OMS Small Grants Now Open!

The TORCH Oxford Medieval Studies Programme invites applications for small grants to support conferences, workshops, and other forms of collaborative research activity organised by researchers at postgraduate (whether MSt or DPhil) or early-career level from across the Humanities Division at the University of Oxford.

The activity should take place between the beginning of Hilary term 2024 and the end of Trinity term. Closing date for applications: Friday of Week 4, 9 February 2024.

Grants are normally in the region of £100–250 and can either be for expenses or for administrative and organisational support such as publicity, filming or zoom hosting. Recipients will be required to supply a report after the event for the TORCH Medieval Studies blog. Recipients of awards will also be invited to present on their award at an OMS event.

Applicants will be responsible for all administrative aspects of the activity, including formulating the theme and intellectual rationale, devising the format, and, depending on the type of event, inviting speakers and/or issuing a Call for Papers, organising the schedule, and managing the budget, promotion and advertising.

Applications should be submitted to Prof. Lesley Smith  using the grant application form. Applications submitted in other formats or after the deadline will not be considered. Informal enquiries may also be directed to Lesley. The Oxford Medieval Studies Programme money is administered by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH) and the money will be paid out via their expenses system.

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 (http://medieval.seh.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 http://medieval.seh.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.

OMS Small Grants HT 2023  

The TORCH Oxford Medieval Studies Programme invites applications for small grants to support conferences, workshops, and other forms of collaborative research activity organised by researchers at postgraduate (whether MSt or DPhil) or early-career level from across the Humanities Division at the University of Oxford.

The activity should take place between the beginning of Hilary term 2023 and end of Trinity term 2023. The closing date for applications is Friday of Week 1 of Hilary Term = 20 January);  decisions will be made promptly after the closing date.

Grants are normally in the region of £100–250. Recipients will be required to supply a report after the event for the TORCH Medieval Studies blog. Recipients of awards will also be invited to present on their events at the next Medieval Roadshow.

Applicants will be responsible for all administrative aspects of the activity, including formulating the theme and intellectual rationale, devising the format, and, depending on the type of event, inviting speakers and/or issuing a Call for Papers, organising the schedule, and managing the budget, promotion and advertising. Some administrative and organisational support may be available through TORCH subject to availability.

Applications should be submitted to  lesley.smith@history.ox.ac.uk  using the grant application form. Applications submitted in other formats or after the deadline will not be considered.

Informal enquiries may be directed to lesley.smith@history.ox.ac.uk

The Oxford Medieval Studies Programme is sponsored by The Oxford Research Centre in the Humanities (TORCH).

For more medieval matters from Oxford, have a look at the website of the Oxford Medieval Studies TORCH Programme and the OMS blog!

Your OMS Team for 2022/23

The cover image shows the new OMS team united on the roof terrace of the Weston Library with the Sainte Chapelle architectural quotation as backdrop. From left to right: Coral Kim, Luisa Ostacchini, Lesley Smith, Henrike Lähnemann, Ashley Castelino, Michael Angerer, Eugenia Vorobeva

Henrike Lähnemann (Professor of Medieval German Literature and Linguistics) and Lesley Smith (Professor of Medieval Intellectual History) are Co-Directors of the Oxford Medieval Studies Programme at TORCH. They also co-direct, now for the third time, the Medieval Mystery Cycle! Henrike is a German medievalist, currently mainly working on the rich material and textual legacy of the North German convents Medingen and Lüne, including editing 1.800 letters exchanged by the nuns of Lüne between 1480 and 1550. Lesley works on the medieval Bible, as both a physical and intellectual object. This ranges from close technical work with manuscripts of Bibles, biblical commentary, theology and pastoralia, to the exposition of commentary and theology, to investigation of the intellectual milieu of the schools in which the Bible was studied – the people and the products of this early university system, from the twelfth century onwards.  In particular, Lesley explores the two-way link between the manuscript evidence and the intellectual evidence of these early schools – in modern terms, how technology affects what we learn and know, and vice versa.  The study of the Bible has also led them to contribute to the study of medieval Jewish-Christian scholarship and relations.

The new OMS teams presents itself at the Coffee Morning in the Weston Library on 14 October 2022

Dr Luisa Ostacchini: Communications Officer

Luisa is the Communications Officer for Oxford Medieval Studies, and is responsible for the weekly Medieval Matters email/blog posts, the Google calendar, and the termly Medieval Booklet.

