Alumni, English Department, History Department, IUDC

MVST Alumni Nathan Melson and Samantha Sabalis Present at the 2017 IUDC

This past 21 April, Bernard College hosted the annual Interuniversity Doctoral Consortium Medieval Conference.  Each year PhD students come from the various IUDC participant institutions to present some aspect of their research to their peers and professors.  This exchange facilitates both a greater sense of community between the IUDC member institutions and gives PhD students on the verge of defending their dissertations a chance to receive valuable feedback from others of a myriad of disciplinary backgrounds.  Students came to present from NYU, Columbia, Rutgers, Princeton, CUNY, SUNY Stony Brook, and Fordham.  The two Fordham students presenting this year were Nathan Melson and Samantha Sabalis, Medieval Studies alumni and currently of the History and English departments, respectively.

Nathan presented his paper, “Problems of a Portable Saint: Relic Economy and Negotiation in Late Medieval Marseille,” in which he presented the curious instance of the pawning of parts of St Louis’ reliquary held by Franciscans in late 14th century Marseille in order to pay for the defense of the city.  Nathan relayed the old truth that, if one needs money, one must take out a loan, and, in order to do that, one must present collateral.  It just so happened that the collateral the town government of Marseille presented were pieces of the head reliquary of St Louis, much to the consternation of the Franciscans looking after it.  Nathan noted that the central point of contention between the town government and the Franciscans was the notion of ownership.  While none denied that the relic of St Louis was in the hands of the Franciscans, the town government of Marseille saw the gold and precious stones of the reliquary as property that was under town protection and, thus, under their authority to present as collateral.  During the unstable times of the mid and late 14th century, the relics of the Franciscan monastery outside Marseille were often brought into the city and housed in people’s homes for protection.  This gave the town government of Marseille, in their own minds, the right to count the value of the reliquary as part of what they had to draw upon in times of need.

Samantha presented her own paper, “From a Confessor’s Manual to a Text for Lay Religious Instruction: the Transformation of Robert Grosseteste’s Templum Dei in BL Additional MS 32578.”  Samantha compared the original Latin version of the Templum Dei, a text meant for clerical instruction, and the vernacular version, directed toward lay use.  Looking specifically at the act of confession, Samantha relayed the differences in the presentation of who is authorized to be the receiver of a penitent’s confession.  In the Latin original, God is presented as the doctor, capable of curing the illness of sin.  The confessor is considered the doctor’s assistant, or the doctor-by-proxy.  However, in the vernacular Templum Dei, God retains His position as the doctor, while sin remains the illness that must be cured, but the confessor is overtly absent from the metaphor.  If there is no confessor, Samantha presents, then it is upon the penitent to find a person to serve such a function as assistant to God.  Under such circumstances, laymen can be such assistants, with the vernacular Templum Dei educating them as to how to serve effectively.

Halfway through the conference, a roundtable was held titled, “Theft: Methods and Theories We Don’t Really Know.”  The roundtable consisted of Christopher Baswell (Bernhard College and Columbia University,) Brigitte Bedos-Rezak (NYU), Steven Kruger (CUNY Graduate Center), Sara Poor (Princeton), and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne (Fordham).  The discussion largely was in response to a question posed by Baswell prior to the conference.  Baswell’s question emerged from his own anxieties regarding the increasing emphasis placed on interdisciplinary approaches in medieval studies.  Concerned over how much a medievalist is expected to know and from how many disciplines a medievalist is expected to borrow, Baswell presented whether our interdisciplinarity has perhaps gone too far or if we are holding ourselves to unreal standards as scholars and humans.  The general response from the participants and the audience was that interdisciplinarity does not necessarily preclude specialization.  It was suggested that at the heart of Baswell’s and others’ concerns may be an anxiety over the appearance of academic rigour.  An interdisciplinary approach to medieval studies may appear to be one that lacks a rigourous approach to any one particular discipline.  As the saying goes, “A jack-of-all-trades is a master of none.”  However, the counter-argument was presented that interdisciplinary scholarship does not actually require one to be any such “jack-of-all-trades.”  One cannot engage in scholarship of every kind of discipline and expect to perfectly comprehend all of it.  Nor can one expect to find the products of other disciplines always helpful in one’s own approach.  The general answer to Basswell’s question was that, while one can take interdisciplinarity too far, individual specialties and areas of specific interest will always drive forward the scholarship of each individual.

