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

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

Scales of Governance: Local Agency and Political Authority in Eurasia, 1000-1500

Worcester College, Oxford – 12th and 13th January 2024

by Annabel Hancock, Bee Jones, James Cogbill, and Susannah Bain

This workshop grew out of a discussion group the four of us started in Michaelmas term 2022 on ‘Governability across the Medieval Globe’. By ‘governability’ we meant why and how certain people and societies were more or less easily governed, although we had several big discussions about the usefulness of the term. Our conversations kept coming back to the utility of thinking from localities when trying to conceptualise how governance functioned in the central and later Middle Ages, and to how both medieval governance and our analysis of it had to operate across large differences in scale – from local officials and forms to (often unsubstantiated) claims of regional or even universal hegemony.

These questions relate to a great deal of cutting-edge work in medieval history, particularly in terms of new ‘global’ approaches and how we read sources to get at political culture. As a result, we decided to organise a workshop to bring together scholars pushing our understanding forward to assess where we are as a field and where we are going.

We were very fortunate to be offered funding from the Past & Present Society, the Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research, and the Oxford Medieval Studies Network. This funding allowed us to bring a fantastic set of speakers and respondents to Oxford, including a mix of established, early-career, and doctoral scholars. We wanted to centre discussion and use our eight papers and four responses to stimulate broader conversations on governance in this period. The papers were pre-circulated and speakers summarised their thoughts on the day, which afforded us more time for discussion. Our contributions covered Iberia, France, Germany, China, Egypt, Byzantium, Italy, and north Africa from the eleventh to fifteenth centuries, which provided some range in our coverage even though we could not possibly do justice to the entirety of Eurasia across five centuries.

The workshop went absolutely brilliantly: we were delighted with the papers and responses, and we thought that the discussion was stimulating, wide-ranging, and very fruitful. Although not without important questions and possible issues, ‘scales of governance’ emerged as a useful conceptual lens to cut across ‘top-down’ and ‘bottom-up’ models of political organisation, drawing attention to sets of local and bureaucratic knowledges and highlighting the critical importance of varied social relationships to governance, both within a given locality and as an imposition upon it by rulers and/or bureaucracies. Governance was also closely related to the socialisation of elite men into certain kinds of authoritative masculinity, and to gendered social relationships between individuals and families. These dynamics are more difficult to access in most of the sources available to us for this period, but they enrich our understanding of how people and communities were actually governed.

Many of the papers highlighted the roles of different kinds of intermediaries situated between their communities and regional rulers. These figures, mediating and translating between knowledges at different scales, in many cases actually did most of the governing in a given locality. In some cases, local players seem to have been torn between evading oversight and control by rulers or larger political units on the one hand, and maintaining and strengthening their own power and position in their community on the other, including in some cases by steepening local hierarchies in their own favour. Recognising this led us to a discussion of how important it is to consider how formal or informal governance in a particular locality was, and hence the importance of processes of ‘formalisation’ of power through bureaucracies, regulations, and the imposition of officials.

Through the papers and discussions, we gained glimpses of medieval people of all social strata operating across different scales to get things done, such as Arabic-speakers leveraging their expertise in privileged documentary practices in twelfth-century Toledo or non-noble property-owners in thirteenth-century Carcassonne appropriating the language and frameworks of royal justice and official historical memory. Medieval people were in many cases capable of appropriating the language of their rulers and the procedures of governing institutions, and were not afraid to buy into the claims of rulers where it suited their own purposes, even while avoiding control from above in other ways.

We would like to extend our heartfelt thanks to the funders of the workshop, as well as to all the speakers, respondents, and other participants.

CfP: Transgression in Late Antiquity and Byzantium

26th International Graduate Conference of the Oxford University Byzantine Society:
Transgression in Late Antiquity and Byzantium

24th-25th February 2024, Oxford

We are pleased to announce the call for papers for the 26th Annual Oxford University Byzantine Society International Graduate Conference on the 24th – 25th February, 2024. Papers are invited to approach the theme of ‘Transgression’ within the Late Antique and Byzantine world (very broadly defined). For the call for papers, and for details on how to submit an abstract for consideration for the conference, please see below.

