Medieval MSS Support Group at the Weston Library

We are pleased to trial a new session, once or twice a month, in which readers of medieval manuscripts can pose questions to a mixed group of fellow readers and Bodleian curators in a friendly environment. Come with your own questions, or to see what questions other readers have!

The sort of questions you might bring are:

  • What is the place and date of origin of this MS?
  • What is the place and date of origin of this binding?
  • What does the decoration of this MS suggest?
  • What does this semi-legible inscription say?
  • Whose bookplate is this, or how could I find out?

Meetings will typically be held in the Horton Room (just across the corridor from the manuscripts reading room on the 1st floor). If you wish to pose a question, please order the relevant manuscript to the issue desk, and email the details to Matthew Holford, Tolkien Curator of Medieval Manuscripts, the day before, so that he can arrange for it to be transferred across to the Horton Room for the session. Alternatively, provide a good quality digital image that we can display on a large monitor.

In the expectation that many readers will be at the Weston Library on Fridays for the weekly Coffee Morning in the Visiting Scholars’ Centre, the first such sessions are scheduled for the following dates:

  • Friday, 19 July (Horton Room) 11.30-12.30
  • Friday, 26 July (Horton Room) 11.30-12.30
  • Friday, 9 August (Horton Room) 11.30-12.30
  • Friday, 23 August (Horton Room) 11.30-12.30

The TORCH Network Poetry in the Medieval World after Two Terms of Activity

Ugo Mondini is a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow at the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages and the Principal Investigator of the TORCH Network. He works on medieval Greek poetry and language education in the eleventh-century Byzantine Empire.

As we approach our first summer break, it is time to reflect on the initial activities of the TORCH Network Poetry in the Medieval World. The OMS Blog has generously offered us space to share our journey so far, which has taken us through the forms, languages, communities, and geographies of medieval poetry and the challenges its comparative study poses.

Rowing Towards a Theory of Medieval Poetry

Our fortnightly reading group has been the cornerstone of our activities, offering a place and time to explore medieval poetry from various regions and languages and hear each other’s views. We convened in the Humanities building every even week during term time, and we discussed medieval poetry with tea, coffee, and biscuits.

In Hilary 2024, with Ugo Mondini, Marina Bazzani, and Theo Van Lint, we addressed the complexities of Greek and Armenian poetry. In Trinity 2024, Jennifer Guest guided us through the different forms of medieval Japanese poetry. Poems, presented through handouts in their original languages and writings alongside a Romanisation/phonetic transcription and a translation, were read aloud in the original language, translated, explained in depth and in context, and discussed. This has allowed participants to appreciate the complexities, nuances, and beauty of each poem, and of each poetry.

We are delighted to see how dynamic our sessions can be and how they evolve based on participants’ interests and interactions, driven by a shared curiosity and passion for medieval literature as well as by the pursuit of a choral, informed theory of medieval poetry. For instance, we discussed if and how to compare the way in which vernacular and learned poetry emerged and functioned in Greek and Japanese. We also observed the evolution of Armenian poetry, focusing on eleventh-century works. In our discussions, we reflected on the different ways pre-modern audiences may have appreciated poetry as well as on the challenges of translating poetry into modern languages.

Each session attracted a diverse audience, including students, early-career researchers, senior scholars, and administrative staff. We also had the pleasure of welcoming non-Oxonian participants, who happened to be in Oxford and are usually based in Edinburgh, Milan, and London/Tokyo. The average attendance was 4–8 people per session.

The International Workshop

We hosted our first international workshop, Binding the World, Withholding Life: Poetry Books in the Medieval Mediterranean, generously sponsored by the British Comparative Literature Association, the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research, and TORCH. The event took place at Exeter College (FitzHugh Auditorium), Oxford. We thank once again the College and its staff for their hospitality and service.

This workshop examined medieval poetry books from various origins, exploring their features, functions, and impact on the transmission and appreciation of medieval poetry across different ages and cultures. We explored how poems were stored, organised, and displayed, addressing the broader question of what ideas of medieval poetry and poetry books can be gleaned from these sources.

We took a comparative approach, with speakers focusing on different literary traditions around the Medieval Mediterranean. After the greetings of Sub-Rector Barnaby Taylor and Marc Lauxtermann, the two organisers, Ugo Mondini and Alberto Ravani, shared some opening remarks. Marisa Galvez (Stanford University) discussed books with poems in Romance languages, Niels Gaul (The University of Edinburgh) focused on Greek, Marlé Hammond (SOAS) covered Arabic, and Adriano Russo (École française de Rome) addressed Latin. The discussions were rich and varied, offering deep insights into the transmission and preservation of medieval poetry.

