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Professor Ruth Karras

Lecky Professor Of History

I am a scholar of medieval women, gender and sexuality. My books have dealt with slavery, prostitution, masculinity, and quasi-marital unions. My current research focuses on King David as a figure of masculinity in medieval Christian and Jewish culture, drawing on a variety of sources from across Europe. I have been active in the profession internationally both in the field of women's and gender history and the field of medieval studies.

I am interested in the intersection of social and cultural history; legal history; the history of women, gender, and sexuality. I have worked with a wide variety of sources, including court records, hagiography, and Icelandic sagas, to name a few. I have particular interests in medieval masculinities, and in the way particular stories are retold and reinterpreted across time and geographies.

Before coming to Trinity I taught in the United States at the University of Pennsylvania, Temple University, and the University of Minnesota, where I was named Distinguished Teaching Professor for my work in teaching postgraduates. In 2018-19 I have responsibility for the modules HI1221, "Religion and Society c. 1095-c. 1517" (Michaelmas term), HI4370, "Christians and Jews in the Middle Ages" (Hilary term), and HI4389, "Medieval Marriage" (both terms). I also participate in the teaching of HI7170, "Medieval Sources."

I welcome dissertation and thesis students working on the cultural and social history of Europe in the central to later Middle Ages, including the history of women, gender, and sexuality.

Publications

Books

  • Sexuality in Medieval Europe:  Doing Unto Others, third edition (Routledge 2017). 1st edition (2005) translated as Sexualität im Mittelalter, trans. Wolfgang Hartung (Artemis & Winkler, 2006); Seksualność w średniowiecznej Europie, trans. Arkadiusz Bugaj, (Państwowy Instytut Wydawniczy, 2006). 
  • Unmarriages: Women, Men, and Sexual Unions in Medieval Europe (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012).
  • From Boys to Men:  Formations of Masculinity in Late Medieval Europe (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2003).         
  • Common Women:  Prostitution and Sexuality in Medieval England, (Oxford University Press, 1996).
  • Slavery and Society in Medieval Scandinavia (Yale University Press, 1988).  Chapter reprinted in Critical Readings on Global Slavery, ed. Damian Alan Pargas and Felicia Roşu (Brill, 2017), 699-711.

Edited Books

  • Entangled Histories:  Knowledge, Authority, and Transmission in Medieval Jewish Culture, co-edited with Elisheva Baumgarten and Katelyn Mesler (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017)
  • The Oxford Handbook of Women and Gender in Medieval Europe, co-edited with Judith M. Bennett (Oxford University Press, 2013; paperback edition 2016).
  • Law and the Illicit in Medieval Europe, co-edited with Joel Kaye and E. Ann Matter (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008). 

Articles in Referred Journals

  • “Royal Masculinity in Kingless Societies,” Journal of the Haskins Society 28 (2016), 83-100.
  • “Telling the Truth about Sex in Late Medieval Paris,” Reading Medieval Studies 40 (2014), 65-81.
  • "The Aerial Battle in the Toledot Yeshu and Sodomy in the Later Middle Ages," Medieval Encounters 19 (2013) 493-533.
  • “The Regulation of Sexuality in the Late Middle Ages:  England and France,” Speculum:  A Journal of Medieval Studies 86 (2011), 1010-1039. 
  • [Tiffany Vann Sprecher and Ruth Mazo Karras,] “The Midwife and the Church:  Ecclesiastical Regulation of Midwives in Brie, 1499-1504,” Bulletin of the History of Medicine 85 (2011), 171-192.
  • [Cameron Bradley and Ruth Mazo Karras,] “Masculine Sexuality and a Double Standard in Early Thirteenth-Century Flanders?” Leidschrift 25 (2010), 63-77.
  • “The History of Marriage and the Myth of Friedelehe,” Early Medieval Europe 14 (2006), 119-151. 
  • “Women’s Labors:  Reproduction and Sex Work in Medieval Europe Journal of Women’s History. 15:4 (2004), 153-58.
  • “Marriage and the Creation of Kin in the Sagas,” Scandinavian Studies 4 (2003), 473-90. 
  • “Active/Passive, Acts/Passions:  Greek and Roman Sexualities,” American Historical Review 4 (2000), 1250-65.
  • “Prostitution as Sexual Identity in Medieval Europe,” Journal of Women’s History  11:2 (Summer 1999), 159-77, with two Comments and Response, 178-98.
  • [David L. Boyd and Ruth Mazo Karras,]  "The Interrogation of a Male Transvestite Prostitute in Fourteenth-Century London," GLQ:  A Journal of Lesbian and Gay Studies 1 (1994), 459-65.
  • "Misogyny and the Medieval Exemplum:  Gendered Sin in John of Bromyard's Summa Praedicantium," Traditio 47 (1992), 233-57 [actual date of publication 1993].
  • "The Latin Vocabulary of Illicit Sex in English Ecclesiastical Court Records," Journal of Medieval Latin 2 (1992) 1-17.
  • "The Virgin and the Pregnant Abbess:  Miracles and Gender in the Middle Ages," in Folk Life in the Middle Ages, ed. Edward M. Peters (Richmond, KY:  Southeastern Medieval Association, 1991), special issue of Medieval Perspectives 3 (1988), 112-132. 
  • "Holy Harlots:  Prostitute Saints in Medieval Legend," Journal of the History of Sexuality 1 (1990): 3‑32.
  • "Concubinage and Slavery in the Viking Age," Scandinavian Studies 62 (1990): 141‑62. 
  • "The Regulation of Brothels in Later Medieval England," Signs:  Journal of Women in Culture and Society 14 (1989): 399‑433.  Reprinted in Sisters and Workers in the Middle Ages, ed. Judith M. Bennett, Elizabeth A. Clark, Jean F. O'Barr, B. Anne Vilen, and Sarah Westphal-Wihl (Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 1989), 100‑134. 
  • "Friendship and Love in the Lives of Two Twelfth-Century English Saints," Journal of Medieval History 14 (1988): 305‑20. 
  • "Pagan Survivals and Syncretism in the Conversion of Saxony," Catholic Historical Review, 72 (1986): 553‑572. 
  • "Early Twelfth-Century Bohemian Coinage in Light of a Hoard of Vladislav I," American Numismatic Society Museum Notes 30 (1985): 179‑210.

