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portrait of Dr Hetta Howes

Dr Hetta Howes

Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern Literature

School of Arts and Social Sciences, Department of English

Contact Information


Visit Hetta Howes

ALG03, College Building

Postal Address

City, University of London
Northampton Square
United Kingdom




As well as a Lecturer in Medieval and Early Modern Literature at City, University of London, I am a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker. I regularly present and contribute to broadcasts on BBC Radio 3 and 4, as well as publications such as Times Literary Supplement and BBC History Extra. My first book, 'Transformative Waters in Medieval Literature' is due for publication with Boydell and Brewer in 2021.

After studying for my BA and MPhil at the University of Cambridge, I joined Queen Mary in 2012 to begin my doctoral thesis. The project was supervised by Professor Julia Boffey and examined the role of water as a literary metaphor in late-medieval devotional prose, with a special emphasis on writings for and by women. After a one-year lectureship at Queen Mary I moved to City in September 2017.

I have published on a range of topics, including tropes of crying and cleansing in Aelred of Rievaulx’s spiritual treatise 'A Rule of Life for a Recluse', the relationship between fluids and emotions in medieval lyrics, and the role of the senses in fourteenth-century alliterative verse.

I am an Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy and I teach on a number of different modules on the BA and MA at City, including two research-led modules on women's writing throughout history.

PhD supervision: I welcome applications from prospective postgraduate students interested in late-medieval devotional literature, particularly writing by and for women; the history of the emotions; fluidity and transformation; modern preoccupations with the medieval world.


  1. Associate Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Queen Mary, University of London, Jul 2017
  2. PhD, Queen Mary, University of London, United Kingdom, Sep 2012 – Jun 2016
  3. MPHil, University of Cambridge, Cambridge, United Kingdom, Sep 2011 – Jun 2012
  4. BA, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom, Sep 2008 – Jun 2011

Administrative role

  1. Recruitment Officer for Department of English, City, University of London


  1. Lecturer in Early Modern Literature, City, University of London, Sep 2017 – present
  2. Lecturer in medieval and early modern literature, Queen Mary, University of London, Sep 2016 – Aug 2017
  3. Teaching Associate, Royal Holloway University of London, Jan – May 2016
  4. Teaching Associate, Queen Mary, University of London, Sep 2013 – Jun 2016


  1. City University of London, Widening Participation Team (2019) Outstanding Staff Contribution
  2. City, University of London, School of Arts and Social Sciences Academic Impact Award (2019)
    Nominated, shortlisted


Research Interests

- Women's literary culture in the Middle Ages
- Environment as metaphor in late-medieval literature
- Modern preoccupations with the medieval
- History of the Emotions
- The medical humanities, especially sex difference in the Middle Ages

Forthcoming Publications

- 'Transformative Waters in Medieval Literature', due for publication with Boydell and Brewer in 2021
- ‘‘Make me a good woman’: reflections on becoming in a fifteenth-century prayer sequence’ (article in progress)
- ‘A hunt for the Nun of Watton in Late-Medieval Translations of 'De Institutione Inclusarum’ (article in progress)

Current Research

- Fluid imagery in medieval devotional writings by and for women
- New approaches to medieval water studies
- Medievalisms in Maria Davhana Headley's 'The Mere Wife'
- Solitude in medieval religious literature



  1. Howes, Transformative Waters in Medieval Devotional Literature. Suffolk: Boydell and Brewer.


  1. Howes, Adreynt in shennesse’: Blood, Shame and Contrition in ‘Quis est iste qui uenit de Edom?’ In Boffey, J. and Whitehead, C. (Eds.), The Middle English Lyric: New Approaches to Short Poems Boydell and Brewer.

Journal articles (2)

  1. Howes, H.E. (2014). Fulling Linen, Haunting Clear Waters, and Crying Bitter Tears: Two Middle English Versions of Aelred of Rievaulx’s De institutione inclusarum. Florilegium, 31, pp. 139–164. doi:10.3138/flor.31.06.
  2. Howes, (2011). 'Sowrede’ Eyes and Obscured Meaning: ‘Wynnere and Wastoure’ as Spiritual Challenge. Marginalia, 16.

Other (3)

  1. Howes, H. Pathos in Late-Medieval Drama and Art: A Communicative Strategy, Gabriela Mazzon (Leiden: Brill, 2018), Emotions: History, Culture, Society (review).
  2. Howes, H. Water in Medieval Intellectual Culture: Case Studies from Twelfth-Century Monasticism (Turnhout: Brepols, 2017) James L. Smith, Journal of Medieval Monastic Studies, 2019 (review).
  3. Howes, H. Emotions and War: Medieval to Romantic Literature, ed. Downes et al (London: Palgrave, 2015), Journal for Eighteenth-Century Studies, 2017 (review).