Exploring Manuscripts
Nicholas Kontovas led an excellent seminar at the Weston Library, where we could admire magnificent manuscripts of the Romance of Alexander. This seminar delved into the transmission eastwards of the legend of Alexander the Great – both in poetry and prose – through illuminated manuscripts from the Bodleian Libraries. The tickets sold out so quickly that we did not even have time to advertise the event. This stimulated us to organise similar activities in the near future. We thank again Nicholas and the Bodleian Libraries for this opportunity.

The Future of Research
Where is the research on medieval poetry going? And how is this direction related to other fields of study? The Doctoral Seminar Projecting Poetry has been an exciting initiative designed to provide a platform for doctoral students working on medieval poetry to present their ongoing research to a diverse audience of fellow students and senior scholars. So far, we have hosted five seminars covering poetic traditions from Greek, Arabic, Middle and Late Medieval English, and Italian; another one is scheduled for September 2024. We continue to welcome submissions from Oxonian, national, and international doctoral students, encouraging explorations of potential intersections between academic disciplines.

Ideas on and of Poetry
In HT W9, with Elizabeth Hebbard (Indiana University Bloomington)’s thought-provoking paper on the study of Troubadour melodies, we launched the new series Talks on Medieval Poetry. Through these lectures, we invite international scholars to present theories of poetry and insights from their research, which may have broader implications for the understanding of medieval poetry and literature.

Looking Ahead

After the summer break, there is much more to come. In Michaelmas 2024, our reading group will resume, bringing together Oxonian enthusiasts of medieval poetry to explore new texts and traditions. Our Talks on Medieval Poetry will feature lectures by international scholars – three are already scheduled between December 2024 and April 2025, but no spoilers for now! We anticipate receiving fascinating proposals for the Doctoral Seminars Projecting Poetry. But we are also developing brand new activities in person, online, and in hybrid format, fostering collaborations with other networks and research centres at Oxford and around the globe.

So, stay connected with us through our website, newsletter (blank email to, and social media (X/Twitter: @PoetryMedieval) for updates. If you want to learn more about the network, contact us via email. And if you want to contribute, you are more than welcome: We are open to new ideas and feasible proposals.

For now, enjoy the summer! We look forward to seeing you all in the new academic year.

Picture credit: The blind Homer

Launch of the ‘Life of Nuns’

During the Medievalist Coffee Morning on Friday, 21 June 2024, Henrike Lähnemann launched her new book The Life of Nuns. Love, Politics, and Religion in Medieval German Convents, Cambridge: Open Book Publishers 2024, open access:
To purchase a paper copy with a 20% discount, use the code LONHL_24 at checkout

On show were the following five manuscripts, all available digitised via, three from the Cistercian convent of Medingen near Lüneburg ( and two Rules for female convents:

Following this, there was a presentation by Stacie Vos (Ann Ball Bodley Visiting Fellow in Women’s History) talk about Women doing medieval studies in the early 20th century. Stacie reflected on the legacies of several early-20th-century women medievalists who pursued academic and extra-academic careers. She started the group ‘Enclosure’ which January 2021 to February 2024 was hosted at the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages under, now archived at the Bodleian Library Web Archive.


It all started with a mistake: ‘Der Spiegel’, a widely read news magazine in Germany, ran a double-spread article on the big research project which Eva Schlotheuber and I direct, the edition of 1.200 letters from the Benedictine convent Lüne in North Germany. In the interview for it, we had talked about how important education by the nuns was for the ‘Lehrkinder’, children educated at the convent. The girls would come into the community, aged 7 to 9, and then get a thorough grounding in a wide range of discipline such as music, as pictured in the scene from a text book from Kloster Ebstorf.

Teaching Music in the Convents (Ebstorf, Klosterarchiv V 3, 15th century, fols 200v–201r)

Der Spiegel’ turned our phrase of ‘Lehrkinder’ into ‘die Kinder der Nonnen’ (the children of the nuns) – hinting at sex and scandal behind convent walls (in 2/2020 ‘So colourful was the life of nuns in the Middle Ages’).

This sparked further media interest and the Ullstein publishing house approached us because it had piqued their interest. When we explained that the attention-grabbing headline about “the nuns had children” was based on a misunderstanding, they were slightly disappointed – but then offered us the opportunity to set the record straight. And, arguably, what we could offer was much more exciting: the colourful and detailed accounts of lively, intellectual, strategic, argumentative, powerful women, shaping religion and politics of their times, looking after the girls (despite or even because they were their spiritual and not biological daughters!), negotiating business deals, writing, painting, composing and influencing the way we live today through their books, songs, and art.

