Oxford Medieval Studies Impact Report 2022/23 Published!

In the last ten years, Oxford Medieval Studies has grown into a stunningly successful interdisciplinary Humanities community for research and teaching, with a reach that now goes far beyond Oxford. Time to take stock and to bring together the offerings of just the last academic year, 2022-2023 in form of a booklet. Enjoy the read below as pdf or download a printable version here.

Introduction

(Henrike Lähnemann and Lesley Smith)

Begun on the initiative of Prof. Chris Wickham, and transformed from a TORCH network into a permanent programme under the directorship of Prof. Sophie Marnette, Oxford Medieval Studies now encompasses the local – such as the interdisciplinary MSt. in Medieval Studies – to the global, with 1,300 visitors to our blog last year alone (https://medieval.ox.ac.uk). The termly booklet of offerings around the University, Faculties and Colleges gives some idea of the breadth and variety available to (and from) Oxford’s medievalists: as the statistics on the next page show, we are finding an eager audience for the Middle Ages both inside and outside the city.

Our regular seminars, reading groups, one-off workshops and social events make for a rich and lively culture. We are the biggest and most diverse group studying the Middle Ages in any UK university, with links to the most important US and European institutions. Just as much as its reputation in science or medicine, the Middle Ages puts Oxford on the map.

As co-directors our job is made simple by the enthusiasm and expertise of our graduates and post-docs. Over the last two years Luisa Ostacchini has done a brilliant job of producing a weekly Monday morning newsletter of the week’s offerings, which comes with the wit and wisdom that only an expert in Old English and medieval Latin can claim. Her piece in the report below paints a vivid picture of what goes on each year – not forgetting the fun (anyone for haruspices?) that is a hallmark of so many medieval manuscripts, and of our gatherings today. We thank Luisa and all those who help make Oxford a wonderful place to be a medievalist, and we look forward to ten more successful years. This report is an experiment to bring the lively culture and documentation of the Oxford Medieval Studies blog https://medieval.ox.ac.uk/ into a material form and gather together the rich offerings of seminars, reading groups, regular and one-off events in a booklet.

Highlights of the Oxford Medieval Mystery Plays 2023

A fantastic day was had by all at the third Medieval Mystery Cycle held on Saturday, 22 April that took place across the Front Quad and St Peter-in-the-East churchyard of St Edmund Hall. Actors, directors, singers and designers staged six plays dating from between the 12th and 16th centuries. Retelling Biblical stories from the Nativity to the Last Judgement, the cast expertly performed in medieval and modern languages, including Latin, Middle English and Middle High German.

Master of Ceremonies Jim Harris (left) and the Choir of St Edmund Hall (right)

Master of Ceremonies Jim Harris (Teaching Curator, Ashmolean Museum) delighted everyone as audience guide and play narrator with linking verse composed by David Maskell, and we were treated to Peter Abelard’s ‘O quanta qualia’ sung by the Choir of St Edmund Hall led by College Chaplain the Revd Dr Zachary Guiliano.

Piers Plowman with tackling the seven deadly sins (left) and the Virgin and Christ Child of the Nativity scene (right)

Group ‘Swonken ful harde’ performed first with extracts from Piers Plowman in Middle English, that saw Piers taking on the seven deadly sins through the visions of Will the Dreamer. Following in Middle English, The English Faculty wonderfully performed the Chester Nativity and Salutation with a humorous interpretation of Roman Emperor Octavyan as King Charles III in time for the Coronation!

Scheming Herod delights in news of the Slaughter of the Innocents (left) and Mary Magdalene steals a member of the audience (right)

Marguerite de Navarre’s 16th-century French play of the Comédie des Innocents was performed by group ‘Les perles innocentes’ with singing by Lucy Matheson (read a report by director Elisabeth Dutton), with the dark scenes of the Slaughter of the Innocents countered by a comically scheming Herod and angels supplying chocolates to the audience. We were then treated to a charity coffee and cake stall in the break by the Oxford German Society in support of the German Red Cross. This was followed by a fantastic adaptation of the Carmina Burana Bavarian Passion play by the ‘Sorores Sancte Hildae’ group in Latin and German, with audience participation!

Professor Henrike Lähnemann and trumpet leading the angels (left) and a gleeful Lucifer capturing lost souls for Hell (right)

The unofficial award for best costume design went to the Medieval Germanists who performed the Harrowing of Hell in Middle High German with English narration, that saw a troupe of winged angels and Lucifer herd an imaginative array of lost souls to the Crypt’s Hellmouth. The day closed with Past and Present Teddy Students delivering a high-energy staging of a modern English version of the Last Judgment with St John of Patmos being guided by an exacerbated angel through comic visions of the battle between Christ and Satan for souls.

St John of Patmos and his visions of Heaven and Hell in the Last Judgement

We are particularly grateful to Professor Lesley Smith and Professor Henrike Lähnemann, co-directors of Oxford Medieval Studies, the driving force behind the Mystery Cycle, Michael Angerer, Graduate Convenor for the Mystery Cycle, and to the Fellows and Principal of St Edmund Hall, for once again agreeing to host our medieval madness!

A full programme and listing of the wonderful cast and crew can be found on the Oxford Medieval Studies website here:  https://medieval.ox.ac.uk/2023/04/21/oxford-medieval-mystery-plays-2023/

Medieval Matters: Week 8

It feels like term has just begun, but here we are in week 8 already! That said, the medievalist happenings at Oxford are far from over. In fact, we have an especially full week of exciting events and seminars lined up for you! This isn’t surprising: even Alcuin knew that week 8 was sometimes the richest of all the weeks:

saepe posterior adfert hora, quod prior non poterat
[Often the later hour brings what the earlier hour could not, Ep. 239]

Please do peruse the announcements, events and opportunities listed below, to see all of the joys that the ‘late hour’ of Week 8 has brought to us:

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

  • New AHRC Network: Noblesse Oblige? ‘Barons’ and the Public Good in Medieval Afro-Eurasia (10th-14th Centuries). This network is a forum for the re-evaluation of ‘baronial’ government and the common good between the tenth and fourteenth centuries across different Afro-Eurasian polities. For full details, please see the network website here. The network is also offering two opportunities: a conference and call for associate membership — see the “opportunities” section of this email for full details!
  • The Oxford Interfaith Forum will be hosting a talk of interest to Medievalists next week, on 13th March, 6-7pm, via Zoom. The talk will be Dr Nick Posegay (University of Cambridge), ‘Material and Linguistic History of Arabic Manuscripts in Muslim and Jewish Contexts‘. To register, please click here.