Luisa read her BA in English Literature at the University of Warwick. She then studied for a Masters in Medieval English Literature (650–1550) at Wolfson College, Oxford, and remained there for her subsequent DPhil in Old English and Latin Literature. She is now a stipendiary lecturer in Medieval Literature at St John’s and Exeter colleges and teaches Medieval Latin at the English Faculty. She is also a mentor for MSt/ MPhil/ DPhil students in the English Faculty and MSt students on the Humanities interdisciplinary Medieval MSt. Her research interests include the cult of saints, Medieval travel, and the global world in Early Medieval literature.

Michael Angerer: Graduate Convenor (Mystery Cycle)

Michael is a first-year DPhil student in English at Corpus Christi College. His research, funded by the E. K. Chambers Studentship, considers the changing culture of verse translation in England across the Norman Conquest and its impact on vernacular history-writing. He is also more generally interested in translation theory and multilingualism. As graduate convenor for the Medieval Mystery Cycle 2023, he will be coordinating one of the highlights of Oxford’s medieval calendar: the all-day performance of a cycle of short biblical plays, by a variety of groups and in a variety of medieval and modern languages, at St Edmund Hall on 22 April 2023. Please get in touch if you are interested in taking part or if you have any questions – and definitely have a look at the recordings of the plays from 2019 and 2022!

Eugenia Vorobeva: Events Coordinator

Eugenia graduated MSt in Medieval Studies in 2019, and now is a third-year DPhil Student in Old Norse at Jesus College. She is passionate about all things medieval and is joining the OMS team as its Events Coordinator to ensure everything runs smoothly and is on your medieval calendars!

Ashley Castelino: Social Media Officer

Ashley Castelino is a second-year DPhil student at Lincoln College working on supernatural dogs in Old Norse and other medieval literature. He is passionate about anything and everything medieval, and brings this to his role as Social Media Officer for OMS. In this role, he manages all social media accounts for OMS, including Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, all accessible via our Beacons page. Ashley is responsible for spreading the word about all of the wonderful medieval events, lectures, seminars, reading groups and other activities at Oxford, so if you have something you’d like advertised, do get in touch!

Coral Kim: Administrative Assistant

Coral Kim is an MSt English (650-1550) student at Exeter College, who just completed her BA in English (Course II) at Oxford. She enjoys reading about Anglo-Saxon metalwork and inscriptions, with an additional interest in early medieval Cumbrian history following her research internship in the region. She has joined the OMS as support for the team, helping with administrative work and the running of the OMS website.

Lucy Pick

Lucy Pick in Oxford

Report on Lucy Pick’s Lecture for OMS: A Guest Blog by Pilar Bertuzzi Rivett

Watch Lucy Pick’s OMS Lecture 2022 here:

The Oxford Medieval Studies Lecture for Hilary Term 2022 was delivered on 8 February by Professor Lucy Pick, historian of medieval thought and culture, author of Her Father’s Daughter: Gender, Power, and Religion in Early the Spanish Kingdoms (Cornell 2017), Pilgrimage (Cuidono 2014) and Conflict and Coexistence: Archbishop Rodrigo and the Muslims and Jews of Thirteenth-Century Spain (University of Michigan 2004). Professor Pick is a visiting scholar at the Center for Hebrew and Jewish Studies in Oxford, researching the earliest Latin translation of Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed.

As a Hebraist and fellow historian of medieval thought, I looked forward to Professor Pick’s take on what Jewish-Christian relationships meant in the case of Maimonides’ Guide to the Perplexed. It is a treat to be able to read a Jewish Medieval author in Latin and since instances of actual intellectual cooperation (especially in the early Middle Ages, which is what I focus on) are very few and far between, I am always curious to learn about them. I was particularly interested in how Professor Pick discovered this cooperation and what method she was going to use in order to flesh it out.

I found that Professor Pick set the scene very aptly when she opened her presentation mentioning that the Guide to the Perplexed “landed in the Latin scholastic world of the thirteenth century like a stick of dynamite.” Maimonides’ synthesis of science, the Law, Greek physics and metaphysics through the lens of the Hebrew Bible was nothing short of “explosive”. He offered a method for assimilating and interpreting the new Aristotle that flooded the schools of the thirteenth century. Did he inspire part of that flood? Did the Guide open up new avenues of thought for Christian readers that could be used as tools in their polemics against the Jews? These were some of the questions that were addressed in her presentation.

