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

Pseudo-Seneca: Octavia (transl. 1561)

Where: Wolfson College Buttery
When: Friday, April 26 2024 at 1.15.

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 by Thomas Nuce with a group of players from Iffley and the University of Oxford.

  • Octavia, daughter of Claudius, wife of Nero – Imogen Lewis
  • Agrippina, wife and killer of Claudius, now dead – Laurence Nagy
  • Nero, son of Agrippina, now Emperor, killed his mother – Abigail Pole
  • Poppaea, mistress of Nero – Priya Toberman
  • Octavia’s nurse – Laura Laubeova
  • Seneca – Alex Marshall
  • Prefect – Andrew Stilborn
  • Messenger– Ivana Kuric
  • Chorus of Roman citizens – members of the company
  • Violin – Jessica Qiao
  • Director – David Wiles

Production sponsored by the Ancient World Research Cluster, Wolfson College Oxford.

Performance filmed by Henrike Lähnemann at Iffley Church Hall on April 21st.

The tragedy of Octavia is a unique example of the Roman history play, and survives because it was bound up with the tragedies of Seneca. The chorus, unlike those of Seneca, is engaged in the action as it rises up in rebellion against Nero. We are performing the play in the student translation of c.1561. Elizabeth had recently come to the throne, and in a polarised world the performance of religious plays seemed increasingly problematic. It was logical to turn to the classics, but the question arose, how to render Seneca in an equivalent English. It was not a matter of searching out what the words meant, but rather of forging a language with an equivalent rhetorical force, which in the Erasmus age meant a more copious language. The translator, Thomas Nuce, had an ear for performance, and did not attempt to find any pedantic metrical equivalence for the Latin. We have stripped the text down to a half-hour version, and have relished playing with the rhythms, rhymes and alliteration. Parsing the Latinate grammar was often a challenge.    

The story was scarcely a safe choice in 1561. It tells how Nero cast off his first wife, Octavia, whom he had married for domestic reasons, and contracted a love match. Henry VIII had likewise terminated a dynastic marriage, to the great displeasure of his people, and the fruit of that love match had just come to the throne.     

We are a mixed cast of students and community players, and on four occasions have worked on mediaeval plays for the festival at St Edmund Hall. The present production was put together for the annual conference of the Classical Association in Warwick on 24 March. If you are interested in participating in a production at St Edmund Hall in 2025, please contact David Wiles

2024 Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference in Review

The 2024 Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference, hosted by the Maison Française d’Oxford, took place this past Monday and Tuesday, the 8th and 9th of April.

Since 2005, the OMGC has been an annual forum for graduate scholars from Oxford and beyond to share their research. The two-day conference brought together rising medievalists from Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Canada, France, Switzerland, and the UK and featured panels on divine affectivity, scribes and songs, visual signs, objects and collections, palaeography, and codicology.

Professor Henrike Lähnemann (Oxford) heralded the start of the conference on Monday morning with fanfare from the Oxford Medieval Studies trumpet – an appropriate opening to the conference, which was themed around ‘signs and scripts.’ United by the semiotic theme, participants found unexpected connections between a diverse set of presentations.

Professor Henrike Lähnemann playing her OMS trumpet in the Maison Française d’Oxford auditorium.

Professor Sophie Page (UCL) delivered her keynote presentation “Magic Signs and Censored Scripts in Medieval Europe,” closing the first day of papers. Her keynote delved into the syncretic texts of medieval magic, the efficacy of which required proper ritual performance – careful attention to the details of diagrams, auspicious star and cosmological signs, and specific material components.

Magic circle from the De secretis spirituum planetis in which the practitioner stands to summon planetary angels. Collection of alchemical, technical, medical, magic, and divinatory tracts (Miscellanae Alchemica XII), late 15th century. Wellcome Collection, MS 517, f. 234v.

Professor Page’s keynote dovetailed with Ellen Hausner’s (Oxford) paper on the alchemical images and text of the Ripley Scroll, which communicate a sense of time and space as core alchemical concepts trickle down from divine creation to the corporeal world. Signs and symbols are concentrations of meaning. Even small signifiers (although the scroll is over 2.6 meters long!) can signify immense, cosmological ideas.

