Medieval Matters: Week 6

It’s another beautiful sunny bank-holiday Monday here in Oxford. The parks are looking especially lovely, and provide a particularly lovely break from work. Indeed, Alcuin tells us that we can find lots of examples for good behaviour in nature. In particular the bee, famed for its careful selection of good pollen, might be a useful model for research:

Sicut apis sapientissima, omnia, quae honestatis sunt, discendo probate; et quae optima esse videntur, eligendo retinete
[By learning confirm what is important, and by choosing keep hold of whatever seems good – just like the wisest bee. Ep. 72 ]

It’s easy to follow such advice given that there are so many wonderful seminars, reading groups and events for you to examine and learn from this week. The great difficulty is, of course, choosing which to attend: Alcuin unfortunately did not give us any advice on how to select seminars when all of them ‘optima esse videntur’! Please see below for the many wonderful things happening in Oxford this week:


  • Rethinking Lyric Communities in Premodern Worlds will take place at Christ Church Research Centre, Oxford, on 20-21 June. This symposium is part of the collaborative research project Rethinking Lyric Communities, which had its first two workshops in Oxford and Berlin last year. This third instalment will focus on questions of lyric and community in premodern times in both European and Middle Eastern worlds. Bringing contemporary lyric theory into dialogue with medieval and early modern studies, the fundamental questions we intend to explore are: what is it that makes the lyric particularly shareable? How was it actually shared? And what kind of community formation did it enable or envision? This is a hybrid event. To receive the link, please write to Nicolas Longinotti by Thursday 15 June 2023: For more information and the full programme, please click here.
  • The Night Office in 15th-Century Oxford: on Tuesday 6th June at 9pm in New College Chapel, New College Choir will enact a short-form Night Office as it might have been known in 15th-century Oxford, to explore how this nowforgotten liturgy worked in performance. In southern England from the late 14th century on, Tuesdays were commonly given over to the veneration of St Thomas Becket. This service recreates a ‘commemorative’ Tuesday Becket office, as precribed in late medieval books of the Sarum Use—many of which survive in Oxford libraries.
  • Medieval Mystery Play Recordings are now available! If you missed the Medieval Mystery Plays or just want to relive the fun of them, you can now watch the recordings on our blog. For a taster of the medievalist merriment, please see the trailer here. Huge thanks to Natascha Domeisen for her hard work filming and editing these.


Monday 29th May:

  •  The Byzantine Graduate Seminar will not meet today, but resumes next week.
  • The Medieval Latin Manuscript Reading Group led by Matthew Holford and Andrew Dunning is meeting as usual via Teams from 1-2pm. This term we will read some satirical poetry from a thirteenth-century manuscript, the so-called ‘Bekyngton anthology’ (Bodl. MS. Add. A. 44). Sign up for the mailing list to receive updates and the Teams invite, or contact or for more information.
  • The Queer and Trans Medievalisms Reading and Research Group meets at 3pm at Univ College, 12 Merton St Room 2. This week’s theme is Animal magics: The Mabinogion, fourth branch (Mab uab Mathonwy). All extremely welcome! To join the mailing list and get texts in advance, or if you have any questions, email
  • The Medieval History Seminar meets at 5pm at the Wharton Room, All Souls College. This week’s speaker will be José Maria Andres Porras (St Hugh’s) ‘Violence, Blood, and Vendetta: A Girardian Interpretation‘. The seminar will also be available remotely via Teams. The Teams session can be accessed by logging in to Teams with your account and joining the group “Medieval History Research Seminar” (team code rmppucs). If you have any difficulties please email:

Tuesday 30th May:

  • The Medieval English Research Seminar will meet at 12:00 in Lecture Theatre 2, St Cross Building. This week’s speaker will be Euan Roger (National Archives), Life Records and The National Archives.
  • The Medieval Church and Culture Seminar meets at the Wellbeloved Room, Harris Manchester College, with tea & coffee from 5pm; papers begin at 5.15pm. This week’s speaker will be Lucas Dorschel (St Hugh’s), Recontextualizing the Donestre: Queer Cannibalism in the Wonders of the East Manuscripts, c. 1000-1125. Everyone is welcome at this informal and friendly graduate seminar!
  • The first lecture of the New CMTC Lecture Series: Provenance Unknown will take place at 5.15-7pm in the Memorial Room, Queen’s College. The speaker is Alexander Herman (Institute of Art and Law, London), Don’t Turn That Page! The Legal Risks of Dealing in Unprovenanced Manuscripts. You can also join the lecture online via Zoom: to register for the link, please click here. Sign-ups will close at 10,00am on Tuesday 30th May. We cannot guarantee that we will be able to provide a Zoom link if you email us after this time. If you have not received a link by 12.00noon on 30th May, please email Gabriele Rota (

