Postgraduate Workshop in Pre-Modern Public Health, hosted by Professor Guy Geltner
Danford Room, Arts Building room 224, Tuesday 17th October, 9am-11am
Following on from the CeSMA seminar on Monday 16th October, Guy Geltner of Universiteit van Amsterdam is hosting a workshop which aims to address, and potentially revise, medieval cities’ poor reputation for cleanliness and hygienic proactivity. Through an examination of primary source material we will think about the implications and possible connections that come from reading such documents, as well as the methodologies and theoretical approaches that underlie them.
In order to get the most out of the workshop, attendees are asked to complete the pre-reading of both the primary source material and the two secondary texts. More details of the workshop and the pre-reading are contained in the files below:
Birmingham CeSMA, in conjunction with the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign, sponsored a panel at Kalamazoo this year on ‘Cross Cultural Studies of the Book’ which meant little old me, your friendly neighbourhood web editor, took my research stateside for the first time (and braved my first transatlantic flight) to make some friends in the ‘Zoo across the pond.
Having heard some rumours about the on-campus accommodation, which many of my colleagues were resolutely enjoying with a sense of festive cameraderie, I settled myself in the Holiday Inn and hoped that jetlag wouldn’t be too bad.
The campus of WMU (Western Michigan University) was beautiful, and we were blessed with amazing weather (should have brought suncream), and the conference has an impressive infrastructure that includes regular shuttle-buses that run between the different hotels and the different buildings of campus. I didn’t get lost once, either, which is more than I can say about my various times at the Leeds IMC where, on entering the union building, I always seem to open doors to find something different behind them from what I expected.
CeSMA’s panel was on the Friday, the third day of the conference, and by then I was feeling like a true American. I’d got a little more used to the timezone, and waking extra early was making me feel very virtuous and productive.
Our panel began with Carol Symes from the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign giving a paper on ‘Before and beyond the King’s Book: Reading the Material Remains of the Domesday Survey’. Carol’s paper was a fascinating look not just into the Domesday book and how it was compiled, but also into our own (mis, sometimes)conceptions of how it came about.
I was up next, with my paper on everyone’s favourite (and by far the best) saint, Saint Margaret of Scotland, ‘English Books at a Scottish Court: The Books of Saint Margaret of Scotland (d. 1093)’. In my paper, I argued that these books were essential artefacts for understanding the roles that foreign queens were expected – and indeed needed – to play at the courts they married into. Carol very kindly invited me to publish this in her journal, The Medieval Globe, so keep your eyes peeled for that!
Our final panellist was Sean Winslow of the University of Toronto. There had been a bit of shuffling around, and some panellists unable to attend, so Carol and I invited Sean to join our panel, which was not without controversy! Sean was speaking on ‘The Ethiopian Book between Christendom and Islam’, and this raised some interesting issues about framing a cross-cultural panel and considering the book as a global object. For Carol and me, making northern European Latin-based medieval studies globally-focussed and outlooking is an essential issue, and the panel was a great opportunity to develop an outward-looking conceptual framework for future work.
The conference was just as rich in extra-curriculars as it was in academic papers. Aside from the famous disco, there was ‘wine hour’ every day which provided an excellent opportunity for catching up with friends and colleagues from around the world, some excellent stalls to tempt us, and activities of every kind.
I had a wonderful time at Kalamazoo, and it was brilliant to connect Birmingham’s CeSMA with the medieval studies work going on at the University of Illinois–Urbana-Champaign. It’s worth the jetlag, and the fact that you have to ride the airport train past Trump Tower to get to Chicago central train station and on to Kalamazoo. I’m sure this is the beginning of a long and beautiful transatlantic partnership of scholars.
Organised by Elizabeth Alexander (York) and Lyndsey Smith (York)
Keynote given by Professor Rosemary Sweet
Recovering the past can be an arduous and treacherous task and modern scholars frequently find themselves indebted to those who have gone before them. This multi-disciplinary two-day conference sets out to celebrate and analyse the impact the work of previous generations has had on our understanding of the Medieval past. For example, from the mid-nineteenth century onwards there appears to have been an increased interest in cataloguing and preserving the sculpture of the early Medieval period by figures such as John Romilly Allen and Joseph Anderson, whose seminal work The Early Christian Monuments of Scotland, published in 1903, is still the most complete record of the sculpture of early Medieval Scotland and was an influencing factor behind the creation of the British Academy Corpus of Anglo-Saxon Stone Sculpture (which published its twelfth volume in 2016), the key text for any scholar working on Anglo-Saxon monumental sculpture and ecclesiastical / secular patronage of the arts in the early Middle Ages. This recording and cataloguing of the past can also been seen during the Medieval period itself with the collation of earlier oral poetry being preserved in manuscripts, such as the ninth-century poem Genesis Bpreserved within the c. 1000 Bodleian Junius 11 manuscript-version of the near contemporary poem Genesis.