EVENTS THIS WEEK:

Monday 6th March:

  • The Byzantine Graduate Seminar takes place at 12.30-2pm online via Zoom. This week’s speaker will be Juliana Santos Dinoá Medeiros (Uniwersytet Warszawski), Hagiography and miracle performance in seventh-century Gaul. To register, please contact the organiser at james.cogbill@worc.ox.ac.uk.
  • The Medieval Latin Manuscript Reading Group led by Matthew Holford and Andrew Dunning is meeting as usual via Teams from 1-2pm. We will start with natural history from a medieval encyclopaedia. Sign up for the mailing list to receive updates and the Teams invite, or contact matthew.holford@bodleian.ox.ac.uk or andrew.dunning@bodleian.ox.ac.uk for more information. 
  • The Queer and Trans Medievalisms Reading and Research Group meets at 3pm at Univ College, 12 Merton St Room 2. This week’s theme is Ulrich von Liechtenstein’s Frauendienst. All extremely welcome! To join the mailing list and get texts in advance, or if you have any questions, email rowan.wilson@univ.ox.ac.uk.
  • The Medieval Archaeology Seminar today is CANCELLED.
  • A Workshop for the Medieval Mystery Plays will take place in the Pontigny Room, St Edmund Hall, with David Wiles and Jim Harris, for all actors and directors, 4:30-6pm.
  • The Medieval History Seminar takes place at 5pm in the Wharton Room, All Souls College. This week’s speaker will be Jacopo Gnisci (UCL), Ethiopia and Byzantium: Reframing the Evidence. (You may also attend remotely, Teams link here: or log in to Teams with your .ox.ac.uk account and join the group “Medieval History Research Seminar”, team code rmppucs. If you have any difficulties please email: medhistsem@history.ox.ac.uk). 
  • The Lincoln Leads seminar takes place at 5.30–7pm at Oakeshott Room, Lincoln College. This week’s panel is ‘How do we define ‘child’ and ‘adult’?’, and features Harriet Soper (Fellow in English Literature) on life courses in Old English poetry. Book a free place here.

Tuesday 7th March:

  • The Europe in the Later Middle Ages Seminar will take place at 2–3.30pm in the New Seminar Room, St John’s College. Tea and coffee available from 1.45pm. This week’s speaker will be Duncan Hardy, University of Central Florida, ‘Reform and crusade at the imperial diets: towards a new explanatory framework for political change in the late medieval Holy Roman Empire‘.
  • The third and final lecture of this year’s E. A. Lowe Lectures in Palaeography takes place at 5pm in the MBI Al Jaber Auditorium, Corpus Christi College. This year’s lectures are given by Prof. Niels Gaul, A G Leventis Professor of Byzantine Studies and Director of the Centre for Late Antique, Islamic and Byzantine Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Today’s lecture will be on the subject of  “Authority”, and relates expressions of authorial ethos to matters of mise-en-page, with particular attention to marginal spaces. All welcome.
  • The Medieval Church and Culture Seminar meets in the Charles Wellbeloved Room, Harris Manchester College. Paper starts at 5.15pm, with tea, coffee, biscuits and friendly Medievalist chat from 5pm! This week’s speakers will be Henrietta Leyser (St Peter’s) and Samuel Fanous (Bodleian Library): The Vision of the Monk of Eynsham
  • Concert ‘Inn stetter hut’: The Linarol Consort of Viols and James Gilchrist present a songbook from the court of Emperor Maximilian 7.30-9.30pm at the Holywell Music Room, preceded by a free pre-concert talk 5.55-6.45pm at the same venue with Henrike Lähnemann. Tickets for both can be obtained at https://www.ticketsource.co.uk/linarolconsort. Listen to the concert playlist.

Wednesday 8th March:

  • The Medieval German Seminar features a special guest lecture by Dr Aletta Leipold (Althochdeutsches Wörterbuch, Leipzig), 11.15-12.45 in the island room, Oriel College.
  • The Medieval Crafternoon will take place at 1.30-4.30pm at 21 St Giles, St John’s College. Come along for an afternoon of medieval textile crafts! The guided workshop will focus on four textile techniques, and refreshments will be served. To sign up, click here. For question, email Eleanor Birch.
  • The Medieval Italian Seminar will take place at 3.30pm at G. Martin Room, History Faculty. This week’s speaker will be Nicola Carotenuto (Oxford, St Hugh’s): ’Trade, traders, and institutions in late medieval Venice’.
  • The Medieval Latin Document Reading Group meets on Teams at 4-5pm. We are currently focusing on medieval documents from New College’s archive as part of the cataloguing work being carried out there, so there will be a variety of hands, dates and types. A document is sent out in advance but homework is not expected. Contact Michael Stansfield for further details and the Teams link.
  • The Late Antique and Byzantine Seminar takes place at 5pm at the Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies, 66 St Giles. This week’s speaker will be Zachary Chitwood (Univ. of Mainz), ‘A Cloister for the (Grand) Komnenoi: Dynastic Rivalry and Memoria at the Foundation of Dionysiou Monastery on Mount Athos’.
  • The Medieval English Research Seminar takes place at 5.15pm in Lecture Theatre 2, English Faculty, followed by a drinks reception. This week’s speaker will be Niamh Kehoe (University of Düsseldorf), ‘Humour and Horror in Ælfric´s Passion of St Vincent’.

