"Back Hand of God": Suffering & the Supernatural in (Modern) Medieval Texts

Activity: Talk or presentationOral presentationResearch


I contend that it is via suffering that character, and not just character but ‘sanctity,’ is revealed. For if narratives of violence function as sites for an exploration of victimhood and empowerment, then they also provide a forum in which to engage with other marks of identity such as religion, race and class, in which men and women equally have a stake, which in in these women manifest by way of its intertextuality of medieval sources and modern-day sentiments. Pain is a central theme and catalyst in narratives throughout history, from ancient texts to medieval devotional literature to television series about supernaturally strong women. Often in these narratives, pain is inflicted on the female body through grotesque acts of violence at the behest of men in power attempting to exert authority and control. Such suffering due to patriarchal dominance is a common theme within interpretations of the medieval and the Gothic, especially when that pain puts the heroine in immediate danger. My paper will take this theme of pain and use it as my analytic thread in analysing four women: virgin-martyr Margaret of Antioch alongside fellow demon-slayer Buffy Summers, and existentially conflicted (anti)heroine Vanessa Ives of Penny Dreadful with extra-ordinary Christina Mirabilis.
Period14 May 2022
Event titleThe Supernatural: Sites of Suffering in the Pre-Modern World
Event typeConference
Degree of RecognitionInternational


  • Medievalism
  • medieval studies
  • hagiography
  • Buffy Studies
  • Gothic
  • gender
  • Violence