Recording Oxford’s Medieval Lives

A one-day conference, Recording Oxford’s Medieval Lives. A Mise en Perspective of Lincoln Documents, as part of the seminar started in October, Exploring Medieval Oxford through Lincoln archives.

The conference in the Oakshot Room of Lincoln College features student presentations on their year-long research into Lincoln’s medieval documents, alternating with academic papers. Anyone with an interest in the history of medieval Oxford and medieval documents in general is welcome to attend and can register by writing to Laure Miolo and Lindsay McCormack (Lincoln College Archivist) . 

10.00 Prof. Henry Woudhuysen (Rector of Lincoln College) Welcome words

10.15 Dr. Laure Miolo & Lindsay McCormack (organisers – Lincoln College)
The seminar Exploring Medieval Oxford through Lincoln Archives

10.30–11.15 Dr. Alison Ray (St Peter’s College and All Souls)
Archival sources for the medieval Oxford book trade

11.15–11.30 Break & refreshments

11.30–11.55 Tabitha Claydon, Claire Holthaus and Sam Oliver
Their current research on medieval documents from All Saint’s Parish

11.55–12.10 Cory Nguyen and Charlie West 
Their current research on medieval documents from All Saint’s Parish

12.10–12.55 Dr. Richard Allen (MagdalenCollege, Oxford)
Qui scripsit hanc cartam’: Charters and their Scribes through the Archives of Magdalen College, Oxford (c.1100–c.1300)

13.00–14.00 Lunch break

14.00–14.15 Keely Douglas and Maria Murad 
Their current research on Anglo-Norman documents from Lincoln

14.15–14.30 Srija Dutta and Victoria Northridge 
Their current research on medieval documents from All Saint’s Parish

14.30–15.15 Prof. Philippa Hoskin (Fellow Librarian of the Parker Library, Corpus Christi College, Cambridge)
Stamps of approval: the meaning of seals on medieval documents

15.15–15.30 Mehmet Tatoglu and Lucy Turner 
Their current research on medieval documents from All Saint’s Parish

15.30–15.45 Break & refreshments

15.45–16.30 Dr. Michael Stansfield (New College, Oxford)
The Archival Ambition of William of Wykeham

16.45–17.00 Jess Hind and Lika Gorskaia 
Their current research on medieval documents from All Saint’s Parish

17.00–18.00: Break and drinks reception

18.00–18.45 Keynote lecture
Prof. David d’Avray 
(UCL / Jesus College, Oxford) 
Comparative diplomatic: papacy and English royal government

18.45 Prof. Henry Woudhuysen Conclusion

Old Norse-Icelandic at the Taylor Institution Library

by Katarzyna Anna Kapitan

This blog post and book display in the Voltaire Room between 3 and 10 May is a showcase of the excellent range of books on Old Norse-Icelandic language and literature held at the Taylorian. The display accompanies the launch of new digital editions of three versions of an Old Norse-Icelandic saga, Hrómundar saga Greipssonar, in the Taylor Editions series, and the release of an open access study of the saga’s transmission history, Lost but not forgotten: The saga of Hrómundur and its manuscript transmission, by Katarzyna Anna Kapitan.

To limit the number of books on physical display, the exhibit was structured around three themes: Icelandic Language and Literature in Oxford, The Story of Hrómundur, and Legendary Sagas. All items on display are from the holdings of the Taylor Institution Library, unless otherwise specified on the label. 

Panel 1: Icelandic Language and Literature in Oxford

A photograph of a display case with books in the Voltaire Room at the Taylorian.

The first book on the Icelandic language published in Oxford appeared in 1688. It was a reprint of the 1651 Copenhagen edition of the first early modern grammar of Icelandic by Runólfur Jónsson (d. 1654), an Icelander educated at the University of Copenhagen.
At Oxford, the first formal lectureship in Old Icelandic was established in 1884, to which Guðbrandur Vigfússon (1827–1889) was appointed. Guðbrandur, born and raised in Iceland moved to the UK to supervise the completion of the Icelandic–English dictionary, initiated by Richard Cleasby (1797–1847). He was awarded an honorary M.A. degree by Christ Church in 1871. In Guðbrandur’s memory, the Vigfusson Readership in Ancient Icelandic Literature and Antiquities was established at Oxford, and in 1976 the first woman was elected to this readership, Ursula Dronke, née Brown (1920–2012). Ursula held a professorial fellowship at Linacre College and is best known for her work on the Poetic Edda. In her early days, she was a fellow at Somerville College, where she wrote her B.Litt. thesis on The Saga of Thorgils and Haflidi (Ice. Þorgils saga og Hafliða), the published version of which is on display here along with some of Guðbrandur’s most important works.