In what to me was reminiscent of the Italian school of microhistory, Professor Pick set aside the Christian scholastics of the mid to late thirteenth century, (whose study “used up most of the scholarly oxygen dedicated to Maimonides Latinus”) to focus on a much earlier community of readers of the Guide, one composed of both Jewish and Christians in the city of Toledo. At the heart of her project is the Liber de Parabola (witnessed in only one manuscript, Paris Sorbonne MS 601), the earliest Latin translation of the Guide (Part III, chapters 29-49 in which Maimonides discusses the reasons for commandments). According to Professor Pick, the Liber has not received the attention it deserves, neither as a witness to the Guide nor for its additional content which bears witness to the earliest reception to the ideas of the Guide. She therefore traced these individuals’ contact with the Liber de Parabola to shed light on both positive and negative aspects of its reception by Christians.

The key characters in this “textual community” are Samuel ibn Tibbon, who translated Maimonides’ Guide from Judeo-Arabic into Hebrew; Michael Scot, court astrologer to Frederick II who began his career as a master in Toledo, translating scientific texts from Arabic into Latin and Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, Archbishop of Toledo, in whose cathedral Michael and Samuel may have met and in whose writings we can trace the earliest evidence of Maimonides’ impact on the Latin world.

Samuel’s contribution to the Liber is easiest to identify: he used his Hebrew translation for the base texts; he drew on his interpretation of Maimonides’ ideas about philosophical and Biblical exegesis and illustrated it with examples from his commentary on Ecclesiastics. He is cited by name at least six times in connection with the readings of the Hebrew Bible and interpretation of Jewish law. Pick believes that these passages reflect oral communication between Samuel Ibn Tabbon and the translator.

Michael Scot’s identity is more difficult to establish and rests on substantial circumstantial evidence. Michael Scot knew the work of Maimonides as he cited him in his “De physionomiae”; he was in Rome at the same time as the Liber de Parabola was dedicated to Cardinal Romanus and first appeared on the historical record in 1215 in Rome, accompanying the entourage of the Archbishop of Toledo at the Fourth Lateran Council. Pick notes that Samuel consulted books by Aristoteles meteorology (some of which Scot translated into Latin) in Toledo at some point between 1204 and 1210, thus Michael and Samuel could plausibly have met and worked together.

Pick also described how Michael Scot became a close associate of Jacob Anatoli while at Frederick II’s court in Naples. Anatoli was Samuel’s son in law, whose philosophical sermons (Malmad ha-Talmidim) recounted conversations with Michael Scot and his knowledge of Maimonides’ work. In one of his sermons on Parshat Nitzavim, Anatoli showed awareness of the Liber de Parabola, inclusive of its structure and introduction and associates it with Michael Scot. Pick very ably showed parallels between Anatoli’s interpretation of Deuteronomy 4:6 with the opening of the Liber de Parabola which contrasts the interpretation of a commandment with the allegory of a parable.    

By means of a venn diagram, Pick highlighted the interpenetration of ideas amongst the translators of key works in Toledo, Naples and Provence all of whom were engaged in a parallel set of translations and commentaries on Aristotle’s Meteorology inspired by Part II Chapter 30 of Maimonides’ Guide. Since Part II was not available in the Liber, this suggests a wider diffusion of the Guide in Toledo.  

The presentation concluded by showing the “polemical” potential to Christian borrowing of Maimonides’ ideas. The Archbishop of Toledo reacted to Part II Chapter 30 in his Breviarium in which he used Maimonides’ ideas of “principle” and “spirit” to argue for the Christian Trinity. This is an example of how the section of the Guide in the Liber de Parabola was used by later Christians in support of a doctrine of “supersession” rather than fostering a more positive understanding of those who follow God’s commandments, as Jacob Anatoli would have hoped for.

This conclusion was what surprised me most about the presentation. I suppose I approached the topic with the eyes of someone accustomed to the interpenetration of ideas between Christians and Jews of Late Antiquity and the early Middle Ages when it comes to mysticism. However, Professor Pick’s paper showed that by the thirteenth century intellectual cooperation could be both a tool and a weapon. In her own words, “textual community did not mean safety and an exchange of texts could provide ammunition as well as understanding.” In the period of history I focus on, between the ninth and eleventh centuries, both Christian and Jewish polemical tools were still in their pre-scholastic phase; Peter Damian’s work only really impacted Jewish-Christian relations towards the end of my “horizon.” However, the fact that Dante Alighieri put Pater Damian in the highest circles of Paradise, whereas Michael Scot was relegated to the malebolgie of Hell should have alerted me to the fact that there was not going to be a “happy ending” to Professor Pick’s textual community.

