Midsummer Outing to Godstow Abbey

Oxford Medieval Studies will be celebrating the end of term with a Midsummer outing to Godstow Abbey! All are welcome to join on Saturday, 24 June from 4pm and encouraged to take part in summer activities, including singing, sketching and swimming (weather permitting). Take along a picnic too!

Please contact Alison Ray with any queries.

Directions to Godstow and Port Meadow FAQs can be found on the Oxford City Council website here.

A brief history of Godstow Abbey and further details of the medieval site can be viewed here.

Ervin Bossányi: Stained Glass Art and Linocut Workshop

Friday, 26 May 2023, 2-4pm in the St Peter’s College Chapel

St Peter’s College is pleased to host a practical art workshop as part of a current display exploring the works of Hungarian artist Ervin Bossányi (1891-1975) in the College collections and Chapel stained glass. His artistic achievements range from paintings and friezes to stained glass windows in prestigious buildings such as Canterbury Cathedral and Washington National Cathedral in the USA.

A guided tour of the display by Dr Alison Ray (College Archivist) will be followed by a linocut workshop led by Dr Eleanor Baker and participants will produce their own linocut designs. Eleanor completed her DPhil in medieval material texts in 2022, and is currently working on a short anthology of book curses. She started linocutting as a lockdown hobby, and is inspired by late medieval woodcuts, folk horror, and the natural world. The afternoon will conclude with refreshments in the Chapel with thanks to the Revd Dr Elizabeth Pitkethly (College Chaplain).

Attendance is free, but booking is required as space is limited. Please contact Alison Ray to reserve a place by email: archives@spc.ox.ac.uk

Dr Eleanor Baker will lead the practical art workshop with a linocut activity

The ‘Ervin Bossányi: Stained Glass Artist’ display is currently running 12-26 May 2023, 10am-5pm (closed Thursdays) in the St Peter’s College Chapel. Admission is free and open to the public.

GLAMorous work: Medievalist Pathways in Archives and Libraries

The Oxford Medieval Studies Trinity Term lecture on Thursday, 4 May was a careers talk with a twist, featuring an exhibition in the St Edmund Hall Old Library as well as coffee and cake! Alison Ray (Archivist, St Peter’s College) and Heather Barr (Graduate Trainee Library Assistant, St Edmund Hall) were delighted to share their experiences of working in archives and libraries to attendees and how they make use of their skills as medievalists in their present roles.

You can watch back the careers talk in the video below and check out the handy list of resources for further information on working in archives, libraries and the wider heritage sector:

GLAMorous Work: Resources

Archives Listserv: Jobs, training, current events and issues, professional discussion

Archives and Records Association (ARA): New Professionals Peer Pals Scheme, training and qualification information

Bodleian Libraries: Our Work: Descriptions of department areas, including conservation, collections management and public engagement

Careers Service: Library and Archives: Information and careers advice

CILIP: The Library and Information Professional Association: Communities, training opportunities, information, qualification information, news

Civil Service: Working in Knowledge and Information Management: Jobs list and career path descriptions

ECLAIR: Community of Library and Information Studies students and new professionals

Guardian Jobs: Heritage sector jobs list via the Guardian

ICON: The Institute of Conservation: Jobs, training, current projects, role descriptions

Information Professional Jobs: Jobs list

JISC LIS Professional Mail List: Jobs, training, current events and issues, professional discussion

JISC LIS Rare Books Mail List: Jobs, training, current events, professional discussion for rare books

Museum Studies Jobs Desk: Jobs list

Museums Association: Current campaigns, jobs, career paths

Twitter: Explore #LISJobs #LibraryJobs #LibraryTwitter #ArchivesJobs #ArchiveTwitter

Highlights of the Oxford Medieval Mystery Plays 2023

A fantastic day was had by all at the third Medieval Mystery Cycle held on Saturday, 22 April that took place across the Front Quad and St Peter-in-the-East churchyard of St Edmund Hall. Actors, directors, singers and designers staged six plays dating from between the 12th and 16th centuries. Retelling Biblical stories from the Nativity to the Last Judgement, the cast expertly performed in medieval and modern languages, including Latin, Middle English and Middle High German.

Master of Ceremonies Jim Harris (left) and the Choir of St Edmund Hall (right)

Master of Ceremonies Jim Harris (Teaching Curator, Ashmolean Museum) delighted everyone as audience guide and play narrator with linking verse composed by David Maskell, and we were treated to Peter Abelard’s ‘O quanta qualia’ sung by the Choir of St Edmund Hall led by College Chaplain the Revd Dr Zachary Guiliano.

Piers Plowman with tackling the seven deadly sins (left) and the Virgin and Christ Child of the Nativity scene (right)

Group ‘Swonken ful harde’ performed first with extracts from Piers Plowman in Middle English, that saw Piers taking on the seven deadly sins through the visions of Will the Dreamer. Following in Middle English, The English Faculty wonderfully performed the Chester Nativity and Salutation with a humorous interpretation of Roman Emperor Octavyan as King Charles III in time for the Coronation!