The Center would like to thank the organizers of this year’s IUDC Medieval Conference and would like to congratulate Nathan and Samantha for their outstanding contributions to the field.

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Alumni, Events, Uncategorized

2017 Compatible Careers Talk and Workshop

This past 11 April, the Center for Medieval Studies hosted its annual “Compatible Careers” event.  Each year, the Center asks alumni to share their experiences of finding jobs after their graduations that go beyond the traditional academic/tenure-tracked path.  The perennial question for graduate students nearing their graduations is: “what next?”  To study what you love is a joy, but the fact of the matter is that, eventually, one needs to realize what one wants to do for a living.  This question haunts many a student at night, especially those who would elect a non-academic path.  The purpose of this annual workshop is to show students that taking alternate paths is not only possible, but it may even result in finding a better fit for them.  This year’s speakers represent a wide array of careers that show promise and reward the creative medievalist willing to look beyond the usual choices presented to them.

Gilbert Stack, who works now as Fordham’s Director of Assessment and Accreditation and fiction writer, relayed that, if you have the opportunity, getting a PhD in a field you love is never, under any circumstances, a bad idea.  Stack called the PhD a “green card” for work in academic institutions, including work in administration.  One can pursue the terminal degree without setting down the path to university teaching, if one does not want to.  He also suggested students consider careers in academic administration, noting that such positions will be expanding to accommodate new regulations and student needs.

The next speaker was Joanne Overty, the owner of DeMontfort Books.  She related that she graduated with a BA in Economics and, after entering into the world of investment banking, realized how much she hated working as a banker.  A medieval art history class she took as an undergraduate changed her perspective, and awoke in her a desire to study manuscripts.  She and her husband (a curator) inherited the extensive manuscript collection of her employer.  After selling much of the collection to collectors and institutions and sending the rest to the Morgan Library and Museum, she went through Fordham for an MA in Medieval Studies and PhD focusing on manuscript studies.  She and her husband now own their own book selling business, combining their love of manuscripts with her economics training and business experience.  Overty’s main point of advice was for students to be flexible if they intend to enter into book selling or archival work.

The next speaker was David Smith, the Director of Marketing and Publishing for the Library of America.  Saying that publishing has always been a good career choice for people with humanities degrees, Smith related that publishing now has a greater need than ever for experienced writers and researchers.  Smith runs the Library of America’s social media presence, monitoring and maintaining relations between the company and its consumer base and spreading the word about upcoming book releases.  He also runs his own blog, where he posts researched stores, biographies, and histories using upcoming publications from the Library of America.  As of this past April, he has surpassed 10 million views.  Smith related that publishers need younger people who know how social media works in order to publicize their latest releases in an intelligent and well-mannered way.

Allison Alberts, the final speaker, presented her experiences as an upper school English teacher at Sacred Heart in Greenwich.  Having taught at both the college and primary school levels, Alberts provided a valuable reflection upon her experiences teaching students at a myriad of ages and levels.  After her PhD, Alberts looked for a position for around three years before she heard of the position at Sacred Heart.  She related that she did not even think of being a high school teacher as a career option, having just left the university environment and having taught undergraduate classes as per the requirements of the doctoral program.  She said that she is happier now than when she was teaching undergraduate students.  Being able to teach a single class of students over the course of a full academic year allows her to see the students grow, mature, and develop intellectually and emotionally in ways that the twice-a-week encounters with undergrads lasting only a few months does not.  High school teaching also allows Alberts to engage in teaching strategies that take advantage of the greater period of time she has to introduce and discuss themes in medieval history and literature.  Teaching younger students also provides her with opportunities to present themes and ideas in more creative ways than a college classroom environment usually allows: such as teaching The Wife’s Lament as a break-up story to ninth-graders, and joyfully seeing how easily they follow along with the deceptively complicated discussion that follows.

The Center would like to thank these alumni for their contributions and for sharing their invaluable advice and anecdotes to students eager to explore their options in the coming years.

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Alumni, English Department, Manuscript Studies

Student Spotlight: David Pedersen Receives Teaching Position

David Pedersen is a PhD candidate in English and Medieval Studies at Fordham University. His dissertation, “Anxiously Pursuing Peace: Defining and Defending Christian Faith in Texts of Old English Reflective Wisdom,” explores the unique questions, preoccupations, and concerns that Anglo-Saxons brought to Christian faith when they engaged with Christianity in their own vernacular. David argues that these questions had a profound effect on the conception of Christianity that took root and flourished in Anglo-Saxon England, and that we must understand this effect in order to contextualize properly our view of Anglo-Saxon art and literature. David is scheduled to defend his dissertation in April of 2017.

