Hope Emily Allen collection
Held at: University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts [Contact Us]3420 Walnut Street, Philadelphia, PA 19104-6206
This is a finding aid. It is a description of archival material held at the University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts. Unless otherwise noted, the materials described below are physically available in their reading room, and not digitally available through the web.
Overview and metadata sections
Hope Emily Allen (1883–1960) was an author and medieval scholar best known for the discovery of the Book of Margery Kempe and for her research on Richard Rolle, the 14th century English mystic. Earning an undergraduate degree from Bryn Mawr College and a Ph.D. from Radcliffe, Allen dedicated her life to her scholarship, never taking any teaching appointments. Throughout the 1920s, she also published short stories in magazines such as The Atlantic Monthly and The Dial. These stories explored the experience of the American abroad, though unlike the characters in the works of contemporaries such as Henry James or Gertrude Stein, Allen's characters visited rural locations instead of urban settings. Despite the stories' male protagonists and representations of traditional gender roles, Allen herself was committed to feminism, and her stories "reproduce the idea that there is an eternal feminine, an idea of Woman that is fundamentally different from, and inaccessible to, men" (Williams, 147).
In her scholarship, she worked mainly on works that she felt had not received proper academic attention, focusing her expertise on undervalued texts. Despite her research, she constantly encountered sexism throughout her life; Allen was crushed to learn in 1929 after winning the Rose Mary Crawshay Prize from the British Academy that the award was only given to women. Her interpretation of the Ancrene Riwle was dismissed (though kindly) by J.R.R. Tolkien for being overly sentimental. Tolkien's scholarship on the work remains at the forefront of criticism on the work. For Allen, acceptance and acknowledgment from her male colleagues was more important than being factually "correct."
In 1934, Allen discovered the only surviving copy of the Book of Margery Kempe, a narrative written by the titular fifteenth-century mystic detailing her life and religious experiences. Collaborating with Sanford Brown Meech in editing the work, the edition of Kempe was issued in two volumes due to Meech's misogynistic attitudes and disputes between the two scholars. In a move which Meech "would never have had the nerve [to make] if Allen had been a man," (Williams, 149) Meech went around Allen to have himself named full co-editor and secure rights to author the edition's philological introduction. In response to the snub, Allen reframed and revised her own introduction to the work, presenting Kempe not as a creative woman of note but as a hysterical, diseased mind. In an addendum, she deferred judgment of Kempe to other scholars who, she wrote, were more expert than she. Allen had realized that she was not "one of the boys," but she "refuse[d] to allow Margery to become one of the girls" (Williams, 150).
Allen spent the later years of her career in Ann Arbor, Michigan, continuing to write and research. In her final years, she returned to Kenwood, New York, close to her childhood home.
Williams, Dianne. "Hope Emily Allen Speaks with the Dead." Leeds Studies in English 35 (2004): 137-160.
The collection consists of photocopies, and film reels of a number of works that Allen used in her research. Additionally there are a small number of letters related to Allen. Researchers interested in the works in this collection should take note that there are no originals, only reproductions. The series of photocopies is organized alphabetically, by author's name when known and by title of the work when the author is not know. The series of film reels is displayed in this finding aid alphabetically by author's name when known and by title of the work when the author is not known, but the physical order has been preserved based upon an existing numbering system. Works attributed to Richard Rolle and Richard of Hampole are by the same author and are grouped together.
Transferred from Bryn Mawr College.
- University of Pennsylvania: Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts
- Finding Aid Author
- Justin A. Bortnick
- Finding Aid Date
- 2014 June 19
- Access Restrictions
This collection is open for research use.
- Use Restrictions
Copyright restrictions may exist. For most library holdings, the Trustees of the University of Pennsylvania do not hold copyright. It is the responsibility of the requester to seek permission from the holder of the copyright to reproduce material from the Kislak Center for Special Collections, Rare Books and Manuscripts.