, Volume 10, Issue 3, pp 357–375 | Cite as

Accessing the medieval: Disability and distance in Anna Gurney’s search for St Edmund

  • Helen BrookmanEmail author
Original Article


What can be achieved by putting scholarly bodies back into disembodied disciplinary histories? Pursuing a feminist historiography of medieval studies, this article seeks to understand how the scholarly practices of pioneering medievalist Anna Gurney (1795–1857) were enacted through her body, the difference of which was doubly marked within her spaces and networks as disabled and female. Considering intersections of geography and class as well as gender and disability, I trace Gurney’s search for the life of St Edmund, mapping how the spatial and temporal distances of the scholarly search are experienced differently by complex and varied scholarly bodies. I show how Gurney’s discursive, practical, and creative strategies for facilitating proximity to the medieval constitute a ‘praxis of access,’ which generates and vivifies a reciprocal relationship with the object of her knowledge.



My thanks especially for the feedback from Dr. Marie Tidal and the participants of the “Valuing Women with Disabilities’ seminar—many of whom spoke from lived experience as disabled scholars and students—at The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities at the University of Oxford in February 2018.


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Copyright information

© Springer Nature Limited 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Liberal ArtsKing’s CollegeLondonUK

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