  • Recentissima antiquissimæ linguæ septentrionalis incunabula [The Most Recent Cradle of the Most Ancient Northern Language] by Runólfur Jónsson
    Language: Latin
    Publication place and date: Oxford, 1688
    Shelfmark: Taylor Institution Library 9.E.9.B(2)
  • An Icelandic-English Dictionary by Richard Cleasby and Guðbrandur Vigfússon
    Language: Icelandic and English
    Publication place and date: Oxford, 1874
    Shelfmark: Taylor Institution Library REP.M.113
  • An Icelandic Prose Reader by Guðbrandur Vigfússon and Frederick York Powell
    Language: Icelandic and English
    Publication place and date: Oxford, 1879
    Shelfmark: Taylor Institution Library RHO 053 r.9

Panel 2. The Story of Hrómundur

The story of Hrómundur existed already in the Middle Ages. According to an Old Norse-Icelandic saga, The Saga of Thorgils and Haflidi (Ice. Þorgils saga og Hafliða), which is a part of the thirteenth-century Sturlunga compilation, the story of Hrómundur was recited for entertainment at a wedding feast at Reykhólar in the year 1119.

The famous passage reads as follows: Hrólfur from Skálmarnes told a story about Hröngviður the Viking and King Ólafur and the mound-breaking of Þráinn the berserk and Hrómundur Gripsson, with many verses in it. This story was used to entertain King Sverrir, and he declared that such lying sagas were most amusing. Although men can trace their genealogies to Hrómundur Gripsson, Hrólfur himself had composed this saga.

On display are two Oxford editions of the saga: the 1878 edition of Sturlunga saga by Guðbrandur Vigfússon and the 1952 edition of Þorgils saga og Hafliða by Ursula Dronke (née Brown).

  • 2.1 The first volume of Sturlunga saga, edited by Guðbrandur Vigfússon
    Language: English and Icelandic
    Publication place and date: Oxford, 1878
    Shelfmark: Taylor Institution Library (RHO) 053 r. 35
  • 2.2 The edition of Þorgils saga og Hafliða by Ursula Brown
    Language: English and Icelandic
    Publication place and date: Oxford, 1952
    Shelfmark: Bodleian Library 27855 e.57

The medieval Saga of Thorgils and Haflidi (Ice. Þorgils saga og Hafliða) mentions that some Icelanders could trace their genealogies to Hrómundur. This refers to the account in The Book of Settlements (Ice. Landnámabók), the medieval work describing the settlement of Iceland in the 9th century.

In Landnámabók, Hrómundur is presented as a native of Telemark in Norway and a great-grandfather of Ingólfur and Leifur, the first settlers of Iceland.

Despite the references to Hrómundur and his saga in medieval sources, no known manuscript of the medieval saga has survived. The story, as we know it today, is a seventeenth-century adaptation of a medieval poem. In scholarship, it is classified as one of the legendary sagas, a group of entertaining narratives describing the legendary past of Scandinavia.
Early modern historians, such as the Icelander employed at the Danish court, Thormodus Torfæus (1636–1719), were interested in the contents of legendary sagas as historical sources. Therefore, Torfæus included Hrómundar saga in his list of ancient Icelandic monuments of literature published in his Succession of Rulers and Kings of Denmark (Lat. Series dynastarum et regum Daniæ) from 1702.

  • 2.3 The book of the settlement of Iceland, translated by Thomas Ellwood
    Publication place and date: Kendal, 1898
    Shelfmark: Taylor Institution Library ICE.2.D.THO.1
  • 2.4 The map of Iceland published as a part of Thomas Ellwood’s translation
    Publication place and date: Kendal, 1898
    Shelfmark: Taylor Institution Library ICE.2.D.THO.1
  • 2.5 The facsimile edition of the Landnámabók manuscripts, with an introduction by Jakob Benediktsson
    Publication place and date: Reykjavík, 1974Shelfmark: Taylor Institution Library M94.L35
  • 2.6 Series dynastarum et regum Daniæ [Succession of rulers and kings of Denmark] by Thormodus Torfæus.
    Language: Latin
    Publication place and date: Copenhagen, 1702
    Shelfmark: Taylor Institution Library 110.D.3(I)

Panel 3. Legendary Sagas

Legendary sagas (Ice. fornaldarsögur) are a group of Old Norse-Icelandic prose narratives dealing with the early history of mainland Scandinavia, before the unification of Norway and the settlement of Iceland in the 9th century.
Among the best-known examples of legendary sagas is The Saga of the Völsungs (Ice. Völsunga saga), which has a famous counterpart in the Middle High German epic poem Nibelungenlied; The Saga of Rolf Kraki (Ice. Hrólfs saga kraka), which narrates material related to the Old English poems Beowulf and Widsith; and The Saga of Ragnar Lodbrok (Ice. Ragnars saga loðbrókar), which gained international fame thanks to the TV series Vikings.
The Icelandic name fornaldarsögur, assigned to this group of texts, is derived from Fornaldar sögur Nordrlanda, the title of the 1829–1830 edition of select Icelandic sagas by the Danish philologist Carl Christian Rafn (1795–1864). The composition of Rafn’s work was highly indebted to the work conducted by his predecessors, especially the Swedish philologist Erik Julius Björner (1696–1750) and the Danish linguist Peter Erasmus Müller (1776–1834). On display here are important volumes of legendary sagas edited by all three of them.

