Kimberley-Joy Knight†

It was with great sadness that we learned of the death in July 2021 of our esteemed colleague Dr Kimberley-Joy Knight. Kimberley was a wonderful and kind presence who enriched us all with her commitment to scholarship, her deep love of history, and her warmth. 

Hélène Sirantoine and Merridee Bailey have written a beautiful tribute to Kimberley.


Kimberley-Joy Knight was a Postdoctoral Research Fellow based at The University of Sydney from 2015‒2017, and was an Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Western Australia. She graduated MA and MLitt (with distinction) in Medieval History from the University of St Andrews and received an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) doctoral fellowship for her PhD research. Her thesis, entitled 'Blessed are those who weep: Gratia lacrymarum in thirteenth-century hagiographies', was completed in 2014.

As a doctoral student, Kimberley’s research focused on the multivalent presence of tears in thirteenth-century saints’ vitae. Using hagiographies and canonisation processes from the thirteenth century, particularly those from the new Mendicant Orders emerging in Italy, France and the Low Countries, her thesis shows how the tears of holy men and women were both the means to, and apex of, spiritual perfection. In order to navigate the sea of tears, her thesis offers a bipartite conceptual framework that takes into account both a charismatic experience of tears (often known as gratia lacrymarum) and a progressive, transformative journey through tears. Building on Piroska Nagy’s seminal work Le Don des Larmes (2000), Kimberley’s thesis presents a comprehensive analysis of tears in thirteenth-century hagiographies. It argues that they were not devalued in light of other forms of bodily piety nor did they become mere virtues in light of their proliferation; on the contrary, tears were highly valued and saturated religious life, traversing boundaries of what was to be imitated and admired.
During her postgraduate studies, Kimberley founded the annual Gender and Transgression conference at the University of St Andrews. The conference is now in its sixth year and attracts postgraduate students and early career scholars from around the world.

In May 2015, Kimberley coordinated a symposium, 'Emotions in the Courtroom', which brought together international scholars with a shared  interest in the history of emotions, law and literature. The symposium was a joint enterprise between the CHE and the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Law and Literature at the University of St Andrews, Scotland.

Contact profile

Research Projects

Love in a Cold Climate: The Relationship Between Love, Desire, Sexuality and Marriage in Medieval Norway and Iceland (c.1100‒1500)

Emotions in the Courtroom

Treasured Possessions


Bailey, Merridee L. and Kimberley-Joy Knight, eds. ‘Emotions in Legal History’. Special issue, The Journal of Legal History 38.2 (2017). ISSN: 0144-0365 (Print); 1744-0564 (Online).

Bailey, Merridee L. and Kimberley-Joy Knight. ‘Writing Histories of Law and Emotion’. The Journal of Legal History 38.2 (2017): 117‒129.

Knight, Kimberley-Joy. ‘Si puose calcina a’ propi occhi: The importance of the Gift of Tears for Thirteenth-Century Religious Women and their Hagiographers'.  In Crying in the Middle Ages. Tears of History, edited by Elina Gertsman, pp. 136–55 . London: Routledge Studies in Medieval Religion and Culture, 2011 (also in paperback, 2013).


Eriksen, Stefka Georgieva, Writing and Reading in Medieval Manuscript Culture: The Translation and Transmission of the Story of Elye in Old French and Old Norse Literary Contexts (Turnhout, 2014).  Parergon 32.2 (2015).

Morrison, Karl F. and Rudolph M. Bell, eds. Studies on Medieval Empathies (Turnhout, 2013). Parergon 31.2 (2014).

Conference Papers and Panels

June 2017: Conference Panel Paper: ‘Reading Powerful Emotions in the Icelandic Sagas’, ‘Powerful Emotions/ Emotions and Power 400‒1850’ conference, University of York, 28‒29 June 2017.

March 2017: Workshop Presentation (with Merridee Bailey): 'How to Understand Medieval and Early Modern Law and Emotions', ‘Emotions and Law: A Cross-Disciplinary Workshop’, UWA (Merridee by Zoom), 24 March 2017.

October 2014: ‘The Contagion of Tears in Thirteenth-century Hagiographies: an Empathic Impulse?’ (invited), 'The Ethics of Empathy', The University of Sydney. Watch lecture here.

July 2014: ‘Lachrymose holiness and the problem of doubt in thirteenth and fourteenth-century hagiographies’, The Church and Doubt, Ecclesiastical History Society Conference, Sheffield, UK.

July 2014: Organiser of Conversion Narratives in 'Hagiography I and II', International Medieval Congress, Leeds, UK.

June 2014: ‘Re-writing the saint: A Comparative textual analysis of the Latin and Old Norse lives of Marie d’Oignies (d.1213)’, Histoire et informatique: textométrie des sources médiévales, École française de Rome, Italy.

March 2014: ‘Healing tears: A study of lachrymose miracles in the thirteenth century’, 'The Maladies, Miracles and Medicine of the Middle Ages' conference, University of Reading, UK.

February 2013: ‘Inherently Mysterious? Gratia Lacrymarum in Thirteenth-Century Hagiographies’,  ANZAMEMS Conference, Melbourne.

July 2012: ‘"He could not restrain himself from melting wholly into tears": Gratia lacrymarum in male religious life in the Thirteenth Century’, 'Religious Men in the Middle Ages', University of Huddersfield, UK.

April 2012: ‘Droplets of Heaven: Tear Relics in the thirteenth century’ (invited) at 'Blood, Sweat and Tears and Beyond: Precious Bodily Fluids in the Late Middle Ages', University of St Andrews, UK.

May 2011: ‘Tears in Physiological and Religious Thought (thirteenth-century)’, Science and Religious Thought: A Comparative Approach (Journal of Medieval Religious Cultures), Kalamazoo International Medieval Congress, USA.

July 2011: ‘Tears: A Mechanism of Exchange between the Earthly and Divine in Thirteenth-Century Religious Life’, Gift Giving, organised by Dame Professor Jinty Nelson and Dr Alice Rio, Leeds International Medieval Congress, UK.

July 2010: Organised and presented a paper at a session entitled ‘Tears in the Medieval World’, Leeds International Medieval Congress, UK.

February 2010: ‘Tears: The Language of Religious Women’, Language and Silence, Bristol Centre for Medieval Studies, UK.

January 2010: ‘Tears as Language’, Monash and Melbourne Postgraduate Medieval Seminar Series.

May 2009: ‘Crocodile Tears? The cases of Umiliana de 'Cerchi and Dauphine of Puimichel’, Gender and Transgression in the Middle Ages, University of St Andrews, UK.

Select awards and grants

2014: Junior research fellowship, Historie et informatique: textométrie des sources médiévales, École françasise de Rome.

2013–2014: Enhancement Theme Grant for Teaching Innovation Medieval History, University of St Andrews.

2011–2012, 2014: Recipient of Royal Historical Society research funding.

2008–2011: Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Doctoral Research Fellowship.