As exemplified by Marlene Schilling’s (Oxford) paper on devotion to personified liturgical days in the prayer books of northern German convents, signs and scripts also have the power to lend physicality, visuality, and agency to concepts. Signs and scripts are means of power and community creation and consolidation. Or as Wilhelm Lungar (Stockholm) put it in his paper ‘Communicating Identity on Scandinavian Monastic Seals in the Middle Ages,’ objects like seals, as both historically situated artefacts and texts, mediate representation, identity, and authority.

From left to right: presentations by Elena Lichmanova (Oxford), Wilhelm Lungar (Stockholm), and Corinne Clark (Geneva).

The challenge of interpretation and an embrace of plural perspectives was a through-line for the conference, sparking rich, generative conversation. In her paper, ‘Mirror Writing and the Art of Self Reflection,’ Elena Lichmanova (Oxford) asked why and how offensive phrases like tu es asin[us] (‘you are an ass’) could be included in the thirteenth-century Rutland Psalter and surveyed the ways artists created nuances of meaning by manipulating the direction of script. Corinne Clark’s (Geneva) presentation on the life of St. Margaret considered the symbolism and mixed hagiographic reception of the saint’s battle with a dragon in which she is consumed by the demonic beast, erupting from its abdomen. Both topics inspired collaborative thinking among participants and emphasized the importance of analytical parallax to deepen our understanding of images and texts controversial and cryptic even to contemporaries.

As Megan Gorsalitz (Queen’s University, Kingston) made clear in her presentation on Old English riddles, mindless consumption steals meaning and risks careless, uncritical perpetuation. Signs and scripts require careful reflection of the manifold voices and identities they represent as well as those they conceal.

Detail of illuminated moth in decorated border. Book of Hours of King Charles VIII, 15th century. Utopia, armarium codicum bibliophilorum, Cod. 111, f. 96r.

A moth ate words. It seemed to me / a strange occasion, when I inquired about that wonder, / that the worm swallowed the riddle of certain men, / a thief in the darkness, the glorious pronouncement / and its strong foundation. The stealing guest was not / one whit the wiser, for all those words he swallowed.

Exeter Book Riddle 47

Charlotte Wood (Oxford), Marc Lawson (Trinity College Dublin), and Ilari Aalto (Turku) all grappled with the difficulties of studying oft-overlooked material culture. For Wood, whose paper focused on comb placement in Anglo-Saxon cremations, the significance of deliberately broken comb-ends in Anglo-Saxon burial urns remains elusive but exciting for their potential to tell us more about funerary practices. In his paper on brickmakers’ marks in late medieval Finland, Aalto suggested explanations for marks found in churches, which may simultaneously represent saints as an allusion to brickmakers’ names and act as a remembrance of the artisan embedded in the church. Drawing upon visual culture, written references, and extant examples of early Irish book satchels, Lawson demonstrated the prevalence of book satchels and suggested a more complex understanding of manuscript binding and use in early medieval Ireland.

The conference also featured a comprehensive selection of case studies exploring signs of manuscript creation, composition, authorship, revision, genre, and punctuation. Peter Fraundorfer’s (Trinity College Dublin) paper on a sammelband produced for Reichenau Abbey considered what the text’s language and contents can tell us about its author and intended readership, while Sebastian Dows-Miller (Oxford) took a statistical approach to the relationship between composition and authorship, identifying changes in scribal hand through changes in abbreviation frequency. In her presentation on Carthusian marginalia in The Book of Margery Kempe, Lucy Dallas (East Anglia) discussed the reception and reworking of the text for the monks and Elliot Vale’s paper on CCCC MS 201 problematized modern translations of vernacular works in which poetry and prose blend in structural and punctuation.

Margaret of Antioch emerging from the defeated dragon with the sign of the cross. Book of Hours, 15th century. Oxford, Bodleian Library MS. Rawl. liturg. e. 12, fol. 149v.

