(23rd May) Botany and Zoology Treasure of New College Library

When? – 11 am – 4 pm, Monday 23rd May
Where? – New College’s Lecture Room 4

As part of New College Library’s series of subject-themed exhibitions, on Monday, 23 May we shall have on display for you rare books and manuscripts from the library’s fabulous collections relating to Botany and Zoology.

This exhibition is the latest in a series, instituted in 2018 by the library, that has so far featured Classics, Geometry and Astronomy, Modern Languages, and New College Women Writers.  And it marks our return to subject-themed exhibitions since the start of the pandemic.

For this display, we are providing you with a rare opportunity to see, among many other treasures: a 13th-century manuscript of Pliny’s Historia naturalis; the first known description of plants from the Americas (1542) by Leonhart Fuchs (after whom the fuchsia is named); the best-known English herbal, by John Gerard (1633); the first published book by New College fellow Robert Sharrock, on growing vegetables (1660); a first edition of Robert Hooke’s spectacular Micrographia (1665); and a printed natural history of Oxfordshire, with the first known published illustration of a dinosaur bone (1677).

From 11 am till 4 pm on Monday in New College’s Lecture Room 4, we shall be exhibiting for you—with explanatory captions—some of our Botany and Zoology treasures.

Please do come along—and enjoy our exhibition.

We very much hope to see you there.

Coffee Morning with Professor William Chester Jordan

The Faculty of History and Oxford Medieval Studies are pleased to invite you to an informal meet and greet coffee morning with William Chester Jordan (Professor of Medieval History,
Princeton University) on the occasion of his reception of an honorary degree of the University of Oxford.
When? Thursday 23rd June, 10.30am-12 noon
Where? The garden of Harris Manchester College (Mansfield Road), or in the Warrington
Room in the case of rain.
Coffee and croissants will be provided.
For catering purposes, please register your attendance here by 14th June:
https://forms.gle/AkvPUsX2Ur1hbgTU7

Bill Jordan gave the 2021 Oxford Medieval Studies keynote lecture “A Thirteenth-Century Polymath Considers the Jews” – watch it here:

Oxford Medieval Studies lecture 2021

Marriages, Unmarriages, and Subjectivities: A Roundtable Discussion with Sara McDougall and Hannah Skoda

The Oxford Medieval Society is pleased to announce our first event of Trinity Term 2022, a Roundtable Discussion with Professors Sara McDougall and Hannah Skoda

We invite all interested parties to attend the event on Thursday 26th May at 13:00-14.30, in the New Seminar Room in St. John’s College. Participants will be able to ask questions and engage in discussion with Professor McDougall and Professor Skoda on a shared area of their research, Marriages, Unmarriages, and Subjectivities

Professor Sara McDougall is Associate Professor of History at John Jay College of Criminal Justice (City University of New York) and coordinator of the Medieval Studies Certificate Program at the CUNY Graduate Center. Specialising in legal history, her research focuses primarily on women and crime in medieval France and explores topics such as gender, marriage, religion and illegitimacy. Her publications include Royal Bastards: The Birth of Illegitimacy, 800-1230 (Oxford University Press, 2017) and Bigamy and Christian Identity in Late Medieval Champagne (University of Pennsylvania Press, 2012). Professor McDougall is in Oxford this term as an Astor Visiting Lecturer.  

Professor Hannah Skoda is Fellow and Tutor in Medieval History at St. John’s College, Oxford, and specialises in the cultural and social history of the later Middle Ages. She has particular interests in education, conflict, ownership, slavery and constructions of deviance in late medieval Europe. Her monograph Medieval Violence: Physical Brutality in Northern France, 1270-1330 (Oxford University Press, 2013) won the Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship’s 2014 Best First Book Prize, in which year she was also awarded a Philip Leverhulme Prize to explore nostalgia in the fourteenth century. 

Please do not hesitate to get in touch with any questions at oxfordmedievalsociety@gmail.com

We look forward to seeing you there!

Public Lecture – Christine de Pizan

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 oxfordmedievalsociety@gmail.com.

Image credit: British Library MS Harley 4431, f.259v (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

Catch-up: Oxford Medieval Mystery Plays 2022

Following a two-year pandemic break, it was a joyous occasion for all to be able to attend in-person the second annual performance of the Oxford Medieval Mystery Plays hosted by St Edmund Hall on 23 April last week. The production was led by Professor Henrike Lähnemann, 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, and expertly managed by Dr Eleanor Baker, Project Support Officer for the Post-GCSE Inspire Programme at St John’s College and medieval literature specialist. The full cycle was live-streamed by Natascha Domeisen and is available for watching on the St Edmund Hall Youtube Channel and also linked in to the website dedicated to the Oxford Medieval Mystery Plays.