  • 3.1 Nordiska kämpa dater [Deeds of Nordic Heroes], edited by Erik Julius Björner
    Language: Icelandic, Swedish, and Latin
    Publication place and date: Stockholm 1737
    Shelfmark: Taylor Institution Library 108.I.14
  • 3.2 The second volume of Sagabibliothek [Saga Library] by Peter Erasmus Müller
    Language: Danish
    Publication place and date: Copenhagen 1818
    Shelfmark: Taylor Institution Library 106.D.6
  • 3.3 The second volume of Fornaldar sögur Nordrlanda [Ancient Sagas of the Northern Lands], edited by Carl Christian Rafn
    Language: Icelandic
    Publication place and date: Copenhagen 1829
    Shelfmark: Taylor Institution Library N.S.12.ADDS.F.24

The digital editions of Hrómundar saga are available here:
The 17th-cent version: https://editions.mml.ox.ac.uk/editions/hromundar_A601/
The 18th-cent version: https://editions.mml.ox.ac.uk/editions/hromundar_J634/
The 19th-cent version: https://editions.mml.ox.ac.uk/editions/hromundar_B11109/

Below a short video from the opening of the exhibition.

Binding the world, withholding life: Poetry Books in the Medieval Mediterranean

Nowadays, established traditions and criteria rule the process of compiling poetry books. But what was the awareness that ruled these processes in the Middle Ages? This is the topic of the workshop. The broad question is what idea of poetry and poetry books can be gleaned from this process. Is gathering just a necessity, or does it conceal a conscious poetic message? If conscious, what role does the physicality of the manuscript play for the poetic unit?

Medieval poetry books can be either multi-authorial anthologies or single-authorial collections, and many are the ways in which those poetic books could have been formed. Poems of different authors could have been selected around a common theme, or with a chronological criterion; authorial collections could be made by authors themselves, their students, or other members of their circle. These books could contain a macrostructure and, therefore, an overarching narrative; they could reflect a specific time of the author’s activity or summarise a life-long production. The way poems were arranged in ‘big containers’ and transmitted directly affected their readership, reception and their current literary status.

From the perspective of literary theory, the arrangement in medieval manuscripts opens an array of crucial questions: the relationship between the single poem and the poetry book, the way – supposedly different – in which long and shorter compositions were treated and the correspondence between its parts. Furthermore, how much was the idea of a single-thematic unit present in the minds of the compilers? Was this book to be read cover to cover, or something to read out or perform with music? And how does the layout of poetry, including the absence of those defining blanks, impact the reader’s experience?

Within this framework, the workshop focuses on the circulation of poems in the medieval Mediterranean, which is used as a case study to explore medieval literature.

The event is part of the activities of the TORCH Network Poetry in the Medieval World.

Date: 31st May 2024

Venue: Exeter College, FitzHugh Auditorium, Walton St, Oxford OX1 2HG and online.

Registration is required for online participation. For details and the registration link, see https://torch.ox.ac.uk/event/binding-the-world-withholding-life.-poetry-books-in-the-medieval-mediterranean

Convenors: Ugo Mondini (University of Oxford) and Alberto Ravani (Austrian Academy of Sciences)

Speakers: Marisa Galvez (Stanford University), Niels Gaul (The University of Edinburgh), Marlé Hammond (SOAS University of London), Adriano Russo (École française de Rome)

Programme

Friday, 31st May 2024

9:45 a.m. Registration
   
10:15 a.m. Welcoming address
Barney Taylor (Sub-rector, Exeter College)
Marc D. Lauxtermann (Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages)
   
  Introduction
Ugo Mondini (Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages)
Alberto Ravani (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
   
10:30 a.m. First Session
Chair: Marina Bazzani (Faculty of Classics)
  Marisa Galvez (Stanford University) – From Chansonniers to Whole-World Poetics: The Poetry Book as a Mode of Worlding
   
11:15 a.m. Coffee break
   
11:30 a.m. Adriano Russo (École française de Rome) – Between Chaos and Order: Dynamics of Formation of Medieval Latin Verse Collections
   
12:15 p.m. Lunch
   
2:30 p.m. Second Session
Chair: TBD
  Niels Gaul (University of Edinburgh) – Byzantine ‘Poetry Books’: From Embers and Sparks of Classicising Learning to Tokens of Literati Self-Fashioning?
   
3:15 p.m. Coffee Break
   
3:30 p.m. Marlé Hammonds (SOAS) – Mapping Verses: Ibn Saʿīd al-Maghribī’s Poetic Geographies
   
4:15 p.m. Concluding remarks and discussion followed by drinks
   
  Dinner for the speakers

Pseudo-Seneca: Octavia (transl. 1561)

Where: Wolfson College Buttery
When: Friday, April 26 2024 at 1.15.

David Wiles (Emeritus Professor of Drama, University of Exeter) is performing the pseudo-Senecan Roman history play Octavia in the exuberant rhetorical language of the 1561 translation by Thomas Nuce with a group of players from Iffley and the University of Oxford.

