Graduate Studies

Katherine Briant presents at the University of Hull’s Gender and Emotion Conference

square (1)This past 7 January, Katherine Briant, a MA student of the Center for Medieval Studies, presented her paper, “Prostitution of Textual Reproduction from Manuscript to Print,” at the Gender and Emotion conference sponsored by the University of Hull, which drew from dozens of countries an equally diverse number of attendants. Investigating the language of prostitution that accompanied the transformation from manuscript to print culture and book production, Katherine’s presentation focused on the early modern eruption of gendered, carnal language that proclaimed the evils of printed books by describing and embodying them as stillborn children, corrupted virgins, and promiscuous women. Specifically, the condemnations of printed books expressed in the writings of Filippo de Strata, Erasmus, and Pietro Aretino were presented as using and perpetuating the metaphor of prostitution to express interconnected anxieties about the new medium. These sharp criticisms were contrasted to Richard de Bury’s Philobiblon in order to juxtapose the supposed promiscuity of the printing press with the chastity of manuscripts. Katherine argued that this rhetoric displays manuscript scribal production as a masculine form of parthenogenesis (asexual reproduction) firmly under clerical control. Print media was an intrusion upon this singular relationship, calling the legitimacy of the children produced into question.

Katherine highlighted that the metaphor of prostitution reveals apprehensions about not only the economic future of print production, but also the social repercussions of print accessibility. The use of sexual language allowed for the chastisement of two particular forms of textual corruption that came about with print: 1.) the corruption of an author’s body of work via the introduction of errors into the text by unobservant or negligent printers and 2.) the corruption of suggestible reading communities by the promiscuous circulation of texts. Concerns over error, an overabundance of readers, and rapid, perhaps haphazard reproduction were most clearly presented in the metaphor of the generative female body. The further citation to the unchecked commercialization of women’s sexuality allowed scribes and early modern writers to attack the greed that motivated printers and dramatized the dangers of print in the absence of established regulations.

Upon the completion of her presentation, Katherine was met with questions pertaining to the application of her thesis to the current struggle between print media and ebooks. The similarities between this modern struggle and the complaints forwarded by medieval writers is striking, Katherine noted, as we hear now of the fear that the digital age will see the end of the book, writing, and even literacy itself: fears that could have dripped from the quill of Filippo de Strata six centuries ago.

Katherine’s presentation stood amongst several others which touched upon, amongst a myriad of other topics, the performance and emotional expression of masculinity and femininity, religious versus secular types of sorrow and grief, public versus private emotional expression, affective pain and compassion in saints’ lives, and the ability of suffering to inspire others to take action or alter their own behaviour. Of these papers, two stood out as particularly inspirational for Katherine. The first, by Ioana Coman, of the University of St. Andrews, also looked into the link between manuscript culture and embodiment, presenting Johann Grimestone’s notebook as a liminal emotional space; that allowed Christ’s wounded body and Grimestone’s own body to come into communion. The second, by Eleni Ponirakis, of the University of Nottingham, performed a linguistic analysis of emotion words employed in Cynewulf’s Juliana, striking a cord with Katherine, who also spent time studying Juliana in the past.

Before the conference, Katherine made sure to take in London’s Victoria and Albert Museum and the National Portrait Gallery, standing before portraits of those figures we often see and read of in our studies, in person, without the filters of the press and copying machine obscuring the precious details of every individual brushstroke. Also while in London, Katherine worked with six manuscripts containing the Philobiblon in the British Library, taking nearly 900 pictures of them for use in future study as she continues to investigate not only how Richard de Bury’s text was transmitted initially, but also how a text about text itself was received, interpreted, and edited in the centuries after its composition. Katherine also found time to see Mr. Foote’s Other Leg on the London stage, perhaps fittingly, as the play delivers behind its comedic exterior a thought piece on suffering and its relation to comedic relief, echoing the subject matter of the conference in a more informal, if no less compelling, way.


