Events

Fordham Students Participate in Parchment Making Workshop at Pergamena

IMG_3649On Saturday, April 16, a group of Medieval Studies graduate students, along with undergraduate students taking Dr. Nina Rowe’s Illuminated Manuscripts course and other Medieval Studies majors and minors, visited Pergamena, the only parchment-making workshop in the United States. The master of this shop, Jesse Myers, provided students with a truly interdisciplinary experience. He began the day by telling students the long history of his family’s business, which began as a tannery in sixteenth-century Germany and moved to the United States in the early nineteenth century, traveling up and down the Northeast before settling in Montgomery, New York. After a series of contracts were terminated about ten years ago by companies including Steinway & Sons and a bowling shoe factory, he decided to revamp the family business by filling a niche industry: parchment-making. Although his family still works leather as well, Myers’ decades-long interest in creating parchment paid off; they now provide materials for manuscript reproduction, bookbinding, and archival restoration, just to name a few industries. Myers has also helped scholars settle debates that have previously been unsolvable for centuries, such as finding evidence against the use of uterine calves in the creation of medieval books of hours.

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In addition to this personal history lesson, Myers also told students the history of parchment, starting in the fifth century BCE, and described how tanners around the world today work leather and parchment. He also introduced students to the more scientific side of parchment-making, including the chemical processes it takes to prepare the skin and how physics and biology apply to his work. Myers additionally gave students a lesson in economics, detailing for instance how the recession caused a rise in beef sales, thus decreasing the number of calves available for creating luxury parchment. But perhaps the most exciting parts of the day were the hands-on portions. Myers let any interested students (and professors) try their hand at de-fleshing the skin, squeezing the moisture out of the wet parchment, and scraping off the excess follicles. He used these more practical lessons as a way to show us how difficult it was to work as a parchment-maker in the Middle Ages and to emphasize how far new machinery has taken us.

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Having the opportunity to not only catch a whiff of the parchment-making process but also to experience the process firsthand and to get an in-depth look at the business gives participating students an advantage in understanding the reality of parchment. Jesse Myers provided students with a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity, and these students can now go forth and add new dimensions to their scholarship while contributing novel insights into medieval life.

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By Heather Hill

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Art History

In the glasing y-wroght: Medieval Glass as Material Medium and Message

The 2016 Harvard Medieval Material Culture Lectures and Workshops were held Monday, April 4- through Thursday, April 7 in Cambridge, Massachusetts. Featured lecturers were Elizabeth Pastan of Emory University and Patrick Degyrse of University of Leuven.

On Thursday morning at the Fogg Museum, Elizabeth Pastan, Professor of Art History at Emory University along with Katherine Eremin, Research Scientist of Harvard Art Museums and Charlotte Gray, Art Historian of Harvard University presented The Craft of Medieval Glass: Decorative Glass in the Harvard Art Museums. Their focus was medieval stained glass.

In their presentation it was explained how technology based equipment used for XRF analysis could be brought on site to research the chemical makeup of individual pieces of a stained glass window in order to determine whether which pieces were original, and which were part of a restoration. It furthermore allowed the glass to be assigned a date and region of origin. Chemical processes were also explained for creating clear glass (white glass), transparent colored glass, and opaque colored glass. During the presentation smaller stained glass samples were illuminated over a light box for close inspection. Methods for cutting and assembling stained glass panels were also explained and a section of lead came, the metal structure which supports a glass panel, was on hand for inspection.

Next, methods for firing images and text onto a glass surface were explained. Using silver stain (silver nitrate) and vitreous paint, the front and reverse sides of a piece of glass could be treated in order for an artisan to reach a desired effect. This process could also have been repeated multiple times if necessary.

The relationship between stained glass designer and stained glass artisan was then described. In some cases the relationship could be contentious, however one example was shown of an artisan’s faithful interpretation of the artist’s original design. In terms of installation, if a window were to be located high above ground, a full-scale cartoon would be placed on the floor of the actual site where the glass pieces could be laid out to ensure accuracy and efficiency during an installation.

The presentation moved into the Naumburg Room, a two-story Jacobean hall, deigned with special light wells for displaying and viewing recently restored stained glass windows. The highlight of the two-hour presentation was the ehibition of a restored late-12th Century roundel from the Canterbury Cathedral, depicting the life of Thomas Beckett. The decision making process of the restoration as well how to support, display, and illuminate the work were discussed at length.

