Tolkien 50th Anniversary Seminar Series

The last three talks will be of special interest to medieval graduates working in Old English (or Old Norse): Grace Khuri (Nov. 8) will look at compound personal names starting with Ælf- (‘Elf’) that Tolkien encountered in his set texts as an undergraduate (c. 1913-1915) and how these contributed to building (what Tolkien himself later called) his ‘Elf-centric’ mythology for The Book of Lost Tales (c. 1917-1919) — the earliest version of what would later become The Silmarillion (1977), the epic, mythic-legendary prehistory of Middle-earth. The following week is Dr. Laura Varnam’s lecture on ‘Tolkien and Beowulf’ (Nov. 15), and the last lecture of the term will be given by Dr. Simon Horobin on ‘Tolkien the Philologist’ (Nov. 22).

Although there is an online booking system that now states that all these lectures are full, there have been many no-shows at these seminars and the organizers have said that anyone can come along now (without booking) and there should be room to fit everyone in. For those who cannot make it (due to teaching commitments, lectures, tutorials etc.), the talks will be recorded on a case-by-case basis (depending on the permission of each speaker). If there are any questions about this, contact Dr. Stuart Lee at

Early Medieval Britain and Ireland Network Fieldtrip

Saturday 28 October 2023

40th Brixworth Lecture

Helen Gittos

Christianity before Conversion

Brixworth Church, Northamptonshire

1pm Meet outside Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont Street

2.30/ 3pm Meet Brixworth church with Jo Storey, Rory Naismith and students from the universities of Leicester and Cambridge

3.30pm Tea in the Village Hall

5pm Lecture

7pm Dinner in Coach & Horses, Brixworth

8.30pm Leave Brixworth

If you would like to join us to climb the tower of the grandest surviving Anglo-Saxon church and meet graduate students from Leicester and Cambridge, please send your name and phone number to Bobby Klapper: Limited places available owing to minibus space. First come, first served.

Transport free. Tickets £8 from [You may be able to reclaim this from your college]

CMTC research talks

The Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures (CMTC) is a research group based at The Queen’s College in the University of Oxford. We are scholars working in different fields of the humanities with a common interest in pre- and early modern texts, their materiality, transmission, and dissemination. For further information please visit our website Most of our research talks are recorded and uploaded to our YouTube channel CMTC Media If you like CMTC Media please subscribe to the channel and turn on notifications to receive regular updates on the new content available.

There are two CMTC events in Michaelmas term:

Michaelmas Term Lecture:  25 October 5.15pm  (week 3), Memorial Room, The Queen’s College

Prof. Mary Carruthers (NYU and St Hilda’s, Oxford): Understanding Solid Figures in Early Medieval Manuscripts:  how Rhetoric and Geometry interact

Work in Progress Seminar:  7 November 3.30pm (week 5), Memorial Room, The Queen’s College

Dr Anthony Ellis (University of Bern): ‘Greek’ in the Medieval Latin manuscripts of Josephus:  reconstructing the philological workings of a late antique translator
Dr Sara de Martin (Oxford): Reassessing the transmission of Strato com. fr. 1 K. A.

Archive Michaelmas 2022

(1)  “Work in Progress” colloquium
Tuesday 8th November 2022, 3,30–5,00pm UK timeMemorial Room, The Queen’s College (and Zoom)(please register through the link provided below: Zoom links will be sent by email by 9,00am UK time on the day of the talk)
Benedetta Bessi (Venice/Stanford): ‘Towards a Digital Edition of the Liber insularum by Cristoforo Buondelmonti’
Joseph Mason (New College, Oxford): ‘Oral and Written Transmission in Old French Song: a reassessment’

Please register here (whether you are planning to attend in person or online)

(2) Michaelmas Term Lecture
Wednesday 23rd November 2022, 5,15–6,45pm UK timeMemorial Room, The Queen’s College (and Zoom)(please register through the link provided below: Zoom links will be sent by email by 9,00am UK time on the day of the talk)
Nikolay Tarasenko (Kyiv/Pembroke College, Oxford): ‘What Can the “Greenfield Papyrus” (pLondon BM EA 10554) Tell Us about Its Owner?’
Please register here (whether you are planning to attend in person or online)

Middle High German Lecture Series

In Michaelmas 2023, Dr Nikolaus Ruge (Universität Trier) returned to Oxford as Visiting Lecturer in German Historical Linguistics at the Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages and delivered an updated lecture series on Middle High German. This was mainly designed as an introductory course for students of the German Paper IV ‘Historical Linguistics’ but the recordings are available to a general audience interested in medieval languages. The first two lectures were recorded by Dr Ruge in person in the Taylor Institution Library, Room 2, lectures 3, 4, and 7 were recorded by him, lectures 5, 6 and 8 from his script on his behalf by the Oxford tutors for Paper IV. The first lecture also saw the launch of the 11th edition of the popular study guide ‘Old and Middle High German’ (utb Sept 2023).