‘Seduced by love for you, I went mad, Aquilina … she, smouldering, not any less love-struck than me, would wander throughout the house … love alone became her heart’s obsession … Her tutor chased me. Her grim mother guarded her … they scrutinised our eyes and nods, and colouring that tends to signal thoughts … soon both of us began to seek out times and places to converse with eyebrows and our eyes, to dupe the guards, to put a foot down gingerly, and in the night to run without a sound. Our fiery hearts ignite a doubled frenzied passion, and so an anguish mixed with love rages … Boethius, offering aid, pacifies her parents’ hearts with “gifts” and lures soft touches to my goal with cash. Blind love of money overcomes parental love; they both begin to love their daughter’s guilt. They give us room for secret sins … yet wickedness, when permitted, becomes worthless, and lust for the deed languishes … so a sanctioned license stole my zeal for sinning, and even longing for such things departed. The two of us split up, miserable and dissatisfied in equal measure …’

Maximianus, Elegies, 3 (adapted tr. Juster)

The Late Antique and Byzantine world was a medley of various modes of transgression: orthodoxy and heresy; borders and breakthroughs; laws and outlaws; taxes and tax evaders; praise and polemic; sacred and profane; idealism and pragmatism; rule and riot. Whether amidst the ‘purple’, the pulpits, or the populace, transgression formed an almost unavoidable aspect of daily life for individuals across the empire and its neighbouring regions. The framework of ‘Transgression’ then is very widely applicable, with novel and imaginative approaches to the notion being strongly encouraged. In tandem with seeking as broad a range of relevant papers as possible within Late Antique and Byzantine Studies, some suggestions by the Oxford University Byzantine Society for how this topic might be treated include:

·      The Literary – deviance from established genres, styles or tropes; bold exploration of new artistic territory; penned subversiveness against higher authorities (whether discreetly or openly broadcasted); dissemination of literature beyond expected limits.

·      The Political – usurpers, revolts, breakaway regions, court intrigue, plots and coups; contravention of aristocratic or political hierarchies and their expectations; royal ceremonial and its changes, or imperial self-promotion and propaganda seeking to rupture or distort the truth.

·      The Geopolitical – stepping beyond or breaking through boundaries and borders, including invasions, expeditions, trade (whether in commodities or ideas), movements of peoples and tribes, or even the establishment of settlements and colonies.

·      The Religious and Spiritual – ‘Heresy’, sectarianism, paganism, esotericism, magic, and more; and, in reverse, all discussion of ‘Orthodoxy’, which so defined itself in opposition to that which it considered transgressive; monastic orders and practices (anchoritic and coenobitic) and their associated canons, themselves intertwined and explicative of what was deemed prohibited; holy fools and other individuals perceived as deviant from typical holy men.

·      The Social and Sartorial – gender-based expectations in public and private; the contravention (or enforcement) of status or class boundaries; proscribed or vagrant habits of dress, jewellery, fabrics, etc.

·      The Linguistic – transmission of language elements across regional borders or cultures, including loan words, dialectic and stylistic influences, as well as other topics concerning lingual crossover and interaction.

·      The Artistic and Architectural – the practice of spolia; the spread and mix of architectural styles from differing regions and cultures; cross-confessionalism evident from the layout or architecture of religious edifices; variant depictions of Christ and other holy figures; iconoclasm.

·      The Legal – whether it be examination of imperial law codes and their effectiveness or more localised disputes testified to by preserved papyri, all discussion concerning legal affairs naturally involves assessing transgressive behaviour and how it was viewed and handled.

·      It could even be that your paper’s relevance to ‘Transgression’ consists in its breaking out from scholarly consensus in a notable way!

Please send an abstract of no more than 250 words, with a short academic biography written in the third person, to the Oxford University Byzantine Society at byzantine.society@gmail.com by Monday 27th November 2023. Papers should be twenty minutes in length and may be delivered in English or French. As with previous conferences, selected papers will be published in an edited volume, peer-reviewed by specialists in the field. Submissions should aim to be as close to the theme as possible in their abstract and paper, especially if they wish to be considered for inclusion in the edited volume. Nevertheless, all submissions are warmly invited.

The conference will have a hybrid format, with papers delivered at the Oxford University History Faculty and livestreamed for a remote audience. Accepted speakers should expect to participate in person.

Conference ‘Articulation of Silence from a Gendered Perspective’

The Centre for Manuscript and Text Cultures (https://cmtc.queens.ox.ac.uk) 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 (https://mtc-journal.org/index.php/mtc) (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)

CONFERENCE SCHEDULE

26TH SEPTEMBER
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

27TH SEPTEMBER
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

28th SEPTEMBER
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
11:15 –13:00 FINAL ROUND-UP DISCUSSION

page3image82549040

BOOK OF ABSTRACTS

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.