For stained glass enthusiasts, two valuable resources are:

www.corpusvitrearum.org

www.therosewindow.com

Naumburg Room, Fogg Museum, Boston

Scenes from the life of Thomas Beckett.

Later that afternoon Patrick Degryse, Professor of Archaeometry at University of Leuven presented The Technique and Trade of Glass in Antiquity and the Middle Ages at the Harvard Semitic Museum. The museum’s basement level is not only used for storage but for hands-on research and ongoing projects where currently approximately 400 glass objects are in the process of being catalogued. By performing isotopic analysis, Degryse attempts to trace the glass back to its source.

Unlike the earlier stained glass presentation, these glass objects were formed from molten glass taken directly from a furnace. The workshop’s participants were invited to observe and handle about a dozen of these glass objects. The glass was explained in terms of its fundamental properties of which silica (sand), makes up approximately 75% of the material. Other ingredients would have included plant ash and sodium carbonate. Sand samples taken from various regions of the Mediterranean were then examined by the workshop participants who then theorized which samples would be most suitable for glassmaking.

Next, working with modeling clay, the participants had an opportunity to simulate techniques for working with hot glass. The three techniques discussed were core-trailed glass, mold formed glass, and blown glass. According to Degryse glassmaking goes back to at least 3000 BC, but glassblowing did not develop until approximately 100 BC.

One very important point in the history of the development of glassmaking is the enormous consumption of fuel. Molten glass is kept at approximately 1600 F, a temperature which would need to be maintained over a period of days, even weeks, and would require the cutting of thousands of trees, essentially deforesting the area where the glass shop was built. Therefore glass shops would move their location nearer to fuel sources. Glass furnaces necessarily took an enormous toll on local forests resulting in medieval laws prohibiting the use of glass furnaces.

If you have not seen it, glassblowing is a fascinating process to watch. Visit the website for the Corning Museum of Glass in Corning, NY and click on their video links.

www.cmog.org

Roman mold formed glass

core trailed glass

By Michael Weldon

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Digital Humanities

9 April Oxford Outremer Map Colloquium

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From the left: Asa Mittman (CSU Chico), P.D.A. Harvey (Durham), and Evelyn Edson (Piedmont Virginia)

This past 9 April, the Centre for Medieval Studies hosted the Oxford Outremer Map Colloquium at the Lincoln Centre campus. This colloquium, showcasing the work the Centre has done for the digitization project of Corpus Christi College MS 2*, a unique and somewhat baffling map of Outremer dating to the mid 13th century, served as an informal unveiling of the digitized map’s website and an introduction to the debates surrounding the map and its curious composition. Broken into two parts, the colloquium addressed the authorship of the map and the use and application of a digitized text as opposed to physical interaction with a manuscript itself. Pre-circulated papers were presented and responded to by Evelyn Edson (Piedmont Virginia), P.D.A. Harvey (Durham), Asa Mittman (C.S.U. Chico), David Pedersen (Fordham), Nicholas Paul (Fordham, presenting on behalf of Sarit Kattan Gribetz, Fordham), and Abigail Sargent (Princeton, MA Fordham 2015), and Tobias Hrynick (Fordham), both of whom worked on the website itself. Two computers were provided during the colloquium for attendees and participants to interact with the new website and the digitized map.