‘The Life of Nuns’ tries to capture the richness of the life of these medieval nuns by incorporating as much primary source material as possible. Each of the big topics – such as Education, Music, and yes: Love and Friendship – starts with an account taken from the diary of a nun who lived at the end of the 15th century in the convent St Crucis in Braunschweig. The anonymous author covers the high feasts – celebrating the entry of new nuns, welcoming illustrious visitors –  and the everyday mundane events – lice, Lebkuchen (gingerbread), laundry. And we end every of our chapters with the presentation of a significant art work from the convents: the impressive wall paintings done in the 14th century by “three nuns all called Gertrud” in Wienhausen, the largest medieval world map in Ebstorf (30 goatskins sewn together), tapestries, statues, stained glass, the oldest spectacles in the world (fallen through the floorboard cracks in the nuns’ choir) – an embarrassment of riches from a world that few people even know existed. That is particularly true for an Anglophone audience since so much of the evidence is lost due mainly to the dissolution of the monasteries but also a repurposing of surviving architecture and treasures. Compare Kloster Wienhausen and Godstow Abbey: in Wienhausen we have got the full set of monastic buildings, cloisters, huge grain stores, cells, corridors, imposing Gothic nuns choir and more – and everything that furnished it: stained glass, wall paintings, sculptures, down to the different set of dresses for the statues.

The Cistercian Convent of Wienhausen from the South: Magazine (left) and Nuns’ Choir. Photograph: Henrike Lähnemann
Filming at the ruins of one Godstow Abbey near Oxford

In Godstow, on the other hand, we can sense the dimensions of its former power by looking at the impressively long surrounding wall of enclosure and glimpse some of its stylish beauty from the ruined chapel at the back – the rest is only possible to reconstruct from scant archival evidence. Looking at the German counterparts, who shapeshifted through the Reformation, transforming into Protestant female communities who still look after the rich tapestry of medieval life, offers the chance to rectify this in part – and encounter the Life of Nuns at their fullest, mystical, worldly, polyphonous and very much relevant still today.

Medieval Women’s Writing Research Group Conference 2024: Exchanging Words

The Medieval Women’s Writing Research Group Conference 2024 will be held on 18th June 2024 with the theme of “Exchanging Words” in Room 2 of the Taylor Institution Library both in person (presenters/attendees) and online (attendees).

Tuesday 18 June 2024, 9am – 5pm
Online and In-person, Room 2, Taylor Institution Library, Saint Giles’, Oxford OX1 3NA
Free but registration required
Register here for in-person attendance – Sold out
Register here to join the conference online
Online registration closes 15 minutes before the start of the event. You will be sent the joining link within 48 hours of the event, on the day and once again 10 minutes before the event starts.

The aim of this conference is to explore the concept of exchange, whether it be textual or material, to, for and between women in the global Middle Ages. As a research group based upon the concept of exchanging ideas, we wish to explore medieval women’s own networks of exchange and transmission, and the influence of this upon both the literature and culture of the period as well as the present day.

We are delighted to present the programme for the day:

9:00-9:30 Registration 
9:30-9:45 Welcome and Opening Remarks 
9:45-11:15 Session 1 “Scholarly Networks” 
Katrin Janz-Wenig (SUB Hamburg) & Lenka Panušková (The Czech Academy of Sciences) | Communication Strategies Through Change: Translations, Compilations and Ekphrasis 
Ved Prabha Sharma (Independent Researcher) | Women Scholars and Knowledge Exchange in Medieval Indian shāstrārth Tradition 
Tatiana Barkovskiy (University of Cambridge) | A Beguinian Learning Network, or How to Approach ‘Medieval Women Mystics’ as Philosophers  
11:15-11:45 Break with Refreshments 
11:45-13:15 Session 2 “Relationships With and Between Women” 
Costas Gavriel (University of Oxford) | Gaining the Queen’s Confidence: The Relationship Between Leonor López de Córdoba and Catherine of Lancaster, Queen of Castile 
Lucia Akard (University of Oxford) | Talking About Rape and Exchanging Knowledge in Medieval Dijon 
Meg Greenough (Independent Researcher) | The Wilton Matrix: Mothering in Goscelin of Saint Betin’s Liber Confortatorius
13:15-14:30 Lunch Break 
Exploring the Taylorian’s Treasures, with Professor Henrike Lähnemann (University of Oxford) 
14:30-15:45 Keynote Address 
Professor Diane Watt (University of Surrey) | Medieval Women Writers: Troubling a Feminist History of British Women’s Writing
15:45-16:15 Break with Refreshments 
16:15-17:45 Session 3 “Nuns’ Words” 
Francesca Maria Villani (University of Bari) | Eloise’s Psalmody: Body and Voice Through the Epistles
Jane Bliss (Independent Researcher) | The Nun Changes her Library Book 
Hilary Pearson (Independent Researcher) | Teresa de Cartagena’s Models of Female Authority 
17:45 Closing Remarks 
18:00 End of Conference