By Kevin Vogelaar

Latin language and Literature

Scot Long and Anna Lukyanova return from the Paideia Institute’s “Living Latin” Program in Paris


Living Latin in Paris students read at the grave of Héloïse and Abélard (January 2016).

During Winter Break, Medieval Studies MA students Scotland Long and Anna Lukyanova spent December 27 to January 3 in Paris in the Paideia Institute For Humanistic Study’s “Living Latin” program in Paris. Their group, led by Dr. Michael McGowan of Fordham’s Classics department, co-founder of the Paideia Institute, Dr. Eric Hewett, and Claire Burgess, editor of Paideia’s art blog Loci in Locis , spent time immersing themselves in Medieval Latin both tangibly and intangibly, practicing the active use of Latin as a living language in the physical spaces in which the language was employed as the lingua franca of its time.

The program sought to nurture the participants’ understanding of the Latin language creatively by having the students re-word Latin sentences and phrases using synonyms and different structures of grammar, making them producers of the language rather than mere observers of past productions and compositions. Classes were held daily in the afternoons in rooms graciously lent to the program by the monks of the Congregation de St. Esprit, one of the last functioning monasteries in Paris’ Latin Quarter, after excursions to sites inextricably linked to the use and survival of the Latin language in the Middle Ages and prior. The Latin Quarter is so named for the medieval students of the nearby Sorbonne, who continued to use Latin for their classes well after most other universities of Europe began employing vernacular languages officially. Dividing the group into three divisions according to understanding and comfort with the language, the program ensured those of every level of understanding walked away with a greater comprehension of Latin vocabulary.

The Sainte-Chapelle, Saint Denis Basilica, Chartres Cathedral, and Notre Dame de Paris were but a few of the iconic sites visited by this year’s troupe, consisting of students seeking Latin enlightenment, teachers seeking new methods of bringing the language to life in the classroom, and those of other professions who wished to indulge their own interest in the language of theology, philosophy, and the chronicles of Roman and Christian histories. Letters exchanged by the infamous lovers Abelard and Heloise were read in the language in which they were written over their graves in the Père Lachaise, where the pair are ironically, if appropriately, buried side-by-side. An excerpt from the life of Saint Germain was read in the Parisian abbey church bearing his name. The group also visited an old Roman amphitheatre on the bank of the Seine and found it, like Latin itself, still seeing its fair share of use, filled as it was with soccer players and bocci ball enthusiasts. The Latin-speaking troupe did not go unnoticed in the city, however, as the occasional Parisian would make his or her way quietly up to the group to listen in for a few minutes before walking away, sometimes with noticeable confusion on their faces. A few others would casually make their way over to share what they knew of the site before walking away, disappearing like a surprisingly informative spectre.

PaideiainstitutelogoScot, having heard of the Paideia Institute’s “Living Latin” program in Paris during an event also hosted by Paideia in the New York Botanical Gardens during his undergraduate years, found time between these excursions to investigate the famous bookstores of Paris, the Collège de France, and the Sorbonne, taking in the proud intellectual traditions of the city. Anna spent a few extra days after the program concluded in Paris visiting, amongst other places, the marvels of the Louvre and strolling about Paris, taking in the timeless beauty of the City of Lights. The program began and ended with two large group dinners and celebrated the coming of the New Year with one also; all three of which included the recitation of popular Latin drinking songs. Who says one cannot mix work with play?


By Kevin Vogelaar


Introducing Sara Moens, CMS Visiting Fellow for Spring 2016

The Center for Medieval Studies welcomes our newest fellow, Dr. Sara Moens.


Central to the research of Sara Moens is the development of monasticism during the Central Middle Ages. For her doctoral dissertation at Ghent University she reconstructed the world of Guibert of Gembloux (c 1124-1214). This Benedictine monk and abbot is mostly known as the last secretary of the famous Rhenish prophetess, Hildegard of Bingen, yet he merits scholarly attention in his own right. The works (letters, vitae) and manuscripts Guibert produced during his life illuminate the rich life and network of this very fascinating figure and, at the same time, offer a glimpse into the way traditional coenobitism positioned itself within a changing religious and intellectual landscape after the middle of the 12th century.

