Overview: Reading Groups (Trinity 2021)

Medieval Trade Reading Group

Meeting 7-8:30pm on Thursdays of even weeks of term.
Session 1: Thursday 6th May, Week 2
Session 2: Thursday 20th May, Week 4.
Session 3: Thursday 3rd June, Week 6.
Session 4: Thursday 17th June, Week 8.
We are an informal group who come together to discuss secondary readings about a variety of
themes related to medieval trade across the globe. In previous meetings we have discussed
readings covering topics such as Muslim merchant communities in China, Eastern Mediterranean
slavery, and network theory approaches. Each session, a group member will present for 5-10
minutes on a pre-suggested reading followed by a large group discussion. Suggested reading in
preparation for each session is sent out at least a week before the group meeting. Anyone
interested in any element of medieval trade and its study are welcome to join.
To be added to the team and have access to the materials and meetings please email Annabel
Hancock at annabel.hancock@history.ox.ac.uk

Medieval Latin Reading Group
Mondays, 13:00–14:00, Microsoft Teams
Improve your Latin, learn palaeographical skills, and engage first-hand with medieval texts by reading
reproductions of manuscripts together. We will learn to read and translate directly from medieval books,
moving in a roughly chronological sequence during the year.
All welcome; meetings will take place weekly during term. Submit your email address
(https://web.maillist.ox.ac.uk/ox/subscribe/medieval-latin-ms-reading) to receive notices.
Organisers: Jacob Currie; Andrew Dunning; Matthew Holford.

Pre-Modern Conversations

Fridays of even weeks, 11am–noon, Microsoft Teams
Convenors: Lena Vosding, Lewis Webb, Godelinde Perk

‘The Evangelist St. Matthew writing, with his symbol the angel’, MS 10 E 3, f. 18r (Museum Meermanno-Westreenianum, The Hague).

Nervous about an upcoming presentation? Struggling to improve your article’s argument or structure? In
need of constructive peer feedback on a book chapter, or simply encouragement? Join our friendly,
interdisciplinary group of early career pre-modernists, offering an informal, supportive environment for
helping each other revise, refine, and finally complete that work in progress.
The group convenes in weeks 2, 4, 6, and 8 on Teams to discuss a work in progress. The format for these
one-hour sessions alternates between a presentation to the entire group (for conference contributions) and a discussion of a pre-circulated written text. WIP contributors are expected to provide a cover letter outlining the desired areas for improvement to facilitate discussion. The final twenty minutes of each
meeting are dedicated to discussing more general topics related to writing, editing and publishing. All ECR pre-modernists from any Faculty are welcome. We particularly invite WIPs with an
interdisciplinary and/or gender focus. You are also very welcome to participate without contributing a
paper. If interested, please submit an abstract (up to 300 words) of your WIP, accompanied by a short biography
to lena.vosding@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk by Friday 30 April to be added to the PMC Teams channel and
receive updates on the programme as well as meeting invitations.
First meeting: week 2, Friday 7 May, 11am–noon, Teams.

Anglo-Norman Reading Group

The Anglo-Norman Reading Group will continue to meet on Zoom during Trinity Term on
Fridays of ODD weeks (30 April, 14, 28 May, and 11 June) from 5-6:30pm. We will be
reading the Anglo-Norman Fabliaux. Please contact Jane Bliss (jane.bliss@lmh.oxon.org) or
Stephanie Hathaway (stephanie.hathaway@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk).

Oxford University Numismatic Society
All talks will be held online over MS Teams at 5pm GMT. Links will be distributed beforehand by
means of the OUNS mailing list: to subscribe and receive meeting links and further updates,
please email the Secretary at daniel.etches@new.ox.ac.uk.

