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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: April 2020

12 - The Materialization of Knowledge in Thirteenth-Century England: Joan Tateshal, Robert Grosseteste, and the Tateshal Miscellany


This chapter will consider the case of Joan Tateshal, a thirteenth-century noblewoman in England who was closely tied to the diocese of Lincoln after the death of Bishop Robert Grosseteste, and one of her manuscripts, Princeton University Library, Taylor Medieval MS 1 (hereafter referred to as the Tateshal Miscellany). Through a combination of visual depiction and an understanding of Grosseteste's cognitive theories and their place within the theological system he creates in his Chasteau d’amour, Joan positions herself as co-creator of her transformed self, alongside her spiritual advisors and models, particularly Grosseteste himself. The manuscript page is a key locus for this positioning. It functions as a material ground of thought and experience, a ground on which visible things – whether words, pictorial images, or otherwise – participate in a network of signification. Considered expansively, that network of signification incorporates what is apprehended and how it is apprehended through the process of cognition. It is in the cognitive process that the intellect and the body are brought together and, in its exercise, that aristocratic lay women, such as Joan Tateshal, were able to transcend the mind/body, text/image binaries, becoming agents and instruments in their own theological investigations and self-transformations.

Joan Tateshal (d.1310) was the daughter of Ralph FitzRanulf of Middleham, Yorkshire. She married Robert Tateshal of Tattershall Castle, Lincolnshire and Buckenham Castle and Manor, Norfolk in 1268. She commissioned the Tateshal Miscellany, which was created in upper East Anglia or in the East Midlands, in the late thirteenth century. Joan is depicted twice in the manuscript: on fol. 1r in the historiated initial opening the Manuel des pechiez, she wears the heraldic garments of her father and is depicted in discussion with a tonsured cleric (see Figure 7, in Chapter 9 above). In the opening initial of the Chasteau d’amour, fol. 173, she wears a dress with the heraldic garments of Robert Tateshal and is pictured alongside Robert Grosseteste, who is wearing his bishop's mitre (see Figure 8). The lavish manuscript contains five texts of religious instruction, including a heavily illustrated Manuel des pechiez and ending with the Chasteau d’amour.