Papers by Jemima Bennett (Kent and Bodleian Libraries), Rhiannon Warren (Cambridge), Max Hello (Paris 1 – HiCSA), and Thomas Phillips (Bristol) all focused on the collection, manipulation, recycle, reconstruction, and aesthetics of manuscripts. Bennett’s work on fifteenth-century Oxford bookbinding continued the theme of plural interpretations as she discussed patterns and possible reasoning behind the recycle of manuscript fragments by collectors. Similarly, Phillips focused on recovering lost script from fragments of the Anglo-Saxon Office of St. Alban. Warren and Hello also touched on signs of manuscript manipulation, reuse, and changing aesthetic preferences in their respective presentations on Árni Magnússon’s Icelandic manuscript collection and ornamentation in Merovingian book writing. Complementing the presentations on material culture, the palaeography and codicology sessions reinforced the materiality of manuscripts and fluidity of text.

From left to right: presentations by Max Hello (Paris 1 – HiCSA), Jemima Bennett (Kent and Bodleian Libraries), and Sebastian Dows-Miller (Oxford).

Presentations aside, the congenial atmosphere and enthusiasm of the participants made for constructive knowledge exchange and an enjoyable two days of conversation. From the 2024 OMGC committee, thank you to all who attended. The committee is also excited to announce that the theme for the 2025 Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference will be Magic, Rituals, and Ceremonies! Until then, keep an eye on the OMGC blog for posts by this year’s presenters.

The 2024 OMGC committee (Katherine Beard, Ashley Castelino, Emma-Catherine Wilson, Kate McKee, Ryan Mealiffe, Mary O’Connor, and Eugenia Vorobeva) thank our sponsors for making this year’s conference possible.

The 2024 Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference was presented in association with the Maison Française d’ Oxford, the Oxford Festival of the Arts, the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature (Medium Ævum), the Oxford Faculty of Music, the Oxford Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, Oxford Medieval Studies (OMS), and The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).

Header Image: The White Hart, pub sign (colorized), ca. 1750. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, W.69:2-1938. Photoshopped onto background of Merton Street, Oxford.

Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference 2024: Signs and Scripts

The Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference is back on April 8-9, 2024 with the theme of ‘Signs and Scripts’!


9:30-10:00 Registration (in-person)

10:00-11:30 Session 1: Divine Affectivity

  • Marlene Schilling, ‘Connected through Script – Personifications of time as a distinct form of devotion across Northern German Convents’
  • Lucy Dallas, ‘Together in Love: Carthusian Marginalia in the Book of Margery Kempe’
  • Wilhelm Lungar, ‘Communicating Identity on Scandinavian Monastic Seals in the Middle Ages’

11:30-12:00 Break with refreshments

12:00-13:30 Session 2: Scribes & Song

  • Peter Fraundorfer, ‘Did somebody write a Latin-Greek Sammelband for the monastic school of Reichenau Abbey?’
  • Thomas Phillips, ‘1000 Years Later: Reconstructing Fragments of the Anglo-Saxon Office of St. Alban’
  • Ellen Hausner, ‘A Threefold Bursting Sun: the symbolic vocabulary of the Ripley Scroll’

13:30-14:30 Lunch

14:30-16:00 Session 3: Visual Signs

  • Elena Lichmanova, ‘Mirror Writing and the Art of Self-Reflection’
  • Furqon Muhammad Faiz, Tori Nuariza Sutanto, ‘Early Islamic Seals on Sumatra’s West Coast: Inscriptions and Cultural Significance’
  • Ilari Aalto, ‘Tracing Brickmakers’ Marks in Late Medieval Finland’

16:00-16:30 Break with refreshments

16:30-17:30 Keynote Address 1: Professor Sophie Page

17:30 Drinks Reception

18:30/19:00 Conference Dinner (optional)


10:00-11:30 Session 4: Objects & Collections

  • Megan Gorlitz, ‘Old English Riddles and Anglo-Saxon Reading Practices’
  • Marc Lawson, ‘Wielding the Word: The Symbolism of Book Satchels in Early Irish Christianity’
  • Charlotte Wood, ‘Signals of Death: Comb placement in cremations’

