The TORCH Oxford Medieval Studies Programme invites applications for small grants to support conferences, workshops, and other forms of collaborative research activity organised by researchers at postgraduate (whether MSt or DPhil) or early-career level from across the Humanities Division at the University of Oxford.
The activity should take place between November 2021 and April 2022. The closing date for applications is Friday of Week 4 of Michaelmas Term 2021.
Grants are normally in the region of £100–250. Recipients will be required to supply a report after the event for the TORCH Medieval Studies blog. Recipients of awards will also be invited to present on their events at the next Medieval Roadshow.
Applicants will be responsible for all administrative aspects of the activity, including formulating the theme and intellectual rationale, devising the format, and, depending on the type of event, inviting speakers and/or issuing a Call for Papers, organising the schedule, and managing the budget, promotion and advertising. Some administrative and organisational support may be available through TORCH subject to availability.
NB: Given COVID-19, we will also consider applications for online or virtual projects, e.g., costs of hosting and/or designing a website, digital recording equipment, purchasing image rights and digitisation.
Please join us for two online talks hosted by the Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures at The Queen’s College in the University of Oxford. Our centre promotes inter-disciplinary discussion among scholars and students interested in manuscripts and material culture in the premodern world. So your participation is most welcome regardless of your field of specialty.
We are meeting on Zoom on Tuesday 19th October at 12,30-2,00pm (UK time).
Laura Banella (Mediaeval & Modern Languages, Wolfson College, Oxford)
“The Materiality and Textuality of Medieval Italian Lyric Poetry” The physical act of copying, editing, printing, annotating, and circulating literature has the power to create and construct an intellectual figure as an author, an auctor and an auctoritas, that is, an author as “creator” and “cultural authority”. Through a selection of Dante’s and Petrarch’s texts in material contexts, and specific instances of the circulation and reception of their lyric poetry, this talk explores medieval and early modern authoriality; the qualities of books as “textual objects”, and the ways in which context, form, and annotation in single books may bestow cultural authority upon authors and works, at a time when lyric poetry was a key-genre in the cultural system. In the late Middle Ages and in the Renaissance, Dante and Petrarch were the two main authors governing the Italian cultural field, especially as regards lyric poetry, and they soon enjoyed international success. Dante and Petrarch have been appropriated, rewritten, and repurposed by various literary, political, and ideological movements across centuries, shaping a transnational European cultural identity. What is more, the in-between space of multi-text and multi-author volumes is a repository of meaning and large cultural discourses: the significance of the order and selection of medieval lyric poems, and the meaning of lyric sequences is one of the crucial issues in literary hermeneutics, both for authorial and non-authorial collections.
Zhan Zhang (Oriental Studies, St Antony’s College, Oxford)
“Form, Format, and formulae. Scribal conventions in first-millennium central Asia” Central Asia in the first millennium CE, for the most part, was politically fragmented, and saw the flourishing of a number of (semi-)independent city-states, which produced secular documents in a multitude of languages/scripts, including Gandhari/Kharoshthi in Loulan, Khotanese/Brahmi in Khotan, Tocharian/Brahmi in Kucha, Sogdian/Aramaic in Sogdiana, and Bactrian/Greek in Bactria. A fairly large number of these documents have come to light in the last century or so, and received philological treatments individually or as a group. A synthetic analysis across the linguistic boundaries, however, is still lacking. In my talk, I will demonstrate that these documents display a number of common features in terms of form (materiality), format (diplomatics), and formulae (wording). Examples include notches on double wooden slips, sealing practice, indentations in letters and official orders, clauses and their sequence in purchase contracts, and shared technical lexicons of administration. All of these commonalities point to a shared scribal convention, the origin of which can be traced back to the Kushan Empire. I will further explore the implication of this attribution for our understanding of the history of first-millennium Central Asia. Here
Michaelmas Term is finally here, which means that our Medieval Booklet has now arrived! Inside you will find details of all of the seminars, events and reading groups happening this term, as well as some CFPs and save the dates for future events. Please do peruse and fill your calendars up!