We’ll be your guide to every play: Mystery Cycle organisers (left) and Jim Harris as Master of Ceremonies (right)

Featuring 11 plays in 6 languages (Middle and Modern English, Spanish, French, German and Latin), the ‘spectaculum’ opened with a performance of period music by the Anonymous Minstrels before The Revd Dr Zachary Guiliano rang the Chapel bell to mark the opening of the Mystery Cycle. We were introduced to each play through prologues prepared by the linking verses creator, Prof David Maskell, and wonderfully performed by our Master of Ceremonies, Dr Jim Harris, who guided attendees across college to each play location. These prologues were essential not only to the day’s enjoyment, but also to making the medieval materials accessible to a modern audience providing plot summaries and descriptions of what we were about to see through rhyming verse!

A marvellous boat will shortly appear: Scenes from the Killing of Abel (Left) and Noah’s Ark (right)

The Mystery Plays presented Biblical stories from Creation to the Resurrection, and were brought to life by an incredible cast of actors, academics and students with links to Oxford Medieval Studies. The Faculty of English kicked things off in the Old Dining Hall with the stories of Creation and the Fall, accompanied by a digital video featuring manuscript illustrations by Prof Dan Wakelin. We were then led into the front quad to witness the Holloway Mystery Players perform the killing of Abel, followed by the story of Noah’s Ark by Medieval Studies students, which receives an honorary mention here for the best props of the event, including fabric waves and an inflatable parrot standing in for the dove. The morning concluded with the sung Magnificat in a play of the Visitation by Jasmine and the Kilnsians.

You’ll see a dog but it’s a sheep: Timmy waits for his cue (left) and James Howarth as King Herod (right)

Following a short tea break, the play cycle continued in the atmospheric churchyard of St Peter-in-the-East (now College Library). The Pastoral Players provided comic relief as grumpy shepherds and a thief in the Shepherd’s Play, with the Principal’s dog Timmy stealing the show as a reluctant ‘sheep’ and kindly supported by Prof Kathy Willis and her daughter Alice. The entertainment continued with the story of the Wise Men performed by the Wise Women in Spanish, and the Massacre of the Innocents with College Librarian James Howarth playing Herod the Great alongside the 5th Week Blues.

Now to a new location for John the Baptist’s decollation: A scene of the saint’s beheading (left) and the Lazari players (right)

The best special effects of the cycle featured in the playgroup Les Soeurs de Sainte-Hilde, with their version in French of St John the Baptist’s arrest and grisly beheading (read a reflection on the process of directing a play in French by Prof. David Wiles, the director of the play). This was followed by the English MSt students performing the story of Lazarus, with 6 players of Lazarus rising from the churchyard to great effect. Undergraduate students then performed a Middle English depiction of the Crucifixion from the York Mystery Cycle dating from the 14th century. The Mystery Plays concluded with a delightful performance in Middle High German, Latin and English by the Mercantile Minstrels, with mischievous merchants, a fight scene, and a chorus of angels merrily announcing the miracle of Christ’s Resurrection.

Christ ist erstanden: The Crucifixion (left) and the announcement of the Resurrection (right)

This year’s Mystery Play Cycle was incredibly fun and a fantastic opportunity to engage with medieval culture through the wide-ranging skills of staff and students of Oxford Medieval Studies. The day ended with an exhibition display of works relating to the Easter story in the Old Library. A filming crew worked hard throughout the day to provide a livestream of events for online viewers, that can now watched back on St Edmund’s Hall YouTube Channel. We’re excited to see the continuation of what surely now has become an Oxford tradition!

Dr Alison Ray is a medievalist and the archivist at St Peter’s College, Oxford.

Reflections on directing a mystery play in French

by Prof. David Wiles

The French play was part of the Oxford Medieval Mystery Cycle performed on 23 April 2022 in St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford. The Playgroup: Les Soeurs de Sainte-Hilde (avec la participation de quelques paysans d’Iffleï) had been formed for the occasion by director: David Wiles The play is part of a cycle, ‘Le mystère de la passion’, written in the mid C15th by Arnoul Gréban, organist at Notre Dame cathedral, and doubtless also choirmaster. Full text available open access.

