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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

Sighs and Swoons: Breath and Breathing in Medieval Writing

5th March 2019, 18:00 to 19:30, Palace Green Library, Professor Corinne Saunders

A free public talk by Professor Corinne Saunders, co-Investigator on the Life of Breath project, to accompany the exhibition currently running at Palace Green Library.

Breath plays an key role in the imaginative fiction of the medieval period. Romance writers draw on medical and theological theories of the time to portray the ways that the movements of the vital spirits – closely connected with breath – create powerful physical responses, which at their most extreme cause breathlessness, sighs and swooning. Such phenomena play a key part in the depiction of emotion, particularly love and grief.

In this talk Corinne will explore romantic narratives and religious writings of the medieval period, focusing on Chaucer, Julian of Norwich, and Margery Kempe, to consider what they can tell us about the origins of contemporary attitudes.

This relaxed evening talk will take place in the Courtyard Café and will include free refreshments. Due to limited ticket numbers, please ensure that you book in advance. If you have any queries, please visit our website or contact us at

Contact for more information about this event.


Research in English At Durham (READ) blog showcasing the the literary research emerging from the Department of English Studies


We host a large number of conferences, lectures and seminars each year, many of them open to the public. Find out more on our Events page.


Many of our public lectures, seminars and conferences are recorded, and can be listened to as podcasts.

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