Medieval Matters: Week 4

Here we are at the midpoint of term. This is usually the point where I realise that the term is going by very quickly, and has been so busy that many of the things I had promised myself to achieve ‘by February’ are still on my to-do list! If this sounds familiar, here is some motivation from the Epistolae project:

Vestrum enim propositum, semper debet niti ad profectum
[Your intention should always be to strive for progress]
A letter (1106) from Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury to Eulalia

Of course, Oxford’s medievalists have been consistently ‘striving towards progress’ this term. Our blog post this week comes from a collaboration between Annabel Hancock, Bee Jones, James Cogbill, and Susannah Bain, who last month hosted an international workshop on ‘Scales of Governance: Local Agency and Political Authority in Eurasia, 1000-1500’. The workshop was partially funded by OMS, and is a great example of the kind of thing that you can apply for small grant funding for. To read more about the fantastic range of papers at the workshop, and the organisers’ reflections on it, please click here.

There are so many exciting medieval events to help us strive towards research progress this week, and also many announcements for upcoming events. Please see the full listings below:


  • Special events on Saturday 10 February: 11am Interfaith Harmony: Singing from Medieval Manuscripts as part of the One World Festival at the Ashmolean, followed 2pm by a lecture on World Religions and Peace Education organised by the Oxford Interfaith Forum in the Taylorian.
  • Book Launch Invitation: Emperor John II Komnenos: Rebuilding New Rome 1118-1143: You are invited to the book launch for Emperor John II Komnenos: Rebuilding New Rome 1118-1143 (OUP) at 6pm on Friday 9th of February, to be held in the Naz Shah Centre, Worcester College Oxford, and supported by the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research. Please indicate your attendance by filling in this form by Wednesday 7th February:
  • CMTC presents — “Work in Progress” Colloquium (Hilary Term 2024). Tuesday the 13th of February 2024, 5,15–6,45pm UK time, Memorial Room, The Queen’s College. For the programme, please click here.
  • Books of Hours: A Showcase: 19 February 2024, 5.30pm – 6.30pm. New College Library and Medieval Women’s Writing invite you to attend a workshop showcasing New College’s Books of Hours. Beginning with a talk by New College’s Special Collections Curatorial Assistant Caitlín Kane, we will view and discuss seven Books of Hours from the New College collection. For full details and to register, please click here.
  • Love Research Data – Find Your Perfect Research Data Management Match: Wednesday 14 February, 2pm – 5pm, Sheldonian Theatre, Oxford. Join us to find your perfect match when it comes to storing and sharing your research data. For full information, please click here.
  • The Sleep and the Rhythms of Life Network is hosting a special event on Thursday 29 February 2024, 5.15pm on the topic of Sleep, Insomnia and Wellbeing: Historical Perspectives. The papers will be Brigitte Steger (University of Cambridge): “At night I lie in bed but cannot sleep” – Insomnia and loneliness in early Japanese literature ; and Megan Leitch (Cardiff University): ‘Sleeping it Off: Sleep, Wellbeing and the Emotions in Middle English Literature’. For full details and registration information, please click here.
  • Oxford University Byzantine Society Conference: We are delighted to announce the finalised programme (and opening of advance registration for online attendance) for the Oxford University Byzantine Society’s 26th Annual International Graduate Conference ‘Transgression in Late Antiquity and Byzantium’, taking place on the 24th-25th February, 2024 at the Faculty of History, George Street, OX1 2BE. To see the programme and read more, please visit our blog here.


Monday 5th February:

  • The Medieval French Palaeography Reading Group meets at 10.30-12 in the Weston Library. This group is open to anyone with an interest in Old French, Middle French and Anglo-Norman manuscripts. We study and read manuscripts from the 12th century to the late 15th century. If you are interested in joining the group or would like more information, please write to: Laure Miolo
  • The Seminar in Palaeography and Manuscript Studies takes place at 2.15-3.45pm, in the Weston Library, Horton Room. Today’s speaker will be Alison Ray (Oxford) – ‘Pecia manuscripts’. Access is by Bodleian/University card via the reader gates, Weston Library. Non-cardholders welcome but must email at least 24 hours in advance.
  • The Medieval Archaeology Seminar meets at 3pm in the Institute of Archaeology, Lecture Room. This week’s speaker will be Kate Franklin (Birkbeck College), Making a World in Mongol Armenia: Vayots Dzor on the Silk Road.
  • The Medieval History Seminar meets at 5pm in the Wharton Room, All Souls College. This week’s speaker will be Emily Winkler (Oxford), ‘Thinking about Grief and Loss in the High Middle Ages’. The seminar will also be available 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). Alternatively, it can be accessed via this link. If you have any difficulties please email: medieval history.
  • The Old Norse Reading Group meets at 5.30-7pm. We’ll be translating a range of exciting Old Norse texts! To join the mailing list, email Ashley Castelino.

