Chaos and Catastrophe: EMREM 2016


This year, EMREM’s 2016 symposium was themed ‘Chaos and Catastrophe, Restoration and Renewal’. We had a wonderful range of papers and lots of brilliant speakers. Here I am to give you a summary!

Day One 

Day one kicked off with some disaster in the ‘Tragedy and Providence’ panel.

Polly Duxfield from the Estoria Project talked the disastrous year of Alphonso X. (Christian, who also works for the Estoria project, regularly blogs about it for CeSMA).

Then we had Kibrina Davey talking about jealous husbands and uxoricide in The Winter’s Tale and Cymbeline. 

The third paper was Jason Varner of St Andrews giving a paper on ‘Making sense of Chaos: Puritan narrative cosmology in the experience of King Philip’s War’


The second panel was on ‘Conflict and Rhetoric in C10th-C14th East Asia’

This was a four-person panel featuring four of Birmingham’s own East Asian medievalists. These were:

Johnny Dugdale (Known at EMREM as ‘Mr Pagoda’)  ‘Just a Kitan dynasty living in a Chinese world: Reconstructing the political and religious networks of post-Tang East Asia’

Chen Xue ‘Rebels and rebellions: the identities and boundaries in 10 and 11th century Chinese historiography’

Lance Pursey ‘Ethnicity and emplotment at the end of an empire’

Geoff Humble ‘Stories for Harmony? Biography , conflict and resolution across Mongol China’


The final panel of the first day focussed on Byzantine succession with three papers:

Joseph Parsonage, ‘Marriage, Regency and Succession in Middle Byzantine Dynastic Strategy – Crisis and Renewal in the Imperial Family’

Niccolo Fattori, ‘With a Little Help from My Friends: Networks of Mutual Support in the Communities of the Greek Diaspora (16th c.)’

Onur Usta, ‘’From Catastrophe to Crisis: A Reconsideration of the Desert and Sown Paradigm in Relation to the Nomads of Asia Minor, (11th-13th and late 16th-early 17th centuries)’


Day Two

Those who had sufficiently recovered from the scholarly networking of the conference dinner were treated to more excellent panels on the second day.

These began with a session on ‘writing lives and the Ars Moriendi’ 

This featured papers from:

Melanie Peters-Turner, ‘For the Divine Service which is to be Said for my Soul;: Testamentary evidence for Memorialisation in the Middling Classes’

Charles Green,  ‘’The Death of all Arts’: Adapting Donne’s Apocalyptic Topoi in his Posthumous ‘Poems’ (1633)’

Alison Passe, Aberdeen, ‘The Multiple Deaths of Antony’


The second panel of the day was on ‘The Book as an Object of Reform’ including:

Claire Harrill, ‘Royal Restoration: St Margret of Scotland and the Scottish Royal Line in the ‘Dunfermline’ Manuscript’’

Morvern French,  ‘’Ostentatious by nature’: Flemish Material Culture, Conspicuous Consumption and Anglo-Scottish Relations at the court of James IV’

Ruth Caddick, ‘Reforming the Older Scots Romance ‘Clariodus”


We finished off an excellent conference with a panel on reform heresy and Iconoclasm:

Ian Styler, (Of Ian’s Saint of the Week’ Fame) ‘A Bishop, a Monk and a Saint and the Restoration of Monasticism: How AEthelwold, AElfric and AEthelthryth Influenced the Benedictine Reforms of the Late Tenth Century’

Mark Robinson,  ‘The Council of Avignon 1209: Pacification, Reform and the Albigensian Crusade’

Sally Wadsworth, ‘Defiance in the Face of God: The Case of Henry Sherfield’

It was a wonderful conference, and our thanks go especially to Georgie Fitzgibbon of the EMREM Committee for her hard work in organising it, and making it the furthest thing from chaos and catastrophe possible!



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