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Baths of Bliss in the Middle Ages: Fact and Fiction

Baths of Bliss in the Middle Ages

Baths of Bliss in the Middle Ages: Fact and Fiction

Lecture by Elizabeth Archibald

Given at Durham University, on February 27, 2014

Elizabeth Archibald will discuss her current research on baths and bathing in medieval literature and society. Medieval people were much keener on bathing than many today suppose; most medieval towns had public bathing facilities, on the Continent at least, as did many private houses. Medieval writers refer to baths in many contexts: spiritual (baptism), medical, erotic, didactic, comic, magical, dangerous – death in the bath was not uncommon. Illustrations from the period show a great variety of bathing, indoor and outdoor, public and private, formal and informal. It really was a spa culture!

Elizabeth Archibald studied Classics and Medieval Literature at Newnham College, Cambridge, and has a PhD in Medieval Studies from Yale. She has taught at King’s College, Cambridge, at the University of Victoria in Western Canada, and at Bristol; since 2012 she has been Professor of English Studies at Durham and Principal of St Cuthbert’s Society. Besides medieval bathing, she works on the classical tradition in the Middle Ages, representations of women in medieval literature, medieval romance and the Arthurian legend. Her publications include Apollonius of Tyre, A Companion to Malory, Incest and the Medieval Imagination, and The Cambridge Companion to the Arthurian Legend.

See also Did people in the Middle Ages take baths?



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