  • Octavia, daughter of Claudius, wife of Nero – Imogen Lewis
  • Agrippina, wife and killer of Claudius, now dead – Laurence Nagy
  • Nero, son of Agrippina, now Emperor, killed his mother – Abigail Pole
  • Poppaea, mistress of Nero – Priya Toberman
  • Octavia’s nurse – Laura Laubeova
  • Seneca – Alex Marshall
  • Prefect – Andrew Stilborn
  • Messenger– Ivana Kuric
  • Chorus of Roman citizens – members of the company
  • Violin – Jessica Qiao
  • Director – David Wiles

Production sponsored by the Ancient World Research Cluster, Wolfson College Oxford.

Performance filmed by Henrike Lähnemann at Iffley Church Hall on April 21st.

The tragedy of Octavia is a unique example of the Roman history play, and survives because it was bound up with the tragedies of Seneca. The chorus, unlike those of Seneca, is engaged in the action as it rises up in rebellion against Nero. We are performing the play in the student translation of c.1561. Elizabeth had recently come to the throne, and in a polarised world the performance of religious plays seemed increasingly problematic. It was logical to turn to the classics, but the question arose, how to render Seneca in an equivalent English. It was not a matter of searching out what the words meant, but rather of forging a language with an equivalent rhetorical force, which in the Erasmus age meant a more copious language. The translator, Thomas Nuce, had an ear for performance, and did not attempt to find any pedantic metrical equivalence for the Latin. We have stripped the text down to a half-hour version, and have relished playing with the rhythms, rhymes and alliteration. Parsing the Latinate grammar was often a challenge.    

The story was scarcely a safe choice in 1561. It tells how Nero cast off his first wife, Octavia, whom he had married for domestic reasons, and contracted a love match. Henry VIII had likewise terminated a dynastic marriage, to the great displeasure of his people, and the fruit of that love match had just come to the throne.     

We are a mixed cast of students and community players, and on four occasions have worked on mediaeval plays for the festival at St Edmund Hall. The present production was put together for the annual conference of the Classical Association in Warwick on 24 March. If you are interested in participating in a production at St Edmund Hall in 2025, please contact David Wiles d.wiles@exeter.ac.uk.

2024 Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference in Review

The 2024 Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference, hosted by the Maison Française d’Oxford, took place this past Monday and Tuesday, the 8th and 9th of April.

Since 2005, the OMGC has been an annual forum for graduate scholars from Oxford and beyond to share their research. The two-day conference brought together rising medievalists from Ireland, Sweden, Finland, Canada, France, Switzerland, and the UK and featured panels on divine affectivity, scribes and songs, visual signs, objects and collections, palaeography, and codicology.

Professor Henrike Lähnemann (Oxford) heralded the start of the conference on Monday morning with fanfare from the Oxford Medieval Studies trumpet – an appropriate opening to the conference, which was themed around ‘signs and scripts.’ United by the semiotic theme, participants found unexpected connections between a diverse set of presentations.

Professor Henrike Lähnemann playing her OMS trumpet in the Maison Française d’Oxford auditorium.

Professor Sophie Page (UCL) delivered her keynote presentation “Magic Signs and Censored Scripts in Medieval Europe,” closing the first day of papers. Her keynote delved into the syncretic texts of medieval magic, the efficacy of which required proper ritual performance – careful attention to the details of diagrams, auspicious star and cosmological signs, and specific material components.

Magic circle from the De secretis spirituum planetis in which the practitioner stands to summon planetary angels. Collection of alchemical, technical, medical, magic, and divinatory tracts (Miscellanae Alchemica XII), late 15th century. Wellcome Collection, MS 517, f. 234v.

Professor Page’s keynote dovetailed with Ellen Hausner’s (Oxford) paper on the alchemical images and text of the Ripley Scroll, which communicate a sense of time and space as core alchemical concepts trickle down from divine creation to the corporeal world. Signs and symbols are concentrations of meaning. Even small signifiers (although the scroll is over 2.6 meters long!) can signify immense, cosmological ideas.

As exemplified by Marlene Schilling’s (Oxford) paper on devotion to personified liturgical days in the prayer books of northern German convents, signs and scripts also have the power to lend physicality, visuality, and agency to concepts. Signs and scripts are means of power and community creation and consolidation. Or as Wilhelm Lungar (Stockholm) put it in his paper ‘Communicating Identity on Scandinavian Monastic Seals in the Middle Ages,’ objects like seals, as both historically situated artefacts and texts, mediate representation, identity, and authority.

From left to right: presentations by Elena Lichmanova (Oxford), Wilhelm Lungar (Stockholm), and Corinne Clark (Geneva).

The challenge of interpretation and an embrace of plural perspectives was a through-line for the conference, sparking rich, generative conversation. In her paper, ‘Mirror Writing and the Art of Self Reflection,’ Elena Lichmanova (Oxford) asked why and how offensive phrases like tu es asin[us] (‘you are an ass’) could be included in the thirteenth-century Rutland Psalter and surveyed the ways artists created nuances of meaning by manipulating the direction of script. Corinne Clark’s (Geneva) presentation on the life of St. Margaret considered the symbolism and mixed hagiographic reception of the saint’s battle with a dragon in which she is consumed by the demonic beast, erupting from its abdomen. Both topics inspired collaborative thinking among participants and emphasized the importance of analytical parallax to deepen our understanding of images and texts controversial and cryptic even to contemporaries.

