The Oxford Medieval Society is pleased to announce a public lecture by Dr Charlotte Cooper-Davis on Thursday 9th June 2022.
Dr Cooper-Davis will speak on the topic of “Christine de Pizan: Guilty Feminist?”.
The lecture will take place in the New Seminar Room in St. John’s College, 13:00-14.30.
About the speaker: Dr Charlotte Cooper-Davis is an Honorary Research Fellow of the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages at the University of Oxford, and the author of Christine de Pizan: Life, Works, Legacy (Reaktion Press, 2021). Her DPhil thesis explored text-image relations in de Pizan’s works, and a resulting monograph is currently under contract with ARC Humanities Press.
Please direct any queries to email@example.com.
Image credit: British Library MS Harley 4431, f.259v (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).
The 2022 Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference organising committee is pleased to announce the programme for Medicine and Healing.
Medicine and Healing: The 18th Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference
21st-22nd April, online and in-person at Ertegun House, St Giles, Oxford, OX1 3LD.
Sponsored by the Ertegun Graduate Scholarship Programme in the Humanities, Oxford Medieval Studies, the Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) and the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature.
Organising Committee: Katherine Beard, Ashley Castelino, Corinne Clark, James Cogbill, Nia Moseley-Roberts, Diana Myers, Grace O’Duffy, Caleb Prus and Eugenia Vorobeva.
To register for online or in-person attendance, please visit our website.
On 11 April, the research team working on the Leverhulme-funded project ‘The Literary heritage of Anglo-Dutch relations, 1050-1600’ holds an informal workshop / reading group in the Weston Library at the Bodleian, 14:00-16:00.
The format are three papers by Laura Cleaver (School of Advanced Studies, University of London: ‘Illuminated Manuscripts and the Shaping of English and Flemish Identities’; Thea Summerfield, University of Utrecht, ‘Lodewijk van Velthem on Edward I’), and David Murray (University of Utrecht, ‘The Circulation of Lyrics between England and the Low Countries’).
If you are interested to join the workshop please contact Ad Putter, A.D.Putter@bristol.ac.uk
Date: Monday 11 April 2022 Time: 5.15–6.15pm Location: Lecture Theatre, Weston Library & online Speaker: Professor Kathleen Kennedy, British Academy Global Professor, University of Bristol The event is free but booking for in-person tickets is required. Click here to register for the event
The Masters of the Dark Eyes in England and the invention of the Tudor court artist
This lecture re-examines the corpus of the Masters of the Dark Eyes in England and argues that their work played a part in the developing role of the King’s Painter. In the Netherlands, the Masters of the Dark Eyes were premier decorators of luxurious books of hours. Their English patrons recast the Masters as courtly, Renaissance painters. Moreover, in England the Masters were sometimes primarily miniaturists, and other times valued instead for their border and initial art. Unrecognized before now, the Masters in England completed some commissions without any illustrations at all. Finally, the Masters of the Dark Eyes in England sometimes also partnered with English artists, a direct collaboration illuminating the topic at the heart of the North Sea Crossings: Anglo-Dutch Books and the Adventures of Reynard the Fox exhibition. In proving that Dutch artists could adapt to the wide-ranging artistic needs of the early Tudor court, the Masters of the Dark Eyes in England paved the way for more formal employment of the better-known Horenbout and Holbein.
The lecture will be followed by a drinks reception 6.15-7.15pm for those attending in-person. Attendees will be able to access the North Sea Crossingsexhibition throughout the public event.
The Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research, the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science and the Maison française d’Oxford invite you to attend the hybrid conference Hesychasm in Context: Theology and Society in the Fourteenth Century, Thursday 17th – Friday 18th March 2022. All of the papers will be livestreamed.
To register for the in-person event (including lunches), please email Dr Rei Hakamada (firstname.lastname@example.org) as soon as possible, as numbers are limited.
On Wednesday 2nd March 2022, the Oxford Medieval Society will hold a panel on medieval plagues.
Professor Mark Bailey (University of East Anglia) will give a talk entitled What did the Black Death do for us? Some answers from England, 1350 to 1400, and Professor Samuel Cohn (University of Glasgow) will speak on Plagues of the Central Middle Ages: The dog that didn’t bark.
The panel will start at 5pm and be held in the North Lecture Room of St. John’s College.
All are very welcome to attend what promises to be a fascinating panel.
Image credit: “The Triumph of Death”, Galleria Regionale della Sicilia, Palermo, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.
