3rd-5th of April this year, we were delighted to host the second biennial ‘Crossing Borders’ conference. We had a wealth of distinguished speakers from all round the world, wonderful panels of diverse border-crossing papers and excellent opportunities for discussions across those borders.
We began on 3rd April with three papers on scribes, patrons and interventions. Keith Busby from the University of Wisconsin spoke on ‘The Irishman and the Walloon: Jofroi de Waterford, Dominican, and Servais Copale, Tax-Collector’, our own Wendy Scase on the Book of Margery Kempe ‘‘Neithyr good Englysch ne Dewch’: Scribes across Borders’ and Kate McClune from the University of Bristol on ‘A Scottish Renaissance? King James VI, John Stewart of Baldynneis and Ariosto’s Orlando Furioso’.
For our keynote we were delighted to have Carolyne Larrington of St John’s College, Oxford speaking on ‘Vestr komk of ver (Again): Egill Skalla-Grímsson in England.’ This saga is the story of a tenth-century Icelander’s border-crossing exploits. It bears witness to the fact that there was an awareness of which countries in Europe were rich and where was good to travel, so the text bears witness to cultural border-crossing.
Our second day began with a panel on insular geographies with Helen Fulton of the University of Bristol talking on ‘Medieval Caerleon as a Monument: Spatial History in a British Border Town’, Rebecca Thomas of St John’s College, University of Cambridge on ‘Armes Prydein Vawr‘s Britain’ and Sif Ríkharðsdóttir from the University of Iceland speaking on ‘Oceanic Networks’.
The next session was devotional texts and hagiography across borders. We had Elena Parina of Philipps-Universität Marburg / Institute of Linguistics RAS, Moscow speaking on ‘The Middle Welsh ‘Sunday Letter’ and its Latin Source’, Erich Poppe from the Philipps-Universität Marburg on ‘Convergent devotional needs – divergent texts and traditions: the ‘Sunday Letter’ and the ‘Transitus Mariae’ in Wales and Ireland’, and Sonja Schnabel from Philipps-Universität Marburg on ‘A Saint and her Pool: Baptism and water in An buhez Sante Barba and its contemporaries’.
Our final panel session of the day was our own Emily Wingfield on ‘Vernacularity and Translation in late fourteenth- and early fifteenth-century Scottish Literature: A Case-Study’, Sabine Heidi Walther of the Arnamagnæan Institute on ‘Translation, Literary Transfer and Social Contexts: The Judgement of Paris in the Hauksbók version of Trójumanna saga’ and Mariamne Briggs from the University of Edinburgh speaking on ‘Translating Similes in the Middle Irish Thebaid.’
Our second distinguished keynote was Máire Ní Mhaonaigh from St John’s College, University of Cambridge speaking on ‘Criss-crossing Ideologies: Gaelic, Viking, English and Medieval Man’. This paper considered the Isle of Man as a site in which insular cultures of every kind mixed and met, a border-crossing island that bears witness to the potential of these different insular cultures to be in contact with one another.
After a highly successful and delicious conference dinner at the Pickled Piglet, we kicked off the first panel of day three, on reading across borders, with yours truly, your humble blogger, Claire Harrill of the University of Birmingham, speaking on ‘Books across Borders: The Books of St Margaret of Scotland (d.1093)’. This was followed by Joan Marie Gallagher of the University of Glasgow’ speaking on ‘Accounting for the ‘Countess’: exploring narrative structure and the role of women in Chwedyl Iarlles y Ffynnawn.’ Our final paper of the panel was Jaclyn Rajsic from Queen Mary University of London on ‘There and Back Again: Reading the Prose Brut Across the Channel’. Our final paper was Victoria Shirley of Cardiff University speaking on ‘Cadwaladr and new models of Galfridian history in fourteenth-century English and Welsh chronicles’.
Crossing borders was a very successful conference, bringing together diverse ideas across borders. It was a delight to have it here and Birmingham, and I look forward to the next one in two years’ time.