Thursday 9th March:

  • The Oxford Medieval Commentary Network will meet at 12.45-2.15pm in Thatched Barn, Christ Church (by meadow entrance). Free lunch from 12.45, seminar paper begins at 1.15. Today’s speaker will be Alistair Minnis, Emeritus Professor, Yale, ‘Reconciling amour and yconomique: The significance of the Chess of Love commentary by Evrart de Conty (c.1330–1405)’. Please direct all questions to Cosima Gillhammer, or visit the website
  • The Seminar in Medieval and Renaissance Music will take place on Zoom at 5pm. This week’s speaker will be Emily Zazulia (University of California at Berkeley), The Fifteenth-Century Song Mass: Some Challenges. If you are planning to attend a seminar this term, please register using this form. For each seminar, those who have registered will receive an email with the Zoom invitation and any further materials a couple of days before the seminar. If you have questions, please just send an email to matthew.thomson@ucd.ie
  • The Celtic Seminar will take place at 5.15pm via Teams and in The History of the Book Room, English Faculty. This week’s speaker will be Nora White (Maynooth), ‘Multimedia ogham and digital epigraphy‘. Please contact David Willis if you need a link.
  • The Medieval Visual Culture Seminar meets at 5.15pm at St Catherine’s College, Arumugam Building. This week’s speaker will be Mary Carruthers New York University, All Souls College, Oxford, ‘Envisioning Thinking: Geometry and Meditation in  the Twelfth Century‘.
  • The Medieval Vestments Conference takes place at St John’s College on March 9-10. This conference is inspired by the college’s collection with a mixture of impressive speakers, interactive workshops, and dynamic displays. To register, visit the eventbrite page.

Friday 10th March:

  • Weston Library Medieval Coffee Morning, 10.30-11.30, will feature Old High German glosses, scratch and otherwise, presented by Luise Morawetz. For more information on newly found glosses in the Bodleian cf. https://medieval.ox.ac.uk/2022/12/13/ms-canon-pat-lat-57/
  • Double bill on etymology in German and English with Aletta Leipold (Althochdeutsches Wörterbuch) rûna, rîzan, scrîban – A Cultural History of Writing based on examples from the Old High German dictionary, 3-4pm, and Philip Durkin (Oxford English Dictionary): Lexical Borrowing – Fremdwörter, Lehnwörter and German words in English, 4-5pm, in 47 Wellington Square, 1st floor, lecture room 1 (access via the second staircase, end of the corridor), the final session of Henrike Lähnemann’s lecture series on German Historical Linguistics.

OPPORTUNITIES:

  • Conference and Call for Associate Membership: Noblesse Oblige? ‘Barons’ and the Public Good in Medieval Afro-Eurasia (10th-14th Centuries). We would like to welcome any who might be interested in our research to join a conference, which will take place in Oxford between the 25th and the 27th May 2023 – 5th week of Trinity. In addition, we would like to open our network to associate members: this is especially aimed at early career academics or students interested in questions of governance, elites, and the common good in this period. Any student or ECR interested in joining as an associate member should email max.lau@worc.ox.ac.uk with a CV and short personal statement on their research and what they would contribute to the network. For full details, please see the OMS blog here and the network website here.
  • CfP: Dissolving Kinship in the Early Middle Ages, ca. AD 400-1000: The University of York, 1-2 June 2023. Proposals for 30-minute papers are invited from late-stage postgraduates and ECRs. Due to the generosity of the Past & Present Society and the Department of History, University of York, accepted speakers who wish to present in person will receive at least a 150-pound bursary towards travel and accommodation. We also welcome applications for virtual presentations. Please send ca. 300 word abstracts and a brief bio to both organisers, Dr Alex Traves (alex.traves@york.ac.uk) and Dr Becca Grose (becca.grose@york.ac.uk), by 7 April 2023. For full details, please click here.
  • Invitation to Attend an International Conference “Episcopal Leadership. Shaping Power in Gaul and Hispania (IVth-VIIth centuries)”, organized by Prof. Dr. Sabine Panzram (RomanIslam Center, Universität Hamburg), Prof. Dr. Marc Heijmans (Aix Marseille Université, Centre Camille Jullian) and Dr. Paulo Pachá (RomanIslam Center, Universidade Federal di Rio de Janeiro). The workshop will take place on 6-8 March 2023 (in person and on Zoom). For full details, please click here.

Of course, whilst this week marks the last week of teaching term, it’s not the end of Medieval happenings in Oxford. In fact, I’m sure many of us are looking forward to the opportunity to hunt down some elusive research time! Here is Alcuin on the difficulty of finding research time:

Fateor siquidem: propemodum ante annos triginta voluntatem huius habere operis; sed quievit calamus meus
[I confess, I had a desire to write this work thirty years ago: but my pen was at rest… Ep. 159]

Wishing you all a week full of exciting medievalist gatherings, and a vac full of bountiful and productive research time!