Report on Lucy Pick’s Lecture for OMS: A Guest Blog by Pilar Bertuzzi Rivett
Watch Lucy Pick’s OMS Lecture 2022 here:
The Oxford Medieval Studies Lecture for Hilary Term 2022 was delivered on 8 February by Professor Lucy Pick, historian of medieval thought and culture, author of Her Father’s Daughter: Gender, Power, and Religion in Early the Spanish Kingdoms (Cornell 2017), Pilgrimage (Cuidono 2014) and Conflict and Coexistence: Archbishop Rodrigo and the Muslims and Jews of Thirteenth-Century Spain (University of Michigan 2004). Professor Pick is a visiting scholar at the Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in Oxford, researching the earliest Latin translation of Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed.
As a Hebraist and fellow historian of medieval thought, I looked forward to Professor Pick’s take on what Jewish-Christian relationships meant in the case of Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed. It is a treat to be able to read a Jewish Medieval author in Latin and since instances of actual intellectual cooperation (especially in the early Middle Ages, which is what I focus on) are very few and far between, I am always curious to learn about them. I was particularly interested in how Professor Pick discovered this cooperation and what method she was going to use in order to flesh it out.
I found that Professor Pick set the scene very aptly when she opened her presentation mentioning that the Guide to the Perplexed “landed in the Latin scholastic world of the thirteenth century like a stick of dynamite.” Maimonides’ synthesis of science, the Law, Greek physics and metaphysics through the lens of the Hebrew Bible was nothing short of “explosive”. He offered a method for assimilating and interpreting the new Aristotle that flooded the schools of the thirteenth century. Did he inspire part of that flood? Did the Guide open up new avenues of thought for Christian readers that could be used as tools in their polemics against the Jews? These were some of the questions that were addressed in her presentation.
In what to me was reminiscent of the Italian school of microhistory, Professor Pick set aside the Christian scholastics of the mid to late thirteenth century, (whose study “used up most of the scholarly oxygen dedicated to Maimonides Latinus”) to focus on a much earlier community of readers of the Guide, one composed of both Jewish and Christians in the city of Toledo. At the heart of her project is the Liber de Parabola (witnessed in only one manuscript, Paris Sorbonne MS 601), the earliest Latin translation of the Guide (Part III, chapters 29-49 in which Maimonides discusses the reasons for commandments). According to Professor Pick, the Liber has not received the attention it deserves, neither as a witness to the Guide nor for its additional content which bears witness to the earliest reception to the ideas of the Guide. She therefore traced these individuals’ contact with the Liber de Parabola to shed light on both positive and negative aspects of its reception by Christians.
The key characters in this “textual community” are Samuel ibn Tibbon, who translated Maimonides’ Guide from Judeo-Arabic into Hebrew; Michael Scot, court astrologer to Frederick II who began his career as a master in Toledo, translating scientific texts from Arabic into Latin and Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, Archbishop of Toledo, in whose cathedral Michael and Samuel may have met and in whose writings we can trace the earliest evidence of Maimonides’ impact on the Latin world.
Samuel’s contribution to the Liber is easiest to identify: he used his Hebrew translation for the base texts; he drew on his interpretation of Maimonides’ ideas about philosophical and Biblical exegesis and illustrated it with examples from his commentary on Ecclesiastics. He is cited by name at least six times in connection with the readings of the Hebrew Bible and interpretation of Jewish law. Pick believes that these passages reflect oral communication between Samuel Ibn Tabbon and the translator.
Michael Scot’s identity is more difficult to establish and rests on substantial circumstantial evidence. Michael Scot knew the work of Maimonides as he cited him in his “De physionomiae”; he was in Rome at the same time as the Liber de Parabola was dedicated to Cardinal Romanus and first appeared on the historical record in 1215 in Rome, accompanying the entourage of the Archbishop of Toledo at the Fourth Lateran Council. Pick notes that Samuel consulted books by Aristoteles meteorology (some of which Scot translated into Latin) in Toledo at some point between 1204 and 1210, thus Michael and Samuel could plausibly have met and worked together.
Pick also described how Michael Scot became a close associate of Jacob Anatoli while at Frederick II’s court in Naples. Anatoli was Samuel’s son in law, whose philosophical sermons (Malmad ha-Talmidim) recounted conversations with Michael Scot and his knowledge of Maimonides’ work. In one of his sermons on Parshat Nitzavim, Anatoli showed awareness of the Liber de Parabola, inclusive of its structure and introduction and associates it with Michael Scot. Pick very ably showed parallels between Anatoli’s interpretation of Deuteronomy 4:6 with the opening of the Liber de Parabola which contrasts the interpretation of a commandment with the allegory of a parable.
