Chelsea Rae Silva


Research areas:

Medical humanities; Middle English literature; Manuscript studies; Disability studies.


Andrea Denny-Brown (chair), John Ganim, Heidi Brayman

Research interests:

My dissertation, Bedwritten: Middle English Medicine and the Ailing Author, examines the intersection of medical care and literature in late medieval England. Centering on Middle English texts produced by writers who were ailing or impaired, my work argues that late medieval healthcare, enacted through daily acts of bodily maintenance, played a more influential role in contemporary literature than has yet been discussed. This project foregrounds extracanonical medical works like recipe collections and leechbooks in order to better understand the embodied experiences of illness described by authors like Julian of Norwich, John Audelay, William Dunbar, and Thomas Hoccleve.

In addition to this dissertation, my doctoral work also includes the construction of a searchable, open-access database of medical recipes transcribed from manuscript sources. When complete, the Middle English Remedies database will contain approximately a thousand remedies, facilitating public exploration of everyday medieval healthcare.

Recent Activity: 

Peer Reviewed Publications:

Opening the Medieval Folding Almanac.Exemplaria 30.1 (2018): 49-66

Fellowships and Grants:

Mellon/ACLS Dissertation Completion Fellowship, 2019-20.
Evelyn S. Nation Fellow in the History of Medicine, Huntington Library, 2019.
Foremothers Fellow, Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship, 2019.
Schallek Award, Medieval Academy of America & Richard III Society, 2019.
Dissertation Year Program Award, UC Riverside, 2019.
Humanities Research Grant, UC Riverside Center for Ideas & Society, 2019 & 2018.

Selected Presentations:

“’Paint the face of a man upon the wall’: Wonder and Instruction in the Medieval Home.”  Writing Home: Literatures of Place & Belonging, c.1300-1600, Liverpool, UK. July 2019.

“’Rede hit sofft’: Durative Healthcare in the Life and Poetry of John Audelay.” International Medieval Congress, Leeds (July 2019).

“Experience and Reason: the Narrative Remedy Collection of Donatus Antonius in BL MS Harley 4349.” Marco Manuscript Workshop, University of Tennesse (February 2019).

“(Im)practical Magic: Middle English Recipe Compendiums and Everyday Recreation.” New Chaucer
Society, Toronto, Canada (July 2018).

“‘A gracious remedé’: John Audelay’s Didactic Prescriptions.” International Congress on Medieval
Studies, Kalamazoo, MI (May 2018).

“‘Herbes of the gardyn and wedys of the feldys’: Vernacular Medical Instruction in The Grete Herball.”
Early Modern Center, UC Santa Barbara, CA (March 2018).

Conference Panels Organized:

“Practicing Theory, Theorizing Practice with/in the Medieval Recipe.” New Chaucer Society,  Durham, UK. July 2020 (with Lisa H. Cooper).