I’d also like to take this opportunity to remind you of our blog, which not only includes an archive of the Medieval Matters newsletters, but also CFPs, posts from Oxford Medievalists, and a handy calendar so that you can always keep an eye on upcoming events and copy the details to your own online calendar. We would love to receive submissions for blog posts, whether these are events, reports on ongoing projects or conferences. If you have an idea for a blog post, please email firstname.lastname@example.org or email@example.com.
A new term means new faces around Oxford. If this is your first Medieval Matters email, I’d like to extend a warm welcome to the Oxford Medievalist community on behalf of the OMS team! If you are a course convenor for a medieval MSt, please block-enrol your students for the newsletter (or send me names for block enrolling) so that we catch all new MSt and doctoral students in medieval subjects and ensure that everyone receives all of the latest Oxford Medieval updates. If you know of any new medievalists who have joined Oxford and wish to have them added to the mailing list, please do contact me on firstname.lastname@example.org. Alternatively, anybody can subscribe themselves to the Medieval Matters newsletter via the ‘About’ section of the blog – please do share the link with your incoming students.
Onto the announcements for this week:
Medieval Roadshow: We are still taking submissions for this year’s Medieval Roadshow, which is a great way for all seminar/reading group/medieval event convenors to publicise their wares. Come and give a two-minute in-person advert at this term’s Roadshow: Tuesday 12th October, 5-7 pm, at Teddy Hall. Please email email@example.com so she can get an idea of who’ll be talking — but if you haven’t ‘booked’ don’t worry – turn up anyway and we’ll fit you in. The Roadshow is an excellent way re-connect with our medieval community after so many months of virtual events. We are also happy to host virtual speakers via a Teams link: if you would like to present, but would prefer to do so remotely, please just let Luisa know so that arrangements can be made.
Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference: We are delighted to announce that the theme of the Eighteenth annual Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference will be Medicine and Healing, and that we are looking for new committee members! Please email firstname.lastname@example.org, if you are interested!
Oxford Medieval Commentary Network: The first workshop and initial meeting of the Medieval Commentary Network will take place on 9th October, Christ Church, Research Centre., 8:30-5:30pm. Please email email@example.com with any questions and for further information.
Finally, a little wisdom from Alcuin to inspire you this week:
‘o quam dulcis vita fuit, dum sedebamus quieti inter sapientis scrinia, inter librorum copias‘
[‘Oh, how sweet life was, when we sat at leasure amongst the stacks of a learned man, amongst an abundance of books’ Ep. 281 ]
May your Michaelmas term be filled with such joys as these!
What? In this workshop, the fascinating Murbach hymns – a Latin hymnal with Old High German interlinear glosses from the 8/9th century – and their manuscript (Oxford, Bodleian Library MS. Junius 25) will be carefully examined regarding their translation technique, use and function, cultural background and transmission. Expect an afternoon full of presentations and discussions, a peek in the original manuscript and a live recitation of the hymns.
The first workshop and initial meeting of the Medieval Commentary Network will take place at Christ Church, Oxford, on 9 October 2021, from 9am – 5pm. A buffet lunch will be provided. The workshop is free of charge for all participants. This will take place as an in-person workshop (unless government regulations change). Unfortunately we are unable to live-stream the event, but we are hoping to make recordings of some talks available online after the event (subject to speaker approval).
Speakers include Alastair Minnis, Andrew Kraebel, Edit Lukacs, Audrey Southgate, Elizabeth Doherty, Malena Ratzke, Zachary Guiliano, Bond West, Rachel Cresswell, and others. The full conference programme will be available at https://medievalcommentary.network/ by the end of July.
We recognise that the current situation brings with it a great deal of uncertainty regarding travel; if you find you are no longer able to attend, please let us know as soon as possible.