4th May (Week 2) at 5pm: Dr. John Talbot (University of Oxford): “Icenian and Durotrigan
Coinage – Using A Study of Coinage to Learn about Late Iron Age Society”
18th May (Week 4) at 5pm: Prof. Fleur Kemmers (Goethe-Universität Frankfurt): “Making Money
in Republican Rome: A Numismatic Perspective on Rome’s Expansion”.
1st June (Week 6) at 5pm: Dr. Maria Vrij (The Barber Institute of Fine Arts / University of
Birmingham): “‘How Do You Solve A Problem Like Mezezios?’ – Understanding and Unpicking the
Imagery of the Emperors Mezezios (668-669) and Constantine IV (668-685)”.
15th June (Week 8) at 5pm: Dr. Julien Olivier (Bibliothèque nationale de France): TBC.

Germanic Reading Group

This term we’re planning four meetings of the Germanic Reading Group, loosely connected by the theme
of alliterative verse. The sessions will take place on Mondays from 4:00 to 5:00 pm by Zoom, as follows:
Monday, 26 April (1st week). Old English, led by Rafael Pascual
Monday, 10 May (3rd week). Old High German, led by Howard Jones
Monday, 24 May (5th week). Old Norse, led by Eugenia Vorobeva
Monday, 7 June (7th week). Old Saxon, led by Nelson Goering
We’ll go through a short text, translating and discussing points of linguistic interest, under the guidance of
the leader of each session. To be added to the list, contact howard.Jones@sbs.ox.ac.uk

Digital Editions Live: Launching the Oxford History of the Book Projects 2021

Taylor Editions and the Centre for the Study of the Book present: Digital Editions Live – Launching the Oxford History of the Book Projects 2021  

The series presents projects which have been developed by Master students in the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages as part of their ‘Method Option’ Palaeography, History of the Book, Digital Humanities, https://historyofthebook.mml.ox.ac.uk/.  

Launches will feature new digital editions on https://editions.mml.ox.ac.uk/, the Taylor Editions website, and a live showing of manuscripts and books. The sessions take place every Wednesday during the Oxford Trinity Term, 28 April to 16 June 2021. Everybody is welcome to attend the sessions which will be held via Teams and recorded. Join the meeting here
After term, there will be a workshop in conjunction with Dark Archives to reflect on the methodology of editing, presenting – and teaching History of the Book on 25 June.  
For further information, contact Henrike Lähnemann <henrike.laehnemann@mod-langs.ox.ac.uk> 

1) 28 April 2021 Introduction and Animals in French Manuscripts 

  • Henrike Lähnemann, Emma Huber, Andrew Dunning: Introduction to Digital Editions Live 
  • Sebastian Dows-Miller: Re-awakening Merton’s Beasts (Merton College, MS. 249)  

2) 5 May 2021 Travelling Manuscript 

  • Eva Neufeind, Agnes Hilger, Mary Boyle, and Aysha Strachan: Arnold von Harff (MS. Bodley 972)  

3) 12 May 2021 Early Printed Holdings in Taylorian and Bodleian 

  • Agnes Hilger and Alyssa Steiner: Pfaffennarr (Taylor ARCH.8o.G.1521(27) & Tr.Luth. 16 (78)) 
  • Alexandra Hertlein & Dennis Pulina: Jacob Locher Panegyricus (Inc. e. G7.1497.2./Douce 73) 
  • Sam Griffiths and Christian Tofte: Marginalia in Plutarch’s Vidas Paralelas (1491) 

4) 19 May 2021 Indigenous Languages: Tupi and Welsh 

  • Mary Newman: The oldest Tupi manuscript (MS. Bodley 617) 
  • Lois Williams: Cân o Senn iw Hên Feistr TOBACCO (1718), NLW. North PRINT W.s. 156 

5) 26 May 2021 Illustrated Italian Manuscripts  

  • Katie Bastiman and Holly Abrahamson: Dante Ante-Purgatorio (MS. Canon.Ital. 108) 
  • Giuseppe Nanfitò: Boccaccio, Filocolo (MS. Canon. Ital. 85) 

6) 2 June 2021 Collective Editing and Linked Data 

  • Josephine Bewerunge, Molly Ford, Sam Heywood, Caroline Lehnert, Molly Lewis, Marlene Schilling: A collective edition of a German devotional miscellany (MS. Germ. e. 5)  
  • Danielle Apodaca: Le Roman de Flamenca DH project across editions and translations 

