Featured Faculty Research: Fiona Griffiths

Fiona Griffths imageOur featured faculty member this month is Fiona Griffiths, Professor of Medieval European History.  Fiona earned her PhD from Cambridge University and came to Stanford in 2013, having taught previously at New York University and Smith College.  She has held fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities; the Alexander von Humboldt Foundation; the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study; and the Institute of Historical Research (University of London).  At Stanford, she serves as Co-Director of the Center for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (CMEMS).

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Fiona’s research explores the cultural history of medieval religion, focusing on the experiences and interactions of religious men (priests or monks) with women (nuns and clerical wives).  Her first book, The Garden of Delights: Reform and Renaissance for Women in the Twelfth Century, argued for the involvement of medieval nuns in the scholastic debates of the twelfth century, through close examination of the female-authored Hortus deliciarum (Garden of Delights), a magnificently illuminated manuscript of theology, biblical history, and canon law.  As Fiona discovered, the nuns who created the Hortus deliciarum found support for their studies among local monks, whose libraries provided them with access to scholastic texts.  Fiona’s most recent study, Nuns’ Priests’ Tales: Men and Salvation in Women’s Monastic Life, 300-1200 (forthcoming in early 2018) takes up the question of men’s support for religious women, examining a religious vocation not often discussed in medieval scholarship—the nuns’ priest.  As she shows, nuns’ priests defied conventions of sexual segregation within the religious life, sometimes living alongside female monasteries and even professing obedience to an abbess. Nuns’ Priests’ Tales examines the arguments that nuns’ priests made in defense of their service to women, explaining how their understanding of religious women as “brides of Christ” upset traditional assumptions concerning the immutability of male clerical authority.  With Professor Kathryn Starkey (German), Fiona has recently edited a collection of essays on the medieval senses, looking at how medieval people interacted with objects (jewelry, manuscripts, tools, relics, etc) and how objects guided and shaped human experiences.  Her teaching centers on medieval religion, material culture, and gender studies.