Scheming Herod delights in news of the Slaughter of the Innocents (left) and Mary Magdalene steals a member of the audience (right)

Marguerite de Navarre’s 16th-century French play of the Comédie des Innocents was performed by group ‘Les perles innocentes’ with singing by Lucy Matheson (read a report by director Elisabeth Dutton), with the dark scenes of the Slaughter of the Innocents countered by a comically scheming Herod and angels supplying chocolates to the audience. We were then treated to a charity coffee and cake stall in the break by the Oxford German Society in support of the German Red Cross. This was followed by a fantastic adaptation of the Carmina Burana Bavarian Passion play by the ‘Sorores Sancte Hildae’ group in Latin and German, with audience participation!

Professor Henrike Lähnemann and trumpet leading the angels (left) and a gleeful Lucifer capturing lost souls for Hell (right)

The unofficial award for best costume design went to the Medieval Germanists who performed the Harrowing of Hell in Middle High German with English narration, that saw a troupe of winged angels and Lucifer herd an imaginative array of lost souls to the Crypt’s Hellmouth. The day closed with Past and Present Teddy Students delivering a high-energy staging of a modern English version of the Last Judgment with St John of Patmos being guided by an exacerbated angel through comic visions of the battle between Christ and Satan for souls.

St John of Patmos and his visions of Heaven and Hell in the Last Judgement

We are particularly grateful to Professor Lesley Smith and Professor Henrike Lähnemann, co-directors of Oxford Medieval Studies, the driving force behind the Mystery Cycle, Michael Angerer, Graduate Convenor for the Mystery Cycle, and to the Fellows and Principal of St Edmund Hall, for once again agreeing to host our medieval madness!

A full programme and listing of the wonderful cast and crew can be found on the Oxford Medieval Studies website here:  https://medieval.ox.ac.uk/2023/04/21/oxford-medieval-mystery-plays-2023/

The 2023 Medium Ævum Essay Prize and Grants

The Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature is delighted to share details of the 2023 Medium Ævum Essay Prize and available grants:

2023 Medium Ævum Essay Prize

Race your Word-Wyvern to glory! Postgraduates and those recently graduated with a higher degree are invited to submit an essay on a topic that falls within the range of the interests of Medium Ævum in the medieval period (up to c. 1500).

The winner of the Essay Prize will receive a cash prize of £500, together with £250 for any books available from Bennett & Kerr Booksellers (including any from the Society’s own catalogue) & £250 of funding towards conference attendance. The winning article will also be considered for publication in Medium Ævum, subject to the usual editorial procedures of the journal. Entries must be submitted by Thursday, 2 December 2022 and further details on entry criteria and how to submit are available on our website: https://aevum.space/EssayPrize

Conference Funding and Research Travel Bursaries

Planning an event or research trip? Apply for the Society’s available conference funding and travel bursaries! We are now open for physical and online conference funding applications, and are particularly interested in providing sponsorship which facilitates wide conference access and participation for unwaged graduate and early-career medievalists. Conference grant applications are generally open to Society members and should be made at least three months ahead of the planned conference date, please find the Society’s guidelines for applicants on our website: https://aevum.space/conferences/funding

The Society’s Research Travel Bursaries are to support relevant research by scholars, at any stage in their career, who are not in receipt of the requisite funding from other sources. The value of all grants is between £300 and £1000. There are two application rounds each year, with the deadlines falling on 1st September and 1st March; applicants will be informed of the Society’s decision within three weeks of the deadline. We also welcome applications for financial support to obtain images of manuscripts from libraries or archives to which the applicant is unable to travel. Details on how to apply may be viewed on our website: https://aevum.space/bursaries

Two men giving out money from a chest, from Bodleian Library, MS Auct. D. 4. 17

Society Membership

Not yet a member of the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature? Consider subscribing for the low cost of £20 a year, or £10 a year for graduate students. Membership benefits include receipt of the Medium Ævum journal in print and digital formats, and a range of discounts on the Society’s monograph series and events. Take a look and register online our website: https://aevum.space/user/register

The 2022 Medium Ævum Annual Lecture

The Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature are pleased to announce the 2022 Medium Ævum Annual Lecture will be taking place on Saturday, 2 July (4:30-6pm BST):

Dr Ryan Perry (University of Kent) will deliver the annual lecture on ‘Middle English Books of Devotion and Liturgical Privatisation in Fifteenth-century England’, as part of the ‘Pfaff at 50’ conference at the University of Nottingham marking 50 years since the publication of Richard W. Pfaff’s ground-breaking New Liturgical Feasts in Later Medieval England

Dr Perry’s lecture will examine several devotional texts (such as pseudo-Bonaventure’s Meditationes vitae Christi and its English redaction by Nicholas Love) alongside manuscript assemblages to investigate how vernacular religious materials were put in service of individualised or household reading programmes. Such programmes might imitate the rhythms of the official liturgy or alternatively be understood in some respects as quasi-liturgies, reflecting improvised devotional regimens and structures of pious observance.