As Megan Gorsalitz (Queen’s University, Kingston) made clear in her presentation on Old English riddles, mindless consumption steals meaning and risks careless, uncritical perpetuation. Signs and scripts require careful reflection of the manifold voices and identities they represent as well as those they conceal.

Detail of illuminated moth in decorated border. Book of Hours of King Charles VIII, 15th century. Utopia, armarium codicum bibliophilorum, Cod. 111, f. 96r.

A moth ate words. It seemed to me / a strange occasion, when I inquired about that wonder, / that the worm swallowed the riddle of certain men, / a thief in the darkness, the glorious pronouncement / and its strong foundation. The stealing guest was not / one whit the wiser, for all those words he swallowed.

Exeter Book Riddle 47

Charlotte Wood (Oxford), Marc Lawson (Trinity College Dublin), and Ilari Aalto (Turku) all grappled with the difficulties of studying oft-overlooked material culture. For Wood, whose paper focused on comb placement in Anglo-Saxon cremations, the significance of deliberately broken comb-ends in Anglo-Saxon burial urns remains elusive but exciting for their potential to tell us more about funerary practices. In his paper on brickmakers’ marks in late medieval Finland, Aalto suggested explanations for marks found in churches, which may simultaneously represent saints as an allusion to brickmakers’ names and act as a remembrance of the artisan embedded in the church. Drawing upon visual culture, written references, and extant examples of early Irish book satchels, Lawson demonstrated the prevalence of book satchels and suggested a more complex understanding of manuscript binding and use in early medieval Ireland.

The conference also featured a comprehensive selection of case studies exploring signs of manuscript creation, composition, authorship, revision, genre, and punctuation. Peter Fraundorfer’s (Trinity College Dublin) paper on a sammelband produced for Reichenau Abbey considered what the text’s language and contents can tell us about its author and intended readership, while Sebastian Dows-Miller (Oxford) took a statistical approach to the relationship between composition and authorship, identifying changes in scribal hand through changes in abbreviation frequency. In her presentation on Carthusian marginalia in The Book of Margery Kempe, Lucy Dallas (East Anglia) discussed the reception and reworking of the text for the monks and Elliot Vale’s paper on CCCC MS 201 problematized modern translations of vernacular works in which poetry and prose blend in structural and punctuation.

Margaret of Antioch emerging from the defeated dragon with the sign of the cross. Book of Hours, 15th century. Oxford, Bodleian Library MS. Rawl. liturg. e. 12, fol. 149v.

Papers by Jemima Bennett (Kent and Bodleian Libraries), Rhiannon Warren (Cambridge), Max Hello (Paris 1 – HiCSA), and Thomas Phillips (Bristol) all focused on the collection, manipulation, recycle, reconstruction, and aesthetics of manuscripts. Bennett’s work on fifteenth-century Oxford bookbinding continued the theme of plural interpretations as she discussed patterns and possible reasoning behind the recycle of manuscript fragments by collectors. Similarly, Phillips focused on recovering lost script from fragments of the Anglo-Saxon Office of St. Alban. Warren and Hello also touched on signs of manuscript manipulation, reuse, and changing aesthetic preferences in their respective presentations on Árni Magnússon’s Icelandic manuscript collection and ornamentation in Merovingian book writing. Complementing the presentations on material culture, the palaeography and codicology sessions reinforced the materiality of manuscripts and fluidity of text.

From left to right: presentations by Max Hello (Paris 1 – HiCSA), Jemima Bennett (Kent and Bodleian Libraries), and Sebastian Dows-Miller (Oxford).

Presentations aside, the congenial atmosphere and enthusiasm of the participants made for constructive knowledge exchange and an enjoyable two days of conversation. From the 2024 OMGC committee, thank you to all who attended. The committee is also excited to announce that the theme for the 2025 Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference will be Magic, Rituals, and Ceremonies! Until then, keep an eye on the OMGC blog for posts by this year’s presenters.

The 2024 OMGC committee (Katherine Beard, Ashley Castelino, Emma-Catherine Wilson, Kate McKee, Ryan Mealiffe, Mary O’Connor, and Eugenia Vorobeva) thank our sponsors for making this year’s conference possible.

The 2024 Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference was presented in association with the Maison Française d’ Oxford, the Oxford Festival of the Arts, the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature (Medium Ævum), the Oxford Faculty of Music, the Oxford Faculty of Medieval and Modern Languages, Oxford Medieval Studies (OMS), and The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).

Header Image: The White Hart, pub sign (colorized), ca. 1750. Victoria and Albert Museum, London, W.69:2-1938. Photoshopped onto background of Merton Street, Oxford.