[Medievalists hunt for the rare beast known as “research time”]
Ashmole Bestiary, Bodleian Library MS. Ashmole 1511, f. 10 r.
Viewable in full at Digital Bodleian

Medieval Matters: Week 7

Teaching term may be starting to wrap up, but things are still extremely busy here at OMS. There are so many exciting events and upcoming free-to-attend online conferences for us to enjoy that it’s hard to remember that we are entering the final fortnight of term! That said, I am sure I am not alone in feeling quite tired at this point in the term. For those of you feeling likewise, here is some wisdom from Alcuin:

Saepe […] bos lassus fortius figit ungulam
[The tired ox always puts his hoof down more strongly, Ep. 85]

In other words, though we might be tired this week, we might still do our best work! Here is the week’s roundup of events – there’s lots to take strength from:

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

  • Medieval Vestments Conference at St John’s College (March 9-10). Taking inspiration from the college’s unique gallery of stunning medieval vestments, this conference will feature two day’s worth of speakers and presenters. These presentations will be enriched by displays from both the college and Bodleian Library archives as well as a dynamic exhibition of works created during the conference workshops. Please register for the segments that you are interested in and able to attend here on eventbrite.
  • The After Constantine Journal, Medievalists.net, and the Orthodox Academy of Crete invite you to attend the conference Easter in Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, which will take place on Zoom and YouTube on April 1st, 2023. This conference will examine how Easter was celebrated and viewed from Late Antiquity throughout the medieval period. Every year this would be a high point of the Christian life, and late antique and medieval people were keenly interested in many aspects of this event. For full details, please see here.
  • There will be a half-day colloquium on the quattrocento scholar, Sicco Polenton, and his magnum opus – the first extended history of Latin literature to have been written in modernity – at Faculty of Classics in Oxford on Friday, 14 April 2023. It will begin at 13:45. Attendance is free, but please register attendance by writing to Tristan Franklinos.

EVENTS THIS WEEK:

Monday 27th February:

  • The Byzantine Graduate Seminar will not take place today. The seminar resumes next week!
  • The Medieval Latin Manuscript Reading Group led by Matthew Holford and Andrew Dunning is meeting as usual via Teams from 1-2pm. We will continue with natural history from a medieval encyclopaedia. Sign up for the mailing list to receive updates and the Teams invite, or contact matthew.holford@bodleian.ox.ac.uk or andrew.dunning@bodleian.ox.ac.uk for more information. 
  • The Queer and Trans Medievalisms Reading and Research Group meets at 3pm at Univ College, 12 Merton St Room 2. This week’s speaker is Kat Smith on ‘The female pursuit of  knowledge through the Virgin Mary’s breasts in 15th century Castile’. All extremely welcome! To join the mailing list and get texts in advance, or if you have any questions, email rowan.wilson@univ.ox.ac.uk.   
  • The Seminar in Manuscript Studies and Palaeography will take place at 2.15-3.45pm, in the Weston Library, Horton Room. This week’s speaker will be Laura Light (Les Enluminures), “Latin Bibles in England c. 1200-c. 1230“. For further information contact matthew.holford@bodleian.ox.ac.uk or andrew.dunning@bodleian.ox.ac.uk.
  • A special lecture on Islamic Law in Norman Sicily, by Professor Jeremy Johns, will take place at 5pm in the L. W. Auditorium, Wolfson College.
  • The Medieval History Seminar takes place at 5pm in the Wharton Room, All Souls College. This week’s speaker will be Liesbeth van Houts (Cambridge), ‘Towards a new biography of Empress Matilda: what can be known about the women of her acquaintance?.‘ (You may also attend remotely, Teams link here: or log in to Teams with your .ox.ac.uk account and join the group “Medieval History Research Seminar”, team code rmppucs. If you have any difficulties please email: medhistsem@history.ox.ac.uk). 
  • The Lincoln Leads seminar takes place at 5.30–7pm at Oakeshott Room, Lincoln College. This week’s panel is ‘Failure and First Drafts’. Book a free place here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/cc/lincoln-leads-2023-1539199

Tuesday 28th February:

  • The Europe in the Later Middle Ages Seminar will take place at 2–3.30pm in the New Seminar Room, St John’s College. Tea and coffee available from 1.45pm. This week’s speaker will be Peter Crooks, Trinity College Dublin, ‘Chimera of Conquest: Colonial Warfare in Late Medieval Ireland‘.
  • The Codicology and the material book seminar takes place at 2-3.30pm in the Weston Library, Lecture Theatre. This week’s speaker will be Teresa Webber, on Medieval Libraries.
  • Dr Nelson Goering will be talking about Old High German and Old Saxon metre from 2:15 to 3:45 on the ground floor of the Linguistics Faculty on Walton Street as part of the Comparative Linguistics Seminar.
  • The Medieval French Research Seminar takes place at 5pm at the Maison française d’Oxford (www.mfo.ac.uk). Drinks at 5pm, presentations begin at 5.15pm. This week’s speaker will be Dominique Lagorgette (Université Savoie Mont Blanc), ‘“Par sainct Copin, je suis tanné”. Jurons et blasphèmes dans quelques textes des en moyen français : représentations de l’oralité et transgression’. For more information, to be added to the seminar maillist, or for the Teams link to join a seminar remotely, contact helen.swift@st-hildas.ox.ac.uk.
  • Medieval Church and Culture meets on Tuesday at Harris Manchester, 5pm (tea and biscuits) for a 5.15pm paper. The speaker will be  Elena Lichmanova (Merton), on Humour in the Margins: the interpretative problem.
  • The first of this year’s E. A. Lowe Lectures in Palaeography takes place at 5pm in the MBI Al Jaber Auditorium, Corpus Christi College. This year’s lectures are given by Prof. Niels Gaul, A G Leventis Professor of Byzantine Studies and Director of the Centre for Late Antique, Islamic and Byzantine Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Today’s lecture will be on the subject of “Codex”, and explores the phenomenon of Byzantine literati curating their own writings in codex format and possible ancient and patristic models; with glances at similar practices in other medieval manuscript cultures. All welcome.