David joined Fordham’s English PhD program in the fall of 2011 after completing an MA in medieval English literature at the University of York. Recognizing that his research and teaching interests are largely interdisciplinary, David quickly enrolled in the Medieval Studies Doctoral Certificate program. David has been consistently involved in the Centre for Medieval Studies ever since.

During his first two years in the program, David participated in Old English, Old Norse, and Ecclesiastical Latin reading groups while also completing his coursework and working as a tutor in the University’s writing centre and as a research assistant for Prof. Jocelyn Wogan-Browne. During his third year, he took over the Old English reading group as a co-organizer, a position he held for the next three years. In addition, David spent the 2015-2016 academic year developing teaching modules for two of the Centre’s digital initiatives: The Oxford Outremer and the French of Italy projects. For his work on these projects, David was invited to present at the Centre’s Annual Colloquium in April of 2016.

In addition to his work with the Centre, David has spent the past six years building his scholarly and pedagogical profile. He has been the instructed numerous courses at Fordham that range from introductory writing to a senior level capstone, and he has participated in training programs in the teaching of writing and in the teaching of the history of English. He has presented at numerous regional, national, and international conferences, most recently at the 42nd Annual Conference on Manuscript Studies at St. Louis University in October of 2016. David’s first article, “Wyrd þe Warnung…or God: The Question of Absolute Sovereignty in Solomon and Saturn II” was published last month in Studies in Philology, and his article “The Wife of Bath’s Deaf Ear and the Flawed Exegesis of St. Jerome” is currently under review at PMLA.

David has been given a teaching position at the College of the Ozarks in Missouri. While he and his family are sad to be preparing to leave New York City, which has been David and his wife, Katrina’s, home for more than a decade, they are also excited by the prospect of having a yard and maybe a car. David plans to turn his dissertation into a book and then to begin work on a second book-length project that explores the various ways that medieval histories employ the ancient Israelites as a trope that is ultimately used to legitimize a wide range of racial and nationalistic ideals.

We would like to thank David for his extraordinary contributions to the mission and vitality of the Centre and wish him well as he steps forth to make his mark in the field.

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Alumni, History Department

Crosspost From History Blog: Summer Postcard: The Medievalist’s “Grand Tour”

Original post by Professor Nicholas Paul from: http://history.blog.fordham.edu/?m=201608

Eastbridge Pilgrim Hospital, Canterbury

Eastbridge Pilgrim Hospital, Canterbury

The next postcard in our series about the summer wanderings and adventures of Fordham historians sees PhD candidate Lucy Barnhouse undertake a medievalist’s version of the Grand Tour, presenting papers at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds, at Canterbury, and in Paris. Lucy reports:

“Leeds felt like something of a marathon on its own, and I was glad of the company of fellow Fordhamites Esther Cuenca and Louisa Foroughi. From our shared apartment we struck out for long but productive days of conferencing. Besides specialized panels galore, we got to enjoy medieval-inspired street food. It made good fortification for a series of panels on the social identities of medieval lepers.

Eastridge Pilgrim Hospital (interior)

Eastridge Pilgrim Hospital (interior)

From Leeds, I went directly to Canterbury, where the conference of the Society for the Social History of Medicine was hosted. The conference organizers gave us the chance to tour local sites of interest. Having predictably chosen to visit the pilgrim hospital of Eastbridge, I and some other medievalists proceeded on a self-guided tour of more of Canterbury’s historical architecture. After the conference—at which I presented alongside historians of the antebellum American South and twentieth-century England on the shared theme of hospitals in urban communities—I hiked out to Harbledown to see the twelfth-century leper hospital.

The last stop on the Grand Tour was Paris, where I attended my first meeting of the Society for the History of Authorship, Reading, and Publishing. I got to spend time with Alisa Beer, to meet new scholars, and to hear many interesting papers. Conference delegates also got free admission to the exhibits at the Bibliothèque Nationale, where we were hosted. Paris being Paris, I also consumed a truly alarming quantity of delicious pastries, and the conference wine-and-cheese reception was a gastronomic tour-de-force. Arguably more important was the fact that I got lots of encouragement to develop the paper I presented for a possible postdoc project. Now it’s back to the considerably less glamorous work of editing the dissertation!”