7) 9 June 2021 Illuminated French Manuscript 

  • Carrie Heusinkveld: Reconsidering the Metamorphoses by Clément Marot (MS. Douce 117) 
  • Javaria Abbasi: Pedro de Medina’s Libro de cosmographia (1538), (MS. Canon. Ital. 243) 

8) 16 June 2021 Special Book Launch: 500 Years Passional Christi und Antichristi  

  • Edmund Wareham presents the newest book in the Reformation Pamphlet series 

May 04th: Dante 1481: the Comedia, illustrated by Botticelli

Tue, 4 May 2021

2-4 pm BST / (9-11am EDT)


Book Tickets:  https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/e/dante-1481-the-comedia-illustrated-by-botticelli-tickets-148095921889


About the Event

The 1481 edition of Dante’s La Comedia contained engraved illustrations from designs by Sandro Botticelli. No more than 19 illustrations are printed directly onto the page in any of the surviving copies, and in many of the 156 copies known to exist around the world, the number of illustrations is far lower, some appearing misplaced or upside down or supplemented by later images. Each copy has developed its own unique history and provenance as the books have spread across Europe and beyond in the 540 years since they were first printed.


The event includes short talks on Botticelli’s illustrations (Professor Gervase Rosser, University of Oxford), on surviving copies (Professor Cristina Dondi, University of Oxford and Secretary of CERL) and on the context of the book’s production (Dr. Tabitha Tuckett, UCL).

Showing rare books online

2021 marks the 540th anniversary of the edition’s publication and the 700th anniversary of Dante’s death. To celebrate, we hope to display copies from Italy, the U.S.A. and the U.K. and to hear the books’ stories from their current keepers. This online event aims to give the audience visual access to copies that couldn’t otherwise be brought together physically at one time.

Participating libraries include:

Bodleian Libraries, Oxford, UK (co-organiser)

University College London, UK (co-organiser)

Biblioteca Nazionale Centrale di Firenze, Italy

The Morgan Library, New York, USA

The British Library, UK

John Rylands Library, University of Manchester, UK

Trinity College, Cambridge, UK

(More libraries will be added as they are confirmed.)

Hosts, sponsors and organisers

This event is hosted as part of two series:

Dante 1321-2021: A Man For All Season (Italian Cultural Institute of London)

Events of the Bibliographical Society of America

We are grateful to the Italian Cultural Institute of London and the Bibliographical Society of America for their support.

The event is organised by Dr Tabitha Tuckett, Rare-Books Librarian, University College London, Professor Cristina Dondi, Professor of Early European Book Heritage, University of Oxford and Secretary of the Consortium of European Research Libraries (CERL), and Dr Alexandra Franklin, Co-ordinator, Centre for the Study of the Book, Bodleian Libraries.

The event will be presented in English. Automated captions will be available . The event will be recorded.

Applying for Your Medieval PhD: A How-To Guide

By Caroline Batten Mary Boyle and Alexandra Vukovich

Looking to apply for a PhD in a medieval research area? We’ve got your back! This month, OMS held a workshop for students on Oxford’s MSt programme in Medieval Studies, and now we’re making those insights available more widely. We’ll give you our three top tips first, and then answer some Frequently Asked Questions underneath.

The advice below is specifically for applying to PhDs in the UK. You’ll find that American and European PhD programs are often very different from UK ones. Whereas in the UK your degree is research only, in American PhD programs you spend two years doing coursework before you begin your dissertation, and the whole process takes longer (5-7 years, as opposed to 3-4 years in the UK). Different countries in Europe offer different PhD structures: some are research-only, some are project-specific, others involve significant coursework and training. Be sure to research the different PhD programs available to you in different places, to help you decide what kind of program might be best for you.

  1. Be bold!

With your research proposal, you’re selling both yourself and your project, so you want both to be as eye-catching as possible. You need to tell your readers why your project is exciting; what gap in the discipline it’s filling; and why you’re the right person to do it. But being bold is also about approaching the people you think can help you – ask as many people as possible to read over and comment on your application, because that will make it much stronger. This point also stands for approaching potential supervisors.

