Michael David Barbezat

Dr Michael David Barbezat is an Honorary Research Fellow at The University of Western Australia (UWA). In early 2018, he completed a three-year Postdoctoral Research Fellowship in the ‘Meanings’ Program of the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, focusing on 'Literature and Culture of War, Conflict and Violence' under Professor Andrew Lynch at UWA. He received his BA in History and Classics from Knox College in Galesburg, Illinois (2003). He earned his MA (Medieval History) from the University of California at Davis in 2006, and his PhD (Medieval Studies) from the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto in 2013. His dissertation interrogated the experience of religious doubt and belief through a remarkable manuscript collection of visions and divine revelations collected by an Augustinian canon around the year 1200. This canon, named Peter of Cornwall, brought together accounts of the miraculous from the libraries and religious houses of southeastern England to prove the existence of God and the immortality of the soul.

Dr Barbezat’s publications and research focus on connections between religious ideologies and conceptions of society, geography and identity, particularly in the fields of medieval historiography and literature. In his work, society, geography, human emotions and identity are repeatedly drawn together as the imaginative geographies of the afterlife and the sociopolitical geographies of medieval authors overlap in the course of their attempts to describe and explore their identities and their social positions. In particular, his work questions the role expectations of divine judgment played in medieval portrayals of non-European peoples and internal minority groups, providing the comparative context through which Western Christians viewed their own place in the wider world.

His research project, 'Burning Bodies: Community, Eschatology and Identity in the Middle Ages', explores the role played by ideas of punishment in Hell and Purgatory in medieval ideas of community identity and the response to deviance and difference in the context of this identity. Dr Barbezat structures his inquiry around the image of both the saved and the damned as different types of burning bodies. The faithful, united to each other in the shared body of Christ on earth, burn with God’s love, often described as a fire. Non-Christians or 'bad' Christians, in contrast, burn individually in a literal, material fire in Hell. Meanwhile, the imperfect will burn with both the material flames of purgation and the fire of divine love. The study focuses upon accounts of burnings for the crimes of heresy and sodomy in the eleventh to fourteenth centuries and how the logic of individual and communal burning bodies informs the presentation of these punishments.


Academia.edu Profile


Burning Bodies: Community, Eschatology, and Identity in the Middle Ages




Barbezat, M. D. Burning Bodies: Communities, Eschatology, and the Punishment of Heresy in the Middle Ages. Ithaca: Cornell University Press, 2018.

Edited Books

Scott, A. M. and M. D. Barbezat, eds. Fluid Bodies in Pre-Modern Literature, Theology, and Art: Rethinking Expressions of Bodies and their Fluids. ARC Humanities Press, 2019.

Refereed Journal Articles

Barbezat, M. D. ‘“He Doubted That These Things Actually Happened": Knowing the Otherworld in the Tractatus de Purgatorio Sancti Patricii'. History of Religions 57.4 (2018): 321–47.

Barbezat, M. D. 'Bodies of Spirit and Bodies of Flesh: The Significance of the Sexual Practices Attributed to Heretics from the Eleventh to the Fourteenth Century'. Journal of the History of Sexuality 25.3 (2016): 387–419.

Barbezat, M. D. 'The Fires of Hell and the Burning of Heretics in the Accounts of the Executions at Orleans in 1022'. Journal of Medieval History 40.4 (2014): 399–420.

Barbezat, M. D. 'In a Corporeal Flame: The Materiality of Hellfire Before the Resurrection in Six Latin Authors'. Viator 44.3 (2013): 1–20.

Book Chapters

Barbezat, M. D. 'The Corporeal Orientation: A Medieval and Early Modern Framework for Understanding Deviance Through the Object(s) of Love'. In The Routledge Companion to Emotions in Europe, 1100–1700, edited by Susan Broomhall and Andrew Lynch. Abingdon: Routledge, Under Contract.

Conference Activity

Conferences Organised and Co-Organised

Co-organiser for 2015 Perth Medieval and Renaissance Group Symposium: 'Blood, Tears, and Sweat: Corporeality in the Medieval and Early Modern Worlds', The University of Western Australia, 12 September 2015.