Tuesday 6th February:

  • The Europe in the Later Middle Ages Seminar meets at 2-3.30pm in the Dolphin Seminar Room, St John’s College. Tea and coffee available from 1.45pm. Undergraduates welcome. This week’s speakers will be Jane Whittle and Grace Owen, University of Exeter, ‘Acknowledging the known unknowns: gender and wage labour in late medieval England‘.
  • The Old High German Reading Group will meet at 4pm in the Committee Room, 41 Wellington Square. If there is appetite amongst attendees, the group will migrate to the Lamb and Flag after the session. Handouts will be provided and no prior knowledge is required! This week will be Daily life (prose), Sangaller Schularbeit & Contra Paralysin Theutonice (handout to be provided) – “St Gallen School Work” & “Medicine for Gout”
  • The Medieval Poetry Reading Group meets at 4pm – 5pm in the Colin Matthew Room, Radcliffe Humanities Building. We warmly welcome academics and students of any level and with any background. Coffee, tea, and biscuits are offered to participants. This week’s topic will be Introduction to the Reading Group & Greek Romance in Verse. Registration is required: If interested, please send an email in advance to
  • The Medieval Church and Culture Seminar meets at Wellbeloved Room, Harris Manchester College. Tea & coffee from 5pm; papers begin at 5.15pm. This week’s speaker is Helena Hamerow (Institute of Archaeology), ‘Women of the Conversion Period: a biomolecular investigation of mobility‘. Everyone is welcome at this informal and friendly graduate seminar!
  • The Oxford Medieval Society Latin and Ancient Greek Reading Group meets at 5-6pm, in the ground floor lecture room 2 at 47 Wellington Square. Ancient Greek will be read in odd weeks, and Latin in even weeks. We hope to expand our understanding of these languages for the betterment of our own medieval studies by reading texts that are referenced or known of in the medieval world; please note that this is not a strict rule. Anyone from any background is welcome to attend. To register your interest, or for more information, please contact the society at Oxford Medieval Society.

Wednesday 7th February:

  • The Medieval German Seminar meets at 11.15, at St Edmund Hall, Old Library. In Hilary Term, we are going to discuss the writings by ‘Frau Ava’, the first women author whose name we know, transmitted in the Vorau Manuscript, discussing this week with Rebecca Schleuß the Latin phrases in the poems. Further information and reading recommendations via the teams channel; if you want to be added to that: please email Henrike Lähnemann.
  • The Medieval Latin Document Reading Group meets at 4-5pm on Teams. A document is sent out in advance but homework is not expected. Please contact Michael Stansfield for further details and the Teams link.
  • The Late Antique and Byzantine Seminar meets at 5pm at The Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies 66 St Giles and online via Microsoft Teams by clicking here. This week’s speaker will be Matt Canepa (University of California, Irvine) – ‘Festive Discipline and Punishment
    in a Global Late Antiquity: The Iranian Political Sensorium as an Afro-Eurasian Technology of Power
  • The Medieval English Research Seminar will meet at 5.15pm in Lecture Theatre 2, St Cross Building. Today’s speaker will be Marco Nievergelt (Paris), ‘A Middle English Poetics of Experience? The Case of Reson and Sensuallyte’. The seminar will be followed by a wine reception. All welcome! 
  • Dante Reading Group meets at 5.30-7pm in St Anne’s College, Seminar Room 11. Each week, we will be reading through and discussing a canto of the Divine Comedy in a relaxed and informal setting, delving into Dante’s language and imagination in manageable chunks. The group is open to those with or without a knowledge of Italian, the reading being sent out in the original and in translation. Refreshments, both alcoholic and otherwise, will be provided! To register or ask any questions, please email Charles West.

