieval Translator Conference, University of Padua : ‘The Epistre au dieu d’Amours and The Letter of Cupid: Christine de Pizan, Thomas Hoccleve, and Vernacular Poetics in Dialogue.’

2010 June: Postgraduate seminar, English Department, University of Adelaide , South Australia : ‘Translating Henry, duke of Lancaster ’s Book of Holy Medicines.’

2009 June 20: Bangor University, postgraduate conference on medieval translation. Keynote speaker: ‘Translating the Middle Ages’.

2009 March 14: (by invitation) ‘Le Livre de Seyntz Medicines du duc Henri de Lancastre : l’idiome grotesque au sein de la pensée orthodoxe’, Journée d’études (day colloquium): ‘Piété princière et littérature de dévotion au temps des Valois’, organised by Marielle Lamy, Université de Paris – Sorbonne (Paris IV).

2008 November 20: Oxford Medieval Society, Christ Church, Oxford: invited speaker: 'The Girdle in Question: From Thomas of Lancaster to Gawain?'

 2008 October 28/29: University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign: international conference on ‘Translating the Middle Ages’: invited speaker: ‘Foul Fiends and Dirty Devils: Henry, duke of Lancaster ’s Book of Holy Medicines and the Translation of Fourteenth-Century Devotional Literature.’

2008 April 11: Center for Medieval Studies, Fordham University, NY: ‘Henry, duke of Lancaster’s Livre de Seyntz Medicines: Chicken Soup for the fourteenth-century Multilingual Soul’.

2008 March 18: Cornell University , Ithaca , NY : guest speaker, Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies: ‘Psalms, Pomegranates, and the Penitential: Henry, duke of Lancaster ’s Book of Holy Medicines.

2008 March 17: Ithaca College, Ithaca, NY: guest speaker, Medieval and Renaissance Studies Colloquium: ‘Headless Ladies and Female Suicide: Reiteration of Motif in Malory’s Morte Darthur’.

2008 February 12: Bates College, Maine: Seminar on Gender Issues in Medieval Literature.

Recent publications:

‘“Foul Fiends and Dirty Devils”: Henry, Duke of Lancaster’s Book of Holy Medicines and the Translation of Fourteenth-Century Devotional Literature’, in Translating the Middle Ages, ed. by Karen L. Fresco and Charles D. Wright [with Introduction and links by Catherine Batt] (Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2012), 55-64

‘The French of the English and Early British Women’s Literary Culture’, in The History of British Women’s Writing, 700-1500, ed. by Liz Herbert McAvoy and Diane Watt (New York: Palgrave, 2012), 51-59

‘Sloth and the Penitential Self in Henry, duke of Lancaster’s Le Livre de seyntz medicines / The Book of Holy Medicines’, in Essays in Honour of Oliver Pickering, ed. by Janet Burton, William Marx, and Veronica O’Mara, Leeds Studies in English, n.s. 41 (2010), 25-32

 ‘”Translations” of the Girdle: Cultural and Devotional Signs in Fourteenth-Century England’, in The Medieval Translator 12: Lost in Translation?, ed. by Christiania Whitehead and Denis Renevey (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009), 315-25.

Editorial Work:

I am on the advisory board of Moving Worlds: A Journal of Transcultural Writings, ed. by Shirley Chew, School of English, University of Leeds; I am a former editor of Leeds Studies in English, and am currently head of the Editorial Board of both Leeds Studies in English and the Leeds Texts and Monographs series; since 1996 I have been on the Editorial Board (with Roger Ellis and René Tixier) of The Medieval Translator series (Turnhout: Brepols).

Current PhD students:

2012- Clarck Drieshen, Institute for Medieval Studies (co-supervisor: Dr Emilia Jamroziak, School of History): ‘The Dissemination and Reception of and Response to Visionary Devotional Instructions of Continental Origin in Late-Medieval England.’

2010 – Katherine Miller, School of English (co-supervisor: Dr Alaric Hall): ‘The Lexicon of Slavery in Old English.’

2010 – Alejandra Ortiz Salamovich: ‘Translation Practice in Early Modern Europe: Spanish Chivalric Romance in England.’

2009 – Michele Mary Poellinger: ‘Violence in Later Middle English Arthurian Romance.’

Recent PhDs:

2013 Sheryl McDonald Werronen (co-supervisor: Dr Alaric Hall , School of English): ‘Transforming Popular Romance on the Edge of the World: Nitiða saga in Late Medieval and Early Modern Iceland.’

2012 Katie Lister, Leeds Trinity University College (LTUC co-supervisor: Professor Paul Hardwick): ‘Equal at the Round Table: Women Authors and the Early Nineteenth-Century Arthurian Revival.’

2010 Maria Cristina Figueredo, Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York (White Rose PhD scholarship; lead supervisor: Dr Nicola McDonald, University of York): ‘Richard Coeur de Lion: An Edition from the London Thornton Manuscript’

2010 Kathleen Maria Jackson, ‘Chaucer’s Representation of Marriage: To Have and To Hold.’

2009 Melanie Ruth Duckworth (co-supervisor: Professor Stuart Murray, School of English): ‘Medievalism and the Language of Belonging in Selected Works of Les Murray, Randolph Stow, Francis Webb, and Kevin Hart.’ 

Undergraduate Teaching, 2013/14

MEDV 1090 Elective (team-taught): Introducing Medieval European Literature

ENGL 2025 Core module: Medieval Literature

ENGL 3208 Option module: Arthurian Legend: Chivalry and Violence

ENGL 1280 Core module: Drama: Reading and Interpretation

ENGL 3282 Option module: Love and Loss: Medieval Dreaming

Postgraduate Teaching, 2013/14:

ENGL 5217M Option module: Arthurian Legend: Medieval to Modern

MEDV 5215M Option module (team-taught): Men Writing Women Writing Men