Dr Raphaela Rohrhofer

Lecturer in Medieval English Literature


Dr Raphaela Rohrhofer is a medievalist and lecturer at the University of Oxford, teaching Old English, Middle English, and courses on illuminated manuscripts, the material text, and the history of the book.

Her research focuses on late medieval contemplative, visionary, and devotional writing in Middle English, Latin, and Continental vernaculars, and she is particularly interested in nothingness, stillness, silence, and the ineffable. By studying the malleable and porous boundaries between linguistic and artistic expressions and transcendent love, Dr Rohrhofer explores the core codes of contemplation (‘mysticism’).

Her interest in Julian of Norwich and the anchoress’s understanding of nothingness, the divine, and the self fits precisely into this field of study. Julian’s theologically and linguistically highly complex text continues to exert profound influence to this day, notably in her famous dictum that ‘al shal be wele’ (‘all shall be well’). Before her work and forthcoming monograph on Julian, Dr Rohrhofer published a multi-award-winning book on Margery Kempe’s worldly, spiritual, and heavenly families, and journal articles, including the first study of a then newly discovered 14th-century manuscript compilation containing The Chastising of God’s Children (Bodleian Library MS Don. e. 247). Her research uncovered its Latin source texts, scribal alterations, and included a manuscript tree, a transcription, and variants.

In addition to being a literary scholar of the Middle Ages, Dr Rohrhofer is an art historian specialising in illuminated manuscripts, also working on (wall) paintings, sculptures, ivories, and treasury art. The connections between the visual and the verbal inform her research and teaching, and she contributed to the Ashmolean Museum/TORCH ‘Talking Sense’ Research Project.

Dr Rohrhofer was the first person from her country (Austria) to be admitted to pursue a doctorate, and preceding master’s degree, in Medieval English Literature at Oxford, and a master’s degree in Medieval Art History at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London. She also holds a Mag. phil. degree (=BA+MA) in English Literature and a bachelor’s degree in Art History from the University of Vienna. She was the first in her family to attend school past the age of 16 and go to university, a journey that was recently highlighted in an article about her as a ‘hidden champion’ (on p. 7).


  • Contemplation (‘mysticism’)
  • Visionary and devotional literature of the Middle Ages
  • Julian of Norwich
  • Medieval love and dread
  • Nothingness
  • Wisdom
  • Margery Kempe
  • Illuminated manuscripts, medieval and post-medieval art


Fluent in English, German, French, and Italian; some degree of fluency in many other European languages