Alexa Amore (Medieval Studies) returns from walking the Camino de Santiago

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Alexa Amore (MA Program, Medieval Studies) at Las Medulas (ancient Roman mines near Ponferrada, Spain).

Every year, students at Fordham University have the unique opportunity to walk the Camino de Santiago through the study abroad course Study Tour: Medieval Spain. This summer, graduate student Alexa Amore (MA Program, Medieval Studies) accompanied Professor David Myers, chaperones Alex Egler, Louisa Foroughi, and Rachel Podd, and a group of 24 undergraduate students (Fordham’s largest Camino group to date!) on the medieval pilgrimage route from León to Santiago de Compostela. The group was also thrilled to be joined in Spain by Katrine Funding Højgaard, a former visiting student from Denmark in Fordham’s graduate program in Medieval Studies.

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Apse of Sant Climent de Taüll (twelfth century romanesque fresco), National Art Museum of Catalonia, Barcelona.

As a medievalist with interests in pilgrimage studies and art history, Alexa was eager to follow the traditional pilgrimage route through Spain and to adopt the lifestyle of a pilgrim, or peregrina. She opted to travel as light as possible, leaving her laptop at home and bringing only a twelve pound backpack and camera with her for the entire trip. Alexa arrived in Spain several days before the official start of the study tour in order to spend some time in Barcelona and Madrid. Among the highlights from this part of her journey, she visited several famous Gaudí buildings including the Sagrada Familia as well as the National Art Museum of Catalonia, which houses one of the most important collections of romanesque frescoes in the world.

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Katrine Funding Højgaard (Fall 2015 visiting student, MA Program, Medieval Studies) standing in front of El Christo de la Luz, a mosque built c. 999-1000 CE and later converted into a church.

She also visited all three major museums in Madrid–the Prado, the Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen Bornemisza–and took a day trip to Toledo in order to see  several former synagogues and mosques, including El Cristo de la Luz. “As an undergraduate I took a class on Spanish art that covered everything from visigothic churches to Picasso’s Guernica,” she explained “so I was so excited to see all of these works of art in person.”

When she arrived in León, Alexa started to feel nervous about the two weeks of hiking that lay ahead of her. “I didn’t do much training ahead of time because I was so busy during the semester… I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out, but I was determined to walk the whole way on my own two feet!”

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Sunrise at Rabanal del Camino, a tiny village on the Camino de Santiago with approximately 60 permanent residents.

For Alexa, the best part of the pilgrimage was the journey itself. She especially enjoyed the tiny villages along the Camino “where there was absolutely nothing going on and it was just peaceful and life was incredibly simple for the people living there. It was so nice to arrive, take off my shoes, and just sit and look at the sky and the mountains, listen to the birds and watch the sun set. And after a really long day’s walk, you just feel like you earned every minute of that stillness.”

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Katrine Funding Højgaard (Fall 2015 Visiting Student, MA Program, Medieval Studies) and Alexa Amore (MA Program, Medieval Studies) proudly display their completed credenciales and compostellas at the pilgrim’s office in Santiago de Compostella.

After the long-awaited arrival in Santiago de Compostela with the Fordham group, Alexa travelled south to spend a few days visiting Córdoba, Granada and Seville. 28 long days on the road later, she was happy to return to the United States. “It didn’t take long for me to realize that all along, I was actually on a pilgrimage to New York City,” she explained. “I really missed home, but I was so glad that I left it all behind in order to gain a fresh perspective on where I am in my life now and where I’m going in the future.”

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The Fordham Peregrinos of 2016!

For more on the Camino de Santiago, visit the Fordham peregrinos’ ongoing digital project, Mapping the Camino: The Student’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago, which Alexa founded along with Professor Myers and the Fordham peregrinos of 2016.

CMS Sends Off the Medieval Studies MA Class of 2016 with Farewell Conference!

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From left to right: Susanne Hafner (Program Director, Medieval Studies), David Smigen-Rothkopf, Alexa Amore, Alex Profaci, Anna Lukyanova, Alex Wright, Heather Hill, and Laura Morreale (Associate Director, Medieval Studies).

The Center for Medieval Studies threw a farewell party and conference for our graduating Master’s students on Saturday, May 7th. All seven students who will graduate in August,  Alexa Amore, Heather Hill, Scot Long, Anna Luykanova, Alex Profaci, David Smigen-Rothkopf, and Alexandra Wright gave papers showcasing the scholars they have become during their time at Fordham. The conference concluded with a champagne and cake reception. The CMS would like to congratulate the graduating class of 2016 for all that they have accomplished at Fordham and their impressive placement record! We look forward to seeing what this group will achieve in the coming years.