Please email firstname.lastname@example.org with any questions and for further information.
Building on the success of Gregorian chant workshops with manuscripts from the Bodleian Library (Singing Together, Apart 1 and Singing Together, Apart 2 ), a group of Oxford medievalists are offering insights into working with manuscripts during lockdown. Meet some of the manuscripts from the Abbey of Medingen, recently digitized through the Polonsky German project, and sing along to chants from the Easter period. A special focus was on the ‘Exsultet’ which attracted some of the most colourful illumination of the manuscripts as well as detailed devotional instructions in Latin and Low German on how to sing it both out aloud and “on the harp strings of the soul”. Read more on Savouring the Exultet at Medingen in this blog post by Innocent Smith OP for the Polonsky German manuscript digitisation project.
Andrew Dunning, R.W. Hunt Curator of Medieval Manuscripts, showed the Medingen manuscripts at the Bodleian Library live via visualiser from the Weston Library; Zachary Guiliano, Chaplain of St Edmund Hall, Henrike Lähnemann, Professor of Medieval German Literature and Linguistics, and Nick Swarbrick, Gregorian chant instructor, and Connor Wood, Organ Scholar at St Edmund Hall, formed a Schola in the Crypt of St-Peter-in-the-East, the library of St Edmund Hall, and commented on the manuscripts, the music, and their theological significance. Two graduate students working on the Easter prayer books, Carolin Gluchowski and Marlene Schilling, pointed out some of the special nuntastic features of the manuscripts.
This was part of the IMC Leeds Fringe Events but open to all manuscript and music enthusiasts! Music downloads for the event: Nunc dimittis (audience sings the ‘repetitio’ Lumen ad revelacionem gencium as congregational responses); Exultet (audience sings the congregational responses); Victime paschali laudes (audience sings the ‘Christ ist erstanden’ as congregational response and the question of the disciples Dic nobis Maria…)
Anyone who has strolled through Oxford and paused to look up at a college window or church tower will have noticed that the city abounds in medievalist architecture. Oxford’s Gothic Revival buildings are not the only material witnesses testifying to nineteenth-century fascination with medieval-inspired styles and with debates harking back to the medieval period. Textile arts also evince how the Victorians read their own age through past ages, and vice versa. Few textiles exemplify this knitting together of past and present as attractively as the textile treasures in the archive of Pusey House, which was established to commemorate Edward Bouverie Pusey (1800-1882), one of the leaders of the Oxford Movement, Regius Professor of Hebrew and Canon of Christ Church.
(The Oxford Movement was a mid-nineteenth century movement within the Church of England that sought to revive an interest in patristics, the sacraments, and ritual, and generally to restore what they saw as pre-Reformation ideals (another instance of medievalism!)).
Several months ago, the librarian of Pusey House, Jessica Woodward, and Godelinde Gertrude Perk, a researcher at the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, were discussing textiles, both of us being interested in historical embroidery and other fibre arts. Jessica pointed out that the Pusey House archive holds many textiles, several of which are connected to the Pusey family, but also associated with some of the first Anglican nuns. We agreed that it was a pity these textiles were so little known, not only because they were quite expertly made, but also in the light of their historical importance: the Sisters of St Margaret (who owned the book with the sample) and the Sisters of the Holy and Undivided Trinity (one of whom made the corporal) were among the first nuns in the Church of England since the Reformation. Central figures in the Oxford Movement supported this Anglican revival of monasticism.
Jessica and Godelinde brainstormed a little about an exhibition and reached out to a fellow academic at the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, Natascha Domeisen for a first look at the textiles, and finally to the textile conservators of the Ashmolean Museum, who generously offered conservation advice and help displaying the objects. The exhibition would never have been possible without the expertise of Clare Hills-Nova, Sue Stanton, and Sebastian Blue Pin; Sebastian came over several times, analysed the fibres, and displayed the objects beautifully.