The first portion of the colloquium, discussing the authorship of the map, had Evelyn Edson presenting her views on why the map was likely produced by Matthew Paris, a controversial writer and prolific cartographer of 13th century England. While this map, Edson related, did differ dramatically from Matthew Paris’ other works, he had source material in the form of pilgrim and crusader accounts, early developing sea charts, and other world maps upon which he could have drawn to produce a unique, politically-aware representation of the Holy Land. P.D.A. Harvey, in response, contested that the map is too dissimilar to Matthew Paris’ earlier maps (“Acre maps,” as he referred to them, for their emphasis on the city of Acre over Jerusalem or any other city of the Levant), but he agreed that sea charts and other such sources as those Edson theorized may have inspired the map’s style and presentation. Saying that Corpus Christi MS 2* is missing Paris’ attention to detail, Harvey believes it to be a hasty copy of a larger, no longer extant, map, and, if Paris did indeed create it, it was by no means meant to be publically presented. Asa Mittman looked to the seemingly apocalyptic nature of the map, with the presentation of the tribes of Gog and Magog walled-off from, but very near to, the Holy Land and the city of Jerusalem, itself labeled and described in Latin, as opposed to Old French, in which the rest of the map is labeled. If Old French is used to convey the state of the Levant in the mid 13th century, Mittman presented, than the use of Latin for Jerusalem indicated the hope that the city will be returned to Christian control upon the completion of the Apocalypse, which Paris believed to have been in motion since the appearance of the Mongols in the Holy Land, themselves represented by the tribes of Gog and Magog on the map. The rhetoric of the map compares well to the portion of Matthew Paris’ chronicle in which he says he was going to stop writing, as the end of the world was imminent, before beginning the next section when the apocalypse didn’t quite materialize.

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From the left: Asa Mittman (CSU Chico), Tobias Hrynick (PhD, Fordham), Abigail Sargent (PhD Princeton, MA Fordham 2015)

The second portion of the colloquium spoke to the use and value of the digitized map, and, indeed, of digitizing manuscripts generally. Asa Mittman presented both his reservations and his hopes for a project such as the digitization of Corpus Christi MS 2*. While nothing can replace actual physical contact with a manuscript (itself becoming more difficult as different methods of preservation hinder interaction with the texts), the digitization process allows for the content of a text to be paired with modern translations, bibliographies, glosses, and essays within a single website and made available to any and all across the globe. Digitization, Mittman believes, can never transmit the fullest meaning of a text to a researcher or student, as it deprives one of the physical interaction with which the text was made in mind, but it can allow for a significant measure of study of a text without having to pursue funding to go halfway across the world to enter into a secure library, itself requiring a lengthy request which may be denied, to access the material for a limited period of time. The lack of physicality in digitization is both a positive and a negative, as the text in digital form is a fragment of its true self, but is also no longer bound by space and time. Tobias Hrynick and Abigail Sargent responded to Mittman, saying that the stated intention of the Oxford Outremer Map Project was not to replace physical contact, but to allow a level of interaction with the text that one cannot have with it now, due to the need for the text to be jealously preserved for future study. The map is a text, and a digital copy of the text allows for a scholar to write upon it what notes and glosses he or she may need to aid in his or her own study, just as would have been done at the time of the map’s creation. Perfectly capturing the spirit of the project was Tobias’ closing statement, “The Lewis Chessmen were meant to play chess, and Corpus Christi MS 2* was meant to be doodled on.”

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From the left: David Pedersen (PhD, Fordham), Nicholas Paul (Fordham)

Closing the colloquium were two presentations, one delivered by David Pedersen and the other by Nicholas Paul on the behalf of Sarit Kattan Gribetz, who could not attend. Both presentations displayed the possible use of the digitized map in a classroom environment, with David Pedersen showcasing online modules that could be used with class lectures to introduce undergraduate students to the use of maps as rhetorical devices and the symbolism of medieval cartography. Nicholas Paul presented on the use of the map in Gribetz’s class, “Medieval Jerusalem,” which provided students with a visual representation of the physical and metaphysical views of Jerusalem in Western Europe. Students who actually used the map in their classes attended the colloquium and provided valuable feedback about the online modules and expressed their satisfaction with the direction the modules were taking in their approach to using the map as lesson material.

The Centre would like to thank Evelyn Edson, P.D.A. Harvey, Asa Mittman, David Pedersen, and Sarit Kattan Gribetz for their excellent papers and presentations and for taking part in this valuable discussion. We would also like to extend our most hearty congratulations to Nicholas Paul, Tobias Hyrnick, Abigail Sargent, and all who worked on the Oxford Outremer Map Project for their own remarkable work in putting the website together and providing a creative and eminently approachable way of accessing the map for students and professional scholars alike to take the developing discussion further.

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IUDC

Jeffrey Doolittle and David Pedersen Present at the IUDC

Jeff Doolittle (PhD Program, History) Presents at the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium, April 2016

Jeff Doolittle (PhD Program, History) Presents at the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium, April 2016.

