Dr Olivia (Liv) Robinson BA, MSt, DPhil

Dr Olivia (Liv) Robinson

Department of English Literature
Lecturer in Late Medieval Literature

Contact details

University of Birmingham
B15 2TT

My work focuses on Anglo-French literary cultures and on medieval theatre, particularly theatre copied and performed by medieval women.  I am currently working on a research project on drama in medieval women’s religious houses. The Medieval Convent Drama Project, which is fully funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation, explores the theatrical cultures and activities of medieval nuns in England, Northern France and Burgundy. 


  • BA (Oxon)
  • MSt (Oxon)
  • DPhil (Oxon)


I was born and raised in North Yorkshire, and went to Oxford to study English in 2001.  Having received a first-class BA Hons degree in English from The Queen’s College, Oxford (2004), I spent time teaching English in France, before beginning post-graduate study at St Hilda’s College, Oxford.  In 2006 I gained my MSt in Literature, 650-1550 with distinction, and in 2010 I was awarded my doctorate (funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council), which focused on Franco-English literary translation and the Chaucer canon.  Between 2011 and 2016 I was Stipendiary Lecturer in Medieval English at Brasenose College, Oxford.  I left Brasenose to take up a research grant, and from 2016 have been Senior SNSF Research Fellow at the University of Fribourg, Switzerland, where I work as part of the Medieval Convent Drama Project.  I joined Birmingham in September 2018.


I teach on the undergraduate first-year Plays and Performance module and the second-year Canterbury Tales module.   I also teach on the post-graduate Meeting Medieval Manuscripts module.

Postgraduate supervision

Medieval theatre; interrelationships between French-language and English-language literature in the Middle Ages and bi- or multi-lingual poetics; medieval translation theories and practices; the literature and culture of medieval nuns.

Find out more - our PhD English Literature  page has information about doctoral research at the University of Birmingham.


My major research specialisms are in Anglo-French literary interrelationships, cultures and exchanges; and in medieval theatre. 

My first book, Contest, Translation and the Chaucerian Text (Brepols, forthcoming) brings a study of medieval translation between English and French into conversation with questions of canonicity and reception (both medieval and post-medieval).  It examines the way in which three Middle English translations of French-language works (The Romaunt of the Rose; the Belle Dame Sans Mercy and An ABC to the Virgin) respond to and reconfigure their French-language source texts, exploring at the same time the role which attribution of these translations to Chaucer has played in determining and delimiting critical approaches to them, and reconceptualising them as active, cross-channel participations in well-known late medieval debates about their French-language sources and intertexts.  I am interested in the ‘place’ of texts like these on the fringes of the Chaucer canon, and how critical approaches to Chaucer have affected the ways in which their processes of translation are studied and characterised.  In addition to my monograph, I have published articles and book chapters on a range of late medieval English- and French-language texts, authors and codices, including manuscripts of the Roman de la rose (2015), Alain Chartier (2013, 2015, 2018), and Charles d’Orléans (2018). 

Current research: Medieval Nuns and their Theatre

My current research forms part of a major collaborative project, The Medieval Convent Drama Project, which will run 2016-2020 and which is fully funded by the Swiss National Science Foundation and hosted by the University of Fribourg, Switzerland.   It aims to explore the traces of theatrical activity – which include playscripts, but also other, more fleeting and fragmentary accounts – within late medieval women’s religious houses in England, Northern France and Burgundy.  In opening up this neglected area of study to new investigation, we hope to integrate study of medieval nuns’ theatre more coherently and fully within contemporary and future critical appraisals of the medieval dramatic canon and its performance history.  

My work for the project focuses upon one convent in particular: the Dames Blanches (‘White Ladies’) of Huy, in what is now Belgium.  One of the first Carmelite houses for women to be founded, the surviving medieval manuscripts and archives from Huy convent include an extraordinary collection of plays copied by sisters themselves.   I work principally on this manuscript, seeking to understand the circumstances in which it was copied, and the material that it contains.  I do this by working through archival material from the convent, to get a sense of how the sisters were living and the place which theatre may have occupied in their lives, but also through contemporary performances of the plays, both in present-day convents and in other locations.  The project has a strong outreach and public engagement element: we are particularly interested in discussing medieval convent theatre history with today’s nuns, and in engaging with audience responses and thoughts about the performances we present. 

I have published several preliminary studies in the area of convent drama, some authored jointly with colleagues on the MCD project (2012, 2015, 2017, 2018).  Our major planned outputs, in addition to our performances, will comprise an edition of a selection of medieval nuns’ plays, and a monograph on drama in medieval women’s religious houses.

For more information about Medieval Convent Drama and our events, please do visit the Medieval Convent Drama website

Teaching and research

In parallel with my academic work, I pursue research into university pedagogy and outreach in relation to medieval literature and culture.  I have a long-standing research partnership with Dr Helen Brookman (KCL) in this area of study.   Helen and I are particularly interested in the intersections between creative and critical practices and their potential pedagogic impacts.  We have published a joint article on creative writing and teaching Old English verse (2016) and are currently (2019) co-editing a collection of case-studies, Creative and Critical Encounters in Teaching Early EnglishMaking New, which will be published by ARC Humanities in their ‘Teaching the Middle Ages’ series. 