For her current postdoc research project “Female devotion, male commitment? The rise of Cistercian women and the provision of the cura monialium in the Southern Low Countries, 1150-1275” she studies the flourishing of female spirituality in the Southern Low Countries, in particular the place of the Cistercian nuns within this broader movement. By examining their spiritual ideals, the interplay with other spiritual women e.g. beguines or recluses and the institutionalization process of their communities she traces the emergence of a specific Cistercian identity. In addition, she explores the role of men, both ecclesiastical and monastic, in the formation and support of these Cistercian women’s communities, thus contributing to the ongoing debate on the cura monialium.

During her stay at Fordham University she will focus on the study of several vitae and exempla collections relevant for her research project. These hagiographical sources testify to a culture of shared ideals and networks between Cistercian nuns and other spiritual women, and provide a window onto the men that were drawn to the care for these nuns and their motives. She will also prepare a book proposal of her PhD dissertation.

Faculty News

Laura Morreale and Suzanne Yeager discuss Marco Polo on CBC Radio

Illustration from the "The Travels of Marco Polo" ("Il milione"), by Marco Polo and Rustichello da Pisa, originally published during Polo's lifetime (c. 1254 - January 8, 1324).

Illustration from the “The Travels of Marco Polo” (“Il milione”), by Marco Polo and Rustichello da Pisa, originally published during Polo’s lifetime (c. 1254 – January 8, 1324). (Wikipedia)

The Center for Medieval Studies’ own Laura Morreale and Suzanne Yeager appeared this week in a podcast on CBC Radio entitled “Making Marco Polo.”

Listen to the full podcast here.

Undergraduate Studies

Fordham Undergrads Attend Conference in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Moravian College


This past 5 December, three Fordham undergraduate students of Dr. Alex Novikoff’s presented their respective papers at the tenth annual Undergraduate Conference in Medieval and Early Modern Studies. Rita Orazi, Kyle Stelzer, and Arthur Mezzo III were driven by Dr. Novikoff to Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where the conference was held. At this conference, undergraduate students from across the country are invited to present their finest papers pertaining to subjects Medieval and Early Modern on topics ranging from literature, art, and music to history and philosophy. The study and perception of the medieval world in the modern day also holds a prominent place in the topics discussed.

Moravian College professors, Dr. Sandra Bardsley, of the history department, and Dr. John Black, of the English department, founded the annual conference in 2006 for the purpose of nurturing and promoting undergraduate interest in historical studies by highlighting the myriad interdisciplinary methods of approach to those studies, building a bridge between scholars of medieval and early modern history and the musical and performing arts. This year’s plenary lecture was delivered by Dr. Michael Drout of Wheaton College, a scholar of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English literature and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Rita Orazi presented her paper, “The Emperor as Classical Hero in Ana Komnene’s Alexiad,” which demonstrates how Ana Komnene proclaims her Roman identity in the Alexiad in the manner in which she makes her father, Alexios, out to be a hero of a Homeric epic. Rita highlighted that Ana Komnene’s narrative focuses on the main channels of power in Constantinople (an archetypical trait of Roman histories), and her distrust of the barbarian “other,” a role occupied by the Franks. Acting not only as a body of work meant to praise her father, the Alexiad may also have served as a defense or justification for Alexios’ actions during the events of the First Crusade, as a result of which his popularity dwindled. Rita believes the fact that this work is one of only two surviving Byzantine accounts of Alexios’ reign possibly indicates that Ana Komnene wrote of her father fearing none other would care to do so, and wanted to leave a positive view of her father for future generations to inherit. Rita Orazi, having set her sights on medical school, was drawn to the Alexiad because, aside from it being one of the few Byzantine accounts of Alexios’ reign, Ana Komnene herself was a practicing and teaching physician and ran a hospital in Constantinople.