Book Chapters

  • “Sexuality in the Middle Ages,” in The Medieval World, 2d ed. Peter Linehan, Janet L. Nelson and Marios Costambeys (Routledge, 2018). 
  • [Elisheva Baumgarten, Ruth Mazo Karras, and Katelyn Mesler], “Introduction,” in Entangled Histories:  Knowledge, Authority, and Transmission in Medieval Jewish Culture, ed. Baumgarten, Karras, and Mesler (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2017), 1-20.
  • [Ruth Mazo Karras and Tom Linkinen], “John/Eleanor Rykener Revisited,” in Founding Feminisms:  Essays in Honor of E. Jane Burns, ed. Laine E. Doggett and Daniel E. O’Sullivan (D.S. Brewer, 2016), 111-121.
  • “The Christianization of Medieval Marriage,” in Christianity and Culture in the Middle Ages, ed. David C. Mengel and Lisa Wolverton (University of Notre Dame Press, 2014), 1-24.
  • “The Wife of Bath,” in Historians on Chaucer:  The General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales, ed. Stephen Rigby (Oxford University Press, 2014), 319-333.
  • “The Reproduction of Medieval Christianity,” in The Oxford Handbook of Gender and Christian Theology, ed. by Adrian Thatcher (Oxford University Press, 2014), 271-286.
  • “Clergé, mariage et masculinite au Moyen Âge,” in Une histoire sans les homes est-elle possible? Ed. Anne-Marie Sohn (Lyon:  ENS Editions, 2013), 109-120.
  • [Judith M. Bennett and Ruth Mazo Karras,] “Women, Gender, and Medieval Historians,” in The Oxford Handbook of Women & Gender in Medieval Europe, ed. Judith M. Bennett and Ruth Mazo Karras (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2013), 1-17.
  • “Marriage:  Medieval Couples and the Uses of Tradition,” in Why the Middle Ages Matter:  Medieval Light on Modern Injustice, ed. Celia Chazelle, Simon Doubleday, Felice Lifshitz, and Amy G. Remensnyder (Abington, Oxon:  Routledge, 2012), 54-65
  • [Ruth Mazo Karras and Jacqueline Murray,] “The Sexual Body,” in A Cultural History of the Human Body, vol. 2, In the Medieval Age, ed. Linda Kalof (Oxford:  Berg, 2010), 59-75.
  • “Marriage, Concubinage, and the Law,” in Law and the Illicit in Medieval Europe, ed. Ruth Mazo Karras, Joel Kaye, and E. Ann Matter (Philadelphia:  University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 117-129.
  • “Thomas Aquinas’s Chastity Belt:  Clerical Masculinity in Medieval Europe,” in Gender & Christianity in Medieval Europe:  New Perspectives, ed. Lisa Bitel and Felice Lifshitz (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2008), 52-67.
  • “Knighthood, Compulsory Heterosexuality, and Sodomy,” in The Boswell Thesis:  Essays on Christianity, Social Tolerance, and Homosexuality, ed. Matthew Kuefler (Chicago:  University of Chicago Press, 2006), 273-286, 
  • “The Lechery That Dare Not Speak Its Name:  Sodomy and the Vices in Medieval England,” in In the Garden of Evil:  The Vices and Culture in the Middle Ages, ed. Richard Newhauser (Toronto:  Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 2005), 193-205.
  • “’This Skill in a Woman is By No Means to Be Despised’:  Weaving and the Gender Division of Labor in the Middle Ages,” in Medieval Fabrications:  Dress, Textiles, Clothwork, and Other Cultural Imaginings, ed. E. Jane Burns (New York:  Palgrave Macmillan, 2004), 89-104.
  • [Kathryn Kelsey Staples and Ruth Mazo Karras,]  “Christina’s Tempting,” in Christina of Markyate, ed. Samuel Fanous and Henrietta Leyser (London:  Routledge, 2004).  
  • “Using Women to Think With in the Medieval University,” in Seeing and Knowing:  Women and Learning in Medieval Europe 1200-1550, ed. Anneke B. Mulder-Bakker (Turnhout:  Brepols, 2004), 21-33.