11:30-12:00 Break with refreshments

12:00-13:30 Session 5: Palaeography

  • Sebastian Dows-Miller, ‘Signs in (Manu)scripts: Towards a New Study of Scribal Abbreviation’
  • Max Hello, ‘Ornamenting and Writing: An aesthetic approach to Merovingian book writing (7th-8th centuries)’
  • Corinne Clark, ‘A Wild Dragon Appears: Difficult Significations in the Life of St. Margaret’

13:30-14:30 Lunch

14:30-16:00 Session 6: Codicology

  • Elliot Vale, ‘Missing the Point: Punctuating Prose/Poetry in CCCC 201’
  • Jemima Bennet, ‘Fragments in Fifteenth-Century Oxford Bookbinding’
  • Rhiannon Warren, ”Þad er nu eydilagt’? AM 241 b I fol as a Case Study of Árni Magnússon’s Collection and Manipulation of Icelandic Latin Liturgical Manuscripts

16:00-16:30 Break with refreshments

16:30-17:30 Keynote Address 2: Dr Hannah Ryley

17:30 OMGC 2025 Theme Selection + Closing Remarks

Call for Papers

We are delighted to announce this call for papers and invite proposals relating to all aspects of the broad topic ‘signs and scripts’ in the medieval world. Submissions are welcome from all disciplinary perspectives, whether historical, literary, archaeological, linguistic, interdisciplinary, or anything else. There are no limitations on geographical focus or time period, so long as the topic pertains to the medieval period.

Areas of interest may include but are not limited to:

  • Semiotics and semantics
  • Ways of (mis)reading
  • Palaeography and codicology
  • Spiritual / cosmological signs
  • Codes and conduct
  • Behavioural script
  • Dramatic script; theatre
  • Monuments; inscriptions
  • Heraldry; signboards
  • Graffiti and marginalia
  • Scripts of the body; tattoos
  • Textiles

We ask that all presenters attend in person with hybrid participation available for attendees who cannot travel to the event.

Submission Guidelines

Papers should be a maximum of 20 minutes. A limited number of bursaries are available to help with travel costs, and we welcome applications from graduate students at any university.

Please send abstracts of 250 words to by 17th December, 2023.

Gender and Sainthood, c. 1100–1500

5-6 April 2024, University of Oxford, History Faculty
Register for the conference here

Organisers: Antonia Anstatt (University of Oxford, email) and Edmund van der Molen (University of Nottingham, email)

This conference is generously supported by the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages
and Literature, the Hagiography Society, the Past & Present Society, and the History Faculty,
University of Oxford. In association with Oxford Medieval Studies, it is sponsored by The
Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).


Isabel Kimpel (Ludwig-Maximilian-University Munich): Famula Christi et Mulier fortis: The Writings
of Caesarius of Heisterbach on Saint Elisabeth of Thuringia
Georgie Crespi (University of Reading): ‘We’re All Born Naked, and the Rest is Drag’: The Concept
of Drag in ‘Christina of Markyate’ and ‘Revelations of Divine Love’
María del Carmen Muñoz Rodríguez (University of Seville): In ure lauerdes luue: The Spaces of
Female Sanctity in the Middle English ‘Seinte Iuliene’
Rosalind Phillips-Solomon (University of York): ‘Miraculous Aged Virgin’ or Quintessential Virgin
Martyr? Late Medieval Imaginings of Saint Apollonia
Sarah Wilkins (Pratt Institute, New York): A Preaching Woman: Mary Magdalen in Late Medieval
Italian Art
Elisabet Trulla Serra (Trinity College Dublin): Gender Configuration in Byzantine Art Through Saint
Mary of Egypt
Jessica Troy (Independent Scholar): Unequal Treatment: The Power Struggle of Medieval Chaste
Laura Moncion (University of Toronto): ‘Be My Spouse’: Spiritual Partnership in the Life of Pirona
the Recluse
Michaela Granger (Catholic University of America, Washington DC): ‘And It Was Accounted to Him
(or Her?) as Righteousness …’: The Value of Childrearing in the Construction of Late Medieval
Dannelle Gutarra (University of Warwick): Medieval Sainthood and Scientific Racism: Race, Gender,
and Sexuality in ‘History of the Female Sex’ by Christoph Meiners
Maria Zygogianni (Swansea University): Saint Athanasia of Aigaleo: An Entrepreneur Saint
Myrna Nader (American University of Beirut): The Cult of Marina the Monk: Faith, Discourse and
Sexuality in Contemporary Lebanon


Medievalists Coffee Mornings!

