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Holly James-Maddocks



Holly joined the department in 2018 as Lecturer in Medieval Literature and Palaeography. She arrives as a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow (2016-2019) from the University of Birmingham, continuing a project that investigates the fifteenth-century production and circulation of manuscripts of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. Holly was the inaugural New Chaucer Society Postdoctoral Fellow (2015-2016) and, before that, the Society for Renaissance Studies Postdoctoral Fellow (2014-2015). After completing her PhD at York in 2013, Holly catalogued medieval manuscripts at The British Library (2014), and held visiting research fellowships in libraries in the USA (Harvard; Yale). Between 2013 and 2017, she taught undergraduate and graduate courses in English Literature at York, St Louis, and Birmingham Universities.




Holly studies manuscript and early print copies of literature produced in England from the late fourteenth to the early sixteenth centuries in order to see what they reveal about their production, dissemination, and use, and thus about literary and cultural history. To this end, she specialises in vernacular text illumination, a relatively neglected field compared to scribal, dialectal, textual, and provenance studies in this area. Her Leverhulme project, "The Illuminators of the Middle English Poetic Tradition", seeks to address the fact that the majority of manuscripts containing complete (or near-complete) copies of six major works by Chaucer, Hoccleve, Gower, and Lydgate - more than 130 manuscripts - were decorated at strategic textual moments with borders of gold and pigments. By identifying the work of these professional artists elsewhere, primarily within the comparatively extensive Latin book trade of the period, she aims to achieve a better understanding of the social and geographical contexts of the Middle English poetic tradition.

Holly’s interest in the illuminator as a tool for locating different kinds of book-producing activity developed from her PhD research on the collaborative practices of England's late medieval scribes and illuminators, and particularly in their methods for streamlining book production and supplying demand. She is currently in the process of surveying over 3,000 manuscripts illuminated in England, c. 1380-c. 1520, with the aim of writing two very different studies: the first will contextualise the craftsmen involved in the construction of Chaucer as ‘father’ of English literature, while the second will be a study of book-trade organisation in different urban contexts across England.

Research Funding

Holly would like to acknowledge the generous support of the following organisations: Arts and Humanities Research Council, Fund for Women Graduates, Paul Mellon Centre for British Art, Society for Renaissance Studies, New Chaucer Society, visiting fellowship awards from the Houghton Library at Harvard and the Beinecke Library at Yale, and The Leverhulme Trust.


Contact details

Dr Holly James-Maddocks
Department of English and Related Literature
University Of York
YO10 5DD

Tel: +44 (0)1904 323023