The University of Massachusetts Amherst
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Jessica Barr

Associate Professor and Undergraduate Program Director

Jessica Barr, Associate Professor, UMass Amherst

(413) 545-5618

406 Herter Hall

Jessica Barr's research interests include medieval visionary and dream vision literature, hagiography, and the role of reading in medieval devotional activity, as well as feminist approaches to medieval literature. Geographically, her focus tends to be on France, Germany, Belgium, and Britain; temporally, it lies in the twelfth through the fourteenth centuries. Her forthcoming book, Intimate Reading: Textual Encounters in Medieval Women’s Visions and Vitae (University of Michigan Press), explores how medieval women mystical writers sought to transform the book into a point of encounter between the reader and God. Her first book, Willing to Know God: Visionaries and Dreamers in the Middle Ages (Columbus: Ohio State University Press, 2010) argues for concurrent readings of visionary literature and dream vision poetry based on their related understandings of the vision as an epistemological tool. Prior to joining the faculty at the University of Massachusetts Amherst, she was Associate Professor of English and Chair of the Humanities Division at Eureka College.

Frequently taught courses

  • Comp-Lit 122 AL, DG: Spiritual Autobiography
  • Comp-Lit 245 AL: Legends of King Arthur
  • Comp-Lit 340H: Mystical Literature
  • Comp-Lit 391DV: Dreams, Visions, and the Supernatural
  • Comp-Lit 592: Medieval Women Writers (blended graduate/undergraduate seminar)


B.A. Oberlin College, 1997; M.A. Brown University, 2003; Ph.D. 2007.


  • Intimate Reading: Textual Encounters in Medieval Women's Visions and Vitae (University of Michigan Press, forthcoming)
  • Willing to Know God: Dreamers and Visionaries in the Later Middle Ages (Ohio State University Press, 2010)
  • "The Idea of the Wilderness: Gender and Resistance in Le Roman de Silence," Arthuriana (forthcoming)
  • "Read It and Weep: Somatic Reading and Middle English Devotional Literature," in Vernacular Aesthetics in the Later Middle Ages: Politics, Performativity and Reception from Literature to Music, ed. Katharine W. Jager (Palgrave Macmillan, forthcoming)
  • "Imagined Bodies: Intimate Reading and Divine Union in Gertrude of Helfta's Legatus," Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures 43.2 (2017): 186-208
  • "Visionary 'Staycations': Meeting God at Home in Medieval Women's Vision Literature," Medieval Feminist Forum: A Journal of Gender and Sexuality 52.2 (2016): 70-101
  • "Modeling Holiness: Self-Fashioning and Sanctity in Late-Medieval English Mystical Literature," in Sanctity and Literature: Interfaces of the Text and the Holy in Fourteenth- and Fifteenth-Century England, ed. Anke Bernau and Eva van Contzen (University of Manchester Press, 2015): 80-95.
  • "The Secret Chamber of Her Mind: Interpreting Inner Experience in the Vita of Beatrice of Nazareth," Exemplaria: A Journal of Theory in Medieval and Renaissance Studies 23.3 (2011): 219-41