Arthur Mezzo III’s “God and King: Biographies of Medieval Frankish Kings,” explored the biographies of medieval Frankish rulers and the parallels they drew between themselves and stories and contemporary images of Christ. Arthur paid special attention to the works of Gregory of Tours, Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne, and the anonymously authored panegyric Beatus Ludovicus, composed for the canonization of Louis IX.

Kyle Stelzer’s paper, “The Tibyan: One Ruler’s Account of Christian-Muslim Relations in Eleventh-Century Iberia,” focuses on the Tibyan: Memoirs of ‘Abdallah ibn Buluggin, Last Zirid Amir of Granada, an autobiography discovered by Levi Provencal in 1933 and translated into English in 1986. These memoirs provide a firsthand account of the history of the Zirid dynasty of the Ta’ifa of Granada from circa 1013-1095. ‘Abdallah ibn Buluggin’s autobiography is one of a very few accounts of eleventh century Al-Andalus actually written in the eleventh century. ‘Abdallah’s recounting of Andalusian politics, society, and culture provide both historical and personal insight into the era. Kyle presents the Tibyan more specifically as elucidating both the ethno-racial hostilities present amongst Muslim communities and the struggles for power between the various Muslim and Christian states of the Iberian Peninsula. This drastically modifies the common notion of how Muslims, Christians, and Jews related to one-another and lived together, referred to often as “La Convivencia,” or, “The Coexistence,” and the multicultural identity of the Iberian Peninsula.

Our most heartfelt congratulations are extended to the presenters for their excellent work and for their contributions.


By Kevin Vogelaar and Andrew O’Sullivan

History Department, Manuscript Studies, Medieval England, Medieval Studies

Esther Liberman Cuenca Awarded Prestigious Schallek Fellowship

This post is cross-blogged from History at Fordham University


Esther Liberman Cuenca, recipient of the Schallek Fellowship

Fordham History Department’s own Esther Liberman Cuenca was recently awarded the Schallek Fellowship, a one-year grant of $30,000 to support Ph.D. dissertation research in any relevant discipline (art history, literature, history, etc.) dealing with late medieval Britain (ca. 1350-1500). Not only is this a prestigious honor but it will allow Esther to conduct research critical to the completion of her dissertation.

Esther’s research focuses on the development and evolution of borough customary law in medieval Britain. Borough customs were practices or traditions that over time acquired the force of law within the town. Her analytical goals are twofold: to contribute to a deeper understanding of the place of urban customary law within the British legal system, and to reveal custom’s role in the emergence of a distinct bourgeois identity in medieval Britain. Borough customary law has received little scholarly attention because of its scattered distribution in many local and county archives; the need for multi-lingual expertise in Latin, Anglo-Norman French, and Middle English; and the difficulty of dating customary clauses and ordinances from multiple iterative copies.

SROI C/4/1/1, f. 9a: The table of contents for the French Ipswich custumal, contained in the codex they call the 'Black Domesday.'

SROI C/4/1/1, f. 9a: The table of contents for the French Ipswich custumal, contained in the codex they call the ‘Black Domesday.’

Since she reached ABD status at Fordham in 2012, Esther has been teaching multiple courses at Marymount California University and this fellowship will give her the opportunity to focus fully on completing her dissertation. She plans to spend the 2016-2017 year living in England where she can complete her research at the Bristol Record Office and London Metropolitan Archives. In 2013, Esther was also the recipient of the Schallek Award, which is a small grant of $2,000 to help students cover research expenses. “The Medieval Academy/Richard III Society have been very kind to me! And I’m very grateful that they’re supporting my research,” says Esther.


By Grace Healy

Art History, Manuscript Studies, Medieval Studies, New York City

Bronx Doctor Donates Medieval Manuscript Facsimiles to Fordham

This post is cross-blogged from Fordham News.

The Très riches heures, a book of prayers commissioned for a French prince, is one of the most famous illuminated manuscripts of the 15th century. It contains dozens of images painted with rich pigments and embellished with gold. The original sits in the Musée Condé in Chantilly, France.

