Lauren Wainwright

Lauren Wainwright

Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies
Doctoral researcher

Contact details

Qualifications

  • BA Ancient History (Birmingham)
  • MA Antiquity (Byzantine Studies)(Birmingham)

Biography

My interest in Byzantium began in my third year of my undergraduate at the University of Birmingham. From there, I undertook an MA in Antiquity with a pathway in Byzantine Studies, in which I received a distinction. I started my PhD in 2013 as a part-time student but was able to resume my studies as a full-time student in 2014 due to funding received from Midlands3Cities, AHRC

Doctoral research

PhD title
Portraits of Power: Female Imperial Imagery in the Byzantine Empire
Supervisors
Professor Leslie Brubaker and Dr Elizabeth L'Estrange
Course
Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies PhD/MA by Research (On-Campus or by Distance Learning)

Research

My research evaluates the messages that visual and written representations of imperial Byzantine women conveyed, and how those messages changed across time. Empresses are the only group of Byzantine women about whom we have much information, and certainly the only women who regularly had access to social and cultural power. As I am interested in the public perception of women, I balance the textual sources with imagery, as texts had a restricted - and largely urban male - audience while imagery was a primary form of communication in a largely illiterate society. To track change across time, I present case studies of empresses, one from each century of the Byzantine Empire, starting with Helena, the mother of Constantine I (4th century), whose virtues and portrayals were emulated for centuries, to Helen Dragaš, the last empress of the Byzantine Empire whose image was made public (15th century). My thesis analyses why some characteristics of the empress (e.g. family connections) remained crucial to show across the entire Byzantine period, while others (e.g. dynastic legitimisation) fluctuated in importance. One key feature that has already become clear is that images of empresses always have a religious dimension of some sort, though how this is expressed changes over time, and in this they are quite distinct from images of the emperor. This plays very clearly into Byzantine gender conventions, and this aspect of imperial portraiture has never before been considered.

 

Other activities

  • May 2014: ‘The Language of Female Patronage in Late Byzantium: Speaking through Objects and Images’ at ‘Language as Culture in the Eastern Mediterranean 330-2013’, 15th Annual Postgraduate Colloquium of the Centre for Byzantine, Ottoman and Modern Greek Studies.