Thanks Lucy! And to all those Fordham historians on their summer adventures: keep those postcards coming!

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Alumni, Art History, Medieval Studies

Scott Miller (MA ’12) Leads Exhibition Tour of ‘Treasures and Talismans’ at the Cloisters

Within the canons of art history, rings are often relegated to second-class status. Nineteenth-century art historians, for example, were more likely to regard pieces of jewelry as consumer objects than as products of imaginative artistry on par with sculptures or oil paintings. But since May, the Cloisters have sought to redress this imbalance by highlighting the role rings have played as signifiers of social identity from antiquity to the Renaissance in their exhibit entitled “Treasures and Talismans: Rings from the Griffin Collection.” Last Friday, Fordham Medieval Studies alumnus Scott Miller, who1880_cropped co-authored the exhibition’s catalog, Take This Ring: Medieval and Renaissance Rings from the Griffin Collection, led visitors from Fordham on a tour to explain how rings acquired meaning and worked to construct their bearers’ identities.

The late Byzantine and early medieval rings featured in the exhibit afforded Miller the opportunity to explore how anthropological studies throw light on the work of art history. Historians have searched for explanations, for example, for the transition from the smoothness and relative simplicity that characterized antique rings to the almost “neurotic” quality produced by the geometric and architectural designs from late antiquity. Miller described how British anthropologist Alfred Gell’s ideas concerning magic as a “technology of enchantment” have helped historians to theorize what factors might have been at work in this particular shift. Miller placed the collection’s elaborate late antique rings in the context of the Byzantine court of the tenth century as described by Liutprand of Cremona, who, durin1923_croppedg his audience with the emperor, observed mechanical singing birds, stomping lions, and levitating thrones. The highly wrought rings of late antique nobles may have been worn with the intent to dazzle and bewilder delegates like Liutprand.

Another group of rings, the diamond giardinetti, demonstrate the importance of provenance in understanding the social roles that rings played. Miller noted that without knowledge of the rings’ background and only their design and materials, a historian would likely judge these fashionable rings to have belonged to courtiers or aristocrats. But the rings’ provenance identifies them as having been donated to a Spanish convent as “dowries” by novic1878_croppedes’ families at the time of their entry into the convent. Historians, suggests Miller, have to be wary of ascribing social significance to an artifact based on its design alone. New practices and individual innovations can twist existing conventions to bestow meaning in new and unexpected ways.

To further illustrate his point, Miller turned to Fordham’s own Nina Rowe to ask about her wedding band. While the ring had been invested with great meaning by its bearer, Professor Rowe showed visitors that the band was in fact an inexpensive mood ring, one which had to be replaced so often that she orders them in bulk. “There’s a place in Alaska that sells them for cheap,” she said.

 

By Andew O’Sullivan

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Alumni, Medieval Studies

Alumni Spotlight: Scott Miller (M.A. 2012)

Since graduating Fordham University’s program in Medieval Studies in 2012, Scott Miller has been pursuing a PhD in art history at Northwestern University.  His research specializes in the courtly arts and culture of Valois France and Burgundy, particularly the architecture and landscapes of great royal houses.  Over the past three years, he has presented on these topics in the June 2014 “Buildings and the Body” conference in Southampton, England and at the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, Michigan in May 2015. His dissertation project approaches four major Valois châteaux: the Louvre, Vincennes, Hesdin, and Germolles, and seeks to uncover how moments of social performance and intervenUntitledtion into domestic architecture transformed buildings, gardens, and landscape into crucibles of elite identity and political power formation.

In spring 2015, Scott presented his first publication, Take this Ring: Medieval and Renaissance Rings from the Griffin Collection.  Co-authored with Sandra Hindman, professor emerita in Art History at Northwestern University and owner of Les Enluminures, this book accompanies the exhibition Treasures and Talismans: Rings from the Griffin Collection at the Cloisters Collection. “In this volume,” Scott states, “we chose not to cut close to the tradition catalog format.  Rather, we treated the rings in this distinguished private collection thematically.  Seeking to tell the story of the “life cycle” of the ring, we presented a history that followed them from the mines to the archaeological context, and through a human world in which they acted as symbols, talismans, and even social agents.”

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