When: Fridays, 10.30-11.30 am

Where: Visiting Scholars Centre in the Weston Library
How to get there: via the Readers Entrance on Parks Road, 2nd floor via the staircase/elevator just straight ahead from the readers entrance (stick to the concrete part, do not use the ornamental staircase or you will land in the Conservation Department which is also nice but where no coffee is allowed)

All medievalists working in Oxford are welcome! Join us for coffee, conversations, and many insights into the Bodleian collections, cf. the playlist ‘Weston Library Coffee Mornings’:


By Mathilde Mioche

The Oxford Medieval Manuscripts Group (OMMG) is a collective of eight postgraduate students and early-career researchers who bonded in Oxford over their passion for medieval manuscripts. We host a seminar series through which we hope to gather a community of emerging scholars, from the University of Oxford and beyond, around the study of medieval books and the art of illumination.

Starting in Hilary Term 2024, OMMG seminars will take place twice monthly on Friday afternoons. We will discuss the most exciting recent research; share our own projects and ideas in a supportive environment; learn from lectures and tutorials given by experienced colleagues; and examine medieval manuscripts together during library visits.

By promoting exchange between scholars with diverse specialisms and different levels of experience, OMMG aims to turn the study of medieval books and illuminations into a more collaborative pursuit. We know that working with manuscripts is often a solitary business, where knowledge is acquired over silent and cautious one-on-one meetings with a delicate object. We want to share the wonder we experience before the material, visual and textual complexity of illuminated codices, as well as the interrogations or frustrations we have as we encounter obstacles in our research. The OMMG seminar series will provide manuscript enthusiasts with a stimulating platform for learning practical and analytical skills from peers as well as experts. We would love you to join us!

To subscribe to our mailing list, participate in library visits, propose a presentation of your research for work-in-progress meetings, or submit any queries, please write to:

You can find our schedule here:

About Us

Irina Boeru is a third-year DPhil student with a background in Medieval and Modern Languages and Medieval Studies. Her research analyses travel narratives in French and Latin illuminated manuscripts, specifically chronicles of the fifteenth-century conquest of the Canary Islands.

Fergus Bovill graduated with a BA in History of Art from the University of York. He is currently pursuing an MSt in Medieval Studies, with a dissertation on the assemblage of medieval manuscript cuttings into albums by nineteenth-century bibliophiles and connoisseurs.

Charly Driscoll completed an MSc in Book History and Material Culture at the University of Edinburgh and is now studying for a DPhil in Medieval English. Her project investigates how the material features of medieval manuscripts reveal their individual histories.

Elena Lichmanova is a third-year DPhil student with a background in History of Art and Medieval Studies. Her research examines the origins and early history of marginalia in medieval manuscripts, focusing on illuminated English Psalters of the thirteenth century.

Mathilde Mioche completed an MSt in History of Art and Visual Culture with a dissertation on illuminated Insular Gospels. She is currently preparing a doctoral project on the formal and medial mutations of the Dance of Death since its emergence in the fifteenth century.

Ana de Oliveira Dias is a historian of early medieval visual and intellectual culture with a specialisation in manuscript studies. She received a PhD in Medieval History from Durham University in 2019 and is now a Postdoctoral Research Associate in the project Crafting Documents, c. 500—c. 800 CE at the University of Oxford.

Celeste Pan is a third-year DPhil student with a background in English and Medieval Studies. Her research considers the production of illuminated Hebrew manuscripts in medieval northern Europe, specifically a group of liturgical Bibles from the Rheno-Mosan region.

