News from York: RECOVERING THE PAST Conference

RECOVERING THE PAST

Registration Closing Soon

To be held 2nd-3rd June, 2017

Kings Manor, University of York

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.

Crossing Borders Conference Report

St Gallus with his relics slung on his staff-- Stiftsarchiv St.Gallen Urk. C1 A3 letter of indulgence 20 May 1333 (2)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.

 

Symposium: ‘The Late Medieval & Early Reformation Church’

Swanson Poster 1.jpgOn 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 (m.small@bham.ac.uk) 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).

CeSMA ANNUAL LECTURE: Julia Smith (University of Oxford) on ‘Relics and the Insular World, c.600-800’

4-6pm, Wednesday 22nd March
Lecture Room 2, Arts Building, University of Birmingham B15 2TT

St Gallus with his relics slung on his staff-- Stiftsarchiv St.Gallen Urk. C1 A3 letter of indulgence 20 May 1333 (2).png

This paper re-evaluates the interest of insular Christian communities in the cult of relics in the pre-Viking age.  It has two main purposes, first to re-read familiar hagiographic texts in the light of the material culture of relic practices in the Mediterranean world and, second, to exploit newly discovered evidence to map insular relic activity all the way from the Holy Land to the Hebrides.  There emerges a nuanced picture of distinctive British, Irish and Anglo-Saxon relic habits together with new insights into the behaviour of early insular pilgrims.

Julia Smith is Chichele Professor of Medieval History at the University of Oxford. Her current research addresses the materiality of Christian experience in the Middle Ages, through the emergence and development of the cult of relics from the 4th to the 11th centuries. She has published extensively on the history of women and gender in the early Middle Ages, and is committed to the interdisciplinary and cross-cultural study of medieval history.

News: Daniel White at the Edinburgh War Through Other Stuff Conference

I’m delivering a paper at the War Through Other Stuff (WTOS) conference at the University of Edinburgh on the 22nd February. WTOS is an interdisciplinary conference focusing on ‘alternative histories of conflict’. As opposed to looking at war in the traditional, military-historical sense, the papers being presented are focused on the ‘other stuff’ of conflict, a whole swathe of topics from ‘the impact of conflict on cultural and social life’, to the role of non-combatants in conflict. My paper explores the evidence for peace-making women in medieval Icelandic feud. While more literary minded scholars such as Jóhanna Friðriksdóttir have already stated the claim of the pacific woman in medieval Icelandic society, such arguments are premised on an approach to the Icelandic sagas as literary works. Due to the fact that I hold to Mikhail Steblin-Kamenskij’s theory on the nature of the sagas (i.e. that they were considered as “true” records of the past under the definition of truth held to by those writing them) meaning that I do not agree with the methodology of the literary scholar with reference to these texts. Over the course of my paper, I show that it is possible to make the case for the peace-making woman in medieval Iceland while considering the sagas as “true”, rather than fitting them into the ill-fitting modern category of literature.

Daniel White
MA Medieval Studies