This past 25 February, Fordham students Larissa Ross and Rita Orazi presented at the 2017 Hudson Valley Medieval and Early Modern Undergraduate Symposium at the College of Mount Saint Vincent.
Larissa Ross (st right), Rita Orazi (at left)
Larissa Ross presented her paper, “Daughters of the King: Medieval Female Piety as Seen in Julian of Norwich and Constance in Chaucer’s Man of Law’s Tale.” In her paper, Larissa looked to Julian of Norwich and Chaucer to explore late medieval conceptions of the metaphysical nature of women and of ideal female holiness. Julian and Chaucer, contemporaries who influenced and were in turn influenced by the same cultures and ideologies, are rarely brought into conversation with each other. Larissa placed Julian of Norwich, a renowned holy woman, into dialogue with Chaucer’s fictitious holy woman to see where both figures embody or toy with popular perceptions of what it meant to be a woman mystic considered holy.[Read on for more about Larissa and Rita’s presentations] Continue reading →
On April 7th, Michael Weldon (MA, Medieval Studies) and Kevin Vogelaar (MA, Medieval Studies) were inducted to the Jesuit Honors Society Alpha Sigma Nu. The organization, which emphasizes scholarship, loyalty, and service, selected Michael and Kevin for their exemplary commitment to the tenets of Jesuit learning.
[Read on for profiles of our two Alpha Sigma Nu inductees]
This past 25 March, the Center held its 37th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies. This year’s conference, “The Generative Power of Tradition: A Celebration of Traditio, 75 Years,” explored both the power of tradition in producing new ideas and movements and the role and history of Traditio in the humanities.
This year’s conference was divided into two panel sessions and two roundtables, with Father Joseph T. Lienhard, S.J., beginning the conference with a brief history of Traditio’s origin, its current role in facilitating discourse in numerous disciplines in the humanities, and its future under both Fordham and Cambridge University Press. [Read on for our full coverage of the 37th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies] Continue reading →
This past 14 February, the Medieval Studies Department hosted their first Valentine’s Day poetry reading. In the spirit of the day, all selections discussed, in some capacity, the nature of love and its effect on the human beings fortunate (or unfortunate) enough to find themselves in its throes. From the pure love of God to the often controversial love felt between human beings, the poems and songs performed provided a wide range of perspectives of a state of being infamous for its eluding a clear definition in any known language.
It is perhaps this very elusiveness that makes the performance of Mohammad Alsidi so apt as the first given of the evening. A masterful player of the Oud, a stringed instrument originating from Ur, Alsidi performed old Aleppan music often played during the day in Sufi circles while conversations and discussion of the scripture and current events were echoing through the courtyards. While the melodies Alsidi played could be accompanied by lyric or chant, he played the pieces as they were taught to him: without vocal accompaniment. Each pluck of a string composed a wordless prayer in praise to God, proclaiming love for Him. Having roots in the region around Aleppo that stretch back nearly two millennia, these melodies, in a myriad of different forms, can be heard wherever Aleppans have strode, from India to Venezuela. Alsidi, himself a native of the region around Aleppo, played these beautiful pieces with a bittersweet tone. These melodies, like so much of Aleppo and, indeed, much of Syria, are being lost in the civil war. These songs, and the hands that can play them and the voices that can sing them, are dying. Alsidi said that he plays in order to have these pieces still heard in the world, so that we might not deafen ourselves to what is being lost while it is still here to be recorded, preserved, and enjoyed.
The next poem was Guido Cavalcanti’s “Voi che per gli occhi mi passaste il core,” delivered by Dr. Susana Barsella. A friend of Dante, Guido presented love as beautiful and uplifting, but ultimately ending in a “language of sighs.” Dr. Emanuel Fiano recited St. Ephrem’s “Hymn III: On Paradise.” Dating to the fourth century, this Syriac piece discussed the choice given to Adam and Eve over whether or not to eat of the forbidden fruit. Needless to say, their story does not end on a happy note: a reasonably consistent theme of this Valentine’s Day celebration. Next was Father Martin Chase’s recitation of lausavisur from the Old Norse Kormáks Saga. Kormák’s Saga, a prose tale with occasional segments of Skaldic song, also presents us with a narrative filled with less Cupid floating through a tranquil grove and more facing the difficulties that come with loving another over a prolonged period of time, albeit under less then mundane circumstances. However, the segment Father Chase read was one toward the beginning of the tale, when the lovers meet for the first time: a happy affair in which Kormákr fell in love at the first sight of Steingerðr’s ankles and feet.