Wednesday 1st March:

  • No Medieval German Seminar this week – watch out for some special events in week 8 with guest Dr Aletta Leipold from the Althochdeutsches Wörterbuch (Leipzig)!
  • The Medieval Italian Seminar has been changed to Friday: please see full details there.
  • The Medieval Latin Document Reading Group meets on Teams at 4-5pm. We are currently focusing on medieval documents from New College’s archive as part of the cataloguing work being carried out there, so there will be a variety of hands, dates and types. A document is sent out in advance but homework is not expected. Contact Michael Stansfield (michael.stansfield@new.ox.ac.uk) for further details and the Teams link.
  • The Late Antique and Byzantine Seminar takes place at 5pm at the Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies, 66 St Giles. This week’s speaker will be Nikos Zagklas (Univ. of Vienna), ‘Τhe Cinderella of Byzantine Literature: Rethinking Schedography in Middle and Late Byzantine Periods’.
  • The Medieval English Research Seminar takes place at 5.15pm in Lecture Theatre 2, English Faculty, followed by a drinks reception. This week’s speaker will be Tom Grant (University of Utrecht), ‘In Defence of Bjarki: Reappraising Beowulf’s Links with Scandinavian Legend’.
  • A taster session for the Old Frisian Summer School will take place at 5.15pm, at the Taylor Institution Library, Room 2. We will be discussing the similarities between Old Frisian and Old English and aspects of the settlement history of Frisians. No booking required. For further information, please contact by the organiser Dr Johanneke Sytsema.

Thursday 2nd March:

  • The Celtic Seminar will take place at 5.00pm via Zoom. This week’s speaker will be Dimitra Fimi, ‘Magic writing: Representations of the Og(h)am script in contemporary fantasy‘. Please contact a.elias@wales.ac.uk for the link.
  • The second of this year’s E. A. Lowe Lectures in Palaeography takes place at 5pm in the MBI Al Jaber Auditorium, Corpus Christi College. This year’s lectures are given by Prof. Niels Gaul, A G Leventis Professor of Byzantine Studies and Director of the Centre for Late Antique, Islamic and Byzantine Studies at the University of Edinburgh. Today’s lecture will be on the subject of “Ethos”, and examines the ways in which such codices were thought to display the author’s character, and what the concept entailed in this context. All welcome.

Friday 3rd March:

  • The Medieval Coffee Morning meets as usual 10:30am in the Visiting Scholars Centre of the Weston Library with presentation of items from the special collections.
  • A taster lecture for the Old Frisian Summer School will take place at 3-4pm, at 47 Wellington Square, 1st floor, Lecture Room 1, about Old Frisian among the other Germanic languages (part of the Paper IV German Historical Linguistics series). No booking required. For further information, please contact by the organiser Dr Johanneke Sytsema.
  • The Medieval Italian Seminar will take place at 3.30pm at G. Martin Room, History Faculty. This week’s speaker will be Elena Rossi (Oxford, Magdalen), ‘The Entangled Nature of the University and Family Spheres in Medieval Bologna’.
  • The Anglo-Norman Reading Group meets at 5-6.30pm at St Hilda’s College, in the Julia Mann Room. The text will be extracts from the Chronicle of Langtoft; pdf will be provided. For access to the text and further information, please email: stephanie.hathaway@gmail.com or jane.bliss@lmh.oxon.org.
  • The Old Norse Reading Group meets at 5pm at The Royal Oak. Please email Ashley Castelino (ashley.castelino@lincoln.ox.ac.uk) to be added to the mailing list.

Saturday 4th March:

  • A Church Monuments Society Online Lecture takes place at 5pm, online. Dr Karen Blough (Professor Emerita of Art History at SUNY Plattsborough) will be speaking about Abbatial Effigies from Quedlinburg in the Medieval and Early Modern Era. For full details and to register, please click here for the eventbrite page.

OPPORTUNITIES:

  • Columbia University is hosting A Colloquium for Early Medieval Studies, Indigenous Futures / Medieval Pasts: “Analogues and Kinship: A Talking Circle”, taking place on March 10, at 10:30am-3:30pm ET / 15:30 – 20:30 GMT. This CEMS talking circle and workshop facilitates a broad discussion about the politics, power structures, and potentials of thinking about medieval pasts in concert with Indigenous futures. To register to attend via zoom, please click here.

Finally, some wisdom on Alcuin on prudent library use when you are tired:

quod pondera librorum nobiscum portari nequeunt, ideo aliquotiens brevitati studendum est, ut […]habeat fessus ex itinere viator, quo se recreet: licet ex pondere portantis manus non gravetur
[Because we cannot carry heavy books, we have sometimes had to aspire to brevity, so that the traveller weary from the road might have what restores them, without their hands being weighed down by the weight of it Ep. 49]

In other words, take lightly from the libraries this week: don’t let your weary hands be weighed down by great stacks of books!

[A Medievalist struggles with a particularly weighty tome…]
Ashmole Bestiary, Bodleian Library MS. Ashmole 1511, f. 28 r.
Viewable in full at Digital Bodleian

Lehnwörter – A Double Bill on Etymology & a Cultural History of Writing through Words

When: Week 8, 10 March  2023, 3–5pm

Where: 47 Wellington Square, 1st floor, lecture room 1

What: Double bill on etymology in German and English with Dr Aletta Leipold (Althochdeutsches Wörterbuch, Leipzig, working also on the history of magic) and Dr Philip Durkin (Oxford English Dictionary, author of ‘Borrowed Words’ & al.). This is part of Henrike Lähnemann’s Paper IV lecture series ‘Topics in German Historical Linguistics’, aimed at honours students of German literature and linguistics but open to anybody interested in history of the German language and its intersection with English.

Aletta Leipold: rûna, rîzan, scrîban – A Cultural History of Writing from the Old High German dictionary

The lecture will examine the evidence of transmission and usage of two Old High German termini technici for writing, rîzan and scrîban. The indigenous Germanic verb *wrîtan, which has remained the general term for the writing process in English, is displaced in German by the Latin loanword scrîbere. I will examine whether there is evidence of this process in Old High German, and where there are overlaps. The third part will focus on the Old High German noun rûna, which is frequently attested in North Germanic as the object of *wrîtan. Unlike in New High German, OHG rûna does not mean ‘rune, Germanic character’ but is predominantly associated with the oral realm. I will discuss whether the designation of the Germanic characters was transmitted into West Germanic or whether it perished with the runes themselves on the continent. Can we see traces of rûna being used in Old High German as a general term for a ‘written character’?

