Medieval Matters: Week 1

It brings me such great joy to welcome you all back to Oxford for Trinity Term! Whilst it’s always lovely to have research time outside of teaching term, Oxford seems so quiet in the vacations. As we learn from the Epistolae project, waiting for your friends and colleagues to return isn’t just a modern phenomenon:

Vestri etenim reditus optati terminus, quanto celerior et propinquior a pluribus mihi promittitur, tanto magis a me, vestra frui optante praesentia et locutione, desideratur. 
[The sooner and the closer the date of your desired return is promised to me by many people, the more it is desired by me, since I long to enjoy your presence and conversation.]
A letter (1106) from Matilda of Scotland, queen of the English, to Anselm

I’m sure I speak for everyone when I say that I’m looking forward to a wonderful term enjoying the presence and conversation of our fantastic medieval community. We have so many wonderful things lined up for you this term. To get a taste of everything to come, please see our brand new Trinity Term Medieval Booklet. A compressed copy is attached to the weekly email for your convenience, but for all of the latest updates and the booklet in its high-quality glory, see the online version here.

Here are the week’s announcements, events and opportunities:


  • Save the date: A workshop on practices of contrafacture of monophonic song (1150-1550) will take place on 20th June at 10am-7pm, in the Committee Room, Faculty of Music. The schedule will be split into two parts: the first half is reserved for presentations of individual papers with a following discussion, in the second half we will collectively examine and interpret further selected case studies. Anybody interested is welcome to attend the presentations and take part in the discussions. If you want to attend or if you have questions, please email Philip Wetzler.
  • Register now for the Oxford Medieval Society Chain Maille Workshop! Week 4, Friday 17th May, 2-5.30pm, in St John’s College New Seminar Room. Come and learn how to make chain maille with Master Maille Maker Nick Checksfield! Nick is a world-leading expert in medieval chain maille, and will be visiting Oxford Medieval Society for an all-you-need-to-know workshop. Don’t miss out, places are limited! Tickets: £15. Refreshments will be provided. To register, click here.
  • Registration open: Workshop: Binding the world, withholding life. Poetry Books in the Medieval Mediterranean. Register via Eventbrite for online attendance. Online registration closes 2 hours before the start of the event. You will be sent the joining link within 24 hours of the event, 2 hours before and once again 15 minutes before the event starts. The full programme will be shared after registration and on


Monday 22nd April:

  • The Tolkien 50th Anniversary Seminar Series meets at 5pm in the Summer Common Room, Magdalen College. This week’s speaker will be Catherine McIlwaine (Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford), “Being a cult figure in one’s lifetime is not at all pleasant”: Tolkien’s relationship with his fans. For more information, please see
  • A Talk by Dr. Stephanie Pambakian will take place at 5PM in the Faculty of Asian and Middle Eastern Studies, Lecture Room 1. Dr. Pambakian (Tübingen / Venice Ca’Foscari) will be speaking on A 7th-century Armenian Cosmology: Anania Širakac’i’s treatise on the Universe.
  • The Medieval History Seminar meets at 5pm in the Wharton Room, All Souls College and on 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, you can use this link. If you have any difficulties please email: This week’s speaker will be Lindy Grant (Reading), ‘Eleanor of Aquitaine: the power of a queen and duchess‘.

Tuesday 23rd April:

  • The Medieval English Research Seminar meets at 12.15pm in Lecture Room 2, English Faculty. This week’s speaker will be Christine Rauer (St Andrews), The Earliest Insular Almanac?: Types of Information in Old English and Insular Latin Calendrical Texts. Seminars followed by a sandwich lunch. All welcome!
  • The Medieval Church and Culture Seminar meets at 5.15pm in the Wellbeloved Room, Harris Manchester College. This week’s speaker will be Alexander Murray (Univ.). Everyone is welcome at this informal and friendly graduate seminar.
  • First Lyell Lecture: The transmission of Julius Caesar’s Civil War at 5.15 at the Weston Library lecture theatre by Stephen Oakley (Cambridge): Copying the Classics (and Fathers): explorations in the transmission of Latin text. Book her for in-person attendance or live-stream.
  • The Medieval French Seminar meets at 5pm at the Maison Francaise. Drinks will be served from 5pm; the presentations will start at 5:15pm. All are welcome! This week’s speaker will be Tom Hinton (University of Exeter), ‘What Did A French Language Learning Text Look Like in Medieval Britain?’.

Wednesday 24th April:

  • The Medieval German Graduate Seminar meets at 11.15am in Oriel College King Edward Street 7 (Annette Volfing’s office; press the intercom buzzer to be let in). It will be a shortish planning meeting. The topic for this term is Konrad von Würzburg: ‘Der Schwanritter’. Open access edition here. If you are interested to be added to the teams group for updates, please contact Henrike Lähnemann.
  • The Late Antique and Byzantine Seminar meets at 5pm at Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies, 66 St. Giles, Oxford, and online via Teams. Teams link: This week’s speaker will be Thea Ravasi (University of Newcastle) – ‘Imperial benefaction, sanitary and religious practices in 4th-century Rome. The archaeology of the Baptistery of St. John Lateran revisited’.