I. Teaching Middle High German: time, space, language (panopto recording, handout), 13 Oct 2023
II. Early Middle High German (1050-1170) (panopto recording, handout), live on 20 Oct 2023
III. ‘Classical’ Middle High German (1170-1250) (panopto recording, handout) recorded on 14 Oct 2023
IV. Late Middle High German (1250-1350) (panopto recording, handout) recorded on 14 Oct 2023
V. Graphemics and Phonology (panopto recordinghandout), recorded on 9 November 2023 by William Thurlwell
VI. Morphology (panopto recordinghandout), recorded on 9 November 2023 by William Thurlwell
VII. Word formation and Lexis (panopto recordinghandout), recorded on 19 October 2023
VIII. Morphosyntax and Syntax (panopto recordinghandout), recorded on 9 November 2023 by Joshua Booth

Lectures are accessible once they are recorded via the Panopto folder Paper IV, all lectures are included in the playlist “German Historical Linguistics” Thanks for help with the English translation of the lectures to William Thurlwell, for technical and topical support to Henrike Lähnemann.

The textbook for this lecture course is The Oxford Guide to Middle High German. The set text for Middle High German is Helmbrecht in the edition by Karl-Heinz Göttert (2015). Oxford students can access further resources such as reading lists and essay topics via the Canvas page.

Church Monuments Society: All Hallows Lectures 2023

The Church Monuments Society is for everyone who is interested in the art of commemoration – early incised stones, medieval effigies, ledgerstones, brasses, modern gravestones. The Society was founded in 1979 to encourage the appreciation, study and conservation of church monuments both in the UK and abroad.

All are welcome. Follow this link to register for any of the lectures.

Tuesday 31 October 2023 – 5pm GMT
Annual All Hallows Lecture:
Bone and Stone for the Many and Few: Charnel and Associated Individual Monuments in Late Medieval England
– Thomas J. Farrow (University of Liverpool)

Saturday 11 November 2023 – 5pm GMT
The ‘Unexpected’ in Funerary Inscriptions on Medieval Slabs in France (1150-1350)
– Vincent Debiais (École des hautes études en sciences sociales in Paris)

Saturday 18 November 2023 – 5pm GMT
Splendour for the Afterlife: Cardinal Bessarion and the Biggest Funerary Chapel of Fifteenth-Century Italy
– Philip Muijtjens (King’s College, Cambridge)

Saturday 25 November 2023 – 5pm GMT
The Feriköy Protestant Cemetery and Heritage of Monument Row
– Brian Johnson and DanielJoseph MacArthur Seal (American Research Institute in Turkey, and British Institute at Ankara)

Conference ‘Articulation of Silence from a Gendered Perspective’

The Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures ( will host the international conference ‘Articulation of Silence from a Gendered Perspective’ on the 26th, 27th, and 28th of September.

The main objective of this conference is to investigate the articulation of silence in text and manuscript cultures in different premodern traditions ( (Greece, Medieval Europe, China, Japan, Korea, India, ancient Egypt and the Middle East), from a (global?) gendered perspective. We define here ‘silence’ as an expression of the act of the non-articulation in texts and manuscripts of different genres and written on different kinds of material carriers, and invite papers that ‘unmute the muted’ or ‘hear the unheard’. By adopting a gendered perspective in the study of silence, we encourage scholars to be attentive to the silence of both individuals and groups that belong to the non-dominant social, political, and intellectual class in their respective cultures. The conference aims to bring together a diverse group of speakers, including both junior researchers and experienced scholars, coming from different disciplinary backgrounds, with the goal of fostering a lively interdisciplinary debate on the topic.

The conference will take place in the Lucina Ho Room of the China Centre from 9.30am to 5pm on the 26th, from 10am to 7pm on the 27th, and from 9am to 1pm on the 28th.

Conference ‘Articulation of Silence from a Gendered Perspective’
University Oxford, China Centre, Dickson Poon Building, Canterbury Rd, Oxford OX2 6LU September 26
th–28th 2023

Topics may include, but are not limited to:

  • Silencing of the voices of ‘the others’ as expressed in the texts
  • Female strategies to control the male narrative and male voices, and vice-versa
  • Strategies of the texts in prioritising the male over the female voices
  • Cases of disregard or disrespect of female and other voices, turning them into silence
  • The materiality of voicing gendered silence
  • The material contexts of gendered silence
  • Reception strategies of dealing with queer voices in manuscriptsThe conference aims to bring together a diverse group of speakers, including both junior researchers and experienced scholars, coming from different disciplinary backgrounds, with the goal of fostering a lively interdisciplinary debate on the topic.Our aim is that the papers presented at the conference will be published in the 2025 spring volume of the journal Manuscript and Text Cultures.Organizers: Dirk Meyer (University of Oxford), Lisa Indraccolo (Tallinn University), Stefka G. Eriksen (University of Oslo)