  • “‘Because the other is a poor woman, she shall be called his wench’:  Gender, Sexuality, and Social Status in Late Medieval England,” for Gender and Difference in the Middle Ages, ed. Sharon Farmer and Carol Braun Pasternack (Minneapolis:  University of Minnesota Press, 2003), 210-29.
  • “Young Knights Under the Feminine Gaze,” in The Premodern Teenager:  Youth in Society 1150-1650, ed. Konrad Eisenbichler (Toronto:  Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies,  2002), 19-205.
  • “Sexuality in the Middle Ages,” in The Medieval World, ed. Peter Linehan and Janet Nelson (Routledge, 2001), 279-93.              
  • “Separating the Men from the Goats:  Masculinity, Civilization, and Identity Formation in the Medieval University” in Conflicted Identities and Multiple Masculinities:  Men in the Medieval West, ed. Jacqueline Murray (Garland, 1999), 189-214; reprinted in The Animal-Human Boundary, ed. Angela N.H. Creager and William Chester Jordan (Rochester:  University of Rochester Press, 2002), 50-73.
  • “Sex and the Singlewoman,” in Singlewomen in the European Past, ed. Judith M. Bennett and Amy Froide (University of Pennsylvania Press, 1999), 127-45.
  • Leccherous Songys:  Medieval Sexuality in Word and Deed,” in Obscenity:  Social Control and Artistic Creation in the European Middle Ages, ed. Jan Ziolkowski (Brill, 1998), 233-45.
  • "God and Man in Medieval Iceland:  Writing Women Out of Conversion History," in Varieties of Religious Conversion in the Middle Ages, ed. James Muldoon (University Press of Florida, 1997), 100-114.
  • “Sharing Wine, Women, and Song:  Masculine Identity Formation in Medieval European Universities,” in Becoming Male in the Middle Ages, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen and Bonnie Wheeler (Garland Press, 1997), 187-202.
  • [Ruth Mazo Karras and David L. Boyd,] “Ut Cum Muliere:  A Male Transvestite Prostitute in Fourteenth-Century London,” in Premodern Sexualities, ed. Louise Fradenburg and Carla Freccero (Routledge, 1996), 101-116.  Reprinted in Sexualities in History:  A Reader, ed. Kim M. Phillips and Barry Reay (Routledge, 2002).
  • "Two Models, Two Standards:  Moral Teaching and Sexual Mores," in Bodies and Disciplines:  Intersections of Literature and History in Fifteenth-Century England, ed. Barbara A. Hanawalt and David Wallace (University of Minnesota Press, 1996), 123-138.
  • “Prostitution in Medieval Europe,” in Handbook of Medieval Sexuality:  A Book of Essays, ed. Vern L. Bullough and James A. Brundage (Garland Press, 1996), 243-60.
  • "Sex, Money, and Prostitution in Medieval English Culture,” in Desire and Discipline:  Sex and Sexuality in the Premodern West, ed. Jacqueline Murray and Konrad Eisenbichler  (University of Toronto Press, 1996), 201-16.
  • "Servitude and Sexuality in Medieval Iceland," in From Sagas to Society:  Comparative Approaches to Early Iceland, ed. Gísli Pálsson (Enfield Lock, Herts.:  Hisarlik Press, 1992), 289-304.
  • "Analyses of Silver Content in a Hoard of Twelfth-Century Bohemian Pennies," in Metallurgy in Numismatics II, ed. W.A. Oddy and M.M. Archibald (London:  British Museum Publications, 1988), 81‑86. 
  • "Seventh-Century Jewellery from Frisia:  A Re-Examination," Anglo-Saxon Studies in Archaeology and History 4 (1985): 159‑177. 

Professor Karras on the TCD Research Support System

Contact Details

Department of History
Trinity College
Dublin 2.
Telephone: +353 1 896 1823
Fax: +353 1 896 3995
Email: karrasr@tcd.ie