Practising shame – Author Q&A with Mary C. Flannery

Posted by Bethan Hirst - Wednesday, 20 Nov 2019


1. How would you like someone who has read your book to sum it up in one sentence?

This book reveals how medieval English literature and culture conspired to teach women that fearing shame was the best way to be honourable.

2. What book in your field has inspired you the most?

In terms of their insight into the history of emotions, William Reddy’s The Navigation of Feeling and Sarah McNamer’s Affective Meditation and the Invention of Medieval Compassion have done a lot to inspire my book’s approach. In terms of how it points towards the possible connections between misogyny and emotional practices, Kate Manne’s Down Girl continues to inspire my thinking about female shame and honour.

3. Did your research take you to any unexpected places?

Australia! I benefited so much from my visiting fellowship at the Australian Research Council’s Centre for the History of Emotions, which has been leading the way when it comes to creative, cross-disciplinary approaches to emotions history. This book would not be here had I not been able to work there for two months.

4. Which writing process do you use (computer, longhand, dictate, other)?

Although I occasionally use dictation when I’m taking notes away from my desk, most of my drafting is done on a computer. My most substantial revision is done longhand—it helps me to have a birds’-eye view of the book.

5. Why did you choose to publish with MUP?

I was looking for a publisher that didn’t shy away from inter- and cross-disciplinary scholarship, and which had a good track record of publishing excellent work in medieval studies. MUP met both these criteria, and has been a pleasure to work with.

6. What are you working on now?

I’m currently working on a history of the transmission and reception of Chaucer’s ‘obscenity’ over the last 600 years.

7. If you could go back and give yourself once piece of advice when starting out on project, what would it be?

Trust your gut—you’re onto something.

8. If you could have been the author of any book, what would it be and why?

P.G. Wodehouse’s The Code of the Woosters. I reread it a lot while I was writing this book, and it never fails to make me laugh—who wouldn’t want to write a book like that?

9. What other genres do you enjoy reading?

Historical fiction, children’s literature, non-fiction, mysteries… anything that takes me out of my own head.

10. Which authors (academic and not) would you invite to a dinner party?

P.G. Wodehouse and the Gawain-poet for a healthy mix of humour and compassion, and Nigel Slater to get us all focused on the good food.

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