9:30 –10:00 OPENING SPEECHES AND INTRODUCTION (Meyer/Eriksen/Indraccolo)

10:00 –10:15: COFFEE BREAK

10:15–12:00 FIRST SESSION: SILENCE AND THE BODY Chair: Dirk Meyer (University of Oxford)

Stefka G. Eriksen (University of Oslo)

“Women Controlling the Narrative in Old Norse Culture: Silencing the Male Voice and Obstructing the Male Gaze”

Andreas Serafim (Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun)
“Making silence speak: Body behaviour and kinaidia in ancient literature”

12:00 –14:00 LUNCH BREAK

14:00–15:45 SECOND SESSION: SILENCE AND MATERIAL CULTURE Chair: Stefka G. Eriksen (University of Oslo)

Elizabeth Frood (University of Oxford)
“She is spoken for: self-presentation and presenting female selves in ancient Egyptian temple statues”

Vincent Debiais (EHESS Paris)
“Gendered Silence & Gendered Images in the Latin West”

15:45–16:15: COFFEE BREAK 16:15: 17:00 ROUND-UP DAY 1

10:00–11:45 THIRD SESSION: SILENCE AND THE AUTHORIAL SELF Chair: Dirk Meyer (University of Oxford)

Elsa Kueppers (Ruhr University Bochum)
“Beyond the Inner Room: Records of (Imagined) Journeys by Chosŏn Korean Women”

Julia Rüthemann (EHESS, Paris)
“Female silence and authorship in late medieval courtly first-person narratives”

11:45–14:00 LUNCH BREAK

14:00–15:45 FOURTH SESSION: SILENCE, LITERARY CULTURE AND THE CANON Chair: Lisa Indraccolo (Tallinn University)

Dirk Meyer (University of Oxford)
“You are (not) muted: gendered power structures of silence in the Shī manuscripts of Ānhuī University”

Jennifer Guest (University of Oxford)
“Silence in the Pillow Book: the power of missing texts in the early medieval Japanese court”

15:45–16:15: COFFEE BREAK

16:15 –17:45 FIFTH SESSION: SILENCE AND TRANSGRESSION Chair: Stefka G. Eriksen (University of Oslo)

Lisa Indraccolo (Tallinn University)
“Girls Gone Bad – ‘Evil women’ and the gendered use of silence as a control tool in early China”

Kate Crosby (University of Oxford)

“Unheard, unseen and central: the long shadow cast modern Theravada by early struggles with female agency”

17:45-19:00 ROUND-UP DAY 2

9:00–10:45 SIXTH SESSION: SILENCE AND DISOBEDIENCE/DISSENT Chair: Dirk Meyer (University of Oxford)

Thomas Crone (IKGF Erlangen–Nürnberg)
“Silence as a Sign of (Male) Powerlessness? The Case of the Western Han Manuscript Wang Ji 妄稽 (Ms. Baseless)”

10:45–11:15 COFFEE BREAK



Stefka G. Eriksen (University of Oslo)

Women Controlling the Narrative in Old Norse Culture: Silencing the Male Voice and Obstructing the Male Gaze

A popular motive in medieval literature encompasses the meeting between a woman and a man, when, for various reasons, the woman either demands of the man that he does not tell anyone about her (she controls his voice/ demands silence of him), or she does not allow him to see her (she controls his gaze/ makes him non-seeing). This motive gets realized in a number of Old Norse translations too from the middle of the thirteenth century, such as some of the short stories of the Strengleikar-collection (based on lais of Marie de France), or Old Norse translations of romances by Chrétien de Troyes and Partalopi saga (based on Partonopeu de Blois). In this paper, I will investigate how the topic of female control of the male voice and gaze is adapted to the Old Norse cultural context, by comparing the Old Norse translations to their European sources and to other indigenous Old Norse texts containing similar motives. A secondary main question in this investigation will be whether speaking/ non-speaking and seeing/ non-seeing may be seen as parallel affordances or handicaps in medieval culture and whether they were related to gender differently.

Andreas Serafim (Nicolaus Copernicus University, Torun)

“Making silence speak: Body behaviour and kinaidia in ancient literature”

This paper puts forward the argument that kinaidia, roughly referring to passive homosexuality and effeminate deportment, is reflected in nonverbal and inarticulate body markers that most succinctly describe self, what one does (akin to the theories of S. de Beauvoir) to be. The purpose of the paper is threefold: first, to explore passages that have been largely underexamined in scholarship (e.g. Archilochus fr. 327 and 328 which are notable in presenting a kinaidos as having the embodied and moral markers of a bad prostitute); second, to exploit textual (Book of Physiognomy, 4th century AD) and non-textual sources (the Kroisos Kouros and the discus- thrower by the sculptor Myron) to present a physiognomic vignette of the hoplite, which stands in sharp contrast to that of a kinaidos, as argued in Aeschines 2.150-151; and third, to substantiate the claims that involuntary and unconscious bodily reactions indicate kinaidic identity. Diogenes Laertius 7.173 and Dio Chrysostom 33.53-54 make, specifically, the case that sneezing reveals kinaidia because of uncontrolled embodied performance, especially regarding sound, gesticulation, and stature. The silent human body has its own ways to speak volumes about the sex and gender of individuals.