Registration details for in-person and online attendance are available at the following link: https://pfaff50.wordpress.com/keynote/

Catch-up: Oxford Medieval Mystery Plays 2022

Following a two-year pandemic break, it was a joyous occasion for all to be able to attend in-person the second annual performance of the Oxford Medieval Mystery Plays hosted by St Edmund Hall on 23 April last week. The production was led by Professor Henrike Lähnemann, St Edmund Hall Fellow and Professor of Medieval German Literature and Linguistics, and Professor Lesley Smith, Fellow and Tutor in Politics and Senior Tutor at Harris Manchester College, and expertly managed by Dr Eleanor Baker, Project Support Officer for the Post-GCSE Inspire Programme at St John’s College and medieval literature specialist. The full cycle was live-streamed by Natascha Domeisen and is available for watching on the St Edmund Hall Youtube Channel and also linked in to the website dedicated to the Oxford Medieval Mystery Plays.

We’ll be your guide to every play: Mystery Cycle organisers (left) and Jim Harris as Master of Ceremonies (right)

Featuring 11 plays in 6 languages (Middle and Modern English, Spanish, French, German and Latin), the ‘spectaculum’ opened with a performance of period music by the Anonymous Minstrels before The Revd Dr Zachary Guiliano rang the Chapel bell to mark the opening of the Mystery Cycle. We were introduced to each play through prologues prepared by the linking verses creator, Prof David Maskell, and wonderfully performed by our Master of Ceremonies, Dr Jim Harris, who guided attendees across college to each play location. These prologues were essential not only to the day’s enjoyment, but also to making the medieval materials accessible to a modern audience providing plot summaries and descriptions of what we were about to see through rhyming verse!

A marvellous boat will shortly appear: Scenes from the Killing of Abel (Left) and Noah’s Ark (right)

The Mystery Plays presented Biblical stories from Creation to the Resurrection, and were brought to life by an incredible cast of actors, academics and students with links to Oxford Medieval Studies. The Faculty of English kicked things off in the Old Dining Hall with the stories of Creation and the Fall, accompanied by a digital video featuring manuscript illustrations by Prof Dan Wakelin. We were then led into the front quad to witness the Holloway Mystery Players perform the killing of Abel, followed by the story of Noah’s Ark by Medieval Studies students, which receives an honorary mention here for the best props of the event, including fabric waves and an inflatable parrot standing in for the dove. The morning concluded with the sung Magnificat in a play of the Visitation by Jasmine and the Kilnsians.

You’ll see a dog but it’s a sheep: Timmy waits for his cue (left) and James Howarth as King Herod (right)

Following a short tea break, the play cycle continued in the atmospheric churchyard of St Peter-in-the-East (now College Library). The Pastoral Players provided comic relief as grumpy shepherds and a thief in the Shepherd’s Play, with the Principal’s dog Timmy stealing the show as a reluctant ‘sheep’ and kindly supported by Prof Kathy Willis and her daughter Alice. The entertainment continued with the story of the Wise Men performed by the Wise Women in Spanish, and the Massacre of the Innocents with College Librarian James Howarth playing Herod the Great alongside the 5th Week Blues.

Now to a new location for John the Baptist’s decollation: A scene of the saint’s beheading (left) and the Lazari players (right)

The best special effects of the cycle featured in the playgroup Les Soeurs de Sainte-Hilde, with their version in French of St John the Baptist’s arrest and grisly beheading (read a reflection on the process of directing a play in French by Prof. David Wiles, the director of the play). This was followed by the English MSt students performing the story of Lazarus, with 6 players of Lazarus rising from the churchyard to great effect. Undergraduate students then performed a Middle English depiction of the Crucifixion from the York Mystery Cycle dating from the 14th century. The Mystery Plays concluded with a delightful performance in Middle High German, Latin and English by the Mercantile Minstrels, with mischievous merchants, a fight scene, and a chorus of angels merrily announcing the miracle of Christ’s Resurrection.

Christ ist erstanden: The Crucifixion (left) and the announcement of the Resurrection (right)

This year’s Mystery Play Cycle was incredibly fun and a fantastic opportunity to engage with medieval culture through the wide-ranging skills of staff and students of Oxford Medieval Studies. The day ended with an exhibition display of works relating to the Easter story in the Old Library. A filming crew worked hard throughout the day to provide a livestream of events for online viewers, that can now watched back on St Edmund’s Hall YouTube Channel. We’re excited to see the continuation of what surely now has become an Oxford tradition!

Dr Alison Ray is a medievalist and the archivist at St Peter’s College, Oxford.