  1.  Be definite!

One straightforward way to sell yourself and your project is to make it clear that you know what you’re doing – even if you don’t actually feel like you do. So make sure that you’re telling your reader exactly what you’re planning to study (define your corpus); how you’re going to structure your project; and what you’re hoping to find out, even including some potential conclusions.

  1.  Develop the topic in dialogue!

At an early stage, approach people whose research you find interesting and talk about your topic with them. Your choice of supervisor is probably the most important decision that you’re making at this point. Your supervisor, or supervisors, don’t necessarily need to work on exactly what you’re working on, but they do need to be a person or people with whom you can imagine having a long-term working relationship. They need to be someone with whom you can have an honest conversation, and from whom you can accept constructive criticism.

 If only early career offices looked like this. London, British Library, Add MS 11850.


  • Should I do a PhD/DPhil?

A doctorate is a hugely rewarding experience, giving you the time to fully devote yourself to research and learn how to be a scholar. It is, of course, a necessity for a career in academia, but can also prepare you for work in museums, libraries, archives, the rare books trade, publishing, a variety of cultural institutions, the foreign service, translation and interpreting, (and the list goes on!) as the skills you will gain are important for all kinds of work. But the unvarnished truth is that PhDs are intensive and demanding. You must be, or become, comfortable working independently, planning your own time and meeting the deadlines you set. You must spend many hours a week working on one singular project, requiring intense focus and commitment. For some people this sounds like heaven; for others it would make them miserable. You should do a PhD if you’re certain that you want to spend the next several years working very hard on one research project.

  • What if I’m sure I want to do a doctorate, but I don’t have a project?

A doctorate is 3+ years of intensive work, so you need to be sure you’re working on something you find compelling. If nothing has suggested itself to you yet, you could brainstorm about topics you’ve studied so far, and see if anything suggests itself. Ask yourself if any of your secondary reading has left you with unanswered questions. But it might also be that you need to finish your Master’s before the idea will suggest itself, and taking time out of academia might actually help focus your creativity.

Equally, you are not bound to your project once you begin, and you can make changes. If you feel you definitely want to do a doctorate and want to get started, talk with people who know your work, and they may be able to help you to work up a project. For some people, it is better to wait and apply when you are sure. For others, it is better to get the application in, and make your final decision later.

  • How do I identify the right institution?

The right institution for you will have several key features:

  • The institution will offer specific resources, support, and mentoring to its postgraduate students. Your chosen department will also have resources particular to its needs and yours (seminars, specific research clusters or groups, access to manuscripts, digital resources, strong libraries, etc).
  • The institution will have a strong and supportive community (large or small!) in your chosen field, so that you have colleagues with whom to collaborate, commiserate, and share ideas.
  • Most importantly, the right institution for you is the institution at which your chosen supervisor works. As noted above, your supervisor will make a huge contribution to your PhD experience. Any institution can be the right institution if you’re working with a person or people who offer you support, aid, encouragement, and thoughtful, critical feedback.
  • Which department/faculty should I approach?

This may be a question you are asking yourself if you’re doing an interdisciplinary Master’s. Ask yourself where you feel more at home: where does your methodology or topic fit best? Look at statistics for places and funding. Most importantly, talk to people who know your work, and especially your potential supervisor. Finally, remember that many institutions will allow you to have two supervisors in different disciplines. Being in one department/faculty doesn’t bind you to that department/faculty in the long-term and your research may well lead you to a different field later.

  • Do I need to approach supervisors before sending in an application?

Ideally, yes! It is not required for a PhD application that you have a supervisor in mind, and many applications are successful without a future supervisor listed. But your proposal will be stronger with feedback from a potential supervisor, and their support within the institution will be useful. It is always a good idea to talk to potential supervisors, to exchange ideas about your project and to learn about the different forms of support that their department/faculty might be able to offer. Another good reason to approach supervisors before applying is that, based on your proposal, they may be able to direct it to targeted funding (e.g., part of an ongoing project or a large grant) for your doctoral studies.

  • How do I approach potential supervisors?