Other Activities

Events/conferences (11)

  1. Courtauld Gender and Sexuality Research Seminar, Violent Fluids: Feminist Histories of Blood. (Public lecture) (2020). Invited speaker.
    Paper: And there came forth blood and water’: Fluid Reflections on Medieval Devotion,
  2. Waterworks: Creative Approaches to Medieval Water Studies. (Workshop) (2019). Chair, Session/Day Chair and Organising Committee.
  3. International Medieval Congress. (2019). Invited speaker.
    Paper: Making a Good Woman Out of a Manuscript
  4. London Biennial Chaucer Conference: Chaucer and Europe. (Conference) (2019). Chair and Organising Committee.
  5. International Anchoritic Conference. Norwich (2019). Invited speaker.
    Paper: Reading Beyond the Material: Reflections on ‘Becoming’ in a Fifteenth-Century Prayer Sequence
  6. Northern Lights: Late Medieval Devotion to Saints from the North of England. (Conference) Lausanne (2019). Invited speaker.
    Paper: Fluid Afterlives: A Hunt for the Nun of Watton in Late-Medieval Translations of 'De Institutione Inclusarum'
  7. Press for Progress, Feminism and Medieval Studies Roundtable. (Public lecture) King's College, University of London (2018). Invited speaker.
  8. Women's Voices, Medieval and Early Modern. Queen Mary University of London (2017). Organising Committee.
  9. Research into the Medieval and Early Modern: Navigating Issues of Engagement. (Workshop) (2017). Organising Committee.
  10. Medieval Emotions, London Medieval Society. (Conference) (2017). Session/Day Chair and Organising Committee.
  11. Tears and Smiles Medieval to Early Modern. (Conference) Senate House, University of London (2015). Organising Committee.

Keynote lecture/speech

  1. Women, Water, Work. Troublesome Elements Conference, University of Leicester (2018).

Media appearance

  1. Places of Solitude. I was commissioned by the Wellcome Trust funded Pathologies of Solitude project at Queen Mary University of London to present an eight-episode podcast series on solitude. Much of this series was recorded during the 2020 lockdown, and includes an interview with the Archbishop. You can listen here:

Online articles (13)

  1. Watery Offerings: Women and Water in the Middle Ages. (2014). The History of the Emotions Blog (QMUL)
  2. Swamps and Bogs in Eighties Film and Literature. (2014). The Artifice
  3. A Brief History of Medieval Magic. (2015). BBC History Extra
  4. Heavenly Dew: Crying in the Middle Ages. (2015). BBC History Extra
  5. Beasts of Wonder: Reading Animals in the Middle Ages. (2016). BBC History Extra
  6. Piers Plowman in the twenty-first century. (2017). The Times Literary Supplement
  7. Review of 'A Medieval Woman's Companion', by Susan Signe Morrison. (2017). The Times Literary Supplement
  8. Mary Magdalene: Why Do People Want to Believe She’s a Sinner and a Prostitute? BBC History Extra
  9. Sociable Solitude in the Medieval Anchorhold. Solitudes Past and Present
  10. Medieval Drama and the Mystery Plays. British Library: Discovering Literature
  11. Arthurian Legends. British Library: Discovering Literature
  12. A Bloody Shame. History of Emotions Blog
  13. Lines of Blood and Baffled Eyes: Retelling Great Stories from a Female Perspective. Times Literary Supplement

Radio programmes (24)

  1. A Short History of Solitude: Retreat. BBC Radio 4
  2. Arts & Ideas: New Thinking, A Feminist Take on Medieval History. BBC Radio 3
  3. Arts & Ideas: New Thinking, Science Fiction. BBC Radio 3
  4. Arts & Ideas: New Thinking, Women in Virtual Reality. BBC Radio 3
  5. Equal as We Are. BBC Radio 4
  6. Arts & Ideas: New Thinking, BBC/AHRC Research in Film Awards. BBC Radio 3
  7. Free Thinking: The Legacy of the Trojan War. BBC Radio 3
  8. Free Thinking: Myth Making, Satire, and Caryl Churchill. BBC Radio 3
  9. Arts & Ideas: New Thinking, Places of Poetry and the Colonial Countryside. BBC Radio 3
  10. Free Thinking: The Emotion of Now. BBC Radio 3
  11. Woman's Hour - Fleabag and women in comedy. BBC Radio 4
  12. Proms Plus Talk: Swans. BBC Radio 3
  13. Arts & Ideas: New Thinking, Pregnancy Puzzles. BBC Radio 3
  14. Arts & Ideas: New Thinking, Neolithic Revelations. BBC Radio 3
  15. Sunday Feature: A Unicorn Quest. BBC Radio 3
  16. Late Night Woman's Hour - Crying. BBC Radio 4
  17. When Greeks Flew Kites: Deadlock. BBC Radio 4
  18. Sunday Feature: Passion Meditation. BBC Radio 3
  19. The Essay: Welling Up, Women and Water in the Middle Ages. BBC Radio 3
  20. Woman's Hour - Female Role Models. BBC Radio 4
  21. Ecstasy, Carpe Diem: Free Thinking. BBC Radio 3
  22. Free Thinking Festival: New Generation Thinkers. BBC Radio 3
  23. Free Thinking: Medieval Influences on Harry Potter. BBC Radio 3
  24. Water. Footnotes, King's College London Radio