By means of a venn diagram, Pick highlighted the interpenetration of ideas amongst the translators of key works in Toledo, Naples and Provence all of whom were engaged in a parallel set of translations and commentaries on Aristotle’s Meteorology inspired by Part II Chapter 30 of Maimonides’ Guide. Since Part II was not available in the Liber, this suggests a wider diffusion of the Guide in Toledo.
The presentation concluded by showing the “polemical” potential to Christian borrowing of Maimonides’ ideas. The Archbishop of Toledo reacted to Part II Chapter 30 in his Breviarium in which he used Maimonides’ ideas of “principle” and “spirit” to argue for the Christian Trinity. This is an example of how the section of the Guide in the Liber de Parabola was used by later Christians in support of a doctrine of “supersession” rather than fostering a more positive understanding of those who follow God’s commandments, as Jacob Anatoli would have hoped for.
This conclusion was what surprised me most about the presentation. I suppose I approached the topic with the eyes of someone accustomed to the interpenetration of ideas between Christians and Jews of Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages when it comes to mysticism. However, Professor Pick’s paper showed that by the thirteenth century intellectual cooperation could be both a tool and a weapon. In her own words, “textual community did not mean safety and an exchange of texts could provide ammunition as well as understanding.” In the period of history I focus on, between the ninth and eleventh centuries, both Christian and Jewish polemical tools were still in their pre-scholastic phase; Peter Damian’s work only really impacted Jewish-Christian relations towards the end of my “horizon.” However, the fact that Dante Alighieri put Pater Damian in the highest circles of Paradise, whereas Michael Scot was relegated to the malebolgie of Hell should have alerted me to the fact that there was not going to be a “happy ending” to Professor Pick’s textual community.
Still, any kind of inter-faith intellectual cooperation in the Middle Ages is worth researching because it demystifies some of the myths that surround the history of Christian and Jewish communities. When genuine, as in the case of Pick’s “textual community” or in the case of the Victorines in Paris, cooperation challenges the narrative of Jews and Christians as distinct cultures in “conversation and conflict.” The key takeaway from this paper for my dissertation is that we are better served to approach the history of Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages from an organic model of culture rather than who influenced whom, to borrow from David Biale and Michael Satlow. I admire the way in which Pick focuses on people and their agency and how comfortable she was with admitting that sometimes, as in the case of Michael Scot’s identity, one has to rely on somewhat circumstantial evidence. As medievalists, we do not always find “the silver bullet”; we are dealing with people and sources that existed nearly two thousand years ago. Even the most refined sleuths sometimes build cases on indirect evidence. If we wanted simple, straightforward, direct evidence, we would be statisticians or, worse still, modern historians.
I found that the interdisciplinary, multi-lingual approach in Pick’s presentation fit very well with the remit of the OMS and with our own identity as medieval historians. In Professor Pick’s words, “life is best viewed through more than one window.”
Oxford Medieval Studies has had another hugely productive year, despite – or even partly because of – the pandemic. Following the excellent advice of TORCH’s Nikki Carter, we decided to expand the team to cover different aspects of communication and online events management (see image and the report on the team). Under the stewardship of Caroline Batten as Comms Officer who developed the weekly email into a poetic artform, a whole wassail of postgraduate medievalists pulled the digital strings, commissioned and wrote blog posts, ran conferences, tweeted, recorded roundtables, and in between used every open air medieval venue around Oxford to meet covid-safe in person. A splendid example for this was the ‘Dark Archives 2.0’ conference which kicked off the academic year (read a report by Llewelyn and Tom about their experience in running the conference); Stephen Pink who organised this for Medium Aevum had already in 2019 conceived this as a digital-born conference (http://darkarchiv.es/) so that in September 2020 we were ahead of the learning curve of zoomified academic life. We even dared – and pulled off – a medieval Compline, sung in Latin from five locations around Oxford, including the Norman Crypt of St-Peter-in-the-East, the library church of St Edmund Hall.
The Hilary Term Interdisciplinary Lecture, live streamed via the OMS Youtube channel, was delivered by Prof. William Chester Jordan, as was the reflection by Jim Harris from the Ashmolean on the importance of objects for teaching medieval studies. Together, the videos of the OMS channel attracted several thousand views since its start a year ago. The medieval studies booklets have been downloaded over 1500 times, the weekly newsletter has over 700 subscribers and the twitter feed @OxMedStud is reaching nearly 5,000 followers.
With the new academic year, we are starting to bring back in-person events while continuing with online events for outreach purposes. What definitely will be a live all-sensory event is the second edition of the Medieval Mystery Cycle which is planned for 23 April 2021 and will bring together a dozen different groups of medievalists, performing multi-lingually in various locations around St Edmund Hall. Like 2019, it will be directed by Henrike Lähnemann and Lesley Smith who has also now taken on the role as Co-Director. Also new in the team is Luisa Ostacchini who has taken over the Communications Officer role from Caroline Batten and is making the weekly emails even more colourful with newly captioned snippets from Oxford manuscripts.