Shoot them an email! It can feel hard at the moment to get in touch with someone you don’t know well, as you don’t just bump into people at seminars. But academics understand that you have to look around for potential supervisors at a variety of institutions, and they welcome enquiries from talented young researchers with interesting projects. They’ll be excited to hear from you! They may even be able to direct you to relevant projects with funded doctoral places attached. You may want to talk to your current course convenor and/or your tutors who may be able to guide you about whom to contact based on your interests.

  • When should I start work on my application?

Now! Get your initial thoughts down on paper, and you can start editing and discussing from there. An application is very much a work in progress, so jot down your ideas, along with any source material and bibliography that looks promising. It will be easier to put together a project once you have all of the component parts in place.

  • How long should my first draft be?

Aim for a few hundred words shorter than the word limit at this stage, to leave plenty of room for revisions.

  • How many drafts should I do?

As many as you need, but be realistic about when it’s time to stop! Remember: this is only a proposal and no one expects you to have all the answers. Your research questions and how you plan to explore them (source material, approaches, auxiliary tools) are much more important than speculative conclusions, at such an early stage.

  • Where can I find out about funding?

You should join subject-specific mailing lists (such as those you’ll find on Jiscmail or H-Net). There is also a PhD-specific section on jobs.ac.uk. Have a chat with your potential supervisor or with current doctoral students, who might be able to tell you about lesser-known scholarships or funded places on existing projects, like this project, which funded fifteen doctoral places over three years (all students have now started). Use this tool to find funding opportunities at Oxford specifically.

An Excerpt from Anne Louise Avery’s Reynard the Fox

Looking for an exciting new retelling of the stories of the dashing and anarchic medieval folk hero Reynard the Fox? Look no further. OMS is honored to share with you the opening chapters of Anne Louise Avery’s new rendition of Caxton’s 1481 English translation of these Middle Dutch tales, now available from The Bodleian Library press.

Click here to download the pdf

Modern Politics, Medieval Monuments in Turkey

By Alexandra Vukovich

Over the course of its 1500-year history, the late Roman building known as the Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) has served as the setting for many ceremonies, religious, political, and more often than not, a combination of the two. On July 24, 2020 Hagia Sophia served as a political theatre for a symbolic re-conquest of the building via its reversion to a functioning mosque. For those who saw this ceremony as a form of erasure of the Byzantine past, it was quite the opposite. The polyvalence of the Roman building, synthesizing a Roman basilica, Byzantine church, Latin cathedral, Ottoman mosque, and museum, is evident in the fact that it has served as a template for religious architecture that the Ottomans and, more recently, Turkey have exported internationally. Furthermore, Hagia Sophia’s Byzantine past was key in the (re)-staging of the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by the Ottomans, which combined the narrative of the city’s capture with the Turkish government’s current political project.

There have been many excellent articles written on the politics of the reversion, including this useful series in the Berkeley Forum, and the post-reversion months saw a number of international discussions of the issue. I have written elsewhere against essentializing Hagia Sophia’s reversion to a mosque, which can be viewed in terms of global conservative tendencies, but must also be viewed in terms of Turkey’s national and regional politics. After all, the foundation of the Ayasofya müzesi/Hagia Sophia Museum in 1934 has been re-framed, by the Turkish government, as an act of self-colonization, a nod to secular western sensibilities of that time. That the reversion of Hagia Sophia was designed to boost Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdoğan’s programme of de-secularization, a stridently anti-secularist and anti-Kemalist political programme, should now be clear. However, following a series of interlinked crises,  the fanfare around the recent reversion of several Byzantine monuments has failed to resuscitate the regime’s initial popularity, and has further contributed to the growing political and economic power of the country’s religious authority, the Diyanet.

