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Jane Sinnett-Smith



I joined Warwick in 2015 as a Wolfson scholar to begin working on my PhD, supervised by Dr Emma Campbell. My thesis examines the representation of relics and reliquaries in twelfth- and thirteenth-century Old French saints’ lives. I am particularly interested in questions of vernacular translation, the body, the relationship between text and material culture, and materiality more widely. Before coming to Warwick I completed my BA in Modern and Medieval Languages at St Catharine's College, Cambridge and an MA in Medieval and Renaissance Studies at University College London.


My PhD, 'Blood, Bones, and Gold: Rewriting Relics in Old French Verse Saints’ Lives of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries', explores how writing about relics reflects on interlinked ideas about materiality, corporality, textuality, and sanctity. Topics covered include: fragmentation and relic collecting in the life of St Eloi; the incorrupt corpses of Audrey of Ely and Edward the Confessor; blood and buildings in the lives of Thomas Becket; substitutes for the absent body of the Virgin Mary.

Relic encounters negotiate complex relationships between the human body and nonhuman objects, the embodied individual and the material world, the material and the spiritual. To tackle these complex relationships, the project engages with recent theoretical work on materiality, networks, and things by critics such as Jane Bennett, Bruno Latour and Bill Brown. I take a broad interdisciplinary approach, placing texts alongside other expressions of a saint's cult - reliquaries, shrines, tombs, and manuscript illustrations - in order to consider how writing about relics brings bodies, things, and books into conflict and collaboration. I examine how these different means of representing and interpreting the relic (and the different linguistic and social contexts in which they operate) can inflect the ways in which relics are used and understood in the Middle Ages, as well as our understanding of the texts which contain them.

Key research questions include: how does the textual tradition – and in particular the French textual tradition - interact with material cult? How do relics and writings about relics facilitate relationships between worshippers and saints, and what do these relationships look like? How does the particular material make up of a relic, reliquary, book or body inflect its meaning and the way it is approached? What sort of changes and transformations are effected as the relic is represented in different contexts or media, physically moved or simply interacted with by the faithful? How can recent critical approaches to materiality enhance our understanding of relics, and how does the study of medieval relics ‘talk back’ to modern theories of materiality?


FR121:The Story of Modern France

FR2012: Translation (French-English)

Conferences and Papers


XVIth Triennial Congress of the International Courtly Literature Society, Exeter, 21st-28th July 2019. Paper entitled: 'Assembling the sacred: relics, bodies, and books in a medieval French life of St Eligius'

French Research Seminar, Warwick, 1st May 2019. Paper entitled: 'Translating Faith: textual, material, and bodily translations in the thirteenth-century Vie de seinte Foye'

Northern Lights: Late Medieval Devotion to Saints from the North of England, Lausanne, 28th-30th March 2019. Paper entitled: ‘Etheldreda in the North: Tracing northern spiritual, spatial, and material networks in the Liber Eliensis and the Vie de seinte Audree

Workshop: Translation in Historical Perspective, Warwick, 25th February 2019.


International Medieval Congress, Leeds, 2nd-5th July 2018. Paper entitled: ‘Flesh, bone, and text: reading relics in Anglo-Norman saints’ lives’


Co-organiser of the one-day conference Bodies in Flux: Rewriting the Body in Medieval Literature, Art and Culture 1000-1450, funded by an HRC Doctoral Fellowship, at the University of Warwick, 20th May 2017

Wolfson Symposium, British Academy

International Medieval Congress, Leeds, 3rd-6th July 2017. Panel organiser of session entitled: 'All That Glitters: Experiencing Gold in Text and Manuscript'. Paper entitled: 'Kissing, touching, wearing away: reliquaries, gold, and tactile devotion in the manuscripts of Gautier de Coinci’s Miracles de Nostre Dame'

52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, 11th-14th May 2017. Paper entitled: 'Bodying forth: relics and the (re)creation of the absent body in the Old French Miracles de Nostre Dame'


Writing Women in History Reading Group, at the University of Cambridge, 29th November 2016. Paper entitled: '‘La vie avom translatee’: saint and community in translation in the Vie de seinte Audree by Marie'

Cambridge Medieval French Research Seminar, at the University of Cambridge, 17th November 2016. Paper entitled: ''Li sanc al seint se deit par tut le mund estendre': blood relics, bodies, and the transmission of sanctity in the cult of Thomas Becket'

'Medieval Material Matters', Postgraduate Conference, at the University of Warwick, 18th July 2016. Paper entitled: 'Second-hand sanctity: contact relics and sacred materiality in Gautier de Coinci’s Miracles de Nostre Dame'

'Stains', Cambridge French Graduate Conference, at the University of Cambridge, 27th-28th May 2016. Paper entitled: ‘Blood stains and sacred bodies in Guernes de Pont-Sainte-Maxence’s Old French Vie de Saint Thomas Becket'

'Limits', Approaching the Medieval postgraduate conference, at the University of Cambridge, 4th May 2016. Poster entitled: 'Holy blood and holy vessels: Diffusing the limits of the body in Guernes de Pont-Sainte-Maxence’s Life of Thomas Becket and Becket’s blood relic cult'

Other activities

Co-organiser of the programme of events organised around the IAS Visiting Fellowship of Prof Zrinka Stahuljak to the University of Warwick 19th-26th February 2019.

Organiser of a series of interactive, accessible workshops introducing the work of women writers and feminist theories across historical periods. Sessions included Medieval Women's Writing, Feminist, Gender, and Queer: Critical Approaches, and Francophone Algerian Women's Writing (2018).

Co-organiser of the University of Warwick's Medieval Seminar Series (2015-2018), and of the Series' social media on Facebook and Twitter.

Co-organiser of afternoon workshop on Medieval Women's Writing, at the University of Warwick, Wednesday 22nd February 2017.

Participant in Warwick/Monash video project Translating Cultures of the Past (2016-17).

Co-organiser of an interdisciplinary afternoon workshop on Cannibalism and the Eucharist, at the University of Warwick, 15th June 2016.


Review: Delbert W. Russell, Verse Saints’ Lives Written in the French of England (2012), Medium Aevum

Review: Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski, The Strange Case of Ermine de Reims: A Medieval Woman between Demons and Saints (2015), French Studies, 70.4 (2016), 583-84,


BA Hons. (Cantab.), MA.


Jane Sinnett-Smith

J dot Sinnett-Smith at warwick dot ac dot uk profile