Dr Julie Dresvina

  • Psychology of religiosity in historic perspective
  • Use of cognitive sciences in pre-modern studies
  • Statistics of medieval manuscripts

My research interests evolve around two main areas: manuscripts and history of mentality/religiosity. I blame Julian of Norwich. For years I have been staring at the manuscripts of her “Showings” trying to make sense of them. In the process I edited her texts anew from the existing manuscripts and translated them into Russian for the first time (published as a parallel edition/translation in Moscow in 2010), but I still seem to be none the wiser as to what on earth she was up to. As a welcome break from staring at Julian, I worked on medieval hagiography and wrote a book on the cult of St Margaret of Antioch in medieval England (OUP, 2016).

Currently I am looking at how people of the past strived to make sense of their lives in general and their unusual experiences in particular, using a variety of modern methods, such as attachment theory and fanfiction studies. Myself and colleagues from the History and English Faculties are currently setting up a web resource dedicated to Fanfiction Theory and Pre-Modern Studies. I am also a co-editor, with Dr Victoria Blud (University of York) for a forthcoming “Cognitive Sciences and Medieval Studies: An Introduction” (UWP, 2019). As if it is not trendy enough, I have started a comparative project on looking at the parallels between attachment and religiosity in the medieval West and in modern Russia.

Being married to a computer scientist takes its toll on my research interests as well. Sometimes we harvest manuscript data from catalogue backends and drop it into visualisation programmes to see, for example, the ratio between vernacular and Latin manuscripts by centuries and by regions. Our dream is that one day we could make it into an accessible open-source online tool.

Featured Publication

A Maid with a Dragon: The Cult of St Margaret of Antioch in Medieval England

julia dresvina

This is the first comprehensive interdisciplinary study of the cult of St Margaret of Antioch in medieval England. Margaret was one of the most famous female saints of both the Catholic world and of Eastern Christianity (where she was known as St Marina). Her legend is remembered for her confrontation with a dragon-shaped devil, who allegedly swallowed Margaret and then burst asunder. This episode became firmly established in iconography, making her one of the most frequently represented saints. Margaret was supposedly martyred in the late 3rd century, but apart from the historically problematic legend there is no evidence concerning her in other contemporary sources. The sudden appearance of her name in liturgical manuscripts in the late 8th century is connected with the dispersal of her relics at that time. The cult grew in England from Anglo-Saxon times, with over 200 churches dedicated to Margaret (second only to Mary among female saints), and hundreds of images and copies of her life known to have been made.

The book examines Greek, Latin, Old English, Middle English and Anglo-Norman versions of Margaret's live, their mouvance and cultural context, providing editions of the hitherto unpublished texts. By considering these versions, the iconographic evidence, their patronage and audience, the monograph traces the changes of St Margaret's story through the eight centuries before the Reformation. The book also considers the further trajectory of the legend as reflected in popular fairy-tales and contemporary cultural stereotypes. Special attention is given to the interpretation of St Margaret's demonic encounter, central to the legend's iconography and theology.