Please direct any questions to any of the conference organizers: 
Katherine Smith (
Marlene Schilling (
Carolin Gluchowski (
Santhia Velasco Kittlaus (

The research group and the conference are generously funded by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) and their “Critical-Thinking Communities” Initiative.

The Oxford Medieval Mystery Plays 2025

Call for Actors, Directors, Costume Makers, and Musicians!

Would you like to take part in a medieval dramatic experiment? Directors, actors, costume makers and musicians wanted!

The next cycle is going to take place on 26 April 2025 at St Edmund Hall

These plays were a very popular form of drama in the Middle Ages – with different groups performing short plays telling stories from the Bible. To take part in the next performance, email Professor Henrike Lähnemann, Fellow at St Edmund Hall Fellow and Professor of Medieval German Literature and Linguistics, and Professor Lesley Smith, Fellow and Tutor in Politics and Senior Tutor at Harris Manchester College, Co-Directors of the Oxford Medieval Studies Programme at TORCH, under the address

More information and an overview of what was performed in 2019, 2022, and 2023 at

COLSONOEL 2024 in Review

Putting a halt to in-person events, face-to-face conversations unmediated by a digital screen, and forcing people around the world to re-think how the interacted with each other, COVID-19 also placed a stranglehold on much academic dialogue and conferences experiences. One of the victims of the pandemic era was the Cambridge, Oxford, and London Symposium on Old Norse, Old English, and Latin (COLSONOEL). The last COLSONOEL was due to take place in St. John’s College, University of Oxford in May 2020 but which was sadly cancelled due to COVID-19 restrictions.

In 2024 a new committee at the University of Oxford, headed by Natasha Bradley, and comprising of Ashley Castelino, Simon Heller, and Mary Catherine O’Connor, took up the reins to bring this symposium back to life. In the spirit of its return to the world of conferences and academic discourse, the theme of COLSONOEL 2024 was ‘Rebirth, Renewal, Renaissance’. This symposium for post-graduate students and early career researchers was set up as a supportive and welcoming academic environment for presenters to test new ideas and to share their research. And it is in this vein, that COLSONOEL began again and hopes to continue for many years to come.

COLSONOEL 2024 kicked off on a wet and dismal Friday 3rd May in St Hilda’s College in the Garden Room Suite, which transformed into an exciting day of papers and conversations. Exquisite views stretching over Oxford with its dreaming spires rising to the rain-sodden heavens framed the speakers and their presentations at St Hilda’s as we welcomed ten speakers from Oxford, Cambridge, and Birkbeck.

Considering the question of reception and intertextual relationships in the first session, David Bond West opened COLSONOEL with his paper on ‘Rhetorical Storytelling in Bergr Sokkason’s Mikjáls saga’. Moving from Old Norse to Old English, Mingwei Lu examined the relationships between psalms and elegies in the paper ‘“Hu lange wilt þu, Drihten” – A Comparison of Religious Revival in the Old English Psalms and the Old English Elegies’. Leaping forward to the modern era, Emily Dixon asked what it meant to think through soil and landscapes in her paper ‘Rebirth through soil: The earth of Tolkien’s Middle Earth, Beowulf and The Wanderer’.

Following this line of movement to earth-centred evidence and thinking about what can be uncovered through archaeology, Katie Beard opened the second session with her investigation into amulets, ‘Armaments as Amulets in Old Norse in Old Norse Literature and Archaeology’. Daisy Bonsall worked through the theme of the conference in thinking about the multiple uses and re-purposing of textiles in Anglo-Saxon England in ‘A Case for Regifting: Reusing Textiles to Create and Renew Connections in Anglo-Saxon England’.