This past 1 April, the 2016 Interuniversity Doctoral Consortium Medieval Conference was hosted by CUNY in the Graduate Centre’s Segal Theatre. To this conference of doctoral candidates presenting their research to professors and students alike came chosen representatives from members of the Consortium: SUNY Stony Brook, NYU, Princeton, Rutgers, Colombia, from CUNY itself, and two students from Fordham, Jeffrey Doolittle and David Pedersen.

Alex Novikoff (Dept. of History) moderates a panel at the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium, April 2016.

Alex Novikoff (Dept. of History) moderates a panel at the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium, April 2016.

Jeffrey Doolittle, a PhD candidate in the History Department, delivered his presentation, “Reframing the Works of Pliny in the Early Middle Ages: Montecassino and Monastic Medical Culture,” on his work studying two copies of the Physica Plinii, the Early Medieval compilations of the sections on medicine in Pliny’s Historia Naturalis. Likening it to entries from the Catholic Encyclopedia making their way into undergraduate papers, Jeffrey presented the Historia Naturalis as a text from which scribes took material for their own codices and works, copying only what they needed. Comparing the Physica Plinii copies of Montecassino’s Archivio dell’Abbazia codex 69 and Bamberg codex Med. 2, Jeffrey seeks to explore the differences between two roughly contemporary recipe collections and show that the monks of Montecassino had a very different approach to organization and the idea of “completeness” in regard to the Physica Plinii. While both manuscripts he is studying seem to agree with each other to a remarkable extent (accounting, of course, for the ubiquitous problem of missing pages) in both the list of treatments and the steps provided, they also display some levels of regional adaptation, as Pliny’s original list has been added onto in both medieval copies.

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Speakers Joy Partridge (PhD Program, Art History-CUNY) and David Pedersen (PhD Program, English-Fordham) take questions after their presentations at the IUDC (April 2016).

David Pedersen, of the English Department, delivered his presentation, “Old English Apologetics: The Search for Epistemological Certainty in The Old English Boethius,” based on the first chapter of his book. Contrary to some interpretations of The Old English Boethius, the English adaptor of the text (who had an audience for his works, of which the Exeter Book, David believes, likely was one) did not fail in his ability to follow the logic of Boethius, but, rather, consciously modified the text to more accurately reflect his own questions of why evil persists in a world created and governed by God. In effect, the Old English adaptor of Boethius modified the original text to incorporate the Augustinian belief that creation is, fundamentally, good, though currently exists in a fallen state. The adaptor’s refusal to come to a conclusion is not a failure of logic, but, rather, a refusal to allow anything beyond his own logic to serve as a basis of inquiry. He disallows his faith to serve as the underlying assumption that would allow his logic to carry him through to the end. David contests the adaptor’s failure is not one of logic, but of the employ of logic alone. The second chapter of David’s book will be published later this summer by Studies in Philology.

Between these two presentations was the roundtable session, “Trigger Warnings and Free Speech: The Politics of Teaching the Middle Ages,” during which the issue of whether trigger warnings should or should not be used in a classroom environment was discussed by Steven F. Kruger (Queens College and CUNY), Sara Lipton (Stony Brook), Andrew Romig (NYU), and Jill Stevenson (Marymount Manhattan). The discussion spotlighted how divisive the topic is, with instructors and professors of varying levels of experience, but with ample examples drawn upon from their personal experiences, weighing in on whether a trigger warning may ruin the shock value of a text or image, losing a valuable pedagogical resource and sterilizing medieval history, or whether they can allow a student to psychologically prepare him or herself to more readily accept the lesson material. The discussion also highlighted how the term “trigger warning” is itself largely misunderstood or stands in need of further clarification, as some believed it to be an allowance for a student to refuse interaction with particular subjects or ideas. This debate will continue to grow in prominence, and, undoubtedly, in enthusiasm in the years to come.

The Centre for Medieval Studies would like to congratulate Jeffrey and David for their excellent presentations and contributions.