Alexander Profaci delivered his presentation, “Old French and the Tragedy of Norman Historiography,” based on a chapter from his thesis. Comparing the Gesta Normanorum Duco with the earliest version of the Chronique des ducs de Normandie, Alexander presented the 13th century Chronique, in its lack of heroic or religiously inspirational imagery, as the presentation of Norman history as a tragic retrospective of Norman independence. David’s presentation, “Twisted Lines: Genealogical Prophecy and Historiography in Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur,” put forward that Malory’s famous “Month of May” passage portrays both his hopes for the future return of the chivalric ideal and his resignation that there is no certainty in the future. While royal lineage was often used to present history as stable and predictable enough to provide a more certain view of the future, Malory’s genealogy of Arthur depicts a less certain view, as Arthur left no effective heir, nor did he, himself, legitimate, questioning the supposed stability of royal lineage and its ability to maintain a more stable future. Anna Lukyanova’s “Consecracio Regis: The Making of Kings, Political Liturgy, and Cross Cultural Exchange in the Medieval Latin East” explored possible influences or sources for the development of the ceremony of the coronation of the Latin kings of Jerusalem. Looking at the similarities between the oaths sworn by the king of Jerusalem and those sworn by the Byzantine emperor upon his own crowning and the fact that kings of Jerusalem were anointed, which was a common practice in Western Europe but not done in Constantinople, Anna sees the ceremony in Jerusalem as a hybrid of Byzantine and Western European rituals, displaying a level of cultural interaction between the Kingdom of Jerusalem and its Greek Orthodox neighbour. The final presentation of the first panel was that given by Scotland Long, “Medieval Authorship in 15th Century Castilian Romance,” in which he examined the variances between manuscripts and printed editions of the Cronica Saracina, a Spanish retelling of the 711 Islamic invasion of Iberia. One of the numerous differences between copies of the two versions he compared was a greater emphasis on the aspect of holy war in the printed editions, corresponding with the Reconquista.

The second panel began with Heather Hill presenting, “Exploring Place in the French of Italy: Mid-Range Reading as a Model for Digital Medieval Mapping,” in which she explained the process and methodology employed behind the creation of a digital map for the French of Italy website. She introduced the concept of mid-range reading, which, contrary to close or distant reading, requiring critical analysis and a macrocosmic discussion of text types, respectively, looks at individual works, words, and place descriptions, but also for over-arching trends in source material. This method of research, Heather related, was the ideal method for preparing a digital map based on medieval sources. The second presentation was Alexa Amore’s “Animated by Pious Zeal: The Cult of Carts and the Oxen of Laon Cathedral,” introducing not only what the concept of the cult of carts was to non-art historians, but also the far-ranging impact this practice had on forms of pilgrimage in Laon, Amiens, and Chartres. Inspired by a miraculous bovine having appeared just as it was needed to aid in hauling stone from a quarry to Laon cathedral after it was destroyed in a communal uprising, the cult of carts was a pilgrimage practice that had pilgrims seeking penance by pulling carts loaded with stone. The cathedral of Laon is decorated with a number of statues of oxen, remarkably accurate in their presentation, looking down upon the crowds from the cathedral spires, marking this miraculous event and linking it intrinsically with the continued existence of the cathedral of Laon. The final presentation was delivered by Alexandra Wright titled, “’I feel but hunger and thirst for you,’ Spiritual Food, Eroticism, and Queer Desire in Augustine’s Confessions.” Exploring Augustine’s presentation of his own desire, Alexandra showed how, as Augustine aged, his desires were never truly fulfilled. This tension is carried out through his childhood, in which he desired food even when he did not need it, through his adolescence and early adult life, when he desired sex but was never satisfied by it. These desires are, in his later years, transferred to a love of God, and the absolution he finds replaces the fulfilling of his desire.

Congratulations to the class of 2016 for their excellent contributions to their fields and to the Centre. Well done!

Conference Program:

Session I: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Chair: Nicholas Paul

  • Alexander Profaci (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the PhD program in History at Johns Hopkins University):
    “Old French and the Tragedy of Norman Historiography”
  • David Smigen-Rothkopf (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the PhD program in English at Fordham University):
    “Twisted Lines: Genealogical Prophecy and Historiography in Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur”
  • Anna Luykanova (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the PhD program in History, UNC Chapel Hill):
    “Consecracio Regis: The Making of Kings, Political Liturgy, and Cross Cultural Exchange in the Medieval Latin East”
  • Scotland Long (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the PhD program in Spanish, University of Pennsylvania):
    “Medieval Authorship in 15th century Castilian Romance”

Saturday Brunch: 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Session II: 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Chair: Alex Novikoff

  • Heather Hill (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the MS program in Library and Information Science at the Pratt Institute):
    “Exploring Place in the French of Italy: Mid-Range Reading as a Model for Digital Medieval Mapping”
  • Alexa Amore (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the MA program in Art History, Case Western Reserve University):
    “Animated by Pious Zeal: The Cult of Carts and the Oxen of Laon Cathedral”
  • Alexandra Wright (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the MS program in Library Science at the University of North Texas):
    “‘I feel but hunger and thirst for you’: Spiritual Food, Eroticism, and Queer Desire in Augustine’s Confessions”

Cake and Champagne Reception: 3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

This conference is dedicated to the memory of three wonderful teachers:

Astrid O’Brien
Louis Pascoe SJ
Maureen Tilley

The Center for Medieval Studies thanks the Graduate Student Association for their contribution to this conference.

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

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

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!

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By Heather Hill

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

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

 

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

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

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