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The University of Southampton
Humanities Graduate School

Suzanne Coley

In 2012 I graduated from the University of Southampton with a bachelor’s degree in History. During this degree I developed a keen interest in medieval legal culture and in particular the development of the legal profession in England.

Suzanne Coley

In the end, I finished by researching the mentality of punishment in England, in the use of corporal and capital punishment as a means of appropriate redress for societal concepts of wrong.
This interest inspired me to continue my studies at the University after a year away working as a learning mentor. Returning in 2013, I began to read Medieval and Renaissance Culture at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies here at Southampton. During this year, I continued to study various materials prepared for the education of lawyers in royal and manorial courts, and undertook a study of the concept of papal infallibility and heresy. Finally, my most recent work has been on the significance of descriptions of purgatorial punishments found in monastic visionary stories in the context of twelfth century religious reforms. I decided to continue my interests in legal culture as well as my new fascination with ecclesiastical and scholastic culture through a doctoral study into heresy in England.


Through my PhD research entitled “Observation, Diagnosis, Triage and Treatment: punishing English Heresy as a Medicinal Process in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries,” I hope to turn the focus of historians of heresy to an earlier period than has hitherto been researched for England, by focusing largely on the intellectual view of heresy itself, rather than the social and political study of heretics. One invaluable resource for this study will be a recently discovered encyclopaedia of heresy written in the lat eleventh century by Archbishop Baldwin of Canturbury. The interest in medical metaphors originally inspired by reading Moore will allow a more in-depth treatment of the intellectual approach and attitude towards the issue of heresy. Just like the diagnosis and cure of disease, the classification and treatment of heresy is a process defined by the medic, not the illness.
Following on from this, I will be drawing together a range of ecclesiastical sources – monastic, pastoral, patristic and canonical – to determine the influences on and sources of information available to twelfth- and thirteenth-century authors in England where large-scale, scandalous popular heresies were not really seen until a later period. Finally, I hope to look at how far ideas and decisions formed here impacted on decisions made by royal councils and how far there can be said to be an interest in developing some sort of procedure against heresy in England before the arrival of Wycliff and the Lollards.

Key facts

Suzanne is supervised by Dr Nicholas Karn and Prof Peter Clarke .

Email Suzanne here .

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