The final three poetic readings were given by Drs. Jocelyn Wogan-Brown, Susanne Hafner, and Andrew Albin. Saying that God might deserve a Valentine’s Day gift too, Dr. Wogan-Brown presented the Old French “Rossignos” of John of Howden. Dating to the 1270s, Dr. Wogan-Brown related that this piece was written in such a way that the audience was meant to participate in its recitation, and the poetic sophistication of the piece itself shows just how intricate and elegant the Old French of England is. Dr. Hafner read “Unter der linden,” by Walther von der Vogelveide. This poem was originally set to music, though the music has been lost. Of the “dawn song” genre, “Unter der linden” presents a woman, rather than a man, reflecting upon a night of shameless sensual indulgence with her lover after he had to flee the next morning. Utilizing a number of overt euphemisms, the poem intentionally walks the line between descent and indecent evocation of a night spent in ecstasy. On that note, Dr. Albin finished the evening with a spirited reading of Chaucer’s “The Parliament of Fowls,” carrying on the theme of love being suspended between fulfillment and denial. This parliament, consisting of numerous and diverse types of birds, eagerly awaiting their dismissal from the assembly so they could fly off with their lovers, undoubtedly reminded all present of the agony of having to fulfill an obligation while one’s true desire lay just within reach. Love may be fulfilling, but no one ever said it would be easy to endure.
The Centre would like to graciously thank all who participated in this inaugural Valentine’s Day poetry reading and those who attended and experienced examples of nearly every kind of human reaction to this eternally problematic notion of love. Here’s hoping we, as humans, never actually manage to figure it out.
On October 28th, students of Dr. Hafner’s Manuscript Culture class attended a lecture at the Butler Library in Columbia University in order to hear a private seminar from Consuelo Dutschke, curator of the Medieval and Renaissance rare book collections. The Rare Book Collections seminar room stood behind a secret door which at first glance looked like a wall. The Rare Books Collection has under its control a locus of incunabulum; namely books and documents printed from early Western Europe up until January 1, 1501.
Once we were all ensconced in the lecture room, Consuelo brought to our attention approximately twenty documents and books laid out over a long wooden table. “Keep an open mind,” Consuelo said as we leaned forward to survey the documents, “or you’ll never find what’s out there.” With these words in mind, we began to participate in an interactive lecture that involved answering questions, translating passages, and experiencing the privilege of holding the documents and books themselves.
Since manuscript scholars can’t rely on colophons or script types to give us the place, date, and author necessarily, we must rely on nuances within decoration and textual format to give us some context. Consuelo highlighted and demonstrated the importance of decoration as a way of localizing each book, in some cases identifyingdown to its very city of origin. Before even opening some of the texts, Consuelo described how the original book bindings hinted at a book’s region of origin. For instance, if a book had clasps (do you recall what it was about the clasps that made them specifically Italian? I think it had to do with their being closed toward the back of the book, but I’m not sure), it was likely to have been made in Italy. With Consuelo’s tutelage, we were enlightened on the uses of decoration and the history of the manuscripts and books.
Consuelo shared with us the importance of manuscript culture history. In 1953, French Paleographers created the CIPL (Comité International de PaléographieLatine), an establishment that aspired to solve a fundamental question about manuscript culture: how do we go about studying these manuscripts? Though the CIPLlost momentum, their work was not in vain. Today, the most used book on manuscript identity is Tuscany’s version of the CIPL, which includes a method of dating the documents by means of comparison and contrast. In the United States, Columbia works alongside UC Berkley to produce the Digital Scriptorium. The strengths of a digital database include the use of vibrant color, a vast library, and the ability to correct inaccurate cataloguing and classification information.