 

By Kevin Vogelaar

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Student Life

Heather Hill (Medieval Studies) Presents at North Carolina State University’s Graduate Student History Conference

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Campus view at North Carolina State University

Heather Hill (MA Program, Medieval Studies)

Heather Hill (MA Program, Medieval Studies)

On Saturday, April 2, Medieval Studies MA Heather Hill presented a paper at North Carolina State University’s Graduate Student History Conference. This paper, entitled “Textual Inheritance: A Theory for Agency of Women in English Books of Hours,” is based on seminar work with Dr. Alex Novikoff in the History department, and serves as the foundation for her thesis. Heather considers trends in the historiography related to books of hours and merges them into a form of Brian Stock’s textual community. The result is textual inheritance, where the commissioner of a book of hours serves as the interpreter for a greater textual community that is formed by the people who have inherited the book of hours. Through textual inheritance, the commissioner influences the devotional and educational practices of the inheritors, thus giving authority to the commissioner in their selection. Heather argues that this is especially significant where women act as commissioner and men become inheritors, since women rarely get the opportunity to influence the devotional practices of men. In her paper, Heather considers this concept in relation to two books of hours, the Egerton Hours and the Felbrygg Hours, and highlights the possible impact that the female commissioners of these books may have had on their beneficiaries.

Heather presented her paper on the “Religion and Artistic Expression in Early Modern Europe” panel alongside Amber McDermott from University of California Riverside, who presented on sculptural depictions of female suicide in eighteenth-century France. Heather also attended a panel on the contested roles of women in the nineteenth century. The presenters on this panel considered environmental factors along with the gender roles in nineteenth-century Florida and in the Rocky Mountains, discovering how women defied their prescribed positions in each of these areas.

Another panel Heather attended was on poverty and progress in American cities. The two papers in the panel hit close to home for Heather, quite literally. The first looked at Huntington, the second largest city in Heather’s home state of West Virginia. This paper described the development of Huntington in the late nineteenth century as a railroad hub close to resource-rich rural areas of southern West Virginia. The second paper was on Heather’s second home, describing the food desert in the South Bronx. Just a few decades ago, this area was rich in fresh produce and large markets; now, fast food restaurants dominate the landscape. The paper explored how urbanization changed the food in the South Bronx and the role poverty played in this transformation. Heather found this discussion particularly striking in relation to her own experience of trying to find good food at affordable prices in the area. The author of this paper, Sam Hege, is a student at Rutgers University and is seeking to expand his work via digital mapping. Heather is excited to have exchanged contact information with Sam, and she intends to show him the work done at Medieval Studies and what he can do with digital maps.

Having had a great weekend of North Carolina barbecue and networking across several states, Heather considers her first graduate-level conference presentation outside of Fordham a rousing success!

NCSU _Place_ Picture

 

By Heather Hill

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Events

Review: Master Class on Medieval Maps with Paul Harvey

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The Hereford Mappa Mundi, available online.

In conjunction with the Center for Medieval Studies’ recent Oxford Outremer Map Colloquium, Paul Harvey (Professor Emeritus, University of Durham) taught a master class on medieval maps to a very lucky group of Fordham graduate students and faculty. The class took place on April 8th and was followed by a reception. A scholar of medieval social and economic history, Professor Harvey shared a presentation on his long career handling, researching, and publishing on medieval maps. Highlights of Professor Harvey’s talk included a discussion of the Hereford Map, which he had the rare opportunity of inspecting flat out on a table leading up to the publication of his major study of the map, Mappa Mundi: The Hereford World Map (Hereford Cathedral, 2002). Participants also discussed the phenomenon of “mappa-mindedness” with respect to the Middle Ages, issues of size, scale, and the representation of polities in medieval maps including Matthew Paris’ map of Outremer (Oxford Corpus Christi College MS2*).

The Center for Medieval Studies would like to thank Paul Harvey for this enlightening presentation and the unique opportunity to discuss Medieval Maps with a renowned expert in the field!


 

Selected publications:

Medieval Maps of the Holy Land (The British Library, 2012).

Mappa Mundi: The Hereford World Map (Hereford Cathedral, 2002).

Medieval Maps (The British Library, 1991).

The History of Topographical Maps: Symbols, Pictures, and Surveys (Thames & Hudson Ltd., 1980).

 

By Alexa Amore

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Events

Review: Manuscript as Medium: 36th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies

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Sarah Kam-Gordon (MA Program, Medieval Studies) and Zara Burford (University of York) working at the registration desk on Saturday morning.