While we (Jessica, Sebastian, and Godelinde) studied the textiles in order to select the ones to display (the display case being rather moderate in size), we made several unexpected discoveries: we found a handwritten note sewn onto a cloth, which stated that the set of altar linens had been made by Mother Marian Hughes in 1846, the first Englishwoman since the Reformation to become an Anglican professed religious. According to the note, Dr Pusey had used the set when celebrating mass at home. We then discovered an altar cloth from the same set was still in daily use in the Pusey House chapel, despite it being 175 years old. The letters were also quite illuminating, shedding light upon attitudes about embroidery at that time. Godelinde, for one, was also quite delighted to find that a familiarity with medieval religious iconography will stand you in good stead when deciphering Victorian religious art. However, we were most impressed by the skill of the textile artists and their thematic complexity, as emblematized by the corporal and the sermon case.
This blogpost serves as the online version of the exhibition, but if possible, you are warmly invited to visit the exhibition “Threads of Devotion: Textile Treasures from the Pusey House Archive” which can be seen from the 17th of June to the 9th of July 2021. The exhibition is open Monday to Friday, 9:30-17:25 – you can book a viewing slot at https://tinyurl DOT com/puseyhouselib .
1. Wedding veil
Pusey House Archive, PUS/Veil
Vertical maximum 117 cm, horizontal maximum 122 cm
Lace veil of a cream mercerised cotton ground featuring scalloped edges that frame an embroidered border of repeat pattern wheat and floral motifs. The central field displays clusters of larger floral motifs and singular embroidered flowers. This veil is believed to have been worn by Dr Pusey’s wife, Maria Catherine née Barker (1801–1839), at her wedding in 1828, although the tulle seems more characteristic of the early 20th century. It was presented to Pusey House in 1947 by Mrs Edith McCausland née Brine, Dr Pusey’s last surviving grandchild, who claimed it to be Mrs Pusey’s possession.
2. Letter from Edward Bouverie Pusey to his goddaughter, Clara Maria Hole (later Sr Clara Maria), transcribed by Henry Parry Liddon
Pusey House Archive, LBV 125
Originally written on 3 February 1875 at Christ Church, Oxford
The first page reads:
“There is a large proportion of embroidery in your distribution of time … but, I suppose, that, after the illness which you had some time ago, the quietness of needle work would be very good for the brain. I would only say on this, ‘Do not work against time,’ for this would produce an excitement and hurry which would undo the good of a quiet employment.”
Dr Pusey then goes on to recommend reciting psalms or hymns to prevent overtaxing the brain, but concludes his letter with a more optimistic conceptualization of art, presenting God as carving the artwork of the soul by way of trials: “a block of rough stone would not … mind the blows which indented, in view of the beauty of form which it was to acquire hereafter. And the form which we are to have traced in us, is the image of God.” The goddaughter’s crafting should be as deliberate and careful as God’s is.
Dr Pusey’s anxieties about too much embroidery contrast strikingly with Maria Pusey sending a workbox to her goddaughter and wholeheartedly recommending embroidery. This workbox and its accompanying letter can be seen in the cabinet outside the Pusey House Chapel.
According to the caption, the second page of the letter, now hidden by the first page, recounts how Mrs Pusey ‘had learnt to value needlework when she was ill and was pleased that her goddaughter had asked for the workbox as a present’.
3. Sermon case made for Dr Pusey by an anonymous embroiderer
Pusey House Archive, Object 15
32.5 cm by 25.5 cm
Obverse cover: folded card covered in burgundy silk velvet, edged with twisted braid of metal threads and secured with a whip stitch. The centre of each face bears a cross motif, possibly of palm wood, that is overworked with basket weave type embroidery (replicating cross repetitions) in metal threads, creating a raised emblem. Interior: ground fabric of cream dyed silk embroidered with polychrome silk threads in a floral, foliate and fruit design. The Lord’s Prayer, the blessing and the dedication have been worked in embroidered stitches.