Hyggnaþing (‘Meeting of Minds’): A Graduate Conference in Old Norse Studies took place on the 11th of August 2021. A brand-new conference co-organised by Natasha Bradley, a DPhil student at Lincoln College, Oxford, and Ben Chennells, a PhD student at University College London, Hyggnaþing attracted speakers and attendees from across the globe for a one-day online conference exploring all things Old Norse.
Hyggnaþing was created in response to the isolation that has impacted everyone over this past year and a half. With constant lockdowns, library closures, and restrictions on events, postgraduate study has become even more challenging and isolating, with fewer opportunities for students to engage with the academic community. Hyggnaþing was created with connection in mind, providing a virtual space to build networks and share research in a welcoming environment. For this, Hyggnaþing made use of both Zoom and Wonder, a platform which simulates the experience of an in-person meeting and allows for online ‘mingling’.
After some opening remarks from the organisers, the conference began with a panel on the significance of space in saga literature, chaired by Oxford’s own Olivia Elliott Smith. The first paper was by Grace O’Duffy (University of Cambridge), whose paper explored the development of Hǫttr from Hrólf saga kraka, as he progresses from the bone-pile to a masculine ‘ideal’. Then Mary O’Connor (University of Oxford) spoke about courtly space in two Old Norse riddarasǫgur: Ívens saga and Erex saga.
After a quick screen break, the second session of the day, chaired by Sigrun Borgen Wik (Trinity College Dublin), began with a paper from Basil Arnould Price (University of York). Basil’s paper explored the idea of failure as resistance in Grettis saga and Gests þáttr using queer theory. This was followed by a paper from Caroline Bourne (University of Reading), which reassessed the relationship between Scandinavians and the Gower peninsula in South Wales from the tenth century. The panel was concluded with a paper by Giorgia Sottotetti (Háskóli Íslands), who examined small figurines or ‘pocket-idols’ from Iron Age Scandinavia and analysed how they reflect the religious, social, and political changes within the period.
After lunch, Hyggnaþing resumed with a panel on translation, chaired by the co-organiser Natasha Bradley. The first paper, by Katrín Lísa L. Mikaelsdóttir (Háskóli Íslands), analysed the presence of Norwegianisms in medieval Icelandic manuscripts and how their use changes over time. The second paper of the panel was by Davide Salmoiraghi (University of Cambridge). Davide looked at the reception of the Church Fathers in medieval Iceland, examining the spread of the saints’ cult and its influence on the Norse hagiographies. Luthien Cangemi (University College London) concluded the translation panel with her paper on the transition from the concept of Medicina to Physica in Old Norse sources.
Then followed the mid-afternoon virtual coffee break on Wonder. This allowed attendees to mingle together to get to know each other, moving between groups of people to talk. Some attendees continued their discussions about the conference in a more informal setting, and others struck up new discussions about postgraduate life and their own research.
The final panel of the day was chaired by the conference co-organiser Ben Chennells. It explored the receptions and re-castings of Old Norse literature. The first paper, by Grace Khuri (University of Oxford), examined the Victorian novel Eric Brighteyes by H. Rider Haggard and its use of Old Norse saga sources. Richard Munro of the University of the Highlands and Islands then presented about how to perform an eddic poem.
The keynote lecture, delivered by Dr Sarah Baccianti, a British Academy Newton International Fellow at Queen’s University Belfast, discussed the Old Norse medical charms and healing practices. Exploring material culture and saga literature, Baccianti’s interdisciplinary paper called for a re-evaluation of the distinction between our modern concepts of magic and medicine. The keynote was followed, as with all the panels, by an engaging discussion. An evening social hosted on Wonder concluded the conference.
Hyggnaþing hosted ten speakers, four chairs, and a keynote lecturer, all of whom joined the conference from nine different institutions across the UK and beyond. Seventy-five guests registered to attend, with audience members joining from locations across the globe, from the United States to Australia, to ask questions and make comments that sparked engaging academic discussion. New connections were forged on Wonder and Zoom alike, and the organisers hope that these will be long-lived.
Hyggnaþing is incredibly grateful to Oxford Medieval Studies (OMS), sponsored by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) for the funding to cover the costs of the conference. This allowed the registration for the conference to be completely free of charge, creating an accessible and welcoming conference for attendees and helping to foster the thriving academic community, and ‘meeting of minds’, that came together for Hyggnaþing. For more information about the conference, see the Hyggnaþing website: https://hyggnathing.wordpress.com/