The 36th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies took place this past 5-6 March in the Lincoln Center Campus. The aim of the conference this year was to explore the employ, design, intended use, and, most of all, the physicality of the manuscript as a medium. While studies of English and French manuscript use and culture formed the majority of the presentations, this year’s conference saw also presentations on German and Irish texts, the interplay between Byzantine Greek and medieval Latin, Jewish and Arabic texts and languages and Buddhist texts in translation between Korean and Japanese texts. Aside from analyses of textual content, promising new methodologies of manuscript research and study were also brought up that look at illuminations, the social context in which a text was produced, and the material composition of a manuscript with the intention of showing how the field of manuscript study is rapidly expanding.

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Heather Hill (MA Program, Medieval Studies) and Rebecca Weiss-Horowitz (MA Program, Medieval Studies).

The first day of the conference began with a plenary lecture, “Medieval Mediations” delivered by Jessica Brantley of Yale University that served as an excellent summary of the purpose of the conference and provided the foundation of what we mean when we say that manuscripts served, and continue to serve, as a medium. Showing, by the presentation of scrolls in medieval art, that medieval peoples were just as keenly aware of the roles codices and parchment rolls played in their societies and private lives as mediums as we are of our own media, Brantley presented the shifts from parchment roll to codex as a more dramatic one than what is heralded as the most dramatic shift in book studies traditionally: the advent of the printing press. From this lecture began the first concurrent session of the conference, with panels split between “Manuscripts in the Digital Age,” “Materiality: Beyond Parchment,” and “Organizing Knowledge.”

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Nina Rowe (Dept. of Art History, Fordham University) introduces Kate Rudy (University of St Andrews).

After lunch began the second plenary lecture by Kathryn Rudy, hailing from the University of St Andrews. Her presentation, “Dirty Books: Approaches to Measuring Reader Response in the Middle Ages,” took a novel approach to seeing what medieval readers were most interested in reading. Many surviving manuscripts are, fundamentally, filthy. They are covered with the dirt and grime of their readers’ hands where they were held open along the edges of each page. By analyzing the reflectivity levels of each page with a device used to measure suntans, Rudy was able to quantify the depth and severity of individual stains on each page. By doing thus, she was able to quantify the interest individual readers took in different parts of books of hours. Relaying a number of examples, including a rather amusing anecdote about a medical text a few

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Kate Rudy (University of St Andrews) delivers her lecture “Dirty Books: Approaches to Measuring Reader Response in the Middle Ages.”

pages of which were stained with varying volumes of blood near glosses saying how some treatment methods didn’t work, Rudy demonstrated that we are able to see what parts of different books appealed the most to their contemporary reader(s). After this lecture, the conference broke again into concurrent sessions. These panels were:”Manuscript as Agent,” “Transmitting the Rule,” “Authors and Scribes: Making Meaning,” and “Format and Meaning.” The first day concluded with a flash session in which six scholars presented in mere minutes their own research ideas roughly relating to the subject matter of the conference, leaving the audience’s minds, already begging for mercy, spinning well into the evening.

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Anna Lukyanova (MA Program, Medieval Studies), Tatum Tullis (MA Program, History) Maryanne Kowaleski (Dept. of History) and Rachel Podd (PhD Program, History) enjoying drinks during the reception on Saturday evening.

The second day began with the final plenary lecture of the conference, delivered by Andrew Taylor of the University of Ottawa. His presentation “Freedom and the Portable Reader: 1992 and 1281” compared the programs we load into our portable digital devices and the book collections of medieval readers to illustrate how much we can learn of an individual person’s psychological state and intellectual interests by looking at what they read. Looking at the book collection of the priest William of Winchester, Taylor constructed a narrative episode of William’s life around the documentary evidence of his having been punished for an affair with a nun and his interests as presented by his book collection, which suggested he was interested in music and the noble pastime of hawking. After this lecture, the final concurrent session unfolded with three panels: “The Body in the Manuscript,” “Compendia,” and “Manuscripts Between Languages: East and West.”

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Richard Gyug (Dept. of History) conversing with students during the reception on Saturday evening.