Gender and Sainthood, c. 1100–1500

5-6 April 2024, University of Oxford, History Faculty
Register for the conference here

Organisers: Antonia Anstatt (University of Oxford, email) and Edmund van der Molen (University of Nottingham, email)

This conference is generously supported by the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages
and Literature, the Hagiography Society, the Past & Present Society, and the History Faculty,
University of Oxford. In association with Oxford Medieval Studies, it is sponsored by The
Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).

FRIDAY, 5TH APRIL

9.30-11 PANEL 4: WRITING GENDER
Isabel Kimpel (Ludwig-Maximilian-University Munich): Famula Christi et Mulier fortis: The Writings
of Caesarius of Heisterbach on Saint Elisabeth of Thuringia
Georgie Crespi (University of Reading): ‘We’re All Born Naked, and the Rest is Drag’: The Concept
of Drag in ‘Christina of Markyate’ and ‘Revelations of Divine Love’
María del Carmen Muñoz Rodríguez (University of Seville): In ure lauerdes luue: The Spaces of
Female Sanctity in the Middle English ‘Seinte Iuliene’
11.30-13 PANEL 5: VISUALISING GENDER
Rosalind Phillips-Solomon (University of York): ‘Miraculous Aged Virgin’ or Quintessential Virgin
Martyr? Late Medieval Imaginings of Saint Apollonia
Sarah Wilkins (Pratt Institute, New York): A Preaching Woman: Mary Magdalen in Late Medieval
Italian Art
Elisabet Trulla Serra (Trinity College Dublin): Gender Configuration in Byzantine Art Through Saint
Mary of Egypt
14-15.30 PANEL 6: FAMILIAL AND SPIRITUAL RELATIONSHIPS
Jessica Troy (Independent Scholar): Unequal Treatment: The Power Struggle of Medieval Chaste
Couples
Laura Moncion (University of Toronto): ‘Be My Spouse’: Spiritual Partnership in the Life of Pirona
the Recluse
Michaela Granger (Catholic University of America, Washington DC): ‘And It Was Accounted to Him
(or Her?) as Righteousness …’: The Value of Childrearing in the Construction of Late Medieval
Sanctity
16-17.30 PANEL 7: MODERN PERSPECTIVES
Dannelle Gutarra (University of Warwick): Medieval Sainthood and Scientific Racism: Race, Gender,
and Sexuality in ‘History of the Female Sex’ by Christoph Meiners
Maria Zygogianni (Swansea University): Saint Athanasia of Aigaleo: An Entrepreneur Saint
Myrna Nader (American University of Beirut): The Cult of Marina the Monk: Faith, Discourse and
Sexuality in Contemporary Lebanon
17.30-18 CLOSING REMARKS

18 CONFERENCE END

“Unprovenanced” – a lecture series hosted by the Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures, The Queen’s College, Oxford

Weds 28th Feb, 5.15, The Memorial Room, The Queen’s College

Fruits of the poisonous tree: unprovenanced artefacts and the ethics of consuming archaeological knowledge

Yağmur Heffron, UCL

Opening with a juicy (if cautionary) tale of archaeological mystery and scandal, this lecture will invite the audience to engage in entirely imaginary and possibly fantastical thought experiments around whether it can ever be possible to extract, rescue, or salvage information from suspiciously unprovenanced artefacts – especially those in private collections – in an ethical manner. The purpose of these experiments is to tease out the complex interrelationships between personal and professional gain, conflicts of interest, and power dynamics surrounding the consumption of archaeological knowledge, in order to test if the latter can be satisfactorily isolated. How much are researchers willing to sacrifice to make the fruits from a poisonous tree safe to eat?  

The ethics of publishing unprovenanced manuscripts is a hotly contested issue, with scholars becoming more and more polarised on each side of the debate. This new lecture series aims to find new ways of approaching the topic, going beyond ‘for and against’ to explore the challenges presented by these texts in nuanced ways. Our aim is to stimulate considered debate with an audience varied in both background and opinion, finding ways forward to bridge the divide. All are welcome.

Medievalists Coffee Mornings!

When: Fridays, 10.30-11.30 am

Where: Visiting Scholars Centre in the Weston Library
How to get there: via the Readers Entrance on Parks Road, 2nd floor via the staircase/elevator just straight ahead from the readers entrance (stick to the concrete part, do not use the ornamental staircase or you will land in the Conservation Department which is also nice but where no coffee is allowed)

All medievalists working in Oxford are welcome! Join us for coffee, conversations, and many insights into the Bodleian collections, cf. the playlist ‘Weston Library Coffee Mornings’:

Interfaith Harmony: Singing from Manuscripts

10 February 2024, 11:15-12:00, organised by the Oxford Interfaith Forum  as part of the One World Family Festival at the Ashmolean Museum.

Venue: Cast Gallery, Ashmolean Museum, Beaumont St, Oxford. OX1 2PH.

Shofar player opening Psalm 80, with the caption ‘Sing a new song unto the Lord’ in a Psalter manuscript from the German convent of Medingen, ca. 1500, Bodleian Library, MS. Don. e. 248, fol. 145v

This event will begin with music from medieval manuscripts in the Bodleian Library. The performance will also feature songs in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, German, and English for all to join, and will be interspersed with the sound of shofar and shell horn.