But thanks to a fine art facsimile of the historic tome in Fordham’s Walsh Library, students can flip through the lush pages and absorb a visual representation of medieval art and religion.

The Très riches heures facsimile is one of 300 books and objects donated to Fordham by Dr. James Leach, a New York physician who’s been curious about medieval manuscripts and liturgical books since he was young.

“When I was growing up, I had an interest in Latin and in the church,” said Leach, who heads the dermatology department at Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx. “The prayer books I was familiar with were a springboard to begin looking at the older manuscripts.”

He began amassing a collection of fine art facsimiles of medieval manuscripts, which have been produced since around 1990, typically in limited-edition runs of 300 to 900 copies. He thought that Fordham, as a Catholic university with an established medieval studies program, would be the perfect repository for these works. Leach also donated a sizable collection of original Catholic prayer missals from the late-19th to early-20th centuries.

Nina Rowe, PhD, chair and associate professor of art history at Fordham, said the University is lucky to have such high-quality reproductions available for students.

“One can certainly lecture in the classroom about the technical aspects of luxury handmade books from the eighth to the 15th centuries in Europe,” Rowe said. “But with high-quality facsimiles, students can get a sense of the ways in which illuminated manuscripts were functional objects, designed to be viewed up close, leafed through, and carried.”

Rowe said the Très riches heures is one of the “greatest hits” of medieval art history. She also has a few other favorites among the collection.

“I’m delighted to be able to teach students from the facsimiles of the Lindisfarne Gospels, an English monastic manuscript made around the year 700 and renowned for its so-called Carpet Pages, full-page designs with intricate interlace, often in the form of the cross,” she said.

“Another favorite facsimile of mine reproduces a Moralized Bible (sometimes called the Saint Louis Bible) from Paris, 1226 to 1236. Every page features eight circles arranged in four pairs, each with little scenes linking a vignette from the Hebrew Bible to a Christian or contemporary commentary. The images are especially fun when they depict the perceived vices of early 13th-century Parisian life, evoking the real world of the street in a remote period.”


Pages from the collection’s facsimile of a Moralized Bible (sometimes called the Saint Louis Bible)

Linda LoSchiavo, TMC ’72, director of the University libraries, said Leach’s contributions are an important addition to Fordham’s Special Collections.

“The facsimiles are an extraordinary example of medieval artistry,” she said. “They’re done with highly specialized devices, and the bindings are reproductions as well.”

The cover of a facsimile of the Sacramentary of Henry II, a liturgical manuscript from the late-10th to early-11th century, includes an intricate copy of the original’s ivory relief. Other facsimiles Leach has donated include theEton Choirbook and the Lorsch Gospels.


The cover of a facsimile of the Sacramentary of Henry II, which features an intricate plastic copy of the original’s ivory relief

The recent establishment of Fordham’s Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies, and the collection of Judaica being assembled by Magda Teter, PhD, the chair’s inaugural holder, prompted LoSchiavo to ask Leach if he would consider donating a a Haggadah, a book used during Passover seders. He was happy to oblige, and earlier this year donated a facsimile of the Barcelona Haggadah. The original dates to the middle of the 14th century.

Leach hopes his gifts will help Fordham students learn that art and illuminated manuscripts flourished during the medieval period, even though the era sometimes gets a bad rap.

“Most important is that they realize that ‘medieval’ is not purely a derogatory term,” he said. “It was an age of faith and artistic productivity that contributed to Western civilization.”


By Nicole Larosa

Graduate Studies

CMS says farewell to Katrine Funding Højgaard, Fall 2015 visiting student.

Katrine Funding Højgaard, a master’s student from the History Department of Aalborg University, Denmark, came via a study abroad program to Fordham’s Center for Medieval Studies for the Fall 2015 semester. Having no department in her home university dedicated to Medieval Studies specifically, she came to the Center to take classes that would provide her with the opportunity to engage with medieval subject matter in a classroom environment, as opposed to her independent studies she has been pursuing in Denmark under the guidance and tutelage of historians Torben Kjersgaard Nielsen and Iben Fonnesbech-Schmidt. received_10153729793236351Of the four courses she took during the semester, Dr. Mary Erler’s “Late Medieval Women” proved particularly inspiring to Katrine, as it introduced a wider range of methodologies and theories in the study of medieval cultural history, iconography, and literature that come with employing more interdisciplinary approaches to historical inquiry. This class, and the new methodological horizons it introduced, have instilled within Katrine a desire to utilize more interdisciplinary methods for her thesis, which she plans to begin upon her return to Denmark.

