Medievalist, storymaker, theatre director, folk dance teacher, BBC / AHRC New Generation Thinker

Footnotes to Radio 3’s The Essay: Cooking and Eating God in Medieval Drama

Cannibals and monsters in the 13th century ‘Map Psalter’, British Library Add. MS 28681, f.9

The problem with a radio broadcast is that it makes it sound as though the presenter is the source of all knowledge.  Objectively an audience knows they are not, just as we know Sandi Toksvig, queen of intelligence though she is, is not really the source of all the world’s most pedantic facts when she hosts QI.

Yet it is a fiction set up nevertheless, particularly given the intimate form of radio, where the presenter speaks directly to the listener.

In short: radio programmes are very difficult to provide footnotes for.  No academic research happens in a vacuum, and for this Essay in particular I am indebted to the excellent research currently being done both in medieval drama and in medieval Jewish and race studies.

Given my broadcast was all about the disenfranchisement and silencing of (Jewish) voices in medieval drama, I want to credit here all those whose work would usually appear as footnotes in the academic article this broadcast was based on.  Hopefully it will be interesting for those of you who heard my talk and want to find out more.

You can find the original bite-sized (ahem) broadcast of my BBC Radio 3’s Essay here:

Nardo Di Cione’s Hell fresco in Cappella Strozzi, Santa Maria Novella, Florence, c. 1350s.

…and a longer podcast version with fascinating audience questions about vegetarianism and how these myths underpin white supremacist arguments today:


Medieval texts appearing in The Essay

An excellent online edition of the Croxton Play of the Sacrament can be found here, along with a useful introduction to the play by John T. Sebastian:

An online edition of Richard Coer de Lyon, edited by Peter Larkin, which shows the king’s rather disturbing cannibal tendencies:

The Siege of Jerusalem, edited by Michael Livingston:

On medieval travel writing, see Bale, Anthony, and Sebastian Sobecki, Medieval English Travel (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2019).


On anti-Semitic myths, host desecration narratives, child-murder cults:

Host desecration, altarpiece monastery of Sijena, Catalonia, c. 1400.

Miri Rubin, Gentile Tales: The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews (Hong Kong: Yale University Press, 1999).

Bale, Anthony, ‘Fictions of Judaism in England before 1290’, in The Jews in Medieval Britain: Historical, Literary and Archaeological Perspectives, ed. by Patricia Skinner (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2003), pp. 129-44

______The Jew in the Medieval Book: English Antisemitisms, 1350-1500 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006)

______Feeling Persecuted: Christians, Jews and Images of Violence in the Middle Ages (London: Reaktion Books, 2010)


On the relationship between medieval Judaism and Christianity:

Abulafia, Anna Sapir, Christians and Jews in Dispute: Disputational Literature and The Rise Of Anti-Judaism in The West (c. 1000-1150) (Aldershot: Valorium, Ashgate Publishing, 1998)

Biddick, Kathleen, The Typological Imaginary: Circumcision, Technology, History (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003)

Cohen, Jeremy, The Friars and the Jews: The Evolution of Medieval Anti-Judaism (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1982)

Delany, Sheila, ed., Chaucer and the Jews: Sources, Contexts, Meanings (London: Routledge, 2002)

Despres, Denise L., ‘Immaculate Flesh and the Social Body: Mary and the Jews’, Jewish History, 12.1 (1998), 47-69

Evans, Ruth, ‘The Jew, the Host and the Virgin Martyr: Fantasies of the Sentient Body’, in Medieval Virginities, ed. by Anke Bernau, Ruth Evans and Sarah Salih (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2003), pp. 167-86

Fradenburg, Louise O., ‘Criticism, Anti-Semitism, and the Prioress’s Tale’, Exemplaria, 1.1 (1989), 69-115

Goldin, Simha, Jewish Women in Europe in the Middle Ages: A Quiet Revolution (Manchester: Manchester University Press, 2011)

Heng, Geraldine, ‘The Romance of England: Richard Coeur de Lyon, Saracens, Jews, and the Politics of Race and Nation’, in The Postcolonial Middle Ages, ed. by Jeffrey Jerome Cohen (New York, NY: St Martin’s Press, 2000), pp. 135-71