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:
https://us06web.zoom.us/j/83545343731?pwd=cGMQGLtWk2g7MLIQv-CaiQmONC2ADA.0K4t6FiJQkDMMR-B

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:
https://us06web.zoom.us/j/89710859004?pwd=Hc7_Tab_Yxdq3x3VOGtWoWCCl3ErEg.71VlVJmLHvZZERxv

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 pierre.bauduin@unicaen.fr & annick.peterscustot@univ-nantes.fr
MFO Coordinator: olivier.delouis@campion.ox.ac.uk

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

Distance: Medieval and Modern Languages Conference

When? 19 June 2023
Where? Taylor Institution Library (St Giles, OX1), Main Hall

9am Panel One ‘Distance’ in Pre- and Early Modern Times (Panel Chair: Sebastian Dows-Miller)

  • Jack Nunn, University of Oxford: ‘Distant voices’: The Making of Late-Medieval Anthologies
  • Marlene Schilling, University of Oxford: ‘Defying Distance’: The Rhetorical Potential of Personifications of Time in the Prayerbooks of the Northern German Convent Medingen
  • Samuel FitzGibbon, University of Cambridge: Windows to New Worlds: Illustrations as Conveyors of Eyewitness Testimony in 16th Century Travel Accounts

10:40 Panel 2 ‘Distance’ in Translation, Reception and Adaptation (Panel Chair: Alexia Ji Wang)

  • Edward Voet, University of Oxford: Sanskrit to Korean transliteration in the Ansimsa-pon Chinŏn chip (1569)
  • Xiyuan Meng, University of St. Andrews: Performing ‘Distance’ on Chinese Stages: Translation, Adaption, and (Re-)Performance of Euripides’ Medea
  • Mariachiara Leteo, University of Oxford: The Distant Perspective of Greek Tragedy in Woolf’s Jacob’s Room

13:00 Panel Three Distance, Oppression and Transgression (Panel Chair: Mathieu Farizier)

  • Jake Robertson, University of Oxford: Art on the Edge: Patronage and Precarity in Gulag Theaters on the Soviet ‘Periphery’
  • Audrey Gosset, Université Bordeaux-Montaigne and EHESS: From Stasis to Democratic Ex-stasis: Bridging the Distance through Shared Art
  • Georgina Fooks, University of Oxford: Susana Thénon’s Distancias: Poetry as Choreography

14:35 Panel Four ‘Distance’ in Literary Correspondences (Panel Chair: Aditi Gupta)

  • Tess Eastgate, University of Oxford: The implications of distance in Marie-Antoinette’s correspondence
  • Valery Goutorova, University of St.Andrews: “My plan is to treat you as detached spirit”: Virginia Woolf’s Effigy to Beloved Women

15:40 Panel Five ‘Distance’ in Migration and Diasporic Literature (Panel Chair: Ola Sidorkiewicz)

  • Ruming Yang, University of Miami: Orientalism and Auto-orientalism in Contemporary Peruvian Literature
  • Madeleine Pulman-Jones, SOAS University of London: The Love Poems of Debora Vogel: A Jewish-Modernist Aesthetics of Longing
  • Kendsey Clements, University College London: Through Her Eyes: An Analysis of écriture migrante au féminin in Québec

17:15 Keynote: Karolina Watroba

Conference programme flyer designed by Anna Glieden

Noblesse Oblige? Barons and the Public Good in Medieval Afro-Eurasia 10th-14th Centuries

1st and 3rd Conference – 25th-27th May 2023 St Cross College and Pusey House, Oxford

25th May Thursday

9h Registration and Coffee
9h30-10h Introduction and Problematique (Maximilian Lau Worcester College, University of Oxford and Gregory Lippiatt University of Exeter)
10h-10h30 Coffee
10h30–11h15 Political argumentation in the 1150s and 1160s: the example of the Saint-Victor Register (Alice Taylor)
11h15–12h The Maliks of Hindustan: A New Conquest Nobility? (Abhishek Kaicker UC Berkeley and
Hasan Siddiqui University of British Columbia)
12h–12h30 Questions and Discussion
12h30–13h30 Lunch
13h30–14h15 Benevolent Elites? Shared Rulership and Privileges in Early Medieval Japan (Mickey Adolphson University of Cambridge)
14h15–15h The Kouroukan Fouga and Oral History: Further Reflections on African Narratives of Noblesse oblige (Adam Simmons Nottingham Trent University)
15h–15h30 Questions and Discussion
15h30–16h Tea
16h Optional Visit to Oriel College Archives (Magna Carta, Papal Bulls and More)
19h Speakers’ Dinner

