Bloomsbury Continuum won a three-for-one auction Poet, Mystic, Widow, Wife: The Extraordinary Lives of Medieval Women, the business beginnings of Dr. Hetta Howes.
Publisher Tomasz Hoskins has acquired the UK and Commonwealth rights to Matthew Turner from RCW. It will be published as a main hardback title in 2024.
“In the Middle Ages, few women had the luxury of writing down their thoughts and feelings,” reads the synopsis. “But, remarkably, there are at least four extraordinary women who have done it. Poet, mystic, widow, wife allows us to enter into their lives, gives us a fuller history of the Middle Ages, and helps us understand and appreciate how what they did both resonates with modern concerns and paves the way for women writers of today.
“Marie de France, poet. Julian of Norwich, mystic and anchor. Christine de Pizan, widow and court writer. Margery Kempe, a bad wife. Four women, writing hundreds of years ago, before feminism as we know it even existed. Yet, in their own way, these four very different writers pushed back against the misogyny of the time. They evoked imaginary worlds where fairy queens defied gender stereotypes, literally locked themselves in cloisters so they could write or put their own experiences on paper for the first time in English.
“Each of them broke new ground in women’s writing and left us with incredible insights into the world of medieval life and politics, but they have been largely forgotten by modern readers. This book also draws inspiration from the many anonymous women who left us fragments of their lives, constructing a picture more complete than ever of a world long gone.
Howes is a Lecturer in Medieval and Modern Literature at the City, University of London, and a BBC/AHRC New Generation Thinker. She contributes regularly to shows on BBC Radio 3 and 4, and writes for publications such as Times Literary Supplement and BBC Supplemental Story. She holds a BA and MPhil from the University of Cambridge and a PhD from Queen Mary, University of London. Howes has published on the tropes of weeping and cleansing in medieval Passion meditation, on blood and shame in medieval lyrics, and on the role of sight in fourteenth-century alliterative verse. His academic book Transforming Waters in Late Medieval Literature was released by Boydell and Brewer in 2021. Poet, mystic, widow, wife will be his first commercial book.
“I am absolutely delighted that my book, which highlights the lives and words of four fascinating medieval women, has found a home with Bloomsbury,” she said. “We tend to make a lot of assumptions about the medieval world and women’s place within it – that women have always married, that they have never worked, that they have always been submissive to their husbands , for example. But Poet, mystic, widow, wife shows that there were women in the Middle Ages who were leaders and innovators, who changed the world around them, even as they faced challenges strikingly similar to those that women still face today today.
“I am delighted to share with readers the writing and lived experience of these inspiring medieval writers, whose voices speak to us across the centuries and who still have so much to teach us.”
Hoskins said: “From the moment I read this submission, I was captivated by these extraordinary medieval women and Hetta’s clarity of voice, learning and ambition. This is a book that I believe will do all that history can do best – reevaluate the past, rewrite the vivid and colorful lives of women there, and transport us to the startlingly modern and imaginative world of the Middle Ages. . The entire Bloomsbury Continuum team is thrilled and looking forward to publishing this book beautifully.