Wednesday 31st May:

  • The Medieval German Seminar will meet at 11:15-12.45pm at St Edmund Hall Old Library. In Trinity Term, we are continuing to discuss Heinrich von Neustadt’s texts, focussing on ‘Von Gottes Zukunft’. This week Magdalena Butz will present findings from her doctoral thesis on the transformation of religious knowledge into vernacular storytelling. Further information and reading recommendations via the teams channel; if you want to be added to that: please email Henrike Lähnemann.
  • The Old High German Reading Group will not meet this week.
  • The Old French Reading Group takes place at 4-5pm at St Hilda’s College (meet by the lodge) on Wednesdays of Even Weeks in association with Oxford Medieval Studies, sponsored by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH). We welcome readers of Old French of all abilities. For further information, please email or
  • The Medieval Latin Document Reading Group meets on Teams at 4-5pm. We are currently focusing on medieval documents from New College’s archive as part of the cataloguing work being carried out there, so there will be a variety of hands, dates and types. A document is sent out in advance but homework is not expected. Contact Michael Stansfield for further details and the Teams link.
  • The Late Antique and Byzantine Seminar meets at 5pm at Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies, 66 St. Giles. This week’s speaker will be Cristina Rognoni (Università degli Studi di Palermo), ‘The Greek monastery of S. Salvatore di Bordonaro (Messina, Sicily, 12th century): a short history and a long tradition’. You can also join the seminar remotely via Teams, click here.

Thursday 1st June:

  • The Environmental History Group meets at 12-2pm in the Gary Martin Room, History Faculty. This week’s speaker will be G. J. Morgan, “The Hagiocene: ‘the Age of the Saints’ and environmental thought”. We try to keep discussions informal, and we encourage anyone at all interested in these kinds of approaches to join our meetings, regardless of research specialism or presumed existing knowledge. For those interested in joining the group, you can join our mailing list by getting in touch with us at
  • The Pursuit of Musick. The Taverner Consort at 50 will take place at 3-4pm at the Taylor Institution Library, Room 2. Andrew Parrott will be in conversation with Henrike Lähnemann on musical life in medieval and early modern Europe. This is a celebration of 50 years of the Taverner Consort and Andrew Parrott’s The Pursuit of Musick: Musical Life in Original Writings & Art c1200–1770, a uniquely colourful compendium of almost everything to do with pre-modern musical life. The lecture will take as its starting point how the examples on music in the everyday life of medieval and early modern Germany can be used as a teaching tool and will also discuss questions of translation of premodern sources. All original source material is open access available on the publication website, e.g. For more information, see our blog here.
  • The Medieval Women’s Writing Reading Group meets at 3-4pm at Lincoln College: meet at the lodge. This week’s theme will be Holiness and sainthood: forms of holiness and sainthood, and their effect on authority both by women and for women. Please email to be added to the mailing list and get texts in advance, or to find out more.
  • This week’s Piers Plowman in Context discussion group will be led by Mishtooni Bose in the Main Quad Boardroom at Univ from 16:30-17:30. This week’s session will be on Passus XV of the B-text, which we’ll be discussing in relation to the short contexts available through this link: All welcome! Email Jacob Ridley ( with any questions.
  • The Medieval Visual Culture Seminar meets at 5.15-6.45pm at St Catherine’s College, Arumugam Building. This week’s speaker will be Michelle Brown University of London, Visual Exegesis and its Deployment in Insular Illumination. For further information, contact Elena Lichmanova (

Friday 2nd June:

  • The Medieval Coffee Morning meets as usual 10:30am in the Visiting Scholars Centre of the Weston Library (instructions how to find it) with presentation of items from the special collections, coffee and the chance to see the view from the 5th floor terrace.

Saturday 3rd June:

  • A one-day-only exhibition: Maleficia: Magic, Witchcraft, & Astrology will take place at New College. We will be displaying some manuscripts, mostly astrological texts, along with a number of early modern printed books, mostly witchcraft treatises. The exhibition will be in New College’s Lecture Room 4 and is open to the public.

Of course, just as there are good examples to be found in nature, Alcuin reminds us that there are bad ones too:

Nec mirum, si tarditas aselli sustineat in dorso flagellum
[It’s not surprising if a lazy donkey gets a whip across his back! Ep. 98]

I take this to mean that it’s important not to get overly carried away with walks in University Parks when there is still plenty of work to do before the end of term! Nonetheless, I hope that you all get to enjoy some sunshine today, and wish you a week of being ‘like the wisest bee’ in your learning and teaching!

[Medievalists taking Alcuin’s advice and choosing which seminars seem to them to be best]
Ashmole Bestiary, Bodleian Library MS. Ashmole 1511, f. 75 v.
Viewable in full at Digital Bodleian

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