26th May Friday


9h30–10h Coffee
10h–10h45 Minority Rule in Medieval Syria: The Establishment and Maintenance of the Burids
in Damascus during the Reign of Tughtegin (1104-1128) (Alex Mallett Waseda University, Tokyo)
10h45–11h30 L’aristocratie, l’empereur et le bien commun dans l’empire romain d’Orient (Jean-Claude Cheynet l’Institut universitaire de France)
11h30–12h15 The common good and baronial rebellion in England, c. 1199-1327 (Sophie Ambler University of Lancaster)
12h15–12h45 Questions and Discussion (Alice Taylor King’s College London)
12h45–14h Lunch
12h–12h30 Questions and Discussion
14h–14h45 A Shatterzone on an Ecotone: Fortifying the Steppe-Sown Frontier and Contending for Authority in the Ordos Region of Asia, Circa 800- 1200 (Ruth Mostern University of Pittsburgh)
14h45–15h30 Defining Elite Alterity in the medieval Maghrib and al-Andalus, c. 1000-1300
(Amira Bennison Magdalene College, University of Cambridge)
15h30–16h Questions and Discussion
16h–16h30 Tea
19h Conference Dinner

27th May Saturday


9h30-10h Coffee
10h–10h45 The Limits of Leadership: Cities, Frontiers, and Incursion in the Narratives of North-Western
Europe, 1100–1300 (Emily Winkler St Edmund Hall, University of Oxford)
10h45–11h30 Basqaqs, darughas or envoys? Transience, mobility and Mongol elites in Rus (Angus Russell Trinity College, Cambridge)
11h30–12h15 The Rich, The Poor, and The State: Ideas of Good Government in Song Dynasty China (Sukhee Lee Rutgers University)
Questions and Discussion
12h30–13h30 Concluding Remarks, Round Table Discussion, Next Steps (Gregory Lippiatt University of Exeter and Maximilian Lau Worcester College, University of Oxford)
13h30-14h30 Lunch and Farewell

About the Noblesse Oblige? Project

This project and its conference is a forum for the re-evaluation of ‘baronial’ government and the common good between the tenth and fourteenth centuries across Afro-Eurasian polities. By bringing together emerging and established international scholars, it challenges the traditionally Eurocentric approach to this problem and uses new methodologies to reassess our framework for studying the medieval period, leading to a fundamental reappraisal of the teleological narrative that has previously explained the rise
of modern states.
The story of the medieval barons is commonly a negative one. Because aristocracies have been almost universally eclipsed by centralised states in the modern world, they are often cast as regressive forces whose self-interest held back ‘progress’. Nor is this exclusively a European narrative: the historiographical
attention paid to the ‘rise of the State’ has privileged the Latin Christian experience of political formation and shaped the way in which non-royal élites are seen in other historical contexts. As a result, ‘private’ rulers such as lords, amirs, jun and kshatriya are often assumed to have been at odds with the needs of the wider society.
This network is challenging this understanding of the role of ‘barons’ in their relation to public good in two important and complementary ways. First, we are exploring case studies of how these non-royal élites conceived and implemented responsible government, whether for themselves or for others. Second, we are comparing these case studies in a bold transnational framework, reaching from western Europe to China, that spans the collapse of major centralised imperial projects in the ninth century to the destabilising experience of the Great Death in the fourteenth.

We would like to thank the following organisations for their support of this project and the organisation of this conference:

Supervisory Board
Nandini Chatterjee – University of Exeter
Bernard Gowers – Keble College, University of Oxford
Catherine Holmes – University College, University of Oxford
Yasuhiro Otsuki – Hitotsubashi University, Tokyo
Nicholas Vincent – University of East Anglia


Associate Members
Fernando Arias – University of Valladolid
Susannah Bain – Jesus College, University of Oxford
James Cogbill – Worcester College, University of Oxford
Lars Kjaer – Northeastern University London
Mario Lafuentee – University of Zaragoza
Carlos Laliena – University of Zaragoza