Taking as its context the increased academic and lay interest in medieval gendered spaces, alternative therapies and emotional worlds, this project wishes to investigate the hypothesis that the walled garden was a deeply gendered space.
Professor Liz Herbert McAvoy will be studying allusions to the enclosed garden in female-authored, mystically-inflected texts featuring Mary as a primary figure: in particular, Hildegard of Bingen’s Scivias, Causae et Curae and Physica; Mechtild of Hackeborn’s Book of Gostlye Grace [Liber spiritualis graciae]l and the anonymous A Revelation of Purgatory, drawing too on the [reconstructed] writing of Herrad of Hohenburg (Hortus Conclusus).
Dr Theresa Tyers will explore the correlation between a large proportion of the plants mentioned in the Song of Songs and their centrality to women’s medicine in the Middle Ages, in particular the treatment and cure of so-called ‘women’s ailments’, such as uterine, menstrual, post-partum disorders etc. She will be examining unpublished medical miscellanies held in London, Paris and St Omer to document the association between the enclosed garden, medicinal plants and female physiology.
Dr Trish Skinner will provide historical and historiographical background for the project, situating the enclosed garden from its origins in the Middle East to its adoption and adaptation in northern Europe. Recent, multivolume accounts of the history of the garden have considered its ‘meanings’, and have even examined aspects of enclosure, but far less attention has been given by historians to the garden as a feminine space.