Elizabeth Frood (University of Oxford)

“She is spoken for: self-presentation and presenting female selves in ancient Egyptian temple statues”

She is gracious. She is hospitable. She is grieving. And, most usually, she is silent. These are conventional characterisations of elite women in Egypt’s New Kingdom and early Third Intermediate Period (ca. 1539 – 715 BCE) as incorporated into the monumental display of their male relatives or, very rarely, into their own separate memorials. This paper explores the implications of such self-fashioning, particularly through temple statues and the voices that are occasionally ascribed to women on them. Although these representations in image and text were almost certainly designed and composed by men, in itself deepening women’s silence, they may offer ways to reconsider the material, performative presence of some (statue) individuals in temple environments. This is especially the case in the early first millennium BCE when possibilities for independent female self-presentations were expanding.

Vincent Debiais (EHESS Paris)

“Gendered Silence & Gendered Images in the Latin West”

Art from the Western Middle Ages has transformed silence into images. This visual singularity, which transfers something that cannot be heard into something that can be seen, is linked to the fact that silence, in the context of the Christian culture of asceticism and prayer, is both a social practice of speech control and a theoretical principle allowing the revelation and expression of realities that escape verbal language. These figures of silence in medieval art use color, geometry, or ornament, but they are also embodied in human figures who describe the experience of silence or participate in its regulation, especially within the monastery. In this paper focusing on images produced in monastic context in the Latin West between the 9th and 14th centuries, we will try to show that the gender of painted or sculpted figures denotes certain properties or qualities of silence and that they seek to make them resonate with the social environments to which they are intended. We will thus question the possible specificities of the silence of the monk and the nun, and the way in which it was put into image, analyzing the distortions, incongruities and theological or practical discourses produced on the gender of silence during the Middle Ages.

Elsa Kueppers (Ruhr University Bochum)

Beyond the Inner Room: Records of (Imagined) Journeys by Chosŏn Korean Women

This presentation explores the nexus of travel and writing, illustrating how these components constituted a transcending of boundaries—both spatial and societal—for elite women during the later Chosŏn Dynasty (16th-19th c.). Facing increasing societal restrictions rooted in the Confucian state ideology, these women were relegated to a secluded life within the “inner room” (kyujung 閨中), emblematic of the private sphere. However, there is evidence that many of these women yearned to venture beyond these confines, as vividly reflected in their records of imagined and actual journeys. As autonomous continuations of their journeys, the written accounts inscribe the women’s unique lived experiences with heightened significance and submit them into the literary space traditionally reserved for men. This makes them a testimony to a twofold trespassing: first, leaving the confines of the private sphere, and second, breaking silence by articulating these experiences in literature. Examining the self-narratives of Hŏ Nansŏrhŏn, Nam Ŭiyudang, and Kim Kŭmwŏn, the presentation seeks to illuminate how these authors maintained the delicate balance between the societal expectations for female silence and seclusion and the authentic expression of their voices.

Julia Rüthemann (EHESS, Paris)

“Female silence and authorship in late medieval courtly first-person narratives”

In late medieval first-person narratives about love, a text group spread throughout Europe in the late Middle Ages, it is usually a male author-narrator who tells his love experience with a young woman, authorizing him as lover and as author. His beloved appears as silenced love object out of reach with a symbolic value as in the Roman de la Rose (13th century) or – even if she functions as a co-creater of the text (as in the Roman de la Poire, 13th century) ‒ as textual projection ofthe male author. Moreover, at times, the beloved is super-posed with the allegory of love, being a mediating abstract principle that inspires the author to create poetry rather than a human person with her own voice. First, the paper aims to examine the link between female silence, allegory and authorship in love narratives by broadening the perspective on underlying medieval conceptions about language. The paper will then discuss the case of Christine de Pizan (1365-ca. 1430), a female author writing in French. When adopting the first-person stance and writing about love, it becomes obvious that she grapples with the function attributed to the female in courtly first-person narratives. She develops several creative strategies to be in the position of a female author: distancing herself from courting and stressing her role of the widow while telling the love stories of others or speaking from the position of allegory while breaking it open. When it comes to telling a love experience, not everyone is able to say “I” and be an author, or not in the same way ‒ depending on gender.