Klara Zhao is a first-year MPhil student in Egyptology preparing a dissertation inspired by Umberto Eco’s Infinity of Lists. She developed a special interest in medieval French poetry during her BA in French and Linguistics, which she continues to nurture.

Image: Saint Augustine teaching. Paris, Bibl. Mazarine, MS 616, fol. 1r.

Interfaith Harmony: Singing from Manuscripts

10 February 2024, 11:15-12:00, organised by the Oxford Interfaith Forum  as part of the One World Family Festival at the Ashmolean Museum.

Venue: Cast Gallery, Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont St, Oxford. OX1 2PH.

Shofar player opening Psalm 80, with the caption ‘Sing a new song unto the Lord’ in a Psalter manuscript from the German convent of Medingen, ca. 1500, Bodleian Library, MS. Don. e. 248, fol. 145v

This event will begin with music from medieval manuscripts in the Bodleian Library. The performance will also feature songs in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German, and English for all to join, and will be interspersed with the sound of shofar and shell horn.

Music list: Shofar: Call to celebrating unity; ‘Cantate domino’ (Bodleian, MS. Don. e. 248, 247v); ‘Cantate domino’ (Giuseppe Pitoni); ‘Lumen ad revelacionem’ (MS. Lat. liturg. e. 18, 8r); Shell horn: Call to preserving nature; ‘Every part of this earth shall holy be for us’ (round by Stephan Vesper); Sea weed horn: Call to peace; ‘Hinema tov’ (round, orally transmitted); Horn: ‘Üsküdar’a gider iken’; ‘Victime paschali’ & ‘Christ ist erstanden’ (Bodleian, MS. Lat. liturg. f. 4); ‘Dona nobis pacem’ (round, orally transmitted).

This follows on from previous events organised by Henrike Lähnemann and Andrew Dunning ‘Singing from Manuscripts’. Click here to learn more about singing from Medieval Sources in the Bodleian Library.


Oxford University Byzantine Society: International Graduate Conference

In association with Oxford Medieval Studies, sponsored by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) 

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.

The programme and abstracts of papers can be found on the dedicated conference website and below. The costs for attendance are as follows:
In person attendance: £15 for OUBS members / £20 for non-members
Online attendance: £5 for students / £6 for non students

Papers will be delivered in-person, with the proceedings broadcast on a Zoom link which will circulate via email to those purchasing online attendance tickets via Eventbrite (see link below). Advance registration for in person attendance is not necessary. If you plan on attending online, please purchase a ticket at our Eventbrite link.

We are grateful for the generous support of The Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research (OCBR), The Oxford Centre for Late Antiquity (OCLA), Oxford Medieval Studies, in association with The Oxford Research Centre for Humanities (TORCH), and The Faculty of History of the University of Oxford, as well as the many others who have helped with the conference’s facilitation.

We look forward to welcoming you to Oxford. Best wishes, the Conference Organisers:
OUBS President Alexander Sherborne
OUBS Secretary Ilia Curto Pelle
OUBS Treasurer Benjamin Sharkey

The OUBS Committee is grateful for the generous support of:

  • The Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research (OCBR)
  • The Oxford Centre for Late Antiquity (OCLA)
  • Oxford Medieval Studies, in association with The Oxford Research Centre for Humanities (TORCH)
  • The Faculty of History of the University of Oxford

The OUBS Committee would also like to express its gratitude to Shaun Cason, Eleanore Debs, Gavriella Makri, Bryce O’Connor, Rosalie Van Dael, Sophia Miller, Alexander Johnston, Nathan Websdale and Duncan Antich for their assistance with the conference’s facilitation.