Co-organiser with Jessica Lockhart, Daniel Price, and Anna Wilson of the Centre for Medieval Studies international conference: 'Imitation, Emulation and Forgery', 2–3 March 2012.

Panels Organised

'Shock', 'Powerful Emotions/Emotions and Power c.400–1850' conference, University of York, UK, 28 June 2017.

Papers presented

'Like Rejoices in Like: Interpreting the Similarity Between Good and Evil in the Context of Reform and Heresy', 14th Annual Symposium of the International Medieval Society of Paris, Laboratoire de médiévistique occidentale de Paris de l’Université Paris I–Panthéon-Sorbonne, Paris, France, 1 July 2017.

'What Do We Do with this Unexpected Thing: Shock and Finding Purpose in Twelfth-Century Latin Texts', 'Powerful Emotions/ Emotions and Power c.400–1850' conference, University of York, UK, 28 June 2017.

'Fighting the Phantom: Coover’s The Public Burning and Burning Medieval Heretics', 11th Biennial Conference of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, Victoria University of Wellington, NZ, 9 February 2017.

'Maidens Who Cannot Be Saved: Portrayals of Heretical Women and Community in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Century', Perth Medieval and Renaissance Group 2016 Symposium, The University of Western Australia, Perth, 8 October 2016.

'Love of Learning and a Love of the World: Visionary Hermeneutics and Studying to Forget', 'Passions for Learning in Religious Perspective: From Jerome to the Jesuits' conference, The University of Western Australia, Perth, 5 November 2015.

'Pulling Something from the Fire: Expulsion and Purgation in Accounts of Heresy', Religion and (the Master) Narrative: An Interdisciplinary Conference on Medieval and Early Modern Belief and Practice, University of Colorado at Boulder, USA, 24 October 2015.

'Pondering a Way to Die: Imagining the Archive and the Destructive Past at Lovecraft’s Miskatonic University', 2015 Meeting of the BABEL Working Group. University of Toronto, Canada, 9 October 2015.

'A Body Without Blood: Augustine, Origen, and Manichaeism on the Flesh of the Resurrection Body in the De fide et symbolo', Perth Medieval and Renaissance Group 2015 Symposium, The University of Western Australia, Perth, 12 September 2015.

'The Role of Emotion in Travel Between Worlds in Medieval Visionary Journeys', Medieval Academy of America, Los Angeles, USA, 12 April 2014.

'Hell, Burning Alive, and Human Societies at Orleans in 1022', Amherst College, Amherst, MA, USA, 10 March 2014.

'The Mediation of the Dead in the Liber revelationum of Peter of Cornwall', American Catholic Historical Association, Washington DC, USA, 4 January 2014.

'Imaginary Encounters: Meeting Evil in the World of Images', International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, USA, 912 May 2013.

'In a Corporeal Flame: The Development of the Materiality of Hellfire before the Resurrection in Western Eschatology', International Congress on Medieval Studies, Kalamazoo, MI, USA, 1013 May 2012.

'The Liber revelationum of Peter of Cornwall', MARCO Manuscript Workshop, University of Tennessee, Knoxville, USA, 34 February 2012.

'What Kind of Doubt Are We Talking About? Reading Peter of Cornwall’s Book of Revelations', Works in Medieval Studies Series, Toronto, Canada, 18 March 2011.

‘“With His Own Bodily Eyes”: The Other World, Materiality, Doubt and Proof in the Tractatus de Purgatorio sancti Patricii’, California Medieval History Seminar, Huntington Library, USA, 12 May 2007.

Campus Talks

'The Limits of Tolerance: Arguments for and against Religious Violence in the High Middle Ages', Institute for Advanced Studies, The University of Western Australia, Perth, AU, 11 May  2016.

Online Article

Barbezat, M. D. '"Pizzagate" and the Nocturnal Ritual Fantasy: Imaginary Cults, Fake News and Real Violence'. The Public Medievalist, 4 May 2017.