Dirk Meyer (University of Oxford)

“You are (not) muted: gendered power structures of silence in the Shī manuscripts of Ānhuī University”

A most common phrase of the years 2020/2021 was ‘you are muted’ (or: ‘you are on mute’), followed closely by ‘unmute yourself’. The two sentences display an intriguing power structure, one where the muted finds themselves in a subordinate position to the unmuted, but nonetheless, one where the muted does have the power, within limits, to unmute themselves. Many songs of the Shī 詩 (Songs) of the States (guó 國) in China of antiquity present a similar power dynamic. Often this dynamic is gendered. More so in the Ānhuī University Manuscripts (Ān Dà Shī) of the fourth century BC than in the Máo recension of the Western Hàn (202 BC–AD 9), we find an overbearing male narrative voice which is leaving little or no room for the female to articulate a response. But the female experience generally finds a way to re-frame the often- objectifying male gaze, which then affords power to the female to take the initiative. In this article, we analyse the strategies taken in some Shī-songs of the Ān Dà Shī to reframe the male perspective, so the female experience comes to voice even if the female persona of the song remains ‘muted’.

Jennifer Guest (University of Oxford)

“Silence in the Pillow Book: the power of missing texts in the early medieval Japanese court”

The Pillow Book (Makura no sōshi), an eclectic collection of lists and personal anecdotes by the Heian lady-in-waiting Sei Shōnagon (active c. 1000CE), has often been read in terms of its presumed silences. At one level, there is its refusal to give voice to tragedy: its central figure is Shōnagon’s patron, Empress Teishi, who was ultimately sidelined by rivals and died young — but against the backdrop of a literary culture that usually elevated poignant and melancholy themes,Shōnagon wrote nothing directly about Teishi’s sad fate or the decline of her court salon. At other levels, there are the gaps Shōnagon leaves in her depiction of court life, and her use of strategic silence as a storytelling technique, with many anecdotes centred on a missing poem or allusion. This talk explores another intersecting set of silences: the recurring concern with lost or unvoiced texts that runs throughout the Pillow Book, connecting stories about memory, loyalty, and the social uses of literary knowledge. In linking these various layers of silence, I will consider how both the absence and the silent presence of certain texts can be related to the author’s position as a woman, and specifically a lady-in-waiting, suggesting how the experience and performance of texts was gendered in the Heian court, and what creative possibilities this allowed.

Lisa Indraccolo (Tallinn University)

“Girls Gone Bad – ‘Evil women’ and the gendered use of silence as a control tool in early China”

Collection of stories of virtuous types, including women, often with a strong moralizing undertone, are a rather flourishing literary genre in China since ancient times (Kinney 2014). Filial daughters, deferential wives, devoted daughters-in-law, wise and attentive mothers: these are the roles prescribed for women in early China (ca. 6th cent. B.C.–2nd cent. A.D.) that they are required to embrace and in which they are expected to thrive at different stages of their lives, setting an example for future generations (Holmgren 1981; Nylan 2002). However, there is another side to this coin. Intellectually gifted, witty, shrewd and unconventional figures of unapologetically deviant, “problematic” women are also present in the literature (Fracasso 2005). As consequence for breaking social boundaries and conventions, they are typically silenced and presented in a bad light, accused of being promiscuous and corrupting men who have the disgrace of crossing their paths (Hinsch 2012). Often – but not invariably – deprived of a voice of their own, in the received literature they are blamed and condemned without appeal – a case in point being for instance the famous dialogue between Confucius and Lady Nánzi 南子 reported in the Confucian Analects (Lúnyǔ 論語) (Milburn 2010), the content of which remains shrouded in mystery. However, despite being silenced, some of these charismatic figures still play a fundamental role in the intellectual and literary landscape of the period. Also, certain sources are deliberately ambiguous, or at least somewhat less critical, when describing these “evil women,” some of whom are actual historical figures, and even allow the possibility for them to speak up for themselves. Through the analysis of selected cases of “evil women” drawn from pre-imperial and early imperial received sources, the present paper explores the ideological, moralizing and rhetorical use of silence to control women’s behaviour in early China.

Kate Crosby (University of Oxford)

“Unheard, unseen and central: the long shadow cast over modern Theravada by early struggles with female agency”

The attitudes towards women voiced in the early Buddhist canon are inconsistent. Sure, they are capable of enlightenment. Yet after the Buddha reluctantly allows women to become nuns, he then declares that their inclusion will wreak havoc, halving like a disease the lifespan of the religion that he has spent years designing to ensure its longevity. Sure, lust is an unwholesome mental state, a problem in the beholder not the beheld. Yet the monastic-centric texts at the same time convey women as dangerous temptresses ‘even when dying’. This paper provides some examples of how this background continues to set the tone in Theravada practice, and how it has obscured for both practitioners and scholars, the centrality of female agency, both actual and symbolic, in traditional Theravada literary and meditation practices.