Conference Programme

Venue: Faculty of History, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2RL

Saturday (February 24th, 2024)

11.00 a.m. – Opening Remarks (Lecture Theatre)

11.30-13.00 p.m. – Session 1: Panel 1a (Lecture Theatre); and Panel 1b (Rees Davies Room)

13.00-14.00 p.m. – Lunch Break (Common Room)

14.00-15.30 p.m. – Session 2: Panel 2a (Lecture Theatre); and Panel 2b (Rees Davies Room)

15.30-16.00 p.m. – Coffee and Tea Break (Common Room)

16.00-17.30 p.m. – Session 3: Panel 3a (Lecture Theatre) and Panel 3b (Rees Davies Room)

17.30-19.00 p.m. – Wine Reception (Common Room)

19.30 p.m. – Conference Dinner

Sunday (February 25th, 2024)

11.30-13.00 p.m. – Session 4: Panel 4a (Lecture Theatre); and Panel 4b (Rees Davies Room)

13.00-14.00 p.m. – Lunch Break (Common Room)

14.00-15.30 p.m. – Session 5: Panel 5a (Lecture Theatre); and Panel 5b (Rees Davies Room)

15.30-16.00 p.m. – Closing Remarks (Lecture Theatre)

16.00-18.00 p.m. – Parting Tea Reception (Common Room)

Schedule of Papers

Session 1: Saturday, 11.30–13.00

Panel 1a: ‘The Literary’
(Chair: Findlay Willis)
Panel 1b: ‘The Political’
(Chair: Alexander Johnston)
Duncan Antich
(Blackfriars College, Oxford) 
Compassion and Community: The Regula Pastoralis and Gregory’s Approach to Schism
Alejandro Laguna López
(Central European University)  
An Anti-Novelistic Novel: Subverting Love in Niketas Eugenianos’ Drosilla and Charicles
Averkios (Dimitris) Agoris
(University of Athens)
Multigeneric examples in Michael Choniates’s Educational Activity
Euan Croman
(Queen’s University Belfast)
Transgressing the domus imperii in the fourth and fifth centuries: Treason or Family Trouble?
Daniel Murphy
(Independent Scholar)
Usurpation Narratives as Political Commentary in Fourth-Century Historiography
Merve Savas
(Ohio State University)
Twisting the Narrative: Textual Transgression in Ammianus Marcellinus’ Res Gestae 14

Session 2: Saturday, 14.00–15.30

Panel 2a: ‘The Sexual’
(Chair: Alexander Sherborne)
Panel 2b: ‘The Conciliar’
(Chair: Bryce O’Connor)
Maria Christian
(Independent Scholar) 
“Look at that wood!” An Investigation into a Bizarre Sexual Practice Ascribed to the “Chaldeans” Involving Iconography in an Early Islamic Sex Manual
Vid Žepič
(University of Ljubljana) 
Legal Perspectives on Sexual Transgressions in Early-Byzantine Legal Sources
Pierrick Gerval
(University of Nantes)
Sexual violences during wartime, a transgression of Church prohibitions regarding sexuality in Byzantium (7th -13th century)
Kathleen McCulloch
(University of Cambridge)
Did Dioscorus transgress, or adhere to, established conciliar procedure at Ephesus II (449)?
Alexander Johnston
(Kellogg College, Oxford)
The Edge of Divinity: The Role of Wisdom in the Logos Prosphonetikos of the Quinisext Council
Rachel Edney
(University of Notre Dame)
The Eucharist in John Rufus’ Plerophories: Eucharistic Theology and Christological Controversy

Session 3: Saturday, 16.00–17.30

Panel 3a: ‘On the Edges of Byzantium’
(Chair: Benjamin Sharkey)
Panel 3b: ‘In the Land of Egypt’
(Chair: Sophia Miller)
Shaun Cason
(Worcester College, Oxford)
The End of Transgressions? Examining the Seventh-Century Treaty Between Islamic Egypt and Medieval Nubia
Dmitriy Kravets
(St. Hugh’s College, Oxford)
Orthodoxy and/or Empire? A Reassessment of the Career of Gregory Tsamblak (fl. 1402- 1415)
Helena Davies
(Linacre College, Oxford)
Sitt al-Mulk: A Damsel in Distress? Challenging Art-Historical Efforts to Rescue and Vindicate an Early Islamic Princess
Apolline Gay
(Université libre de Bruxelles) 
Looking for Eve: Figures of Female Transgression on Textiles from Byzantine Egypt
Michael Dunchok
(Kellogg College, Oxford)
A Higher Rank of Gods: In Defense of the Greek Magical Papyri
Chloé Agar
(Harris Manchester College, Oxford) 
‘He thrust his spear into the middle of him, and his bowels came out’: Literary violence against religious and legal transgressions in Early Christian Egypt