Lecture translated and read by William Thurlwell

Philip Durkin (Oxford English Dictionary): Lexical Borrowing – Fremdwörter, Lehnwörter and German words in English

How can we survey borrowings from German into (modern) English? How does borrowing from German compare with borrowing from other languages, in scale and nature? What issues are there in identifying loanwords, and various types of loan formations? Are concepts such as Fremdwort and Lehnwort of practical use, and what issues do they raise? Link to the OED.

Part of the Paper IV lecture series
Runic alphabets in St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 270, p. 52 – Educational manuscript 
http://www.e-codices.ch/en/csg/0270/52
Open book with music notation on the left side and song text on the right hand side, landscape format

Late-Medieval German Love Songs. Concert and Talk

In 1524, the Augsburg organist Bernhart Rem started writing the part books Österreichische Nationalbibliothek Ms. 18 810 from which the songs for the concert are taken. The pre-concert talk will explore the writing and music-making of late medieval Germany. The early 16th-century soundscape was varied and colourful, ranging from street cries, via religious songs in processions and meetings of the Meistersinger, to instrumental music performed by “town waits”, groups of instrumentalists playing for festive occasions. The songs of Ms. 18 810 retain features of this exclusive aristocratic song culture. They might look like pop music with run-of-the-mill lyrics but in fact these are cutting-edge text-musical combinations. Singing about love’s woes and (occasionally) joys, and of how the poet, assuming the persona of a male lover, constantly runs into and (occasionally) overcomes the obstacles society throws in his way, is as noble a pastime as falconry or commissioning costly manuscripts.

On 7 March 2023 (Tuesday of week 8 of Hilary Term for the Oxonians), music editor and viol player David Hatcher, Professor of German Literature & Linguistics Henrike Lähnemann, and singer James Gilchrist met in the Holywell Music Room to discuss the songs of this manuscripts, taking in music, literature and culture in early 16th century Germany.

Pre-Concert Talk recording by Dr Natascha Domeisen for Oxford Medieval Studies

The authors were members of the same courtly circles or, in cases such as Ludwig Senfl’s autobiographical song ‘Lust hab ich ghabt’, even writing texts themselves as singer-songwriters of the period. In line with the poetic habits of the period, they pay more attention to stanza form than to originality of content. Maximilian’s court was an international meeting point: not only would all forms of German dialects have been spoken, but Latin, French, and even English as well; Ludwig Senfl’s teacher Heinrich Isaac was Dutch.

The pre-concert talk also mentioned the autobiographical song Lust hab ich gehabt zur musica, a song in praise of music education which spells in the verse initials the name of its author and composer, LUDWIG SENNFL, and charts his musical training.

Henrike Lähnemann writes: It is appropriate that with James Gilchrist this repertoire is interpreted by a non-native speaker. Coming to the repertoire not from within the system gives performers the advantage over a German singer to be aware of temporal and regional varieties of the language of song. I was delighted when James contacted me via Claire Horáček – alumna of my own College St Edmund Hall – to check out historical pronunciation. It was exciting to go through this repertoire which can only be grasped when spoken out aloud; this is not a text for silent reading!

Concert in the Hollywell Music Room with the Linarol Consort of viols and James Gilchrist (tenor)

Recording of the concert by Natascha Domeisen

Book further concerts with the Linarol Consort. Listen to the concert playlist.

Medieval Matters: Week 6

We are well into term and also into February. I don’t want to be too optimistic, but I think I saw some sunshine in Oxford last week! Brighter days are coming. Of course, all days are bright when they have wisdom in them, so here is some advice for fellow teaching staff this week:

Ergo magistri minuitur auctoritas, si doctrina eius destruitur opere
[The authority of a teacher will be diminished if their teachings are refuted by their own works. Ep. 217]

In other words: those who can do, teach! Of course, what better way to supplement your own works (and by extension, your teaching) with some of our fabulous seminars and reading groups? Let’s lead by example this week:

ANNOUNCEMENTS:

  • The Oxford Centre for Textual Editing and Theory is organising a workshop on ‘Genetic Narratology’ – combining genetic criticism and narrative analysis (23-24 February 2023, Jesus College, Oxford), with Karin Kukkonen as keynote speaker. Please find the preliminary programme and free registration via Eventbrite.
  • Please note that the time and date of The Medieval Italian Seminar has changed: this week’s paper will now take place on Friday at 11.30am at Colin Matthew Room, History Faculty.
  • From the Breast, an interdisciplinary hybrid seminar series and workshop whose central theme revolves around representations of breastfeeding and infant feeding in pre-modern culture will have a seminar relevant to medievalists on Wednesday 22 February, advertised below, but also several other seminars and a workshop on pre-modern breastfeeding more broadly. Please see the Eventbrite here to register for all upcoming events!
  • Valentine’s Day at the Medieval Church and Culture seminar featured a enthralling talk from Dr Federica Gigante, Curator of the Collection from the Islamic World at the History of Science Museum in Oxford.  Federica showed us the many places where Islamic textiles can be found in medieval Christian religious settings – places we’ve all seen, but never realised what we were looking at! If you missed Federica’s talk, please see our blog post here for some of the highlights.
  • Save the date! We will be running another workshop on voice projection and staging for the Medieval Mystery Cycle. This will take place on Monday 6 March (Week 8), 4.30–6pm, in the Pontigny Room at St Edmund Hall. All actors and directors interested in taking part are welcome! Beyond general voice projection exercises, there will also be an opportunity to work out staging constellations on site at St Edmund Hall (as well as an opportunity to enjoy tea and cake). The workshop will be led by Dr Jim Harris, the Mystery Cycle’s Master of Ceremonies and Teaching Curator at the Ashmolean Museum. Please let us know if you’re able to join us by emailing michael.angerer@ccc.ox.ac.uk.
  • CALL FOR TIKTOK PARTICIPANTS As you should know by now, OMS has a new TikTok account, and we want to use it to highlight the work of medievalists at Oxford (and beyond)! https://tiktok.com/@OxMedStud. If you’d be willing to film a short TikTok for us talking about what you’re working on or some interesting aspect of the medieval world, email ashley.castelino@lincoln.ox.ac.uk!

