Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Jean Graham-Jones


Glenn Burger

Committee Members

Claudia Orenstein

Subject Categories

Medieval Studies | Performance Studies


material culture, performing objects, postmedieval, Regularis Concordia, Elizabeth of Spalbeek, Margery Kempe


In our current moment of profound ecological crisis, scholarship across disciplines is calling for a closer look at the objects proliferating around us in order to find new, increasingly reciprocal ways of relating to the material world. In Becoming Material: Devotional Encounters Between Humans and Objects in the European Middle Ages, I answer this call by looking to the past and examining people’s encounters with material objects described in and around three devotional texts: the Holy Week ceremonies proscribed in the tenth-century monastic agreement, the Regularis Concordia; the embodied devotional practices of a thirteenth-century lay woman, Elizabeth of Spalbeek, as described in her vita by Philip of Clairvaux; and finally, the affective relationship between Margery Kempe and Christ modeled in an early-sixteenth-century pamphlet extracted from the Book of Margery Kempe. In this reconstructive and speculative project, I attempt to recreate the performance between human(s) and object(s) that each text describes and/or prescribes, bringing to the forefront the physical, affective, and imaginative engagement with the material other. This dissertation demonstrates the usefulness of an object-centered approach to recovering untold stories from the texts and material of the archive and provides crucial insights into how medieval people constructed and re-imagined their identities in relationship to the world around them.