People ask me: “Why did you decide to do a play in French?”  Implication: it’s an English-speaking audience, and they won’t understand – middle-English bad enough.  Three responses to this one. 1. Political:  not good to live in a monoglot culture, and unlike modern scholarship the medieval world did not view life through the lens of the nation-state. 2. Theatrical:  to communicate through action and the body is a challenge which forces actors to engage with language on a different level, and reach out to their audience. 3. Intellectual:  venturing into Gréban’s text was a journey of discovery, as impenetrable hieroglyphs yielded slowly through rehearsal into recognisable speech patterns, with every phrase having its theatrical work to do. What looks like literary doggerel turns out to be theatrical gold.

An interesting research question follows – what are the cultural continuities that make Gréban’s mighty four-day passion play recognisably French, when set alongside the familiar English cycles?  Centralisation is one feature – responsibility not subdivided to autonomous guilds, but a single integrated work for an urban community to mount.  Another is the French ability to listen and maintain concentration upon the word.  In the English texts, action typically takes place between stanzas, but in the French text couplets conjoin speeches, so each new speaker has a rhyme to echo in order to come in on cue, a feature we found invaluable.  The sustained rhythmic flow ratchets up the tension, with enough variety of register and poetic form to hold the spectator’s attention. Like the alexandrines of Racine, the eight-syllable medieval line has a lilt that asks to be animated by the arms, so different from English metres which asked to be stamped with the feet.

After seeing the performance, a friend asked me: “What lesson was the play is supposed to impart?”  Implication: medieval theatre was didactic, a case of the church telling the peasants what to think. There is no simple moral to the John the Baptist sequence.  In the artistic structure John’s martyrdom is there because it foreshadows Christ’s.  People didn’t need telling that tyrants are venal, rather, it’s the recognisable social reality upon which a drama is built. Herod has his reasons for acting, and he washes his hands like Pilate. The medieval Salome is an enigma – we are free to draw our own conclusions, not told what to think. The urge to create theatre or art is a human constant, responding to the sensation of life as a cosmic mystery.  The idea that medieval theatre is ‘didactic’ is a handy modernist cliché, serving the narrative of progress, and all the cultural arrogance which that narrative commonly instils.  My preferred picture of the longue durée is one of progressive fragmentation, and I find in medieval theatre a holistic model of how theatre used to embrace and address a complete community in all its diversity, along with the gamut of human experience – comic and tragic, bestial and sublime – before dedicated theatre buildings and professionalism in acting and penmanship locked theatre into its lonely compartment.

David Wiles is Emeritus Professor of Drama at the University of Exeter, and lives in Iffley. He is a theatre historian whose main specialisms have been Greek and Shakespearean drama. He wrote the entry on medieval theatre for the Oxford Illustrated History of the Theatre. His medieval CV includes a student production of the plays of the Wakefield Master in the gardens of Westminster Abbey, Mankynde in the Burton Taylor rooms, a crucifixion on a farmer’s trailer in Buckingham marketplace, staging three plays by the C10th nun Roswitha, and a community production of the N-Town Creation/Fall and York Noah in Iffley.

Repeat performance of the play at Iffley Church on 24 April 2022. Cast: John the Baptist – Laurence Nagy Manasses (disciple) – Alice Hawkins Sophonias (disciple) – Laura Laube Herod – Alex Marshall Herodias – Irina Boeru Salome – Alice Hawkins Groignart A (servant) – Kate Bunn Groignart B (servant) – Andrew Stilborn Amphiarus (noble) – David Wiles Radigon (noble) – Laura Laube God – Henrike Lähnemann Crew: Director: David Wiles Consultant: Sebastian Dows-Miller Head Creator: Andrew Stilborn Filmed by Isabel Reichenbach

Trinity Term 2022 OMS Lecture: Caroline Danforth

Paper, Linen, Silk, and Parchment – Material Fragments from an Extinguished Convent

Tuesday 26 April 2022, 5p. Watch the recording on the OMS Youtube Channel

Apollonia von Freyberg was a Poor Clare nun living in the medieval village of Mülhausen (today, Mulhouse, France). We know of Apollonia through an artefact housed at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC – a colored woodcut by Lienhart Ysenhut (1959.16.15) which is housed inside a box made, in part, of recycled materials. Among these materials is the fragment of a letter addressed to Apollonia. Apollonia enriched her convent with manifold gifts and subsequently experienced the dissolution of her cloistered home during the Protestant Reformation. Beginning with Ysenhut’s print and the clues hidden in its enclosure, learn more about Apollonia’s family, wealth, and fate following her departure from Mülhausen in the early 16th century.