As for Columbia’s Plimpton Manuscript collection, Consuelo described why so many manuscripts were broken off in scrappy segments instead of being retained as whole books. George Plimpton, the founder of the Plimpton collection, bought a myriad of cheap little items from 1925 to 1965. One hypothesis as to why these manuscripts were sold folio by folio instead of by book was because of their cheapness. Consuelo offered another imposing hypothesis: that libraries often accept and recognize volumes of one work, having difficulty classifying and describing a book containing multiple works or texts. Due to this, many manuscripts have portions in several localities.
The class was certainly an enlightening one. Not only did we learn about manuscripts and documents by reading and holding them, but we learned about manuscript culture history and how conservationists and curators locate the time and place of the manuscript. In addition, Consuelo’s generosity and warmth culminated in an exciting and welcoming experience that shall not be forgotten. On behalf of the Centre of Medieval Studies, I wish to thank Consuelo Dutschke and Columbia University for hosing such an enlightening class, for it provided indelible inspiration towards our quests to study manuscript culture.
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.
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.
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.
Esther Liberman Cuenca, recipient of the Schallek Fellowship
Fordham History Department’s own Esther Liberman Cuenca was recently awarded the Schallek Fellowship, a one-year grant of $30,000 to support Ph.D. dissertation research in any relevant discipline (art history, literature, history, etc.) dealing with late medieval Britain (ca. 1350-1500). Not only is this a prestigious honor but it will allow Esther to conduct research critical to the completion of her dissertation.
Esther’s research focuses on the development and evolution of borough customary law in medieval Britain. Borough customs were practices or traditions that over time acquired the force of law within the town. Her analytical goals are twofold: to contribute to a deeper understanding of the place of urban customary law within the British legal system, and to reveal custom’s role in the emergence of a distinct bourgeois identity in medieval Britain. Borough customary law has received little scholarly attention because of its scattered distribution in many local and county archives; the need for multi-lingual expertise in Latin, Anglo-Norman French, and Middle English; and the difficulty of dating customary clauses and ordinances from multiple iterative copies.
SROI C/4/1/1, f. 9a: The table of contents for the French Ipswich custumal, contained in the codex they call the ‘Black Domesday.’
Since she reached ABD status at Fordham in 2012, Esther has been teaching multiple courses at Marymount California University and this fellowship will give her the opportunity to focus fully on completing her dissertation. She plans to spend the 2016-2017 year living in England where she can complete her research at the Bristol Record Office and London Metropolitan Archives. In 2013, Esther was also the recipient of the Schallek Award, which is a small grant of $2,000 to help students cover research expenses. “The Medieval Academy/Richard III Society have been very kind to me! And I’m very grateful that they’re supporting my research,” says Esther.
The Très riches heures, a book of prayers commissioned for a French prince, is one of the most famous illuminated manuscripts of the 15th century. It contains dozens of images painted with rich pigments and embellished with gold. The original sits in the Musée Condé in Chantilly, France.
But thanks to a fine art facsimile of the historic tome in Fordham’s Walsh Library, students can flip through the lush pages and absorb a visual representation of medieval art and religion.
The Très riches heures facsimile is one of 300 books and objects donated to Fordham by Dr. James Leach, a New York physician who’s been curious about medieval manuscripts and liturgical books since he was young.
“When I was growing up, I had an interest in Latin and in the church,” said Leach, who heads the dermatology department at Lincoln Medical Center in the Bronx. “The prayer books I was familiar with were a springboard to begin looking at the older manuscripts.”
He began amassing a collection of fine art facsimiles of medieval manuscripts, which have been produced since around 1990, typically in limited-edition runs of 300 to 900 copies. He thought that Fordham, as a Catholic university with an established medieval studies program, would be the perfect repository for these works. Leach also donated a sizable collection of original Catholic prayer missals from the late-19th to early-20th centuries.
Nina Rowe, PhD, chair and associate professor of art history at Fordham, said the University is lucky to have such high-quality reproductions available for students.