Thursday 8th February:

  • The Ethics of Textual Criticism Seminar meets at 10-12 in Harris Seminar Room, Oriel College. This week’s speaker will be Colleen Curran (Galway) – ‘A new transmission of Aldhelm’s Carmen de virginitate’.
  • The Environmental History Working Group meets at 12.30-2pm, in the History Faculty. For further information, please contact Ryan Mealiffe.
  • The Middle Welsh Reading Group meets at 2-4pm in Jesus College, Habakuk Room. No previous knowledge of Middle Welsh is assumed. Translations will be provided with plenty of time to ask questions at the end. We’ll read a selection of early and late Middle Welsh prose and poetry to offer everyone a chance to experience the richness of Middle Welsh and its literary tradition. Please email to register your interest so that Svetlana knows how many people to expect:  Svetlana Ó Siochfhradha Prešern.
  • The Late Roman Seminar will meet at 4pm in the Seminar Room, Corpus Christi College. This week’s speaker will be Dorothee Schenk (Göttingen) ‘Character Networks, Semantic Networks and Social Network Analysis: Examples around Fulgentius of Ruspe’
  • The Medieval Visual Culture Seminar meets at 5pm in St Catherine’s College, Arumagam Building. This week’s speaker will be Jacopo Gnisci (University College London), ‘Sacred Space and Imperial Autority in ‘Medieval’ Ethiopia: The Portrait of Yekunno Amlak in Gannata Maryam.
  • The Medieval Women’s Writing Reading Group meets at 5-6.30pm in Lincoln College Lower Lecture Room. This week’s reading will be The Lais and Fables of Marie de France. Stay up to date with events by joining our mailing list or following us on X @MedievalWomenOx. Texts for the reading group are shared on the mailing list.
  • A Book Launch within the framework of the International Interfaith Reading Group on Manuscripts in Interfaith Contexts will meet at 6pm, online via Zoom. Dr Katherine Aron-Beller will be speaking on ‘Christian Images and Jewish Desecrators: The History of the Allegation in Manuscript Illustrations‘. To register, please click here.

Friday 9th February:

  • 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.
  • The Late Antique Latin Reading Group meets at 12-1pm, in the Hovenden Room, All Souls College, and is open to anyone engaged in research on the late antique world. Though prior knowledge of Latin is required, we welcome people with a range of abilities. We particularly welcome graduate students and early career academics. If you would like to attend, or you have any questions, feel free to contact either of the convenors. Please do RSVP if you intend to attend, so that we can gauge numbers and circulate the readings. Contact: David Addison and Alison John.
  • Exploring Medieval Oxford through Lincoln Archives meets at 2-3pm, in Seminar Room 2, EPA Centre, Museum Road. Anyone interested in analyzing primary sources and conducting a comprehensive examination of the documents are welcome to attend. Those who are interested can contact Lindsay McCormack and Laure Miolo via email: Lindsay McCormack and Laure Miolo
  • The Tolkien 50th Anniversary Seminar Series meets at 4-5pm in Corpus Christi College Auditorium. This week’s speaker will be Holly Ordway (Word on Fire Institute), “Fundamentally religious and Catholic”? Authorial Intent and the Intentional Fallacy’. Free access (no need to book).


  • Call for Papers – International Courtly Literature Society British and Irish Branch Conference 2024: Court Cultures: Texts and Contexts, Trinity College, the University of Dublin, 18-19 June 2024. We invite proposals in French or in English (maximum 200 words) for either 20-minute papers or full panels of three papers (each of 20 minutes duration) to be submitted by 5 p.m. on Friday 16 February 2024 to Dr Sarah Alyn Stacey (salynsta at and Dr Thomas Hinton (T.G.Hinton at ). Acceptance of papers will be confirmed by Friday 1 March 2024.
  • The Mary Rose Trust are looking for volunteer speakers across the country who are able to conduct talks on the Mary Rose on our behalf in an authoritative and entertaining way. For full details, please see their blog post here.

Finally, a reminder that slow progress is still good progress:

Utique sicut verum est: “qui modica despicit, paulatim decidit,” ita verum est quia qui modica non despicit, paulatim proficit.
[As it is true that “one who despises the little things fails little by little” so it is true that one who does not despise the little things progresses little by little.]
A letter (1106) from Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury to Eulalia

I of course here take ‘modica’ to mean ‘footnotes’: those little things which can require such a lot of of time and effort in order to make seemingly very little progress! But, as Anselm reminds us: small progress is still progress! I wish you a week of many successful footnotes, and progress little by little.

[Medievalist battling with a footnote]
St John’s College MS. 61, f. 64 v. 
By permission of the President and Fellows of St John’s College, Oxford
Viewable in full at Digital Bodleian

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