With its raised cross with metal embellishment, the sermon case recalls opus anglicanum, medieval religious embroidery produced in England. Victorians believed these medieval embroideries to be the handiwork of nuns, although they were actually predominantly produced in professional workshops in London. We do not know who made this particular gift for Dr Pusey, but Mother Marian Rebecca Hughes (1817–1912), the first Anglican Sister to take vows since the Reformation, is one likely candidate. She was a friend of Dr Pusey’s who made several embroideries for him during the 1840s (see item 4). If she is the artist, the medieval echoes in this embroidery present her as part of a long lineage of female monastics: she restores a tradition disrupted during the Reformation.
4. Corporal made by Mother Marian Rebecca Hughes (1817–1912) for Dr Pusey
Pusey House Archive, PUS/Lin/1
25 cm by 25 cm
Ground of plain weave mercerised cotton embroidered with red and blue silks. The outer border exhibits Neo-Gothic text and large Greek crosses worked in raised stumpwork to create a dimensional effect. The central field dedicates patterning to fleurs-de-lis and small Greek crosses executed in a chain stitch which frame the monogram of the Holy Name (IHC, Jesus Christ), again in raised stumpwork technique.
A corporal is a square linen cloth onto which the chalice with wine, the paten (silver plate) with bread, and the ciborium (a container for additional hosts) are placed during the consecration of the bread and wine. This particular corporal gives material expression to Tractarian understandings of the Real Presence in the sacrament. The border reads Hoc est corpus meum quod pro vobis traditur (“This is my body, which is given for you”), the words of the consecration of the Eucharist as given in the first Epistle to the Corinthians (11:24) and recited by the celebrant. The circle surrounding the monogram recalls the host, and the monogram itself also draws attention to the presence of the Incarnate Christ in the sacrament. The fleurs-de-lis (lilies) in Marian blue are a traditional attribute of the Virgin Mary, likewise alluding to the mystery of the Incarnation; the red circles signify Christ’s five wounds and, by extension, his Passion.
This corporal forms part of a set that is now 175 years old. A hand-written note, possibly by Henry Parry Liddon (1829–1890), sewn onto an altar cloth states that the entire set was given by Mother Marian Hughes to Dr Pusey, who would use it when celebrating mass privately. A second, larger cloth is still in use in the Pusey House Chapel, literally threading together Dr Pusey’s devotion and that of the House.
5. Sample card from Liberty’s, inserted (by publisher) into Designs for Church Embroidery by A.R and Alathea Wiel. Chapman and Hall, 1894.
Pusey House Archive, SSM 40/298
Samples of polychrome silk floss embroidery thread (Liberty’s) wound around card. This book was the property of the convent of the Society of Saint Margaret, an Anglican order, in East Grinstead, Sussex. The convent also ran a School of Ecclesiastical Embroidery in London, but the library stamp indicates that this copy of the book was kept in the convent. The Victorian era saw an upsurge of interest in the creation of medievalist vestments and church hangings, which women particularly were encouraged to create. These textiles furnished Gothic Revival churches (omnipresent in Oxford!). The faint pencil markings and numbers signal that the nuns were particularly interested in various shades of gold, frequently found in Victorian church embroideries. This use of colour also harks back to opus anglicanum, once again suggesting that the nuns perceive themselves as stitching together past and present.
Photos by Jessica Woodward, Sebastian Blue Pin, and Godelinde Gertrude Perk. Blog introduction by Godelinde Gertrude Perk, captions by Sebastian Blue Pin and Godelinde Gertrude Perk.