EVENTS THIS WEEK:

Monday 20th February:

  • The Childhood and Youth Studies Network is delighted to announce our first pedagogy session, with a focus on sources for integrating childhood and youth studies into teaching for undergraduate or postgraduate students. This session is run in conjunction with the Centre for the Study of the Book at the Bodleian Library, and is open to teaching staff of all career stages who hold a University or Bodleian Reader card. For full details, see here. Register via Eventbrite for the first session at 11.30-12.30 or the second session at 12.30-1.30, both Horton Room at the Weston Library. 
  • The Byzantine Graduate Seminar takes place at 12.30-2pm online via Zoom. This week’s speaker will be James Duncan (University of Liverpool), Mechanical Dragons and Underground Cults: Quodvultdeus’s Hidden Pagans. To register, please contact the organiser at james.cogbill@worc.ox.ac.uk.
  • The Medieval Latin Manuscript Reading Group led by Matthew Holford and Andrew Dunning is meeting as usual via Teams from 1-2pm continuing with the natural history theme. Sign up for the mailing list to receive updates and the Teams invite, or contact matthew.holford@bodleian.ox.ac.uk or andrew.dunning@bodleian.ox.ac.uk for more information. 
  • The Queer and Trans Medievalisms Reading and Research Group meets at 3pm at Univ College, 12 Merton St Room 2. This week’s theme is Dietrich von der Glezze’s Der Borte. All extremely welcome! To join the mailing list and get texts in advance, or if you have any questions, email rowan.wilson@univ.ox.ac.uk.
  • The Medieval Archaeology Seminar meets at 3pm at the Institute of Archaeology, Lecture Room. This week’s speaker will be Dr Corisande Fenwick, UCL, ‘The transformation of medieval Morocco: State formation and everyday life‘.
  • The Medieval History Seminar takes place at 5pm in the Wharton Room, All Souls College. This week’s speaker will be Erin Dailey (Leicester), and her talk’s title is Domestic Slavery, Sexual Exploitation, and the Transformation of the Late Roman World, AD 300-900 (You may also attend remotely, Teams link here: or log in to Teams with your .ox.ac.uk account and join the group “Medieval History Research Seminar”, team code rmppucs. If you have any difficulties please email: medhistsem@history.ox.ac.uk ). 
  • The Lincoln Leads seminar takes place at 5.30–7pm at Oakeshott Room, Lincoln College. This week’s panel is ‘What is the use of the modern museum?’. Book a free place here: https://www.eventbrite.co.uk/cc/lincoln-leads-2023-1539199

Tuesday 21st February:

  • The Europe in the Later Middle Ages Seminar will take place at 2–3.30pm in the New Seminar Room, St John’s College. Tea and coffee available from 1.45pm. This week’s speaker will be Maria João Branco, Universidade Nova, Lisbon, ‘Status, Service and Function: Revisiting Royal Councillors and Governance in 12th-13th-Century Portugal.
  • The Medieval Church and Culture Seminar meets at 5-6pm in the Charles Wellbeloved Room, Harris Manchester College. Paper starts at 5.15pm, with tea, coffee, biscuits and friendly Medievalist chat from 5pm! This week’s speaker will be Laura Light (Les Enluminures), The Paris Bible: what is it, and why its name matters.
  • The concluding Carlyle Lecture in Medieval Law with Prof. John Hudon (St Andrews) takes place at 5pm in South School, Examination Schools. This lecture reflects on the problems and possibilities of comparative legal history before moving on to the differences and similarities in patterns of England, France, and north Italy in the period c.1160-1270. All are welcome.

Wednesday 22nd February:

  • The Medieval German Graduate Seminar will meet at 11:15am in the island room of Oriel College with Marlene Schilling presenting the personification of Frau Minne and Frau Venus in Heinrich von Neustadt’s Apollonius von Tyrland. If you are interested to come along, contact Henrike Lähnemann, to be added to the teams chat.
  • GLARE (Greek and Latin Reading Group) takes place at 4-5pm at Jesus College. Please meet at Jesus College Lodge. This week’s text will be Thucydides, Peloponnesian War, 6.26.1–27.3. All welcome to attend any and all sessions. For more details and specific readings each week, or to be added to the mailing list, email john.colley@jesus.ox.ac.uk or jenyth.evans@seh.ox.ac.uk.
  • The Medieval Latin Document Reading Group meets on Teams at 4-5pm. We are currently focusing on medieval documents from New College’s archive as part of the cataloguing work being carried out there, so there will be a variety of hands, dates and types. A document is sent out in advance but homework is not expected. Contact Michael Stansfield (michael.stansfield@new.ox.ac.uk) for further details and the Teams link.
  • The Late Antique and Byzantine Seminar takes place at 5pm at the Ioannou Centre for Classical and Byzantine Studies, 66 St Giles. This week’s speaker will be Robert Wizniewski (Univ. of Warsaw), ‘The labourer is worthy of his hire? Clerics and their income in Late Antiquity’.
  • The Medieval English Research Seminar takes place at 5.15pm in Lecture Theatre 2, English Faculty, followed by a drinks reception. This week’s speaker will be Cosima Gillhammer (University of Oxford), ‘For to telle treuly holy writ and schortly and pleynly: The Wycliffite Gospel Commentaries’.
  • From the Breast, an interdisciplinary hybrid seminar series will meet at 6-7pm online. This week’s speakers are Mazi Kuzi, Tel Aviv University, Breastfeeding Culture in Twelfth-Century France, and Anna Packman, University of Birmingham ‘modes meolc’ (‘milk of the mind’): Milk as Metaphor in Old English Literature. Please see the Eventbrite here to register!