Session 4: Sunday, 11.30–13.00

Panel 4a: ‘The Archaeological and the Art-Architectural
(Chair: Gavriella Makri)
Panel 4b: ‘The Imperial and the Ecclesiastic
(Chair: Nathan Websdale)
Eleanore Debs
(Pembroke College, Oxford)
Examining the Peculiar Presence of Reliquaries Within Late Antique Baptisteries of the Limestone Massif
Sophia Miller
(Balliol College, Oxford)
Trees ‘Pleasant to the Sight’: Tree-Meaning in Late Antique Floor Mosaics in the Northern Provinces
Karolina Tomczyszyn
(Lincoln College, Oxford)
Transgressive Use of Holy Oils: In Search of Popular Religion in Syriac Christianity
Ziyao Zhu
(King’s College London)
Neither Just nor Unjust: Alexios I Komnenos and the Linguistic Politics of Byzantine Extrajudicial Confiscation.
Dilara Burcu Giritlioğlu
(Middle East Technical University)
Sinners and Saints of Constantinople: Union of Souls and Separation of Church and State
Findlay Willis
(St. Stephen’s House, Oxford)
Natural illness or divine punishment: the use of disability rhetoric to excuse or vilify the transgressions of Michael IV

Session 5: Sunday, 14.00–15.30

Panel 5a: ‘Defining Aspects of Deviance’
(Chair: Dimitri Kravets)
Panel 5b: ‘Transgressing Intellectual Borders
(Chair: Ilia Curto Pelle)
Ekaterina Rybakova
(Pirogov Russian National Researcher Medical University)
Illnesses of Spirit or Being: The Transgression of Pneuma in Byzantine Medicine
Thibaut Auplat
(Aix-Marseille University)
An overview of deviance in the 7th and 8th centuries: the Heresies by John Damascene
Patrick Martin
(University of Winchester)
Transgression in Middle Byzantine eschatological iconography
Mathijs Clement
(University of Cambridge)
Egeria, Traveller of Borderlands
Rosalie Van Dael
(St. Hilda’s College, Oxford)
Seeing is believing? Imagination in Augustine’s Letter 7 to Nebridius
Seyhun Kılıç
(Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)
Monk in a Mundane Realm: Exploring the Intersection of Spiritual and Secular Realms in the Middle Byzantine Period

CMTC presents — “Work in Progress” Colloquium

Tuesday the 13th of February 2024, 5.15–6.45pm UK time Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures

Memorial Room, The Queen’s College    

1. A. D’Angelo (Rome ‘Sapienza’), ‘Catullan marginalia in the 16th century: the books of Piero Vettori’. 

The Bayerische Staatsbibliothek in Munich preserves three printed editions of Catullus’ Liber with marginal notes by Piero Vettori (1499-1585). This important scholar edited dozens of Classical authors, but never published anything on Catullus: thus, these books are the main extant evidence of his work on this poet. The notes contain variant readings, original conjectures and loci similes, and they offer new insights on Vettori’s philological method and his library. Through these marginalia, I will try to point out Vettori’s main interests in Catullus’ poetry and the sources he used for his Catullan studies.

2. Marlene Schilling (Oxford), ‘A special form of devotion – personifications of time in late medieval prayer books from Northern Germany’.  

Addressing liturgical holidays, for example welcoming Mr Easterday, is a particular characteristic of late medieval vernacular prayer-books from North German female convents. They highlight a distinct form of poetics, because describing and interacting with specific points in time – personifying them – allows an intercommunication with the divine that conveys a certain form of agency to the speaker. In this paper, we explore the particular type of prayer-books these personifications are found in, talk about their material indicators within the text, and think about the special role of the prayer-books from the Cistercian convent Medingen within this distinct manuscript landscape.