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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.



  • 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