_____The Invention of Race in the European Middle Ages (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2018).

Higgs-Strickland, Debra, Saracens, Demons and Jews: Making Monsters in Medieval Art (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 2003)

Jews shown stabbing the host. British Library MS Harley 7026, f. 24r

Kruger, Steven, The Spectral Jew: Conversion and Embodiment in Medieval Europe (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2006)

Lampert, Lisa, Gender and Jewish Difference from Paul to Shakespeare (Philadelphia, PA: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2004)

Langmuir, Gavin, History, Religion, and Antisemitism (London: I.B. Tauris, 1990)

Llewelyn Price, Merrall, ‘Re-membering the Jews: Theatrical Violence in the N-Town Marian Plays’, Comparative Drama, 41.4 (2007-8), 439-63

Rubin, Miri, Gentile Tales: The Narrative Assault on Late Medieval Jews (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1999)

Skinner, Patricia, ed., The Jews in Medieval Britain: Historical, Literary and Archaeological Perspectives (Woodbridge: The Boydell Press, 2003)

Spector, Stephen, ‘Anti-Semitism and the English Mystery Plays’, Comparative Drama, 13.1 (1979), 3-16

Stacey, Robert C., ‘The Conversion of Jews to Christianity in Thirteenth-Century England’, Speculum, 67.2 (1992), 263-83

Trachtenburg, Joshua, The Devil and the Jews: The Medieval Conception of the Jew and Its Relation to Modern Anti-Semitism (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 1970)

Young Gregg, Joan, Devils, Women, and Jews: Reflections of the Other in Medieval Sermon Stories (Albany, NY: State University of New York Press, 1997)

On the Croxton Play and its religious context:

Sarah Beckwith, “Ritual, Church and Theatre,” p. 73 on the Jews in the play as part of a ‘quest for belief.’

Dox, Donnalee, ‘Theatrical Space, Mutable Space, and the Space of Imagination: Three Readings of the Croxton Play of the Sacrament’, in Medieval Practices of Space, ed. by Barbara A. Hanawalt and Michal Kobialka (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 2000), pp. 167-98.

Gerhardt, Ernst, ‘Food Production in the Croxton Play of the Sacrament’, Comparative Drama 49.3 (2015), 313-333.

Lampert, Lisa, ‘The Once and Future Jew: The Croxton Play of the Sacrament, Little Robert of Bury and Historical Memory’, Jewish History, 15.3 (2001), 235-55

Rubin, Miri, Corpus Christi: The Eucharist in Late Medieval Culture (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991)

Spector, Stephen, ‘Anti-Semitism and the English Mystery Plays’, Comparative Drama 13.1 (1979), 3 – 16

Sinanoglou, Leah, ‘The Christ Child as Sacrifice: A Medieval Tradition and the Corpus Christi Plays’, Speculum, 48.3 (1973), 491-509


On medieval plays, props, and special effects:

Aronson-Lehavi, Sharon, Street Scenes: Late Medieval Acting and Performance (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2011)

Butterworth, Philip, Staging Conventions in Medieval English Theatre (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2014).

Beckwith, Sarah, Signifying God: Social Relation and Symbolic Act in the York Corpus Christi Plays (London: University of Chicago Press, 2001)

Davidson, Clifford, Material Culture and Medieval Drama (Kalamazoo, MI: Medieval Institute Publications, 1999)

Enders, Jody, The Medieval Theater of Cruelty: Rhetoric, Memory, Violence (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 1999)

McMurray Gibson, Gail, The Theater of Devotion: East Anglian Drama and Society in the Late Middle Ages (Chicago, IL: The University of Chicago Press, 1989)

Sponsler, Claire, Drama and Resistance: Bodies, Goods, and Theatricality in Late Medieval England (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1997)


On cannibalism, geography and other gross things:

Bildhauer, Bettina, Medieval Blood (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2006)

Blurton, Heather, Cannibalism in High Medieval English Literature (New York, NY: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007)

Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome, Of Giants: Sex, Monsters, and the Middle Ages (Minneapolis, MN: University of Minnesota Press, 1999)

Llewelyn Price, Merrall, Consuming Passions: The Uses of Cannibalism in Late Medieval and Early Modern Europe (London: Routledge, 2003)



‘Hell’s Kitchen’, Herrad von Landsberg, c. 1180.