Still, any kind of inter-faith intellectual cooperation in the Middle Ages is worth researching because it demystifies some of the myths that surround the history of Christian and Jewish communities. When genuine, as in the case of Pick’s “textual community” or in the case of the Victorines in Paris, cooperation challenges the narrative of Jews and Christians as distinct cultures in “conversation and conflict.” The key takeaway from this paper for my dissertation is that we are better served to approach the history of Jews and Christians in the Middle Ages from an organic model of culture rather than who influenced whom, to borrow from David Biale and Michael Satlow. I admire the way in which Pick focuses on people and their agency and how comfortable she was with admitting that sometimes, as in the case of Michael Scot’s identity, one has to rely on somewhat circumstantial evidence. As medievalists, we do not always find “the silver bullet”; we are dealing with people and sources that existed nearly two thousand years ago. Even the most refined sleuths sometimes build cases on indirect evidence. If we wanted simple, straightforward, direct evidence, we would be statisticians or, worse still, modern historians.

I found that the interdisciplinary, multi-lingual approach in Pick’s presentation fit very well with the remit of the OMS and with our own identity as medieval historians. In Professor Pick’s words, “life is best viewed through more than one window.”

Pick reminded the audience that.

“It has been corrected from my own book. I am Moses son of Rabbi Maimon, the Righteous, of Blessed Memory”
Egypt, 1170–80
Handwritten in ink on paper
Bodleian Libraries, University of Oxford, MS. Huntington 80

OMS Lecture Hilary 2022: Lucy Pick, ‘Maimonides Latinus and a Thirteenth-Century Textual Community of Jewish and Christian Readers’

Tuesday 8 February, 5pm

St Edmund Hall, Old Dining Hall, recorded https://youtu.be/XAQlVmpw8Zw (introduction of the speaker https://youtu.be/orJHVpWgaMs).

Moses Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed landed in the Latin scholastic world of the thirteenth century like a stick of dynamite. Christian scholastics of the mid to late-thirteenth century — Thomas Aquinas, Bonaventure, Albert the Great, Meister Eckhardt — knew the Guide through the Latin translation called the Dux neutrorum, and its extensive and influential network of scholastic readers have used up most of the scholarly oxygen dedicated to Maimonides Latinus. I will identify another community of readers of the Guide, an earlier one, of Jews and Christians reading together. Identifiable as a community in Toledo in the first two decades of the thirteenth century, this community would eventually spread to Rome, Provence, Naples, and Paris. I will focus here on four members: Samuel ibn Tibbon, who wrote the first Hebrew translation of the Guide; Michael Scot, first a master in Toledo and later Emperor Frederick II’s court astrologer;  Jacob Anatoli, Samuel’s son-in law and Michael’s colleague in Naples; and Rodrigo Jiménez de Rada, archbishop of Toledo, in whose cathedral Michael and Samuel may have met and in whose writings we can trace the earliest evidence of Maimonides’ impact on the Latin world.

Lucy Pick is a historian of medieval thought and culture. Her research interests include the relationships between gender, power, and religion; the translation of science and philosophy in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, and its impact on relations between religious groups; and the development of monastic thought and practice. Her first book, Conflict and Coexistence: Archbishop Rodrigo and the Muslims and Jews of Thirteenth-Century Spain (University of Michigan 2004), discusses Jewish, Christian, and Muslim relations in thirteenth-century Toledo. Her second, Her Father’s Daughter: Gender, Power, and Religion in Early the Spanish Kingdoms (Cornell 2017) examines the careers of royal women in early medieval Spain. She is also the author of the novel, Pilgrimage (Cuidono 2014), a story about the Middle Ages that explores betrayal, friendship, illness, miracles, healing, and redemption on the road to Compostela. She is currently studying the earliest translation of part of Maimonides’ Guide of the Perplexed into Latin and what it tells us about intellectual cooperation and conflict across religions in Toledo, Naples, Provence, and Paris in the early thirteenth century.

Drinks at St Edmund Hall after the lecture.
Please contact Luisa Ostacchini by 31 January if you would like to come to dinner with the speaker at your own cost. We have reserved eight places for graduate students at a discounted price of 10GBP.
First come, first served!

Header image: Biblioteca Nacional de España ms 10087 fol. 22r