The inter-relationship of life and death and the possibility of comparing through these ontological concerns took centre stage in session three as Alexia Kirov discussed images and themes of birth and death in ‘Re: birth and death – from (pre-)cradle to grave in Early English Literature’. What are the appropriate responses to the death of king and what is the emotional performance a poet may engage in when his king dies? Molly Bovett looked at some of these questions and more in ‘The Death of the King in Hallfreðar saga vandræðaskálds’. Staying in the realm of Old Norse literature but migrating from the historical world of medieval Norway and Iceland to the world of the mythological texts, Kendra Nydam closed the third session with her paper ‘Thrice-burnt, Thrice-born: Revisiting the Fateful Role of Gullveig in Norse Mythology’.

How different medieval historians and societies think about and write about the past formed a key concern of the concluding papers in the fourth and last session of the day. In ‘Reviving the Gothic Past and justifying a Swedish present in the Festum patronorum regni Suecie’ Adrián Rodríguez turned attention to historiographical concerns in fifteenth-century Sweden. Moving one last time from Scandinavia back to medieval England, Emily Clarke gave the closing paper ‘Reforming the Past: History and Antiquarianism in the English Benedictine Reform’.

An intellectually curious atmosphere and friendly environment created a fertile and productive day of discussions in the form of question-and-answer sessions after the papers as well as more informal conversations in the tea breaks and lunch. The COLSONOEL Committee would like to thank everyone who attended this year’s symposium. We would also like to extend a special thanks to our sponsors, Oxford Medieval Studies and TORCH, who made COLSONOEL 2024 possible. We look forward to the return of COLSONOEL 2025.

Mary Catherine O’Connor, June 2024

Books for Medievalists

Free books for medievalists! Professor Richard Sharpe (1954–2020) was Professor of Diplomatic in the University and one of the country’s foremost medievalists, whose research ranged from the early Irish church to Anglo-Norman royal acts to the transmission of medieval Latin texts and medieval books and libraries. He was also a large presence in the History Faculty and much involved in graduate tuition. Books from Professor Sharpe’s library are now being offered gratis to local medievalists. A great encourager of others, he would have been delighted to know that his books could be helping the next generation. For more information, please contact Elizabeth Champion to reserve books and arrange collection.