Caroline Danforth holds an MFA in painting from The George Washington University and a BA in German, Art History, and Fine Arts from Mary Washington College. She also studied art history in Germany for two years, in Munich and Tübingen. Since 2008, she has worked as a preservation framer of prints, drawings, and photographs at the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC. Her research interests include the history and manufacture of parchment, German to English translation, and the Poor Clares of late medieval Germany. Most recently, Caroline served as guest editor for a special issue on parchment for Art in Translation and co-authored Letters for Apollonia for Franciscan Studies.

An illustration from a 12th century English manuscript of Terence's Eunuchus: the image depicts the soldier Thraso and his henchmen ready to besiege a house.

Corpus Christi Seminar and Conference on Terence, Eunuchus

A Double Act: Introductory Seminar and Research Conference
Corpus Christi College (Oxford), Trinity Term 2022

For info, programme, and registration form: http://www.apgrd.ox.ac.uk/events/2022/06/17/eunuchus#Programme

A hybrid weekly seminar in Trinity Term (Tuesdays 11.30am, 26 April to 14 June) and one-day research conference (Friday 17 June); in collaboration with the APGRD, Corpus Christi College Classics Centre, and the University of Leipzig. Organizers: Stefano Cianciosi (LMH, Oxford), Domenico Giordani (LMH, Oxford/UCL), Vincent Graf (Leipzig/Oxford), and Giuseppe Pezzini (CCC, Oxford).

Corpus Christi College Classics Centre and the APGRD are pleased to invite you to a double act dedicated to Terence’s most successful and most controversial comedy, Eunuchus, which will consist of a weekly introductory seminar and a one-day research conference, both open to everyone.

Introductory Seminar
Tuesdays 11.30-1pm, 26 April – 14 June
Corpus Christi College (Oxford) and on Zoom

Our programme encompasses a wide array of topics and perspectives on the play — from textual criticism to gender studies, from ancient and modern reception to stage-related issues and performance. In addition to presentations on selected passages given by graduate students and early career researchers, the first five sessions will include short introductions on several aspects of the text such as transmission, language, metre, Greek model, and the historical context of its performance.

We’d like to stress that the seminar is open to everyone and it is by no means expected that participants will have any prior knowledge of the Eunuchus or of Roman comedy in general. In fact, our aim is to bring different approaches to bear on the text and thus open up new avenues for interpretation.

Research conference: The Reception of Terence Eunuchus
Friday 17 June
Auditorium, Corpus Christi College (Oxford) and on Zoom

As Terence’s most successful play, Eunuchus was consistently part of the Latin school canon from the late Roman Republic to the modern era. Over a period of more than two thousand years, the comedy has been edited, performed, commented on, criticised, illustrated, and imitated numerous times. By bringing together experts on the ancient, medieval, and modern reception of the play, the workshop aims to discuss a wide range of approaches and provide insight into the colourful afterlife of one of Rome’s most successful poets.

Confirmed speakers:

Edith Hall (University of Durham)
Antony Augoustakis (University of Illinois, Urbana Campaign)
Andrew Cain (University of Colorado Boulder)
Vincent Graf (University of Oxford/Leipzig)
Giovanna Di Martino (University College London)
Andrea Peverelli (Leiden University)
Giulia Torello-Hill (University of New England)
Andrew Turner (University of Melbourne)
Beatrice Radden Keefe (Universitӓt Zürich)
Stefan Feddern (Universität Leipzig)  

Contact
If you have any questions or queries, please feel free to email Stefano Cianciosi at stefano.cianciosi@lmh.ox.ac.uk

Medicine and Healing: The 18th Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference

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.

Programme

THURSDAY 21st APRIL

9:30-9:55 Registration (in-person)

9:55-10:00 Opening Remarks

10:00-11:30 Session 1: Charmed (chair: Katherine Beard)

  • Grace Pyles, ‘The Medicinal Unicorn Horn in the European Middle Ages’
  • Emer Kavanagh, ‘Shape and Form: The Use of Sympathetic Magic in Irish Charming Tradition’
  • Radka Pallová, ‘Humane Treatment? Animal Bodies in Alexander of Tralles’

11:30-12:00 Break with refreshments

12:00-13:30 Session 2: Call the Midwife (chair: Diana Myers)

  • Ailie Westbrook, ‘‘Mulieribus non est dicendum’: Mediated Knowledge in Women’s Health in Medieval Denmark’
  • Shir Blum, ‘Appositusque Iuvat Mulierem Parturientem: the Material Variety of Amulets as Obstetrical Aides’
  • Rachel Chenault, ‘Experiencing Childbirth: The Search for Female Voices, 1000-1200 C.E.’