Music list: Shofar: Call to celebrating unity; ‘Cantate domino’ (Bodleian, MS. Don. e. 248, 247v); ‘Cantate domino’ (Giuseppe Pitoni); ‘Lumen ad revelacionem’ (MS. Lat. liturg. e. 18, 8r); Shell horn: Call to preserving nature; ‘Every part of this earth shall holy be for us’ (round by Stephan Vesper); Sea weed horn: Call to peace; ‘Hinema tov’ (round, orally transmitted); Horn: ‘Üsküdar’a gider iken’; ‘Victime paschali’ & ‘Christ ist erstanden’ (Bodleian, MS. Lat. liturg. f. 4); ‘Dona nobis pacem’ (round, orally transmitted).

This follows on from previous events organised by Henrike Lähnemann and Andrew Dunning ‘Singing from Manuscripts’. Click here to learn more about singing from Medieval Sources in the Bodleian Library.

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Oxford University Byzantine Society: International Graduate Conference

In association with Oxford Medieval Studies, sponsored by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) 

We are delighted to announce the finalised programme (and opening of advance registration for online attendance) for the Oxford University Byzantine Society’s 26th Annual International Graduate Conference ‘Transgression in Late Antiquity and Byzantium’, taking place on the 24th-25th February, 2024 at the Faculty of History, George Street, OX1 2BE.

The programme and abstracts of papers can be found on the dedicated conference website and below. The costs for attendance are as follows:
In person attendance: £15 for OUBS members / £20 for non-members
Online attendance: £5 for students / £6 for non students

Papers will be delivered in-person, with the proceedings broadcast on a Zoom link which will circulate via email to those purchasing online attendance tickets via Eventbrite (see link below). Advance registration for in person attendance is not necessary. If you plan on attending online, please purchase a ticket at our Eventbrite link.

We are grateful for the generous support of The Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research (OCBR), The Oxford Centre for Late Antiquity (OCLA), Oxford Medieval Studies, in association with The Oxford Research Centre for Humanities (TORCH), and The Faculty of History of the University of Oxford, as well as the many others who have helped with the conference’s facilitation.

We look forward to welcoming you to Oxford. Best wishes, the Conference Organisers:
OUBS President Alexander Sherborne
OUBS Secretary Ilia Curto Pelle
OUBS Treasurer Benjamin Sharkey

The OUBS Committee is grateful for the generous support of:

  • The Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research (OCBR)
  • The Oxford Centre for Late Antiquity (OCLA)
  • Oxford Medieval Studies, in association with The Oxford Research Centre for Humanities (TORCH)
  • The Faculty of History of the University of Oxford

The OUBS Committee would also like to express its gratitude to Shaun Cason, Eleanore Debs, Gavriella Makri, Bryce O’Connor, Rosalie Van Dael, Sophia Miller, Alexander Johnston, Nathan Websdale and Duncan Antich for their assistance with the conference’s facilitation.

Conference Programme

Venue: Faculty of History, George Street, Oxford, OX1 2RL

Saturday (February 24th, 2024)

11.00 a.m. – Opening Remarks (Lecture Theatre)

11.30-13.00 p.m. – Session 1: Panel 1a (Lecture Theatre); and Panel 1b (Rees Davies Room)

13.00-14.00 p.m. – Lunch Break (Common Room)

14.00-15.30 p.m. – Session 2: Panel 2a (Lecture Theatre); and Panel 2b (Rees Davies Room)

15.30-16.00 p.m. – Coffee and Tea Break (Common Room)

16.00-17.30 p.m. – Session 3: Panel 3a (Lecture Theatre) and Panel 3b (Rees Davies Room)

17.30-19.00 p.m. – Wine Reception (Common Room)

19.30 p.m. – Conference Dinner

Sunday (February 25th, 2024)

11.30-13.00 p.m. – Session 4: Panel 4a (Lecture Theatre); and Panel 4b (Rees Davies Room)

13.00-14.00 p.m. – Lunch Break (Common Room)

14.00-15.30 p.m. – Session 5: Panel 5a (Lecture Theatre); and Panel 5b (Rees Davies Room)

15.30-16.00 p.m. – Closing Remarks (Lecture Theatre)

16.00-18.00 p.m. – Parting Tea Reception (Common Room)

Schedule of Papers

Session 1: Saturday, 11.30–13.00

Panel 1a: ‘The Literary’
(Chair: Findlay Willis)
Panel 1b: ‘The Political’
(Chair: Alexander Johnston)
Duncan Antich
(Blackfriars College, Oxford) 
Compassion and Community: The Regula Pastoralis and Gregory’s Approach to Schism
Alejandro Laguna López
(Central European University)  
An Anti-Novelistic Novel: Subverting Love in Niketas Eugenianos’ Drosilla and Charicles
Averkios (Dimitris) Agoris
(University of Athens)
Multigeneric examples in Michael Choniates’s Educational Activity
Euan Croman
(Queen’s University Belfast)
Transgressing the domus imperii in the fourth and fifth centuries: Treason or Family Trouble?
Daniel Murphy
(Independent Scholar)
Usurpation Narratives as Political Commentary in Fourth-Century Historiography
Merve Savas
(Ohio State University)
Twisting the Narrative: Textual Transgression in Ammianus Marcellinus’ Res Gestae 14

