Jack Ford

It was from his bachelor's and master's projects, which explored medieval cosmological texts, that Jack framed his initial questions regarding medieval approaches to the body and mind in Christian Europe. He is now returning to answer these questions in his doctoral thesis, funded by a UCL Wolfson scholarship.

Jack maintains that the concept of ‘affectivity’, the emotional disposition of the human will towards either virtuous or sinful acts, stands at the crossroads of the thought and practices of religious orders in the Middle Ages. Christian theology in the realms of anthropology, ethics, philosophy, psychology and soteriology necessitated the cultivation of beneficial emotions and emotional states. Taking the underexplored genre of twelfth-century pre-Aristotelian, De anima (‘On the Soul’) treatises written by Cistercians and Victorine theologians as its primary source base, his project examines the significance of these texts in elaborating a psychology that stressed the harmonious interplay between sense perception (sensus) and the emotional (affectus/affectio) and intellective (intellectus) faculties of the soul.
Why is man divided into body and soul? How should a monk live? What is the purpose of humanity? These were the ‘big picture’ questions relating to bodily identity and the self that religious elites sought to answer by writing texts on the soul. Drawing upon the methodologies of the ‘linguistic’ and ‘sensory’ turns, the purpose of this thesis is to emphasise not only the significance of treatises on the soul in the daily routines of monastic life, but also to argue that they serve as unique evidence of, and were produced in dialogue with, the wider institutional developments among religious orders of the twelfth century: the rise of monastic reform movements and the nascent universities; a renewed engagement with Augustinian psychology among mystical circles to systematically examine the stages of contemplation; and the dominance of an affective spirituality, best exemplified by the Cistercians and Victorines, which highlighted the role of love in re-unifying man with God.


Supervisor: Dr Sophie Page (UCL) and Professor Charles Burnett (Warburg Institute)
Working title: 'Sense Perception and Affectivity in the Cistercian and Victorine De anima Treatises of the Twelfth Century'
Expected completion date: 2022


'Divine Love in the Medieval Cosmos', Chicago Journal of History (Spring 2017), 17-37:  http://cjh.uchicago.edu/issues/spring17/8.5.pdf.

 Database & Online Entries:
‘The Victorines’, The Database of Religious History (DRH), (November 10, 2020): https://religiondatabase.org/browse/985/

‘Love and the Senses in the Medieval Cosmos: The Cosmic Egg of Hildegard of Bingen’, Inner Lives Blog: Emotions, Identity and the Supernatural, 1300-1900 (November 16, 2016): https://innerlives.org/2016/11/16/love-and-the-senses-in-the-medieval-cosmos-the-cosmic-egg-of-hildegard-of-bingen/

Review of K. Essary, J. F. Ruys, M. W. Champion (eds.), Before Emotion: The Language of Feeling, 400-1800, in Revista Española de Filosofía Medieval, 27:2, pp. 208-221 (Jan, 2021): https://www.uco.es/ucopress/ojs/index.php/refime/article/view/13136. 

Review of V. Langum, Medicine and the Seven Deadly Sins, in British Society for Literature and Society (October, 2019): https://www.bsls.ac.uk/reviews/early-modern-and-enlightenment/virginia-langum-medicine-and-the-seven-deadly-sins-in-late-medieval-literature-and-culture/. 

Review of D. Boquet and P. Nagy, Medieval Sensibilities: A History of Emotions in the Middle Ages, in Reviews in History(review no. 2321) (May, 2019). Accessible at: https://reviews.history.ac.uk/review/2321. 

Editorial Contributions:
Assistant book reviews editor, Revista Española de Filosofía Medieval (REFIME). January 2021 – Present

Conference papers and presentations

  • 'Investigating Wellcome MS 55 and its connection to sensory perception and cognition', Medieval Ecologies Workshop, Wellcome Library, London (May 2018).


  • ‘(Un)Bound Bodies’. International Medieval Congress, Leeds. Co-organised with Dr Lauren Rozenberg (Department of Art History, UCL). 09/07/2021 [forthcoming]
  •  ‘Cistercian Worlds’. Co-organised with Emmie Price-Goodfellow (University of York). Keynote speakers: Prof. Emilia Jamroziak and Prof. Constant J. Mews. 1-2/07/2021 [forthcoming].
  • ‘(Un)Bound Bodies: New Approaches’. International Medieval Congress, Leeds. Co-organised with Dr Lauren Rozenberg. [Cancelled due to Covid-19 pandemic]. 7-8/07/2020.

Presentation and Papers

  •   ‘“Know Thyself”: Self-Knowledge and the Boundaries of the Human in Cistercian Texts on the Soul’, International Medieval Congress, Leeds. 09/07/2021 [forthcoming] 
  • ‘Symbols of Affectivity in the De anima Texts of the Twelfth Century’, European History 1150-1500 Seminar, Institute of Historical Research (IHR), London. 12/11/2020. 
  • ‘“Made in the Image and Likeness of God”: Affectivity and Cosmological Allegory in Twelfth Century Cistercian Texts On the Soul’, New Voices in Medieval Studies, York Centre for Medieval Studies, University of York. 27/06/2019.
  • ‘Cistercian Moral Anthropology: Sense perception, affectus and the Cosmos in the Twelfth Century De anima Texts’, Thinking with Mysticism Symposium, University of York. 31/05/2019.
  •  'Investigating Wellcome MS 55 and its Connection to Sensory Perception and Cognition', Medieval Ecologies Workshop, Wellcome Library & UCL, London. 28/05/2018.

 Scholarships and Prizes

  • Awarded Ph.D. research studentship by the Wolfson Foundation (2018-2021) 
  • Awarded Baxendale M.A. scholarship from UCL History department (2016-2018)

 Teaching (Postgraduate Teaching Assistant)

  • HIST0140: History of Political Thought in the West (2019-2020)
  • HIST0007 Writing History (2019-2020)
  • HIST0003: Approaching History (2019-2020)

Widening Participation Activity 

  • Member of UCL History’s department’s First in Family Network: https://www.ucl.ac.uk/history/ucl-first… 
  • Tutor for UCL History ‘Making History’ Summer School (2019-2021) 
  • ‘Sutton Scholars History Day’ (UCL & Sutton Trust, Feb 2019)

Seminars & Academic Network

Convenor of the Aristotle Reading Group (Warburg Institute): https://warburg.sas.ac.uk/events/event/23326 (2019 – Present)

Co-convenor of the London Society for Medieval Studies (LSMS) seminar (Institute of Historical Research): https://www.history.ac.uk/seminars/london-society-medieval-studies. (2019 – Present)

Co-convenor of UCL Interdisciplinary Medieval and Renaissance Studies (IMARS) seminar https://www.ucl.ac.uk/medieval-renaissance-studies/seminars-lectures/imars. (2018 – Present)