13:30-14:30 Lunch

14:30-15:30 Session 3: The Seventh Seal (chair: James Cogbill)

  • Ben Hatchett, ‘‘A suitable medicine against all crimes’: John of Rupescissa’s Purgative Plague’
  • Stephen Pow, ‘Was Bubonic Plague behind the Epidemic that Affected the Mongol Army in China in 1259?’

15:30-16:00 Break with refreshments

16:00-17:00 Keynote Address 1

  • Dr Hannah Bower, ‘Locating Authority in Medieval Medical Writing: Playing with Presence and Absence’

17:00 Drinks Reception

19:00 Conference Dinner (optional)

FRIDAY 22nd APRIL

9:30-10:15 Medicine & Healing at Oxford: Manuscript & Social Session (with refreshments)

10:15-11:15 Session 4: Being Human (chair: Caleb Prus)

  • Melanie Socrates, ‘Impatient Medicine: Agency and Urgency in Middle English Medical Works’
  • S. Doğan Karakelle, ‘Knowing Horses and Thyself: Spiritual Healing and Rulership Practices in Ottoman-Turkish Veterinary Manuals 1400-1600’

11:15-11:45 Break with refreshments

11:45-13:15 Session 5: Inside Out (chair: Corinne Clark)

  • Ruth Rimmer, ‘Healing Through Lists in Lacnunga
  • Colette Sarjano Utama McDonald, ‘A Stitch Through Time: the Besloten Hofjes at Mechelen, Alberto Burri, and Judith Scott’
  • Madeleine Killacky, ‘Challenging the Monopoly of 16th-Century Anatomical Knowledge through Pop-up Paper Figures’

13:15-14:15 Lunch

14:15-15:45 Session 6: Sister Act (chair: Eugenia Vorobeva)

  • Magdalena Buszka, ‘Saint Barbara of Medieval French Mystery Plays – Healer of Bodies and Souls’
  • Hólmfríður Sveinsdóttir, ‘The Use of Lead Tablets and Anatomical Votives in Medieval Healing Practices: Case studies from the Museum of Cultural History, University of Oslo’

15:45-16:15 Break with refreshments

16:15-17:15 Keynote Address 2

  • Professor Emilie Savage-Smith, ‘Modern Myths and Medieval Medicine’

17:15-17:20 Closing Remarks

Image: Medieval dentistry, from the fourteenth-century Omne Bonum of James le Palmer (courtesy of Wikimedia Commons).

The Oxford Medieval Mystery Cycle 2022

23 April 2022, 12noon to 5pm. A cycle of medieval mystery plays performed by various groups around St Edmund Hall. A multilingual medieval experience not to be missed! All welcome (free of charge)! Performed by a variety of groups with links to Oxford Medieval Studies. Full information https://www.seh.ox.ac.uk/mystery-cycle
Directors: Henrike Lähnemann & Lesley Smith, Manager: Eleanor Baker

Programme

The cycle will be streamed via the St Edmund Hall Youtube Channel. Just tune in any time to follow the unfolding drama!

At 12 noon, the chapel bell will ring for the prologue, followed by Creation in the Old Dining Hall. From there the story of mankind will unfold, with the Old Testament being acted out in the Front Quad and the New Testament in the churchyard around St Peter-in-the-East.

Front Quad –
11:45-12:00 midday Musical Entertainment
12:00-12:05 Introduction
12:10-12:40 1. Creation and the Fall of Adam (Faculty of English)
12:45- 12:55 2. The Killing of Abel (Holloway Mystery Players)
1:00 – 1:25 3. Noah (Medieval Studies Students)

Churchyard –
1:30 – 1:50 4. The Visitation (Jasmine and the Kilnsians)
1:55- 2:20 5. The Shepherds’ Play (The Pastoral Players)
2:25- 2:40 6. The Magi (The Wise Women)
2:45 – 2:55 7. Herod the Great (The 5th Week Blues)
3:10 – 3:30 8. John the Baptist (Les Soeurs de Sainte-Hilde avec la participation de quelques paysans d’Iffleï)
3:35 – 3:55 9. Lazarus (Medieval Masters)
4:00 – 4:15 10. The Crucifixion (The Manic Medievalists)
4:20-5:00 11. The Resurrection (The Mercantile Minstrels)