Exhibition credits: Conservation Advice: Sue Stanton, Sebastian Blue Pin, and Clare Hills-Nova Captions: Godelinde Gertrude Perk and Sebastian Blue Pin Display & Publicity: Jessica Woodward
On Saturday the 9th of March, thirty-one pilgrims (and one canine pilgrim companion) met at St Helen’s Church in Abingdon, ready to walk the twelve miles to Christ Church Cathedral in Oxford. Much like the Canterbury Tales, our party was diverse; there were students from across the UK and across disciplines and stages, porters, academics from far and wide and members of the public (one of which who had run a half marathon the very same morning). As a BYOB (Bring Your Own Beliefs) pilgrimage, there were also a range of reasons for pilgrimaging present among our group. This was the start of the Oxford Medieval Studies Pilgrimage Day 2019, a day that would engage with the practice, literature, history and revitalisation of medieval pilgrimage.
At St Helen’s we handed out pilgrim badge replicas, kindly funded by the Oxford Pilgrimage Studies Network, to each of our pilgrims. Beautifully recreated in pewter by Lionheart Replicas, the original badge dated from the fifteenth century and depicted two pilgrims, one male and one female, ready to set out on their walk. After some quick ground rules, some advice for how to make the most of a pilgrimage and a rousing reading of the opening lines to the General Prologue of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales from Rebecca, we set off on our journey.
Although the preceding week had been plagued with rain and wind, the day was miraculously sunny with only the occasional gusty spell, the perfect walking weather. Our next stopping point was only five minutes away: the Abingdon Abbey buildings. The curator of the buildings, Tim Miller, led us around the surviving buildings of the Benedictine Abbey, including Unicorn Theatre, the Long Gallery and the Chequer. Tim was an excellent guide for us, bringing the stories of the abbey and its uses to life and showing us the most impressive parts of the building, such as the beautifully painted remains of a Tudor room partition decorated with roses and pomegranates.
After leaving Tim, we then had a long walk ahead of us. We walked through the grounds of Radley College and across the countryside until we reached the picture-perfect village of Sunningwell and its church, St Leonard’s, at just past midday. This was our lunch stop, many of the pilgrims pausing to eat their packed lunch in the sunny grounds of the church or enjoying some hot chips and a pint at the local pub. This church is now mostly fifteenth century, but the village and its association with Abingdon abbey traces back far further. It also features a stunning seven-sided porch at its entrance, the victorian stained glass of which was designed by J.P. Seddon.
We then moved off again, quickly looking at the well after which the village took its name. The landscape was a little steeper as we climbed Boar’s Hill, but the view on the descent of Oxford’s ‘dreaming spires’ was worth it, and we then arrived at St Lawrence’s Church in South Hinksey. Father Ben Drury kindly gave us an history of the church and pointed out the distinctive minstrel’s gallery and the little private window for viewing mass.
We then set off on the last part of our walk, trekking over the train lines and the river, then through the outskirts of the city to Christ Church Cathedral – our pilgrims had made it home! We rounded off the walk with Rebecca reading from the Book of Margery Kempe, a moving passage describing how she reaches the English shore after a stormy passage, before our pilgrims dispersed for a well-earned rest.
The last order of the day was a talk from Dr Guy Hayward, co-founder of the British Pilgrimage Trust, at St John’s College. Guy talked about his experience of pilgrimage, its history and how he is working to revive the practice in the UK – the perfect reflective end to the day with the lasting message that we should all work to bring pilgrimage back. If you would like to walk a pilgrimage to Oxford, we encourage you to check out the BPT website http://britishpilgrimage.org/portfolio/five-ways-to-oxford/ and let us know how you get on!
Some feedback from our pilgrims:
‘Talking with people about their different life experiences was enlightening’
‘I think it was great. The highlight for me was doing a journey together with people from different walks of life.’
‘Well co-ordinated, well supported, very friendly. Had a lovely day. One to remember.’
‘Really enjoyed it, would love to do more’
We would like to say thank you to the OMS Small Grant at TORCH for their support, and that of the Oxford Studies Pilgrimage Network. We would also like to say a special thank you to Guy Hayward, Tim Miller, Fr Ben Drury and Robert Culshaw for helping the smooth running of the day, and, of course, our brilliant pilgrims.