Thomas Crone (IKGF Erlangen–Nürnberg)
“Silence as a Sign of (Male) Powerlessness? The Case of the Western Han Manuscript 
Wang Ji

妄稽 (Ms. Baseless)”

Wang Ji is a Western Han (202–9 BCE) narrative poem obtained by Peking University in 2009, along with several other looted bamboo manuscripts. The text depicts the eponymous and explicitly fictional wife Wang Ji (literally, “Baseless” or “Unattested”) and her jealousy of the concubine/secondary wife/female slave (qie 妾) Yu Shi 虞士. Although the poem caters to the notion common at the time that women should only express dissent and criticism if it was for the benefit of their male counterparts, a closer look reveals that the domestic hierarchies and role distribution displayed by the narrative of the Wang Ji poem draw a significantly different picture. As I will argue in my paper, the silence of Wang Ji’s in-laws and husband towards her initially polite and later increasingly violent forms of protest indicates an intellectual helplessness and social powerlessness that rarely surfaces in traditionally transmitted texts from the same period. Compared to many traditional narratives, in which marriages and domestic life are generally characterized by female loyalty and obedience, Wang Ji represents an odd and provocative counter-example, highlighting the potentially adversarial nature of gender relations during the early Han era.

Three Renaissance Grotesques: Holbein, Dürer, Massys

As part of a Workshop on the Grotesque at Magdalen College, there will be a Public Lecture by Professor Alexander Marr (University of Cambridge) 27 September 2023, 5pm to 6pm. Free entry Magdalen College, Grove Auditorium (entry via Longwall Street). All welcome.

The Renaissance grotesque is normally thought of as an ornamental art of the margins: fantastical rather than natural, supplementary instead of central. But what if we were to approach a core subject in the rise of naturalism, the Northern Renaissance portrait, on grotesque terms? This lecture will re-assess three well-known portraits—Hans Holbein the Younger’s Derich Born, Albrecht Dürer’s St Jerome in his Study, and Quinten Massys’s so- called Ugly Duchess—in relation to some key topoi of the grotesque: hybridity, monstrosity, play, and the excesses of fecund imagination. It will suggest that the enterprise of portraiture is (and was) better understood as a facetious game than a mimetic triumph.

Alexander Marr is Professor of Renaissance and Early Modern Art at the University of Cambridge. He specializes in German, Netherlandish, Italian, French and British art ca. 1450- ca. 1800, especially its intellectual and literary aspects in their social contexts. Before coming to Cambridge, he taught at the University of Southern California and the University of St Andrews. From 2014 to 2019 he was Director of the project Genius before Romanticism: Ingenuity in Early Modern Art & Science, funded by an ERC Consolidator Grant (€1.8 million). His awards include a Paul Mellon Centre Senior Fellowship, the Robert H. Smith Residency at the V&A, and a Philip Leverhulme Prize. He was the founding Director of Cambridge’s Centre for Visual Culture and has directed research projects at CRASSH, the DAAD- Cambridge Hub for German Studies, and the USC-Huntington Early Modern Studies Institute. Marr is Fellow and Dean of Discipline at Trinity Hall, and Director of Studies there and at Clare College. He is the President of the Leonardo da Vinci Society: a learned society dedicated to the study of art and science from the Renaissance to the present day.


Full Programme (registration needed for anything but the public lecture)


Sophia Shephard Room, Magdalen College

9:00-9:30: Welcome and housekeeping

9:30-11:00: Italian session, chaired by Martin Clayton (Royal Collections Trust, Windsor)

9:30-9:50: What’s so Grotesque About Amor? An Investigation into the (Dis-)Continuity of Classical Forms – Dr Rebecca Bowen (MML Faculty, Oxford)

9:50-10:10: Tracing the Grotesque in Italian “Popular” Prints – Anya Perse (Lincoln College, Oxford) 

10:10-10:30: Engraving, Sculpture, and the Contested Legacy of Horace: The Antipoetic Art of Renaissance Grotesques – Dr Raymond Carlson (Yale University Art Gallery)

10:30-11:00: Discussion

11:00-11:30: coffee break

11:30-12:30: German session, chaired by Raymond Carlson (Yale University Art Gallery)

11:30-11:50: Monk-Calf & Pope-Donkey: Grotesque Monsters in Reformation Polemics – Prof Henrike Lähnemann (St Edmund Hall and MML Faculty, Oxford)

11:50: 12:10: The Grotesque Mathematics of Dürer’s Victoria – Dr Elizabeth Petcu (Department of History of Art, University of Edinburgh)

12:10-12:30: Discussion 

12:30-13:30: Buffet lunch and coffee

14:30-16:00: Discussion of selected prints and objects with Caroline Palmer

(Print room at the Ashmolean Museum)

Reformation prints and pamphlets from the Early Modern Monsters exhibition with Emma Huber and Henrike Lähnemann (The Taylorian Institution Library, Voltaire Room)

16:30-17:00: coffee and tea available Grove auditorium anteroom, Magdalen College

17:00-18:00: Three Renaissance Grotesques: Holbein, Dürer, Massys, a public lecture by Prof Alexander Marr (Trinity Hall and Faculty of History of Art, Cambridge) Grove Auditorium, Magdalen College