Thursday 23rd February:

  • The Oxford Medieval Commentary Network will meet at 12.45-2.15pm in Thatched Barn, Christ Church (by meadow entrance). Free lunch from 12.45, seminar paper begins at 1.15. Today’s speaker will be Miri Rubin, Queen Mary University of London, ‘Nigra sum: What Song of Songs Commentaries Can Tell Us About the Meanings of Blackness’. Please direct all questions to cosima.gillhammer:chch.ox.ac.uk, or visit the website.
  • The Celtic Seminar by Stuart Dunmore (Edinburgh), ‘Language acquisition motivations and identity orientations among Scottish Gaelic diasporas in Nova Scotia and New England‘ has been POSTPONED to 2 November. Please contact david.willis@ling-phil.ox.ac.uk for further info.
  • The Medieval Visual Culture Seminar meets at 5.15pm at St Catherine’s College, Arumugam Building. This week’s speaker will be Jack Hartnell University of East Anglia, ‘Visualising Wombs and Obstetrical Fantasies in Late Medieval Germany‘.

Friday 24th February:

  • The Medieval Coffee Morning meets as usual 10:30am in the Visiting Scholars Centre of the Weston Library with presentation of manuscripts from the collection, this week some manuscripts of the Rigveda, presented by Barbora Sojkova, a graduate trainee librarian at All Souls College (who has also been helping with the Bodleian Sanskrit cataloguing). Watch here the last medieval presentation by Dr Thea Gomelauri on the layout of Hebrew Bibles.
  • The Medieval Italian Seminar will take place at 11.30am at Colin Matthew Room, History Faculty. This week’s speaker will be Trevor Dean (Roehampton): ‘Female killers in late medieval Bologna‘. Please note the change of time and venue!

OPPORTUNITIES:

  • Utrecht University is looking for two researchers (1 PhD candidate and 1 Postdoc) to complete the team of the NWO VIDI project Lettercraft and Epistolary Performance in Early Medieval Europe, 476–751 CE, running from 2023-2027. The PhD candidate (1,0 fte, 4 years, details here) will conduct a case study of the consensus-building powers of lettercraft in the context of Merovingian episcopal successions. The Postdoc (0,8 fte, 2 years, details here) will work together with the project leader, Dr Robert Flierman, to develop and explore two new research tools for the study of lettercraft in early medieval Europe. The application deadline is 12 March. The projects are set to start on 1 July 2023.
  • The History Department at Hamilton College invites applications for a one-year position at the rank of Visiting Assistant Professor, beginning July 1, 2023. We seek candidates to teach courses on Late Antiquity and Early Medieval Histories. Candidates with ABD will be considered, although candidates with a Ph.D. are preferred. The teaching load for this position is five courses. Candidates should submit a cover letter, c.v., and two letters of recommendation via interfolio at http://apply.interfolio.com/121331. Questions regarding the search may be directed to John Eldevik, Search Committee Chair, at jeldevik@hamilton.edu. Our review of applications will begin on March 20, 2023.
  • Two postdoc posts (five years) are now being advertised to work on Professor Helen Fulton’s ERC/UKRI project, ‘The Medieval March of Wales, c. 1282–1550’. Closing date is 16 March. Please circulate widely. Enquiries to helen.fulton@bristol.ac.uk. For full details and to apply, see here.

I began this email by addressing teaching staff, but don’t worry, I haven’t forgotten the students of our community! Some advice on the importance of taking charge of your own learning:

Et si quid minus accepistis, non meae, credo, culpae deputari potest!
[And if anyone didn’t learn sufficiently, I don’t think they can assign the blame to me [the teacher]!, Ep. 34]

May we all learn sufficiently this week, and blame nobody for our lapses! Wishing you a sunny Week 6 full of learning and teaching.

[“Whose fault is it that we didn’t learn enough this week?”]
Ashmole Bestiary, Bodleian Library MS. Ashmole 1511, f. 25 v.
Viewable in full at Digital Bodleian

MCC Highlights: Dr Federica Gigante’s talk on Islamic Textiles in Christian Religious Settings

Valentine’s Day at the Medieval Church and Culture seminar featured a enthralling talk from Dr Federica Gigante, Curator of the Collection from the Islamic World at the History of Science Museum in Oxford.  Federica showed us the many places where Islamic textiles can be found in medieval Christian religious settings – places we’ve all seen, but never realised what we were looking at.  Islamic silks were used to wrap saints’ bones, or were depicted as trompe l’oeuil hangings on church walls – such as here in the upper basilica in Assisi:

or even within the frescoes of the life of St Francis:

The images can be linked to surviving Islamic textiles and often feature kufic or pseudo-kufic script in a band along the top, with Islamic religious messages.

Perhaps the most fascinating set of images Federica showed was the depiction of a whole Islamic tent in the chancel of a medieval convent in Ferrara, Sant’Antonio in Polesine – still extant, though with later interpolations:

Why a tent might be painted on the walls of a convent chancel prompted lively speculation from the audience, and we all went away with our eyes opened for when we next spot textiles in churches.

‘Nolumus mutare…’: further reflections

Tuesday 21 February, 5:00pm 

South School, Examination Schools 

This concluding lecture reflects on the problems and possibilities of comparative legal history before moving on to the differences and similarities in patterns of England, France, and north Italy in the period c.1160-1270.

All are welcome.

Link to their page here.

‘Secreted in the interstices of procedure’: actions, ideas, and legal change

Tuesday 14 February, 5:00pm 

South School, Examination Schools 

This lecture explores the ways in which deliberate legal change came to have unintended effects, especially on substantive law. It considers the interplay of legal learning, legal reasoning, and legal change. In so doing, it ponders Sir Henry Maine’s view of substantive law being secreted in the interstices of procedure.

All are welcome.

Link to their page here.