Katrine found the additional lectures and programs provided throughout the semester to be fascinating and useful in widening her historical gaze, even if none specifically directed her toward a particular area of study. The colloquium on Faith and Knowledge in Late Medieval Scandinavia provided a new perspective on Scandinavian Medieval history, which, due to her exposure to it from an early age, had largely escaped her scholarly notice. Being introduced to histories or narratives from birth often does have a polarizing effect. Either one develops a love of the material, or one finds it mundane; lost in the commonplace of normal, every-day life. The latter was the case for Katrine, and listening to such a wide array of scholars discuss unfamiliar aspects of familiar histories shined a new light on the medieval history of her homeland.

The Center proved for Katrine a warm and encouraging place filled with helpful faculty and eager students that, subverting what reservations her family may have had about her living in the Bronx, made the area a welcoming home for three and a half months. Her time with the Center for Medieval Studies sparked within Katrine the desire to continue to study abroad and to learn and experience as much as she can from around the world. Though her time with the Center was all too brief, all here wish Katrine the best in her future endeavors, academic and otherwise.



By Kevin Vogelaar


Introducing Dr. Ronald Herzman, Medieval Fellow for 2015-2016


Dr. Ron Herzman

The Center for Medieval Studies welcomes Ron Herzman, our current medieval fellow in residence. Dr. Herzman, State University of New York Distinguished Teaching Professor of English at the College at Geneseo, studies the relationship between Dante and the visual culture of Italy. He has published widely on Dante and the Middle Ages, with a special interest in the connections between Dante and Francis of Assisi. Dr. Herzman has also taught at Georgetown University, St. John’s College in Santa Fe, and Attica Correctional Facility, and has directed eighteen seminars for high school teachers for the National Endowment for the Humanities in Italy and the United States. He received an honorary Doctor of Humane Letters from his alma mater, Manhattan College, and was the recipient of the first CARA Award for Excellence in Teaching Medieval Studies from the Medieval Academy of America. He is currently the Director of Dante Outreach and Education for the Dante Society of America.

Dr. Herzman delivered the final lecture of the Fall 2015 Lecture Series, “Dante and the Frescoes of the Sancta Sanctorum” on Tuesday, December 2.


The frescos at the Sancta Sanctorum, showing Pope Nicholas III presented to Christ by Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

In his engaging presentation, Dr. Herzman elucidated the connection between the visual program of the Sancta Sanctorum, a papal chapel in Rome, and the imagery used by Dante in his criticisms of Popes Nicholas III and Boniface VIII in Canto IXX of the Comedia. Dr. Herzman argues that the fresco cycle provided the material for Dante’s deconstruction of Pope Nicholas’ agenda in Canto IXX. The Sancta Sanctorum was decorated in the lavish style of royal chapels such as Louis IX’s Sainte-Chapelle, Justinian’s Hagia Sophia, and Charlemagne’s palace at Aachen, and was designed to publicly proclaim the legitimacy and holiness of the controversial Orsini Pope, Nicholas III, who was known for his excessive nepotism.

Dr. Herzman attracted a huge crowd that included many high school students and his own sophomore English teacher, Bill O’Malley, S.J., a longtime teacher at Fordham Prep. He even opened with a joke about simony that took the entire room by surprise, using this colorful moment to suggest the danger of the co-option of the spiritual by the material.

Dr. Herzman’s talent as a teacher shined through the combination of his commanding knowledge of Dante’s Italy and his acerbic wit. His lecture was a pleasure for all in attendance.


By Alexa Amore