A Culture of Translation: British and Irish Scholarship in the Gennadius Library (1740-1840): 13Lynda Mulvin
Acts of GivingWendy Davies
Anglo-Norman England 1066-1166Marjorie Chibnall
Annuaire de l’nstitut Michel Villey – 2011 Vol 3Olivier Beaud, Denis Baranger
Antiquaries Journal
Antiquaries Journal Vol. LXIX Part II
Antiquaries Journal Vol. LXX Part I AND ii
Archaeologia 1991
Canon Law, Careers and ConquestJorg Peltzer
Carolingian EssaysAndrew W. Mellon
Charles the BaldJanet Nelson
Concise Dictionary of National Biography
Copistia Bologna (1265-1270)Giovanna Murano
Du Burca Rare Books Catalogues 132, 135, 136, 139, 140, 141, and ‘Irishwomen, Children, Education’
Ducal Brittany 1364-1399Michael Jones
Early Medieval ItalyChris Wickham
Early Medieval Spain, 2nd edRoger Collins
FeudalismFrançois Louis Ganshof
Folia CaesarAugustana I
Gaelic Literature SurveyedAodh de Blacam
Hereditas Monasteriorum Vols. 1-8
Hermanthena No. 194 Summer 2013
Ideal and Reality in Frankish and Anglo-Saxon SocietyPatrick Wormald
Il Libro e il Testo Atti del Convegno
Il registro di Andrea SapitiBarbara Bombi
Im Umkreis von AnselmBernd Goebel
Imperial Lives and Letters of the Eleventh CenturyMommsen and Morrison
Introducing the Old TestamentCoggins
Ireland and the Culture of Early Medieval EuropeL. Bieler
John Aubrey and the Advancement of LearningWilliam Poole
Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vols. 156-172
Journal of the British Archaeological Association Vols. 1990-99
Journal of Theological Studies New Series Vol. 35 Part 1
Journal of Theological Studies New Series Vol. 40 Part 1
Journal of Theological Studies New Series Vol. 41 Part 1
Journal of Theological Studies New Series Vol. 41 Part 2
Journal of Theological Studies New Series Vol. 43 Part 2
Journal of Theological Studies New Series Vol. 44 Part 1
Journal of Theological Studies New Series Vol. 45 Part 2
King David: A BiographySteven L McKenzie
La France CistercienneArmelle Bonis
La Vie Religieuse en France au Moyen AgeB. Merdrignac
Lawfinders and LawmakersHelen Cam
Les Origines de la BretagneLeon Fleuriot
Leviticus as LiteratureMary Douglas
Lexicography: An emerging international professionRobert F. Ilson
Magna Commoditas: A istory of Leiden University Library 1575-2005C. Berkvens-Stevelinck
Medieval French BridgesMarjorie Nice Boyer
Montaillou, Village OccitanLe Roy Ladurie
Nederlandse boekgeschiedenisJaarboek Voor
North Country Bishop; A Biography of William NicholsonFrancis Godwin James
Northern History vols. 1966-1995
Northern History, June 1964 February 1969, June 1969
Oxford University Calendar 1999-2000
Oxford University Calendar 2000-2001
Oxford University Calendar 2005-2006
Parliament and Politics in the Age of Churchill and Attlee: The Headlam diaries 1935-51Stuart Ball
Patrology Vol. IVAngelo di Berardino
Place Names of Northern Ireland, County Antrim I, Vol 4
Place Names of Northern Ireland, County Down I Vol 1
Place Names of Northern Ireland, County Down II Vol 2
Place Names of Northern Ireland, County Down IV, Vol 6
Pope John XXII and his Franciscan CardinalPatrick Nold
Proceedings of the British Academi, Bibiographical Memoirs of Fellows Vols. I-XVIII
Proceedings of the British Academy Lectures & Memoirs 1988-2000
Projets de CroisadeJaques Paviot
Province and EmpireJulia Smith
Religion and PowerDouglas Edwards
Royal Historical Society Centenary Guide 1868-1968
Scaliger’s Oriental Legacy in Leiden 1609-2009
Sean, nua agus síoraíocht : Féilscríbhinn in ómós do Dháithí Ó hÓgáinRíonach Uí Ógáin
Small WorldsWendy Davies
Society of Antiquaries of London Annual Report 1990-91
Studies on the Life and Legend of St PatrickL. Bieler
Sussex Archaelogical Collections Vol. 126
The Antiquaries Journal 1991-2019
The Antiquaries Journal Index 61-70
The Barbarian West 400-1000J. M. Wallace-Hadrill
The Christianisation of Latin MetreSeppo Heikkinen
The Dublin ScuffleJohn Dunton
The End of Ancient ChristianityR. A. Markus
The English Historical Review No. 323
The gate of horn: a study of the religious conceptions of the stone age, and their influence upon European thoughtGertrude Rachel Levy
The Irish Contribution to European Scholastic ThoughMcEvoy and Dunne
The Irish Matryoshka: A History of Irish Monks in Medieval EuropeHarkins/OhEarcain
The Kingship and Landscape of TaraEdel Bhreathnac
The Letters of Pierre de CrosWilliman
The Merovingian Kingdoms 450-751Ian Wood
The Settlement of Disputes in Early Medieval EuropeWendy Davies and Paul Fouracre
The Shorter Cambridge Medieval History Vols I and II
The Spanish Kingdoms 1250-1516: Vol. I 1250-1410
The Spanish Kingdoms 1250-1516: Vol. II 1410-1516
Trinity College Cambridge Annual Record 1995-2019
Wadham College Gazette 2017
Wadham College Gazette 2018
William BlackstoneWilfrid Prest

Medieval Matters: Week 7

I don’t quite understand how it’s come around so quickly, but here we are in Week 7. For those who need a bit of a boost at this late stage in the term, some wisdom on the joys of (medieval) texts, taken from the  Epistolae  project:

In nullis nobis desit doctrina legendi,
Lectio sit nobis et liber omne quod est.
[Let us not miss reading’s lesson in any [languages];
Let everything there is be a book and a text for us.]
A poem from Baudri to Constance of Le Ronceray

As Oxford medievalists we are of course extremely lucky to be surrounded by so many opportunities to read and encounter literatures in various medieval languages. But we are also a highly interdisciplinary community, and this week we have a whole host of delights, including Eclipse prediction, Byzantine dining, 19th century manuscript scrapbooks, and an exhibition on medieval monsters!


