Erica O'Brien


Thesis Title: 'Sight and Spirituality: The Privileging of the Senses in Devotional Portraits of Margaret of York, Mary of Burgundy, and Margaret of Austria.'

My research applies current scholarship on the medieval understanding of the physical, inner, and spiritual senses to the illuminated devotional portraits of Margaret of York and Mary of Burgundy. I am interested in how these women would have interpreted and interacted with their portrait images as representations and models of religious experience and how the texts in which these illuminations are found would have informed their comprehension. Linked to these topics, I am also interested in the gendering of devotional acts and objects, women's literacy in the medieval period, the relationship between devotional skill and political power, and the mutual iconographical influence of late medieval Netherlandish panel painting and illumination.

Publications (forthcoming):

  • 'The Politics of Perception: A Duchess's Devotional Skill in La Vie de Sainte Colette (Ms. 8)' in Sean McGlynn and Elena Woodacre (eds.) The Image and Perception of Monarchy in Medieval and Early Modern Europe (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2014).


  • Erica was invited to chair a session at “Authority and Gender in Medieval and Renaissance Chronicles,” the second biennial Cambridge International Chronicles Symposium, University of Cambridge, 17-19 July 2010.


  • “Human Form in Divine Light: The Stained Glass of Sir Edward Burne-Jones” at the Frome Festival, Holy Trinity Church, Frome, 9 July 2010.


  • Approaching the Past
  • Introduction to Early Modern Art

Part-time Teacher

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