My Book: Medieval Saints and Modern Screens - Out Now

When I was little, books were everything to me. Let's face it, even now books are everything to me. When I couldn't sleep, I'd read through the night. And when my eyes got too tired, and I started to drop the book on my face in fits of asleep-ness, I'd absorb myself in planning how I'd write my own book. I had some serious plans about including a playlist of songs to listen to with each chapter, let me tell you. But the book itself, the content and the words, never really materialized in those dreamy planning sessions. It's like I couldn't imagine what book I'd actually write, you know? It was too big a desire - to write a book! my very own! I couldn't pin down the specifics inside the book flaps.

Today - and I mean literally today, my official publication date is 1st December - you can buy my book. A book I wrote, with words and thoughts and arguments and everything. It's not the book I would have imagined I'd write. For a start, there are no feisty heroines taming rugged cowboys, and having sex in Chapter 6. Maybe that'll be book two or three. And no, there's no playlist taped in the back of every copy. But this book, it is not just mine, in a very direct way it is me. It's the result of seven years of work and thinking. It originates substantially in my PhD, which I started in autumn 2010. And in all the years since, I've refined my thinking and developed my work, my style, and my scholarship. I'm proud of this book, and terrified by this book. It says what I want to say, in the way I want to say things. That is a scary prospect indeed, given, like, the fact that people may actually read it? 

Alright, so what is the book actually about? Here's the blurb:

Book cover for  Medieval Saints and Modern Screens: Divine Visions as Cinematic Experience , by Alicia Spencer-Hall. Published 01/12/17 by Amsterdam University Press. It's mah booke. 

Book cover for Medieval Saints and Modern Screens: Divine Visions as Cinematic Experience, by Alicia Spencer-Hall. Published 01/12/17 by Amsterdam University Press. It's mah booke. 

This ground-breaking book brings theoretical perspectives from twenty-first century media, film, and cultural studies to medieval hagiography. Medieval Saints and Modern Screens stakes the claim for a provocative new methodological intervention: consideration of hagiography as media. More precisely, hagiography is most productively understood as cinematic media. Medieval mystical episodes are made intelligible to modern audiences through reference to the filmic - the language, form, and lived experience of cinema. Similarly, reference to the realm of the mystical affords a means to express the disconcerting physical and emotional effects of watching cinema. Moreover, cinematic spectatorship affords, at times, a (more or less) secular experience of visionary transcendence: an 'agape-ic encounter'. The medieval saint's visions of God are but one pole of a spectrum of visual experience which extends into our present multi-media moment. We too conjure godly visions: on our smartphones, on the silver screen, and on our TVs and laptops. This book places contemporary pop-culture media - such as blockbuster movie The Dark Knight, Kim Kardashian West's social media feeds, and the outputs of online role-players in Second Life - in dialogue with a corpus of thirteenth-century Latin biographies, 'Holy Women of Liège'. In these texts, holy women see God, and see God often. Their experiences fundamentally orient their life, and offer the women new routes to knowledge, agency, and belonging. For the holy visionaries of Liège, as with us modern 'seers', visions are physically intimate, ideologically overloaded spaces. Through theoretically informed close readings, Medieval Saints and Modern Screens reveals the interconnection of decidedly 'old' media - medieval textualities - and artefacts of our 'new media' ecology, which all serve as spaces in which altogether human concerns are brought before the contemporary culture's eyes.

In Medieval Saints and Modern Screens, I'm trying to force us to reckon with the ways in which media, even and especially pop-cultural media, means things to us. It does things to us. And I'm trying to establish a community of sorts, a collective including people who read things, who see things, and then feel things. Context is important, so there's a fair amount of detail on the contours of thirteenth-century sainthood and writing about saints back then. Not to mention a fair amount of detail about things we normally dismiss as fluff unworthy of attention: the ways we interact online, the things that social media does, the way film gets under our skin. Of course I hope you like it. More than that though, I hope it makes you reflect on the ways in which you navigate our twenty-first century media ecology, the ways media makes meaning for you and you make meaning out of media. Let me know what you think, what you agree with, what made you angry - all of it, I'm interested. Hit me up on Twitter or through the contact form here, or in the comments section below, and we can chat.

To the nitty gritty: 

If you'd like to buy the book, it's on Amazon here. It's also on the Amsterdam University Press website here. I highly recommend you use the latter link, if only because I have promo codes to share! If you use the code "Pub_MedievalSaintsandModernScreens" (no quotations) before 1 February 2018, then you'll get 20% off. 

Academic books are ridiculously expensive. You need to know it's worth the expense. So we're making available the full Table of Contents and Introduction, which lays out my methodology alongside the key ideas of the book and offering chapter summaries. On the Amsterdam University Press site, click on the "look inside" tab and it'll take you to the file. You can also download it directly from my page

If you'd like access to the book, but just can't afford it get in touch with me. We can figure out a workaround, like getting the Press to ask nearby libraries to order a copy or I can mobilize my author discount. 

Official book flyer for  Medieval Saints and Modern Screens . Feel free to share with wild abandon.