  • The Medieval Women’s Writing Research Group Conference 2024 will be held on 18th June 2024 with the theme of “Exchanging Words” in Room 2 of the Taylor Institution Library both in person (presenters/attendees) and online (attendees). Free but registration required. All info, including the link to registration, can be found here:
  • A workshop on Reconsidering Contrafacts: Practices of Contrafacture in Monophonic Song (1150–1550) will take place on 20th June, 10am-7pm. Looking at different repertories of monophonic song between 1150 and 1550, the aim of this workshop is to explore different approaches to the widespread spectrum of practices and concepts of contrafacture: composing new texts for pre-existing melodies. If you want to attend or if you have questions, please email Philip Wetzler. To read more and see the schedule, please click here.
  • Oxford Translation Day 2024: Saturday, June 15, 2024, St Anne’s College. Every June, St Anne’s College runs Oxford Translation Day, a celebration of literary translation consisting of a vibrant range of workshops and talks. The day culminates in the award of the Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize. The Oxford-Weidenfeld Translation Prize is for book-length literary translations into English from any living European language. It aims to honour the craft of translation, and to recognise its cultural importance. It was founded by Lord Weidenfeld and is funded by New College, The Queen’s College, and St Anne’s College. The full programme is available on the Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation (OCCT) Research Centre website, here: All Oxford Translation Day events are free, but require registration. Please register via the Eventbrite links provided on the Oxford Comparative Criticism and Translation (OCCT) Research Centre website.


Monday 3rd June:

  • The Tolkien 50th Anniversary Seminar Series meets at 5pm in the T. S. Eliot Theatre, Merton College. This week’s speaker will be Michael G.R. Tolkien (Poet and Critic), “A grandson’s reflections on J.R.R. Tolkien. For more information, please see
  • The Medieval History Seminar meets at 5pm in the Old Library, 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 Peregrine Horden (All Souls, Oxford) A room with a view: Chichele’s college’.

Tuesday 4th June:

  • The Mythical and Monstrous exhibition takes place from 12 noon–4pm, Lecture Room 6, New College, Oxford. Hunt for weird and wonderful beasts in items from our fabulous special collections, from dragons and unicorns, to centaurs, blemmyes, and merpeople. Among the wide variety of items on display will be a beautiful thirteenth-century Psalter, a fantastic fourteenth-century apocalypse manuscript, a famous fifteenth-century chronicle, and a spectacular sixteenth-century astronomical text. The exhibition is free and open to all. Signs will be in place to direct visitors to the exhibition from the Porters’ Lodge, located halfway down Holywell Street. If you have any questions, please email
  • 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 Jonathan Morton (Tulane University), ‘Integuments, Astral Magic, and Robots: Virgil and Medieval Technologies of Literature‘.
  • The Medieval Church and Culture Seminar meets at 5.15pm in the Wellbeloved Room, Harris Manchester College. This week’s speakers will be Charlie West (Regent’s), Cruising Hell:  seeing and writing Dante’s sodomites and Fergus Bovill (Merton), Cut and Paste: the album of illuminated manuscript cuttings in the 19thc. Everyone is welcome at this informal and friendly graduate seminar.

Wednesday 5th June:

  • 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). The topic for this term is Konrad von Würzburg: ‘Der Schwanritter’; this week we will discuss ‘human-animal interaction’Kampf & Körper’ with Julia Lorenz presenting. Open access edition here. If you are interested to be added to the teams group for updates, please contact Henrike Lähnemann.
  • 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.

Thursday 6th June:

  • 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 Laure Miolo (Lincoln College, University of Oxford), Eclipse Prediction in Late Fifteenth-century England: the Case of Lewis Caerleon.
  • The Medieval Visual Culture Seminar meets at 5pm at St Catherine’s College, Oxford, Arumugam Building. All welcome! This week’s speaker will be Lara Frentrop, University of Heidelberg, ‘Objects of Desire: The Byzantine Art of Dining as Social and Romantic Agents‘.

Friday 7th June:

  • 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.
  • The Oxford Medieval Manuscripts Group (OMMG) meets at 5pm in the Sir Howard Stringer Room, Merton College. Antonia Della Fratte, University of Padua will speak on Gustav F. Waagen Tours of Britain: Describing Illuminated MSS in Oxford.
  • The Anglo-Norman Reading Group will meets at 5-6.30pm. Please note that this final session of the will be Zoom ONLY, as our convenor is unable to attend for our final meeting of the academic year. We shall continue reading from Mandeville, and will also discuss plans for next term. If you wish to join us and are not already on our mailing-list, please contact Stephanie Hathaway or Jane Bliss to be sent the link.


