Prof Bettina Bildhauer

Prof Bettina Bildhauer

Director of Research


Researcher profile

+44 (0)1334 46 3663
Room 208
Office hours
On leave in Semester 2, 2023-24


Research areas

My research focuses on medieval literature in German in its global, cultural and cross-temporal contexts. For my overall contributions to research, I was awarded a Friedrich Wilhelm Bessel Research Award in 2020 and a Philip Leverhulme Prize in 2009. You can listen to me enthuse about the medieval German epic Nibelungenlied on BBC Radio 4’s In Our Time programme here. My main current research areas are the history and politics of menstruation, and non-binary gender in global medieval literature.

Menstruation: Menstrual taboos for centuries have stigmatised women and others who menstruate over their life course. Knowing this history allows us to tackle gendered injustices. Scotland is currently a global leader in this policy area.

  • Menstruation Research Network UK (since 2018, funded by the Wellcome Trust): Consultancy, events and networking to bring together the flourishing interdisciplinary menstrual research, policy and activist community
  • Ending Period Poverty Research Network (funded by Royal Society of Edinburgh, 2020–22): Why Scotland’s new legislation to provide free period products is path-breaking but also still perpetuates historical stigma: Open Library of Humanities.
  • Sustainable menstrual products (funded by Scottish Funding Council, 2021): On the barriers against using washable cups, pads and underwear; and how eco-shaming those using disposable period products has become a new form of menstrual stigma: Women’s Reproductive Health
  • Medieval Blood (2006, paperback 2009) spotlights blood as a crucial part of medieval, legal, religious and cultural conceptualizations of the body, gender and subjectivity, as a marker of where bodies and humans end. It is particularly interested in the anxieties about gender and personal identity expressed through the medieval obsession with menstruation.

Global Middle Ages and non-binary gender: The Seven Sages of Rome/ Book of Sindibad/ Dolopathos is the most famous premodern text of which nobody has ever heard, told in at least 31 languages from the Middle East to Iceland, inspiring Chaucer, Boccaccio, Dante, Shakespeare and The Arabian Nights. It provides unique insights into dominant medieval attitudes to sexual violence and non-binary gender, and into premodern multilinguality and translinguality.

  • The Seven Sages of Rome: editing and reappraising a forgotten classic from global and gendered perspectives(funded by AHRC and DFG, 2023–2026)

Previous research

My approach combines recent theoretical ideas with close analysis of texts, films and images; archival work; and interdisciplinary methods and topics from the environmental, medical and digital humanities. Underlying much of my research is an interest in the limits of the human, both the physical limits of individual human beings and of what counts as human, and how this intersects with the world around us.

Material things: My monograph Medieval Things (2020) shows how medieval creatives imagined materiality and alternatives to the subject/object binary. It argues that the Anthropocene has a lot to learn from pre-Enlightenment conceptions of human subjects and material objects, putting materiality back into seemingly immaterial digital networks, or refocusing our attention on non-human rather than human agent of change. A short video about this project is here. This work was supported by a Leverhulme Research Fellowship.

Medievalism: The premodern period – the Middle Ages – is crucial for defining what it is to be modern. I have widely investigated medievalism, that is, the influence of the medieval on our self-perceptions, and the persistence of medieval culture, art and thought, for example, in The Middle Ages in the Modern World (co-edited with Chris Jones, 2017), Medieval Film (co-edited with Anke Bernau, 2009) and Filming the Middle Ages (2011). This work was supported by a Humboldt Research Fellowship for Experienced Researchers.

Monstrosity: My co-edited collection The Monstrous Middle Ages (with Robert Mills, 2006/2017) asks how humans are distinguished from other entities, especially monsters and things. The chapter I contribute (reprinted 2019) deals with anti-Semitic discourse on monsters.

I have supervised PhD students in medieval, German and film studies and welcome applications from prospective PhD students in related fields.

My Wikipedia page:

PhD supervision

  • Rosalie Bernheim

Selected publications


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