THURSDAY 28TH OF SEPTEMBER Sophia Shephard room, Magdalen college

11:00-11:30: coffee 

11:30-13:00: French session

11:30-11:50: Le grotesque au seuil du livre imprimé: à propos de quelques pages de titres gravées /The Grotesque on the printed book’s threshold: on some engraved title-pages – Prof Estelle Leutrat (Faculté d’histoire de l’art, université de Poitiers)

11:50-12:20: Margins Without Center: Montaigne’s Essays and the Radical Grotesque – Prof Chad Córdova (Department of French and Italian, Emory University)

12:20-12:40: Groignet, the slashing tailor. Rabelais’s historiographical grotesque against Raphaël’s Vatican Stanze – Dr Raphaële Garrod (Magdalen College and MML Faculty, Oxford)

12:40-13:00: Discussion 

13:00-14:00: buffet lunch and coffee

14:00-15:00: English session chaired by Raphaële Garrod (Magdalen College and MML Faculty, Oxford)

14:00-14:20: Inside the grotesque: Building Christ’s figure in early modern preaching – Paul Norris (Brasenose College, Oxford)

14:20-14:40: Memorialising the Grotesque: A Pie and a Baby (on the staging of Titus Andronicus)– Dr Sophie Duncan (Magdalen College, Oxford)

14:40-15: 00: Discussion 

15:00-16:00: Exhibition and discussion of selected volumes Magdalen College Old Library

16:00-17:00: farewell tea, coffee and cakes Sophia Shephard room, Magdalen College

A Special Relationship? Gender on Medieval Mount Athos

Third Workshop for the ERC Starting Grant “Mount Athos in Medieval Eastern Mediterranean Society: Contextualizing the History of a Monastic Republic (ca. 850 – 1550)”

As is well-known, Mount Athos is today an exclusively male monastic preserve governed by the so-called baton (“untrodden”) rule, which prohibits the access of both women and female animals to the peninsula. Nonetheless, throughout history, women were connected with the Holy Mountain in manifold ways, in dynamics of patronage, spiritual advice and familial ties. The aim of this workshop is not only to uncover this largely neglected aspect of Athos’ history during the medieval period but also to explore other forms of gender, such as that of masculinity (including eunuchs).

Please click the link below to join the conference online:

Wednesday, September 27th

2:00-2:30 p.m.
Welcome, Opening Remarks

2:30-4:30 p.m.
Session 1: The Virgin and Mount Athos

Mary Cunningham “Gregory Palamas and the Hesychastic Virgin Mary: Female Sanctity from a Male Monastic Perspective”

Tinatin Chronz “’Rejoice, Opener of the Gates of Paradise!’ Liturgical Veneration of the Keeper of the Gate (Portaitisa) in Iviron on Mount Athos”

Georgi Parpulov “The Virgin’s Garden”

4:30-5:00 p.m.
Coffee/tea break

5:00-6:30 p.m.
Session2: Women and Liturgical Commemoration

Kirill Maksimovič “Liturgical Commemoration of Women at the Serbian Athonite Monastery of Hilandar (13th–15th centuries): a Prosopographic Approach”

Emanuela Mindrila “The Commemoration of Women in the Liturgical tradition of Vatopedi Monastery: Remarks on Ms. Vatopedi 1945”.

6:30 p.m.
Reception and then Dinner for Conference Participants

Thursday, September 28th

9:00 a.m.-11:00 p.m.
Session 3: Female Patronage

Taisiya Leber “The Role of Women in the Patronage of Mount Athos and Athonites from a Transottoman Perspective

Alice Isabella Sullivan “New Forms of Athonite Patronage: The Impact of Royal Women from Moldavia and Wallachia in the Late  Middle Ages”

Lilyana Yordanova “Slavic Female Patronage on Mount Athos and its Socio-Political Context”

11:00-11:30 a.m.
Coffee/tea break

11:30 a.m.-1:00p.m.
Session4: The abaton in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries

Zachary Chitwood “Both Athonite and Antiochene?: The abaton in the writings of Nikon of the Black Mountain”

Rosemary Morris “The Diegesis Merike Revisited”

1:00-2:00 p.m.
Catered Lunch for Conference Participants

2:00 p.m.-3:30 p.m.
Session 5: Gendered Space

Ekaterina Mitsiou “Double Monasteries, abaton and the Gendered Space of Athos”

Leonora Neville “Masculinity, Ethics, and Power on Mount Athos”

3:30 p.m.-4:00 p.m.
Coffee Break

4:00 p.m.-6:00 p.m.
Session 6: Legal and Technical Aspects

Olivier Delouis “Une loi impitoyable between Economics and Morality: The abaton in Bithynia, Mount Athos and Elsewhere, and Its Reception through the Ages”

Anastasios Nikopoulos “The Institution of the Ban on the Monastic Republic of Mount Athos as a Legal Component of its Status”

Alexander Watzinger “How to Digitally Map Sex and Gender in Research Projects-Pitfalls and solutions”