Thursday 25th April:

  • The All Souls Seminar in Medieval and Early Modern Science meets at 2-3.30pm in the Hovenden Room, All Souls College. This week’s speaker will be Michael Hunter (Birkbeck), Robert Boyle’s Strange Reports: From the Outlandish to the Supernatural.
  • Second Lyell Lecture: The transmission of the Corpus Cyprianum and Pontius’ Life of Cyprian at 5.15 at the Weston Library lecture theatre by Stephen Oakley (Cambridge): Copying the Classics (and Fathers): explorations in the transmission of Latin text. Book her for in-person attendance or live-stream.
  • The Oxford Old English Work in Progress Seminar (WOOPIE) meets at 5.15pm in the History of the Book Room, English Faculty. Prof. Paul Cavill (University of Nottingham) will speak on “Gathering up the Fragments: Homiletic Fragment II”. All welcome. If you would like to attend, please contact
  • The Medieval Visual Culture Seminar meets at 5pm at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, Arumugam Building. All welcome! This week’s speaker will be Lucy Wrapson, University of Cambridge, ‘Colour Conventions and Material Hierarchies on Late-Medieval Rood Screens‘.

Friday 26th April:

  • 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.
  • David Wiles (Emeritus Professor of Drama, University of Exeter) is performing the pseudo-Senecan Roman history play Octavia in the exuberant rhetorical language of the 1561 translation in the Wolfson College Buttery at 1.15pm, under the aegis of the Ancient World Research Cluster. The play lasts for half an hour; watch a recording here. You may have seen previous productions in the garden of St Edmund Hall – last year, Mary Magdalene Play from the Carmina Burana. This is also early notice that there hopefully will be another Medieval Mystery Cycle in 2025, probably 26 April in St Edmund Hall – mark the date!
  • 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 Oxford Medieval Manuscripts Group (OMMG) meets at 5pm in the Weston Library. Martin Kauffmann, Bodleian Library will speak on A. C. (Tilly) de la Mare and the Formation of a Palaeographer. Places are limited, please write to Elena Lichmanova by 24/04/2024.

Saturday 27th April:

  • Special Event: Creating Chaucer. 11am-4pm at the Weston Library. Join the collective of Oxford medievalists to explore Chaucer’s world through creative activities, talks and discussion!
    • Take a highlights tour of the exhibition Chaucer Here and Now with curator Marion Turner
    • Make a moving puppet of Chaucer with Sigi Koerner
    • Learn cartoon drawing in a live session with artist Kristen Haas Curtis
    • Create your own original traveller’s tale and make a Tabard Inn for its telling  
    • Take the constellation challenge and discover how horoscopes were read in Chaucer’s day with Shelley Williams
    • Make a pilgrim badge as a souvenir of your visit
    • Print a Chaucer keepsake
  • Telling Tales: Marion Turner in conversation with Patience Agbabi, 1.30 – 2pm Sir Victor Blank Lecture Theatre. Professor Marion Turner, curator of Chaucer Here and Now, talks to prize-winning poet Patience Agbabi, author of Telling Tales, about how and why she created her own versions of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales in forms ranging from rap to sonnets. Book now
  • Living Library, 1.30 – 3.30pm. Chat to academics in our ‘Living Library’ and explore topics including:
    • Travel and travel writing in the Middle Ages with Professor Anthony Bale
    • Chaucer in the nineteenth century with Dr Clare Broome Saunders
    • Scribes and readers of Chaucer: the first century with Professor Daniel Wakelin
    • Medieval women, modern voices with Dr Laura Varnam
    • ‘Hooly blisful martir’: Chaucer’s pilgrims in Canterbury with Dr Alison Ray
    • The Medieval in the Modern with Professor Carolyne Larrington


  • Call for Contributions: Medicine at the Fringes in the Northern World (1000-1500): Proposals for engaging essays (approximately 9,000 words) are warmly welcomed that explore and challenge our understanding of medicine in the Nordic-Atlantic areas. The essays will challenge conventional perspectives and delve into the intriguing realms of illness, health, body, disability, and medicine as depicted in manuscripts, literature, and society from the Northern Atlantic World during the medieval era. For full details, please click here.
  • Call for Papers for Three Early Career Workshops on Old English Prose: Paper proposals are invited from graduate students and early career researchers working on or interested in Old English prose. Each workshop will be led by an expert who will talk about their own research and lead discussion on a particular aspect of Old English prose. These events will provide an opportunity for graduate students and early career researchers to discuss their research projects with other scholars and to develop new skills. For full details, please click here.
  • CFP: International Workshop: Saints and martyrs between Italy and the Mediterranean in Late Antiquity: Movements, connections, and influences. You are invited to submit an abstract (maximum 300 words) accompanied by a short CV by 24 Mai. All submissions should include your name, e-mail address and academic affiliation (if applicable). Participants are expected to give a 20–30-minute talk, followed by an extended session for discussion. The workshop will take place in person in English at the Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität Munich on 22-23 November 2024. A publication is planned, for which the contributions may be in English, German or Italian. A contribution will also be made towards travel expenses. For full details, please see here:

If you have forgotten to submit your Medieval Booklet entries, please do not worry: we will send a finalised version next week. Here is some final wisdom, surely on the topic of booklet omissions:

Si quid placet vestrae dilectioni mihi mandare, latori praesentium sicut mihi ipsi viva voce secure potestis intimare
[If it pleases your love to send me information about anything, you can safely tell it by word of mouth to the bearer of this letter as if to myself.] 
A letter (1102) from Anselm, archbishop of Canterbury to Matilda of Scotland

Luckily for us modern medievalists, no such go-between is necessary: you may simply and safely send me an email with all of your information about anything medieval, and I will make sure that it gets into the booklet. In the meantime, may you have a wonderful first week of term, and enjoy the sunshine!

[A rather sheepish Medievalist forgot to submit their contribution to the Booklet…]
St John’s College MS. 61, f. 25 v. 
By permission of the President and Fellows of St John’s College, Oxford
Viewable in full at Digital Bodleian

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