  • Free books for medievalists! Professor Richard Sharpe (1954–2020) was Professor of Diplomatic in the University and one of the country’s foremost medievalists, whose research ranged from the early Irish church to Anglo-Norman royal acts to the transmission of medieval Latin texts and medieval books and libraries. He was also a large presence in the History Faculty and much involved in graduate tuition. Books from Professor Sharpe’s library are now being offered gratis to local medievalists – please see the list here. A great encourager of others, he would have been delighted to know that his books could be helping the next generation. For more information, please contact Elizabeth Champion to reserve books and arrange collection.
  • CFP: Unlocking the Exeter Book – New Perspectives: Paper proposals are invited for a conference to be held at The University of Oxford, on 16–17 April 2025. The Exeter Book or Exeter Anthology is a cornerstone of Old English poetry. From saints’ lives to wisdom poetry, lyrics and laments to riddles and prayers, this fascinating juxtaposition of genres, styles and themes invites constant re-reading and re-evaluation. The conference will bring together established scholars and new voices to bring fresh insights to this rich and enigmatic manuscript. Please send abstracts of no more than 150 words to Rachel Burns and Francis Leneghan by 1st August 2024

Finally, some more wisdom from the Epistolae Project, and from Baudri, on the joys of reading:

quaevis mundi littera nos doceat
[Every literature of the world teaches us.] 
A poem from Baudri to Constance of Le Ronceray

I of course take this broadly, in the spirit of this week’s first wisdom quotation, to mean that every facet of medieval studies teaches us! I wish you a week of productive reading, teaching and learning.

[A Medievalist who “missed reading’s lesson in Latin is now a little puzzled…]
St John’s College MS. 61, f. 10 r. 
By permission of the President and Fellows of St John’s College, Oxford
Viewable in full at Digital Bodleian

Reconsidering Contrafacts

Practices of Contrafacture in Monophonic Song (1150–1550)

When: 20 June 2024 (week 9), 10am-7pm
Where: Committee Room, Faculty of Music
Convenor: Philip Wetzler

Looking at different repertories of monophonic song between 1150 and 1550, the aim of this workshop is to explore different approaches to the widespread spectrum of practices and concepts of contrafacture: composing new texts for pre-existing melodies. The fact of a song being a contrafact will not be taken as a result but as a starting point for further inquiries. In this workshop we will encounter similarities, analogies, and differences between different regions, languages, genres, and times between 1150 and 1550, looking at Trouvère, Sangspruch and Minnesang, religious song (geistliches Lied), Meistersinger and puy societies.

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.

The workshop is generously funded by the Evangelisches Studienwerk Villigst e.V.

Preliminary schedule with provisional titles

  • 10:00 – 10:30 Coffee/Tea
  • 10:30-11:00 Introduction
  • 11:00 – 11:45 Joseph Mason, Satire, allusion, erasure: approaches to contrafacture in trouvère songs of war
  • 11:45 – 12:30 Philip Wetzler, From Contrafact to Practices of Contrafacture: Middle High German Sangspruch and Practices of Contrafacture
  • 12:30 – 13:30 Light Lunch Break
  • 13:30 – 14:15 Anna Wilmore, Ludic Lyrics: Play and Piety in Marian Contrafact
  • 14:15 – 15:00 Agnes Rugel, “geistlich lieder, doch in weltlichen weysen”. How practices of contrafacture structure the landscape of religious songbooks in late medieval Germanspeaking areas
  • 15:00 – 15:30 Tea/Coffee Break
  • 15:30 – 17:00 Collective Discussion of Case Studies
  • 17:00 – 17:30 Tea/Coffee Break
  • 17:30 – 18:30/19:00 Collective Discussion of Case Studies
  • 19:00 Dinner (self-paying)

Image from the Hohenfurt Songbook (Hohenfurter Liederbuch), fol. 65r, Hohenfurt / Vyssí Brod (Bohemia), Stiftsbibliothek Ms. 8b

CAT – Conversations Across Time

CAT is back! After a successful run in June 2023, artist in residence at the Physics Department Pam Davis has developed a second art-piece ‘Conversations Across Time’. Free tickets for the performances moving from the Ashmolean to a second secret hidden location are available via the website

Dates: June 15th (preview at 11am – 1:20pm) | June 15th | June 16th

Schedule: 15:20 Meet on the steps at the Ashmolean Museum
15:30 Prequel
16:00 Departure for Scene Two
16:15 Scene II is in a Quantum Anomaly [hidden location]
17:40 End | Conversation to Follow

Players:  Giovanni De Felice, Sirui Ning and, Juliette Imbert, PDK, Costi Levy,
Directors: PDK and Costi Levy 
Composer: Cheryl Frances-Hoad 

From the announcement in 2023: What do horses, medievalists, black hole orbits, boardrooms, and quantum computers have in common? Inspired by the Medieval Mystery Plays, artist in residence at the Physics Department Pam Davis has developed an art-piece ‘Conversations Across Time’ which links medieval theatre, women in science, and Quantum future.

Poster for the play