I have also recently authored a blogpost about teaching medieval mumming through performance, drawing on experiences with UoB English students: https://earlyenglishdrama.wordpress.com/2019/04/19/from-nought-to-a-mumming-in-ninety-minutes/


Highlight publications

Robinson, L 2020, Contest, Translation and the Chaucerian Text. Medieval Identities: Sociocultural Spaces, vol. 8, Brepols Publishers, Turnhout. https://doi.org/10.1484/M.MISCS-EB.5.106933

Blanc, A & Robinson, O 2019, 'The Huy Nativity from the seventeenth to the twenty-first century: translation, play-back, and pray-back', Medieval English Theatre, vol. 40, pp. 66-97. <https://boydellandbrewer.com/series/medieval-english-theatre/medieval-english-theatre-40-pb.html>

Robinson, L & Dutton, E 2020, Drama, performance and touch in the medieval convent and beyond. in D Carrillo-Rangel, D Isabel Nieto & P Acosta Garcia (eds), Touching, Devotional Practice and Visionary Experience in the Late Middle Ages. 1st edn, Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 43-68. https://doi.org/10.1007/978-3-030-26029-3_3

Robinson, O 2018, 'In the Forest of Long Waiting: Charles d'Orléans and the Querelle de la Belle dame sans mercy', Medium Aevum, vol. 87, no. 1, pp. 81-105. https://doi.org/10.2307/26871217

Recent publications


Robinson, O 2018, 'Performance-based research in the medieval convent', European Medieval Drama, vol. 21, pp. 21-41.

Robinson, O & Brookman, H 2016, 'Creativity, translation and teaching Old English poetry', Translation and Literature, vol. 25, no. 3, pp. 275-297. https://doi.org/10.3366/tal.2016.0259

Robinson, O 2015, 'Recontextualising the Romaunt of the Rose: Glasgow, University Library MS Hunter 409 and the Romance of the Rose', English, vol. 64, no. 244, pp. 27-41. https://doi.org/10.1093/english/efu036

Robinson, O 2013, 'A note on the provenance of Bibliotheque Nationale de France, Rés D.862, a collection of Colard mansion prints', Journal of the Early Book Society (JEBS), vol. 16, pp. 249-259.

Chapter (peer-reviewed)

Robinson, L 2023, Creating Medieval Drama: Student Actors, Public Audiences and Middle English Plays. in O Robinson & H Brookman (eds), Creating Playful First Encounters with the Premodern Past. Teaching the Middle Ages, Arc Humanities Press, Leeds, pp. 53-62. <https://www.arc-humanities.org/9781641893060/creating-playful-first-encounters-with-the-pre-modern-past>

Brookman, H & Robinson, L 2023, Introduction. in O Robinson & H Brookman (eds), Creating Playful First Encounters with the Premodern Past. Teaching the Middle Ages, Arc Humanities Press, pp. 7-20. <https://www.arc-humanities.org/9781641893060/creating-playful-first-encounters-with-the-pre-modern-past>

Dutton, E & Robinson, L 2023, Last Supper, First Communion: Some Staging Challenges in N. Town and the Huy Nuns' Play Based on Deguileville's Pelerinage de la vie humaine. in M Twycross, S Carpenter, E Dutton & GL Kipling (eds), Medieval English Theatre 44. Medieval English Theatre, vol. 44, Boydell and Brewer, pp. 124-160. <https://openaccess.boydellandbrewercms.com/publications/-268385/medieval-english-theatre-44>

Robinson, L 2023, Teaching Middle English Literature with the Rose. in D Delogu & A-H Miller (eds), Approaches to Teaching the Romance of the Rose. Approaches to Teaching World LIterature, Modern Language Association of America, pp. 227-236. <https://www.mla.org/Publications/Bookstore/Approaches-to-Teaching-World-Literature/Approaches-to-Teaching-the-Romance-of-the-Rose>

Dutton, E & Robinson, L 2021, Introduction: reflections on the Medieval Convent Drama Project. in E Dutton & O Robinson (eds), Medieval English Theatre: Volume Forty-Two: Religious Drama and Community. Medieval English Theatre, vol. 42, Boydell and Brewer, Woodbridge, pp. 1-9. <https://boydellandbrewer.com/9781843845942/medieval-english-theatre-42/>

Robinson, L, Dutton, E & Salisbury, M 2019, Medieval Convent Drama: Translating Scripture and Transforming the Liturgy. in J Beer (ed.), A Companion to Medieval Translation. Arc Humanities Press, Leeds, UK, pp. 63-74.

Robinson, O 2017, Creation or Replication: Rethinking Creativity in Late Medieval Franco-English Translation. in E Dutton & M Roehde (eds), Medieval Theories of the Creative Act. Scrinium Friburgense, vol. 38, Reichert Verlag, Wiesbaden, pp. 131-146. <https://reichert-verlag.de/en/subjects/literature/literature_literature_general/9783954902323_medieval_theories_of_the_creative_act_theories_medievales_de_l_acte_creatif_theorien_des_kreativen_akts_im_mittelalter-detail>

Robinson, O 2015, Alain Chartier: the manuscript and print tradition. in D Delogu, JE McRae & E Cayley (eds), A companion to Alain Chartier (c. 1385-1430) : father of French eloquence. Companions to the Christian Tradition, vol. 56, Brill, Leiden, Boston, pp. 223-252.

Robinson, O 2015, Feminizing the Liturgy: The N-Town Mary Play and Late Medieval Convent Drama. in J McBain & E Dutton (eds), Drama and Pedagogy in Medieval and Early Modern England. vol. 31, Swiss Publications in English Language and Literature, Narr Francke Attempto, Tuebingen, pp. 71-88.

Robinson, O 2012, 'Mysteres' as Convent Drama. in P Happé & W Huesken (eds), Les Mysteres: Studies in Genre, Text and Theatricality. Rodopi, Amsterdam, pp. 93-118.


Robinson, L 2023, Performance in Convent Spaces: Practice Based Research and the Medieval Convent Drama Project. . in N Jornet-Benito (ed.), Prácticas performativas en el espacio monástico: ritualidad litúrgica, devocional y comunitaria. Universidad de Huelva, Publicaciones.

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