7:30 p.m.
Dinner for Conference Participants

Friday, September 29th

10:00 a.m.-12:00 p.m.
Session 7: Women and Outside World

Mihailo Popovic “Serbian Noble women and the Clergy in the Middle Ages: A Comparison between Mara Branković and Jelena Anžujska regarding Athonite Monks and Franciscan Friars”

Vanessa de Obaldía “Women in the Life of SimonopetraMonastery: The Multifaceted Nature of a Special Relationship”

12:00-12:30 p.m.
Concluding Remarks and Discussion

12:30-1:30 p.m.
Catered Lunch for Conference Participants

(Ill: Mount Athos and its saints © Σκήτη Προδρόμου Μονῆς Μεγ. Λαύρας, Γεννάδιος Μοναχός, 1859)

logo athos

SYMPOSIUM ‘The First Generations of the Conquest. Norman Worlds, 9th-12th Century’

This conference will address the notion of “first generations” in relation to the medieval Norman conquests in England, Wales, Ireland, southern Italy, Sicily, and the Crusader states. Focusing on the conquerors’ departure from their places of origin, the papers will explore the rhythms, modalities, reasons and objectives for leaving.

The conference aims at:
1/ Determining how relevant the notion of “first generations of the conquest” is. All these movements were phenomena that took place over several generations and featured different kind of protagonists – soldiers, mercenaries, pilgrims, merchants, clerics and monks.
2/ Considering the horizons of those who departed, while avoiding teleological and unilinear assumptions. These horizons require an analysis of diverse dynamics and “push and pull” factors: political motivations, economic grounds, social mechanisms, acculturation processes, social and political creativity.
3/ Exploring the documentation, approaches, and tools that help to answer these questions. Our documentation was often produced in the regions where the conquerors settled, and it focuses on their new status; it must be compared retroactively with sources from Normandy (and more broadly speaking from northern France) to enlighten the dynamics that led to the mobility of these people.

This conference is part of the Pax Normanna 2022-2026 research programme of the École française de Rome (dir. Pierre Bauduin, University of Caen Normandie, and Annick Peters-Custot, Nantes University).

The Haskins Society will co-sponsor the conference, encouraging young researchers presenting a paper to apply for the Bethell Prize.

Please click the link below to join the conference online:

PROGRAMME (Download the abstracts here)

Friday 22 September, Maison française d’Oxford

13:30     Welcome
14:00     Pierre Bauduin (CRAHAM, Université de Caen Normandie), Annick Peters-Custot (CRHIA, Université de Nantes): “The first generations of the conquest. Departing: presentation”
14:30     Chris Lewis (Institute of Historical Research, University of London): “Becoming a Baron in Early Norman England”
15:00     Mark Hagger (Bangor University): “Chance, Kinship, and Claim: The Normans and Anglo-Normans in Wales after 1066”
15:30    Discussion

Coffee and tea

16:15     Stephen Baxter (St Peter’s College, Oxford): “The men who made Domesday: a revolutionary intelligentsia in early conquered England?”
16:45     Tom McAuliffe (Wolfson College, University of Oxford): “Lost in Translation: textual reinterpretation and the St Augustine’s historical tradition in the generation after the Conquest”
17:15     Discussion 
18:00-19:30 Visit to the archives and manuscripts at Magdalen College (Emily Jennings)

Conference dinner (speakers)

Saturday 23 September, Maison française d’Oxford

9:00     Bastien Michel (CRAHAM, Université de Caen Normandie): “ ‘The Number of Years’. Youth and conquests in the medieval Norman worlds (11th – 12th centuries)”
9:30     Nathan Websdale (Wolfson College, University of Oxford): “The Translatio of St. Nicholas of Myra and the journeys of Norman-Greeks in the eleventh century”
10:00     Discussion 

Coffee and tea

10:45     Marie-Agnès Lucas-Avenel (CRAHAM, Université de Caen Normandie): “The departure of the ‘Normans’ to Southern Italy: from migration to conquest according to Italo-Norman historiography”
11:15     Guilhem Dorandeu (École française de Rome): “Reassessing Norman Emigrations in Southern Italy (11th-12th centuries)”
11:45     Victor Rivera Magos (Università degli Studi di Foggia): “The Norman conquest of Apulia and the «first generation»: for a working hypothesis”
12:15     Discussion
13:00     Concluding remarks

Lunch at MFO (speakers)

Convened by &
MFO Coordinator:

Credits: Tours, Bibliothèque municipale, Ms. 568 f. 249v © BMT

Midsummer Outing to Godstow Abbey

Oxford Medieval Studies will be celebrating the end of term with a Midsummer outing to Godstow Abbey! All are welcome to join on Saturday, 24 June from 4pm and encouraged to take part in summer activities, including singing, sketching and swimming (weather permitting). Take along a picnic too!

Please contact Alison Ray with any queries.

Directions to Godstow and Port Meadow FAQs can be found on the Oxford City Council website here.

A brief history of Godstow Abbey and further details of the medieval site can be viewed here.