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Christine McWebb


519-888-4567 x23008
Office: DMS 2128

BA, MA, PhD (Western)

Professor McWebb’s present research focuses mainly on late medieval French literature and the Digital Humanities. She has published extensively on the late medieval French writer Christine de Pizan as well as on the Roman de la rose. Of particular interest are Christine de Pizan’s sustained reactions to this work and the relation between text and iconography in late medieval literature. She published a critical anthology Debating the Roman de la rose: A Critical Anthology with Routledge (2007) and is currently working on a monograph on the discourse of alchemy in the Roman de la rose. Further, she is co-director of the internationally recognized MARGOT project which publishes in enriched digital form literary materials from the French Middle Ages and the Early Modern Period. Her most recent contribution to this digitization project are the publication of the chanson-de-geste, Lion de Bourges (completion date: April 2011) and the current development of an image annotation software called MAT (MARGOT Annotation Tool). McWebb also has a strong interest in the interrelation between science and literature and has guest-edited with Donald M. Bruce an issue of the journal Texte : Revue de la théorie et de la critique littéraire (U of Toronto P, 2009)on this topic. Her teaching includes undergraduate and graduate courses on medieval literature, women writers in the Middle Ages, translation, digital humanities as well as survey courses on nineteenth-century French literature and cultural studies courses.


Studying "science" in the broadest sense of the word: Christine de Pizan and the medieval forms of knowledge

Modern feminist scholars often date the beginning of the modern feminist movement to the works of Christine de Pizan (1365 - c.1430): France's, and possibly Europe's, first woman to pursue extended academic study and to earn a living through professional writing.

UW Arts researcher and French Studies professor Dr. Christine McWebb is part of a well established community of international scholars who study the works of "Christine" de Pizan and use them to gain both contemporary wisdom and alternative literary accounts of life in Medieval Europe. According to McWebb,

"Christine's range of topics is broad and varied: she deals with her preoccupations with, and concern for, the women of her time, gives ample religious and moralistic advice, composes conduct manuals for knight and prince, the list is long".

McWebb's research on the extensive corpus of Christine de Pizan's writings has led her to query Christine de Pizan's understanding of the term 'science' and to relate these writings to broader understandings of the history and practice of science in Medieval Europe.

"We are often led to believe that modern 'science' began with the Scientific Revolution of the seventeenth century. However, we must go back further in order to fully grasp the semantic meaning of the term "science" which, in the Middle Ages, connoted a far richer spectrum of study than what is implied by the modern day 'science'" McWebb said.

"Without going into a lengthy analysis of the history of the disciplines, it suffices to say that the term 'science' for medieval thinkers and writers was much more globally conceived, referring in general to 'forms of knowledge' be they speculative or exact" she said.

According to McWebb, the medieval conception of science included 'knowledges' as diverse as rhetoric, theology, physics, and the fine arts. She argues that this broader understanding of science as forms of knowledge may be particularly relevant in a science and technology-intensive university like Waterloo.

"One of the things that attracted me to Waterloo was the very strong activity in science. There is real potential for us to conduct cross disciplinary work using both literature and contemporary scientific practice as a basis for development and comparison" she said.

McWebb is currently investigating medieval science as it is portrayed in the works of Christine de Pizan, but plans to broaden her research to explore the interface between science and literature more generally, to be published as a collection of articles in a special volume of Texte (2007).

Dr. Christine McWebb and colleague Dr. Donald Bruce (University of Alberta) recently published an article exploring the representation of rhetoric as a 'science par excellence' in the works of Christine de Pizan and other leading writers of the time. Please contact Dr. Christine McWebb at for more information.

McWebb is one of the principal researchers of the MARGOT group. She recently published a critical anthology titled Debating the Roman de la rose; A Critical Anthology with an online component at MARGOT.

University of Waterloo