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Sara Ritchey

Associate Professor


My research interrogates premodern conceptual categories such as nature, the body, medicine, and matter in order to reveal how communities sorted, valued, and regulated their world. At the same time, I am interested in how these past constructions continue to resonate in contemporary statements of value, aesthetics, and social regulation.

My first book, Holy Matter: Changing Perceptions of the Material World in Late Medieval Christianity (Cornell University Press, 2014), located profound theological change in women’s religious communities, arguing that the material trappings of late medieval Christianity were the result of a fundamentally reoriented and gendered conception of the physical cosmos and the human relationship to it.

More recently, I have turned my attention to the history of care practices. In 2019, with the support of fellowships from the ACLS and NEH, I completed The Recovery of Health: Religious Women, Caregiving, and Erasure in Late Medieval Europe (at press and under contract with Cornell University Press), which explores gender and medical epistemology in the Middle Ages. Two other recent and in-progress projects examine gender and healthcare from a broader historical perspective: a forthcoming volume (co-edited with Sharon Strocchia) entitled Gender, Health, and Healing, 1250-1550 (Amsterdam University Press, forthcoming 2020) and a Special Issue of the journal Gender & History, “Health, Healing, and Caring” (co-edited with Lynn M. Thomas and Kristin Burnett), which investigates global caregiving practices (Spring 2021).

Currently I am working on medieval performance traditions in the French Atlantic, querying the temporal entanglement of troubadours, traiteurs, passion plays, and Catholic processions.

I teach graduate and undergraduate courses in the history of medieval medicine, gender relations in medieval Europe, late medieval religious and cultural history, and historical methods. In my undergraduate courses, I work to ensure that students from all majors come to evaluate how deep historical structures from the medieval past continue to frame our present thinking about such matters as bodily difference, religious identity, and medical efficacy. At the graduate level, I seek to assist students in sharpening their engagement with innovative methods and to interpret original sources from a perspective informed by critical theory.


PhD, University of Chicago

MA, University of Texas, Austin

BA, Tulane University

Selected Publications

At press, expected February 2021: The Recovery of Health: Religious Women, Caregiving, and Erasure in Late Medieval Europe (Cornell University Press).

Forthcoming 2020: Gender, Health, and Healing, 1250-1550, co-edited with Sharon Strocchia, Amsterdam University Press.

2019: "“Dialogue and Destabilization: An Index for Comparative Global Exemplarity,” Religions 10 (10) special issue on Comparative Hagiology: Issues in Theory and Method. 

2019: “Health, Healing, and Salvation: Hagiography as a Source for Medieval Healthcare,” Hagiography and the History of Latin Christendom, 500–1500, edited by Samantha Herrick (Leiden: Brill), 417-436.
2019: “Obstetric Media: Text, Image, and the Performance of Labor in Cistercian Communities” in Pregnancy and Childbirth from Late Antiquity to the Renaissance, ed. Costanza Dopfel (Turnhout: Brepols).


2018: “The Sacrificial Herb: Gathering Prayers in Late Medieval Pharmacy,” Postmedieval: A Journal of Medieval Studies 9.4, 432-443.
2018: “The Wound’s Presence and Bodily Absence: The Experience of God in a Fourteenth-Century manuscript,” in Sensory Reflections: Traces of Experience in  Medieval Artifacts, eds. Fiona Griffiths and Kathryn Starkey. Berlin: De Gruyter,
pp. 163-180.

2017: “Saints' Lives as Efficacious Texts: Cistercians Monks, Religious Women, and Curative Reading,” Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies (92.4).

2015: “Cult and Codex: Hagiographic Writing and Carthusian Reading in Royal Library of Belgium MS 8060-64.” Viator: A Journal of Medieval and Renaissance Studies 46.3 (Autumn, 2015): 255-276.

2014: “Affective Medicine: Later Medieval Healing Communities and the Feminization of Health Care Practices in the Thirteenth-Century Low Countries,” Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures 40.2 (July, 2014): 113-143. Selected as “Article of the Month “ by Feminae: Medieval Women and Gender Index

2014: “Illness and Imagination: the Healing Miracles of Clare of Montefalco,” in The World of St. Francis: Essays in Honor of William R. Cook.  Edited by Bradley Franco and Beth Mulvaney (Leiden: Brill, 2014) 80-99.

2014: Holy Matter: Changing Perceptions of the Material World in Late Medieval Christianity (Cornell University Press).


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