While the physicality of manuscripts was a common topic of the panels and lectures of the conference, how readers used their manuscripts and new methodologies in how scholars may approach texts as sources of information about their original owners and producers seemed to steal the show. Numerous thought-provoking and innovative ideas were introduced to an audience that was both receptive to new ideas and ever questioning of what we think we know. The Center would like to thank again all those who presented their evocative works and ideas during the conference and those who worked tirelessly behind the scenes for this year’s great success.

 

By Kevin Vogelaar

 

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Medieval Studies

Review: Fordham at the Annual Meeting of the Medieval Academy of America

What happens when several hundred medievalists from all different fields gather in one place for a weekend? The Medieval Academy of America meeting – dozens of fascinating panels and papers on a wide variety of topics.

The 2016 MAA meeting kicked off with a call for open data by Will Noel, of the Schoenberg Center for Manuscript Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Treat digital images as primary sources in and of themselves, not simply surrogates of medieval manuscripts, he said. Call for more information, he exhorted the assembled medievalists, you demand access to the manuscripts, so demand access to metadata about their images!

In Noel’s view, data should be complete, sustainable, promiscuous, re-useable, and communal – and it’s hard to argue against his model, especially as it applies to newly created images and their use by researchers.

The afternoon panels included two contributions from Fordham medievalists: Professor Suzanne M. Yeager (English) presented “En route to Jerusalem: The Transformative Potential of the Medieval Mediterranean” and Lucy Barnhouse (History) presented “Disordered Women? The Hospital Sisters of Mainz and Their Thirteenth-Century Identities.” Both talks were well-attended and well-received.

Friday morning’s CARA Plenary on the Parameters of Premodern Magic discussed astrology, witchcraft, and the “slicing up” of medieval history into magical and non-magical bits, and the morning sessions that followed spurred active and fascinating discussion about disabilities in the medieval period over Twitter.

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Dr. Laura Morreale (Medieval Studies) presenting at the Annual Meeting of the Medieval Academy of America

Alongside more traditional “tracks” of panels on Carolingians, Monasticism and Lyric Transformations, the MAA meeting this year also included a track on Digital Humanities, which included papers by Laura Morreale (Medieval Studies) and David Wrisley (past Medieval Studies Fellow). Laura’s paper on the use of “Italy” as a place name in thirteenth and fourteenth-century chronicles spurred active discussion about understandings of place and national or regional identity.

Late panels included medieval-inspired poetry, digital humanities visualizations of the construction and reconstruction of Romanesque and Gothic churches, and a vibrant discussion of the “ghosts” of the nineteenth century, which, like the debates on disability studies, became a lively Twitter debate and exchange.

The banquet featured period music and traditional Boston foods, including baked beans and Boston Cream Pie.

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Dr. Nicholas Paul (Dept. of History) recieves the John Nicholas Brown Prize

On Saturday, I was delighted to see Dr. Nicholas Paul (History) received the John Nicholas Brown Prize for his book, To Follow In Their Footsteps.

 

Perhaps the most exciting part of Saturday, from a digital humanities perspective, however, was the interactive session chaired by William P. Stoneman, which brought together eight different projects, each of which gave a three-minute pitch and description, followed by the opportunity for the audience to discuss the projects with the makers, which was fascinating and allowed for vigorous discussion

Robin Fleming’s closing plenary, “Vanishing Plants, Animals, and Places: Britain’s Transformation from Roman to Medieval” was an intriguing look at the material evidence for dramatic shifts in diet, use of land, and the consequent changes in lifestyle that followed Rome’s departure from Britain. Among other things, we learned that strawberries were not eaten prior to the Roman’s arrival, and that apple trees are not native to Britain!

The closing reception at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was a magical backdrop against which to talk with other medievalists, catch up with friends, and see a wide variety of artworks while wrapping up a fantastic conference.

While I was intially a bit daunted by the sheer number of impressive scholars at the MAA meeting, I am delighted to have been able to attend, and look forward to future meetings.