Although the reversion of Hagia Sophia to a mosque drew the world’s attention this past June, it is neither the first nor most recent Byzantine-era building to have been reverted by the Turkish government. Already in 2011, the decision was taken to revert the Iznik Hagia Sophia—the site of the 787 CE Church council, convened to address the first Iconoclast Controversy—to a mosque. This move was followed by the reversion of the Trabzon Hagia Sophia in 2013. Following the opening of the Hagia Sophia Mosque in June, there was speculation as to whether the decision taken to revert the Chora Museum would be acted on. It came as a surprise when it was decided that the building, which had recently undergone a full restoration of its late Byzantine mosaics, would again become a functioning mosque. The impetus for expressions of concern about what might happen to the middle and late Byzantine mosaics and frescoes housed in these buildings, revolved around whether and how these would be covered during prayer times and beyond. For example, for the July 24 prayer, the apse mosaic depicting the Mother of God with the Christ child was loosely covered with white cloths held in place with ropes and pulleys, which still remain in place. Various solutions have been trialled for the Trabzon Hagia Sophia, including an opaque screen and a large light fixture that brightens or obscures the Byzantine frescoes located in the main prayer space. As for the Chora, it appears that a system of automatic, retractable screens has been installed to cover the mosaics.

The main controversy surrounding the mosaics was centred around the orientalist trope of ‘Islamic iconoclasm’—in reality, aniconism, with moments of iconoclasm mirroring those that shook the Byzantine Empire in the 8th and 9th centuries. However, the line of argument positing these reversions as a ‘return to’ a previous, aniconic state, elides the long and varied history of these monuments as Ottoman mosques. Over the course of the 600-year history of the Ottoman Empire, during which the abovementioned buildings functioned as mosques, their Byzantine iconographic programmes remained on (at least) partial display. After the Chora was converted to a mosque in the early 16th century, many of its mosaics remained visible for at least a century following the conversion. Some mosaics, including the cycle of the Holy Virgin, remained visible throughout the Ottoman period. This is why the building was informally known as the ‘Mosaic Mosque’. Historians, including Cyril Mango, Nevra Necipoğlu, Çiğdem Kafescioğlu, have pointed to the fact that travel accounts (those of Guillaume-Joseph Grelot in the 17th century and Cornelius Loos in the early 18th century) from the Ottoman period describe, quite accurately, Byzantine mosaics and frescoes in Hagia Sophia. Therefore, some figural art, including the (now-covered) apse mosaic of the Mother of God, was on display for much of the Ottoman period and only covered later in the 18th or early 19th century. Following the 1847 restoration of Hagia Sophia—during which many mosaics were uncovered then re-covered—the official re-opening ceremony, held on July 13, 1849 in the presence of Sultan Abdülmecid, was accompanied by the publication of two books: by Gaspare Fossati (1852) and Wilhelm Salzenberg (1854). Both books depicted the building in its Ottoman context with the re-covered mosaics displayed. Following the foundation of the Hagia Sophia Museum in 1934, the plaster from the 1847 restoration was removed, and the restoration work undertaken (between 1934 and 1953) revealed that the mosaics were still intact.

Recent events call attention to the reality that now, as in 1847, heritage management is a top-down matter. For now, the partial or full obscuring of figural art in these buildings aside, their integrity has not been seriously compromised, unlike the total destruction of sites like that of Sur in Diyarbakir or the flooding of Hasankeyf, actions which dispossessed and displaced numerous people. I have argued elsewhere that heritage management is best undertaken democratically. Employing a top-down institutional rationale to heritage only reinforces the gap, in terms of time, expert knowledge, and value, that exists between the administrators (whether the local ministry of culture and tourism or UNESCO) of cultural heritage and the wider population. Furthermore, the criteria for conservation often privilege a valuation based on the metrics of age, state of conservation, and monumentality to ascribe meaning to designate cultural heritage sites. Oftentimes, this sort of valuation overlooks the varying sites of memory, unofficial and overlapping, that make a site valuable to a given community. At times, this layering, later stripped away by modern archaeology, is what conserved ancient structures; for example, the Arch of Marcus Aurelius in Tripoli or  Old Palmyra. The stripping away of layers often occurs because monuments are political instruments, a sort of museum-ified regalia of the state (and nation), functioning as proof of its legitimacy. However, layered monuments like Hagia Sophia resist linear narratives. When viewed diachronically, such monuments can be a powerful didactic tool for a complex social and political history, one that can easily counterbalance the tunnel vision of modern cultural politics.