Official book flyer for Medieval Saints and Modern Screens. Feel free to share with wild abandon.

New Academic Book Series: Hagiography Beyond Tradition with Amsterdam University Press

If you follow me on Twitter, you might be vaguely aware of some mysterious messages from me over the past few months, suggesting some sort of clandestine publishing hook-up scenario. Time for the big reveal. I now have the distinct pleasure of announcing details of a new book series at Amsterdam University Press: Hagiography Beyond Tradition (HBT). Full disclosure: I'm the Series Editor, and a rabid fangirl of the kind of scholarship we're going to showcase in the series. 

Hagiography Beyond Tradition series image, digital collage by James Kerr. Mary Magdalene photobombs the Virgin Mary taking a selfie on a smartphone.

Hagiography Beyond Tradition series image, digital collage by James Kerr. Mary Magdalene photobombs the Virgin Mary taking a selfie on a smartphone.

HBT provides a home for cutting-edge scholarship on medieval saints and sanctity, combining rigorous attention to historical context with heuristics drawn from modern critical theories. The series seeks to publish incisive, impactful, and broadly interdisciplinary work. What’s more, HBT aims explicitly to foreground the work of innovative early-career researchers and put them on equal terms with more established senior academics. This is a publication space carved out to show what the best of what our field can achieve. Bring us your most audacious, most stimulating, most challenging hagiographical scholarship - work which brings your brain joy, done to the highest quality, grasping fully context and nuance - and we will do the rest. 

The series’ vital statistics are collected below, and full details can be found online here.


If you have any questions or queries about the series generally, the proposal process, or working with the Press, email our deeply excellent Acquisitions Editor, Shannon Cunningham at S.Cunningham [at]

I'm also very happy to talk through ideas for publications, chat about academic fit, and so forth - so if you want to learn more, don't hesitate to drop me a line at a.spencer-hall [at] Lets take hagiographical scholarship to the next level together. 

Series Details

  • Proposals for monographs and cohesive edited collections are welcome.
  • Expected word count of final publication: 70,000-110,000.
  • All publications will be in English.
  • Geographical scope: all of medieval Christendom, including Byzantium.
  • Chronological scope: ca. 500-1500.
  • Series Editor: Alicia Spencer- Hall (Queen Mary, University of London).
  • Editorial Board: Bill Burgwinkle (University of Cambridge); Martha Newman (University of Texas); Sarah Salih (King’s College London); Anna Taylor (University of Massachusetts).
  • Acquisitions Editor (at Amsterdam University Press): Shannon Cunningham.
  • Complementary to the Hagiography Society’s existing series, Sanctity in Global Perspective, which concentrates on comparative rather than more theoretical studies. We very much hope for cross-fertilisation whenever possible between the two series.

Series Abstract

The study of sanctity in medieval Europe is starting to elicit cutting-edge, innovative and genuinely interdisciplinary scholarship that destabilizes what people have conventionally considered to be hagiography. This is demonstrated in the topic range of panels sponsored by the Hagiography Society at recent landmark medievalist conferences. While hagiography has traditionally been understood only in religious terms, recent scholarship moves beyond such frameworks to consider alternate ways of identifying and representing exemplary people. So doing, such research emphasises modern cultural analogies and resonances with medieval figures.

It is not enough, however, to approach saints’ lives with a “sexy” modern framework. The best scholarship is rooted in analytical rigour, close attention to context(s), and a keen awareness of the potential pitfalls of anachronism, all the while accepting that anachronism can often be productive. This series provides a home for the kind of work that negotiates that border between the traditional and the contemporary and encourages scholarship enhanced by interventions drawn from celebrity studies, trans studies, crip theory, animal and monster studies, the history of senses and the emotions, media studies, and beyond. Rather than considering hagiography as a single genre, the series is open to expanding the ways in which we imagine how people come to be offered for veneration, as well as the media and genres in which they are fashioned, represented, and celebrated.

Hagiography Beyond Tradition series flyer. To download as .pdf go to: Please feel free to share widely! 

Hagiography Beyond Tradition series flyer. To download as .pdf go to: Please feel free to share widely! 

Medieval Saints and Modern Screens - Out this October

The Amsterdam University Press (AUP) catalogue has just arrived, featuring books that will appear this autumn, Most thrillingly, my book (mah booke) is nestled in the catalogue pages - just check out p. 12, I write nonchalantly. The catalogue is stuffed with so many gems, it's rather dizzying to be in such fine company.  And it's immensely satisfying to see that my first book is not just a figment of my fevered imagination, but is in fact really real and will be a tangible (stroke-able) book object in just a few months' time. This October, then, will be the end of an era. I first started work on stuff that's ended up in the book way back in 2010, at the start of my PhD. Seven years' thinking, give or take, have coalesced into the niftily portable format of an academic monograph. At some point, I will probably post a precis of the book, a summary of my key arguments or such like. But until then, I am basking in the glorious fact of its done-ness, and simply sharing the first proof of the endeavour with the AUP catalogue below. Enjoy!