Session 2: Saturday, 14.00–15.30

Panel 2a: ‘The Sexual’
(Chair: Alexander Sherborne)
Panel 2b: ‘The Conciliar’
(Chair: Bryce O’Connor)
Maria Christian
(Independent Scholar) 
“Look at that wood!” An Investigation into a Bizarre Sexual Practice Ascribed to the “Chaldeans” Involving Iconography in an Early Islamic Sex Manual
Vid Žepič
(University of Ljubljana) 
Legal Perspectives on Sexual Transgressions in Early-Byzantine Legal Sources
Pierrick Gerval
(University of Nantes)
Sexual violences during wartime, a transgression of Church prohibitions regarding sexuality in Byzantium (7th -13th century)
Kathleen McCulloch
(University of Cambridge)
Did Dioscorus transgress, or adhere to, established conciliar procedure at Ephesus II (449)?
Alexander Johnston
(Kellogg College, Oxford)
The Edge of Divinity: The Role of Wisdom in the Logos Prosphonetikos of the Quinisext Council
Rachel Edney
(University of Notre Dame)
The Eucharist in John Rufus’ Plerophories: Eucharistic Theology and Christological Controversy

Session 3: Saturday, 16.00–17.30

Panel 3a: ‘On the Edges of Byzantium’
(Chair: Benjamin Sharkey)
Panel 3b: ‘In the Land of Egypt’
(Chair: Sophia Miller)
Shaun Cason
(Worcester College, Oxford)
The End of Transgressions? Examining the Seventh-Century Treaty Between Islamic Egypt and Medieval Nubia
Dmitriy Kravets
(St. Hugh’s College, Oxford)
Orthodoxy and/or Empire? A Reassessment of the Career of Gregory Tsamblak (fl. 1402- 1415)
Helena Davies
(Linacre College, Oxford)
Sitt al-Mulk: A Damsel in Distress? Challenging Art-Historical Efforts to Rescue and Vindicate an Early Islamic Princess
Apolline Gay
(Université libre de Bruxelles) 
Looking for Eve: Figures of Female Transgression on Textiles from Byzantine Egypt
Michael Dunchok
(Kellogg College, Oxford)
A Higher Rank of Gods: In Defense of the Greek Magical Papyri
Chloé Agar
(Harris Manchester College, Oxford) 
‘He thrust his spear into the middle of him, and his bowels came out’: Literary violence against religious and legal transgressions in Early Christian Egypt

Session 4: Sunday, 11.30–13.00

Panel 4a: ‘The Archaeological and the Art-Architectural
(Chair: Gavriella Makri)
Panel 4b: ‘The Imperial and the Ecclesiastic
(Chair: Nathan Websdale)
Eleanore Debs
(Pembroke College, Oxford)
Examining the Peculiar Presence of Reliquaries Within Late Antique Baptisteries of the Limestone Massif
Sophia Miller
(Balliol College, Oxford)
Trees ‘Pleasant to the Sight’: Tree-Meaning in Late Antique Floor Mosaics in the Northern Provinces
Karolina Tomczyszyn
(Lincoln College, Oxford)
Transgressive Use of Holy Oils: In Search of Popular Religion in Syriac Christianity
Ziyao Zhu
(King’s College London)
Neither Just nor Unjust: Alexios I Komnenos and the Linguistic Politics of Byzantine Extrajudicial Confiscation.
Dilara Burcu Giritlioğlu
(Middle East Technical University)
Sinners and Saints of Constantinople: Union of Souls and Separation of Church and State
Findlay Willis
(St. Stephen’s House, Oxford)
Natural illness or divine punishment: the use of disability rhetoric to excuse or vilify the transgressions of Michael IV

Session 5: Sunday, 14.00–15.30

Panel 5a: ‘Defining Aspects of Deviance’
(Chair: Dimitri Kravets)
Panel 5b: ‘Transgressing Intellectual Borders
(Chair: Ilia Curto Pelle)
Ekaterina Rybakova
(Pirogov Russian National Researcher Medical University)
Illnesses of Spirit or Being: The Transgression of Pneuma in Byzantine Medicine
Thibaut Auplat
(Aix-Marseille University)
An overview of deviance in the 7th and 8th centuries: the Heresies by John Damascene
Patrick Martin
(University of Winchester)
Transgression in Middle Byzantine eschatological iconography
Mathijs Clement
(University of Cambridge)
Egeria, Traveller of Borderlands
Rosalie Van Dael
(St. Hilda’s College, Oxford)
Seeing is believing? Imagination in Augustine’s Letter 7 to Nebridius
Seyhun Kılıç
(Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne)
Monk in a Mundane Realm: Exploring the Intersection of Spiritual and Secular Realms in the Middle Byzantine Period