“One can certainly lecture in the classroom about the technical aspects of luxury handmade books from the eighth to the 15th centuries in Europe,” Rowe said. “But with high-quality facsimiles, students can get a sense of the ways in which illuminated manuscripts were functional objects, designed to be viewed up close, leafed through, and carried.”
Rowe said the Très riches heures is one of the “greatest hits” of medieval art history. She also has a few other favorites among the collection.
“I’m delighted to be able to teach students from the facsimiles of the Lindisfarne Gospels, an English monastic manuscript made around the year 700 and renowned for its so-called Carpet Pages, full-page designs with intricate interlace, often in the form of the cross,” she said.
“Another favorite facsimile of mine reproduces a Moralized Bible (sometimes called the Saint Louis Bible) from Paris, 1226 to 1236. Every page features eight circles arranged in four pairs, each with little scenes linking a vignette from the Hebrew Bible to a Christian or contemporary commentary. The images are especially fun when they depict the perceived vices of early 13th-century Parisian life, evoking the real world of the street in a remote period.”
Pages from the collection’s facsimile of a Moralized Bible (sometimes called the Saint Louis Bible)
Linda LoSchiavo, TMC ’72, director of the University libraries, said Leach’s contributions are an important addition to Fordham’s Special Collections.
“The facsimiles are an extraordinary example of medieval artistry,” she said. “They’re done with highly specialized devices, and the bindings are reproductions as well.”
The cover of a facsimile of the Sacramentary of Henry II, a liturgical manuscript from the late-10th to early-11th century, includes an intricate copy of the original’s ivory relief. Other facsimiles Leach has donated include theEton Choirbook and the Lorsch Gospels.
The cover of a facsimile of the Sacramentary of Henry II, which features an intricate plastic copy of the original’s ivory relief
The recent establishment of Fordham’s Shvidler Chair in Judaic Studies, and the collection of Judaica being assembled by Magda Teter, PhD, the chair’s inaugural holder, prompted LoSchiavo to ask Leach if he would consider donating a a Haggadah, a book used during Passover seders. He was happy to oblige, and earlier this year donated a facsimile of the Barcelona Haggadah. The original dates to the middle of the 14th century.
Leach hopes his gifts will help Fordham students learn that art and illuminated manuscripts flourished during the medieval period, even though the era sometimes gets a bad rap.
“Most important is that they realize that ‘medieval’ is not purely a derogatory term,” he said. “It was an age of faith and artistic productivity that contributed to Western civilization.”
Professor of English Andrew Albin has been awarded a dual appointment in English and Medieval Studies. This distinction recognizes Professor Albin’s scholarship in medieval aurality and literature and honors his contributions to Fordham’s Center for Medieval Studies as an instructor since 2012. He has published on Chaucer’s Prioress’s Tale, the Chester shepherd’s play, and the medieval mystic Richard Rolle. While at Fordham, he has taught courses on subjects and authors such as early English drama, medieval embodiment, Chaucer, the Pearl poet, and spiritual sensory experience.
Professor Albin is on leave for the 2015-2016 academic year to complete a senior fellowship at Yale University’s Institute for Sacred Music, an interdisciplinary center for music history, musicology, theology, music performance, and ministry. During his fellowship, he is translating Richard Rolle’s Melos Amoris, preserving the alliterative patterns and musical prosody of the original text. Not only will this be the first English translation of the Melos Amoris, but Professor Albin plans to supplement it with groundbreaking research on the marginalia and manuscript context of Rolle’s work to shed light on its reception history. Professor Albin has noted that one of the ten manuscript witnesses of the Melos Amoris was bound with a gathering of mid-15th century sacred polyphonic music by three English composers. Professor Albin will include a recording, diplomatic edition, and analysis of this music in his forthcoming book and will examine the ways in which the link between medieval mysticism and music was perceived by 15th- and 16th-century readers. His multimedia and intertextual presentation of the Melos Amoris will allow modern readers to get a sense of how Rolle’s text was experienced aurally and conversant with musical practice of the period.