Wider examples of recovering the past include, but are not limited to: recovering the past given the issues surrounding the accuracy/authenticity of primary sources; excavation and/or scientific analysis, the insights these provide and the issues surrounding the findings; the recovery of lost or stolen artefacts during the Medieval period and beyond; highlighting the skewing of the past through the editing of texts since the later sixteenth century, the production of fakes, the re-carving of sculpture; highlighting the use and manipulation of the past to support nationalistic/religious arguments; the varying interests of antiquarians and early historians; as well as museology and the questions surrounding how we engage with and display the Medieval past.
This conference will bring together emerging scholars, early career researchers and established academics from a variety of disciplines to provide a platform to discuss how this important idea was manifested in the textual, visual and material evidence of the Medieval world and beyond. It aims to examine the implications and the significance of ‘recovering the past’ in its widest possible contexts.
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.
On Friday the 30th of June, the Shakespeare Institute is hosting ‘The Late Medieval & Early Reformation Church’, a symposium marking the retirement of Professor Robert Swanson after a career spanning almost forty years at the University of Birmingham.
This one-day event will take place at the Shakespeare Institute in Stratford-upon-Avon on Friday 30 June 2017. Full information (including costs, timings and details of how to register) will be circulated in due course, but for now, please put the date in your diary, and email either myself or Margaret Small (firstname.lastname@example.org) if you have any questions.
The event is being organised jointly by Birmingham’s Centre for Reformation and Early Modern Studies (CREMS), Centre for the Study of the Middle Ages (CeSMA), and Research Institute for History and Cultures (BRIHC). Confirmed participants at the event include Professor Janet Burton (UWTSD), Professor Chris Dyer (Leicester), Dr Rob Lutton (Nottingham), Professor Peter Marshall (Warwick), Professor Miri Rubin (QMUL), Professor Bill Sheils (York), Professor Robert Swanson (Birmingham) and Professor Elizabeth Tingle (DMU).
Steve Walker has been invited to present a paper at the CCASNC (Cambridge Colloquium for Norse, Anglo-Saxon and Celtic) Conference 2017.
The conference will be held at Wolfson College, Cambridge, on 11th February.
The theme is ‘Identity and Ideology’ and my paper is entitled ‘Who Do We Think They Were? Problems of Identity in Early Medieval Britain‘. Steve’s paper will examine at how modern nationalist ideologies inform and influence our reading of early medieval writers such as Bede and Gildas and risk distorting our view of fifth- and sixth-century British history.
Steve is a distance-learning PhD, so if you are a Birmingham PhD who’s also travelling to CCASNC do introduce yourselves!
CeSMA’s own Naomi Standen is off to Fernuniversität Hagen in Germany next week to provide some much-needed global context at the conference “Troubling Europe: Connecting Contested Pasts from ‘Rome’ to ‘Europa’” run by Felicitas Schmieder, Univ. of Hagen and Elizabeth Tyler, Univ. of York:
Cultural memory, including memories of the medieval past, has been important for creating national identities for at least two hundred years. This project shifts the focus to Europe to pursue the subject of medieval narratives of community which extend beyond peoples, kingdoms and nations (such as being descendants of the Trojans) and how we study those narratives in the context of contemporary Europe. The aim is to contribute to research on European identity in the Middle Ages, while also interrogating the contemporary politics which drives an interest in a specifically European past. We are interested in interrogating the tension between a small, exclusive Europe and a wide, hegemonic one, in confronting issues of Eurocentrism and in opening up the complexities and contradictions involved in the misfit between medieval and modern ideas of Europe. We encourage research on modern narratives of Europe and on medieval narratives of communities; already established research on national narratives will provide us with methodology and possible starting points but will not be in the core of our interest. This project will involve an integration of basic research with public outreach and impact. We also aim to apply for a COST action on the subject of medieval Europe.