 

By Alisa Beer

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Student Life

Graduate students Alex Profaci and David Smigen-Rothkopf collaborate with television producer on “Lords of the Darkness”

Alex Profaci (MA Program, Medieval Studies) and David Smigen-Rothkopf (MA Program, Medieval Studies)

Alex Profaci (MA Program, Medieval Studies) and David Smigen-Rothkopf (MA Program, Medieval Studies)

Last semester, Medieval Studies students David Smigen-Rothkopf and Alexander Profaci worked with Julian Hobbs, former Executive Producer at the History Channel and now co-President of Talos Films, on “Lords of the Darkness: a Historical Docu-Drama” (working title). Composed of three chapters pertaining to Early, High, and Late Medieval Europe, respectively, with six episodes of an hour-and-a-half per chapter, the series is meant to be a popular, narrative presentation of the breakdown of centralized authority in the wake of Rome’s disintegration and the development of new kingdoms in its place.

Hired as fact-checkers and researchers, David and Alex worked predominantly on the first chapter, pertaining to the Early Middle Ages (defined by the show’s scope as the period from the advent of Constantine’s rule to the turn of the millennium), and the pitch episode. The process of disseminating their research took the form of a theoretical trading card game, in which each historical figure was made into a single player wielding his or her cards, which broke down into types pertaining to, for example, the technology and religiosity of his or her time and historical events in which he or she took part or by which that figure was affected. David and Alex, bringing their academic discipline to the forefront, provided as much information as they could accumulate during this brief collaborative period to ensure the more populist approach to history Julian Hobbs practices was married with a greater attention to historical detail. Ultimately, the series is designed to be a broad, thematic one in which the Middle Ages is to be made an approachable subject for a wider, largely non-academic audience.

Essentially presenting the Medieval Era as a time in history abiding by an over-arching narrative, defined in hindsight, the series seeks to show the linear progression of events toward the end of the era. While this presentation of history is considered problematic in many academic circles, it does make the events more digestible for an audience who has not the time or interest in spending the hundreds of hours necessary reading through primary sources and secondary commentaries and analyses to understand what happened and why. This put David and Alex in the interesting position of having to emulate the very medieval chroniclers whose accounts upon which we rely now, giving new perspective of the construction of historical narrative.

History means different things to different people, and, ultimately, this experience gave David and Alex the opportunity to negotiate a balance between the complexities of historical reality with the cultural imagination of the general population, contributing to the building of a bridge between the work of medievalists and an audience as yet unreached by that corpus.

 

By Kevin Vogelaar

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Events

Week in Review: Dee Dyas (University of York) delivers lecture on Medieval Pilgrimage

What was it actually like to be a pilgrim at a shrine in the Middle Ages?

dyasOn February 23rd, Dr. Dee Dyas (Department of History, Director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture, University of York) complicated and enriched our understanding of pilgrims’ experience at the shrine by highlighting vivid accounts of tactile and bodily sensation in her lecture entitled The Dynamics of Pilgrimage: Sensory Experience and the Power of Place.

Dr. Dyas’ research focuses on the history, experience, and significance of pilgrimage from late antiquity to the present. She is also interested in the use of technology and interactive resources in teaching. She has edited three substantial interactive resources (on the Bible and Medieval Art, Pilgrimage, and the Parish Church in England) produced by the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture in collaboration with an international team of scholars.

deedyasIn her lecture, Dr. Dyas emphasized that an interdisciplinary approach to pilgrimage studies will shed light on the physical and multi-sensory aspects of encountering holy places in the Middle Ages. As pilgrims entered a church or approached a shrine, the sounds, physical contours, sights, and even smells the experienced brought nuance to their encounter with God and the Saints. Dr. Dyas pointed out that recent studies in neuroscience indicate that the act of looking up and down in a vast architectural space might create feelings of light-headedness and euphoria that deepened the gravity of the pilgrims’ perception of the shrine. Beyond the five senses, Dr. Dyas explained that feelings of pressure, temperature, and sensations of pain also may have affected pilgrims. Furthermore, she emphasized the interconnectivity of the senses, noting that vision is partly informed by tactile sensation.

Dr. Dyas showed that both pilgrim and shrine were transformed by contact, as many pilgrims sought to leave pieces of themselves behind or attempted to break off pieces and gather dust from sacred spaces in order to bring them back home with them. By refocusing on the pilgrimage space as the locus of liminal experience for medieval pilgrims, Dr. Dyas demonstrated that holy places were spaces of both revelation and transformation, as the site acted upon the pilgrim and the sensorial landscape fundamentally impacted the nature of revelatory experience at the shrine.

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By Alexa Amore

 

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