Reading [Latin] is Fun[damental]!

Fordham English PhD Student David Smigen-Rothkopf leads the Latin Reading Group

If there’s one skill that’s crucial for medievalists, it’s the ability to read Latin confidently and well. Sooner or later there will be Latin charters to read, religious texts to translate, laws and other literary gems to parse out, all of which require a solid command of Latin, and there is a huge chasm between having taken a Latin reading course, or finished a grammar book and the actual ability to translate with (relative) ease. This is exactly where the Latin Reading Group comes in, and Galina Krasskova, one of the leaders of the group sent us this article to tell us more about this aspect of life in the Center for Medieval Studies.


For the past several years, the Center for Medieval Studies has sponsored a weekly Latin Reading Group for students. In years past, it was usually facilitated by a graduate student from Classics, and this year it’s being led by me (Galina Krasskova) and English PhD student David Smigen-Rothkopf. Both of us have a pretty extensive background in Classics.

MA students Stephen Powell (MVST), Ron Braasch (History), and Jake Prescott (MVST) in the Latin Reading Group

Each week we and a handful of intrepid souls gather in FMH in room 416 to plumb the syntactic mysteries of authors from Cicero to Catullus, Vergil to Augustine, Seneca to Gerald of Wales and more. We work our way through poetry and prose, Classical and Christian Latin reviewing points of grammar as needed (and it’s usually needed for all of us. One cannot have too much grammar review with Latin!).  Sometimes a student will bring a particular passage that he or she is working on for a class or research and we’ll tackle it together.

The group is open to all levels from rank beginner to the occasional Classics graduate student who wanders in for an hour of practice. We usually have a friendly mix of Medievalists, Historians, English majors, the occasional Theology major and even an undergrad now and again. So, if you’re Latin-curious, or your Latin is rusty and you’re looking to improve your skills in a non-threatening, supportive environment (where there are no grades to worry about and mistakes are part of the expected learning process), or if your Latin is relatively good and you want to keep it that way, consider popping in on a Monday. As Stephen Powell, 2nd year MA student says, “Our Latin reading group is an underused resource!”.


For more information contacted Galina Krasskova at Latin Reading Group is held most Mondays from 1-2pm in FMH room 416. Carpe diem.

Medieval Undergrads Present at Marist College Conference

(l-r) Fordham Medieval Studies Students Ruisen Zheng, Emily Gerace, Dr. Andrew Albin, and Katie DeFonzo at the 4th Hudson Valley Medieval and Early Modern Undergraduate Symposium

On February 24, Fordham Medieval Studies undergrads attended an academic conference at Marist College in Poughkeepsie, NY. The Conference, the 4th Hudson Valley Medieval and Early Modern Undergraduate Symposium, brought together scholars from across New York state. Three Fordham scholars presented papers: Emily Gerace (“Memory, Friendship, and Grief in the Book of the Duchess”), Ruisen Zheng (“Interpreting Byzantine Diplomacy in the First Crusade: When the Knights Bow to the Basileus Alexius Komnenos”), and Katie DeFonzo (“Margery Kempe: Outspoken Heretic or Woman of God?”).

Feedback from the participating students was extremely positive, highlighting the importance of such opportunities to share and discuss ideas with colleagues and peers. For the Fordham students involved, it was their first time presenting at such an academic venue. Katie DeFonzo wrote to tell us that

[t]his experience has only made me hopeful that I will be able to do so again in the future. Everyone was welcoming and eager to hear one another’s ideas. Many of the talks focused on literary works in a historical context, and I think this was an excellent way to get students to consider how the study of history can intersect with other disciplines.

Emily Gerace added,

Presenting at the conference was a great experience. Everyone was very welcoming, and it was incredible to be around so many other medievalists. The medieval-themed meal was wonderful, too. I would gladly do it again!

Finally, Ruisen Zheng noted that not only did presenters receive positive and useful feedback on their papers, but the overarching theme of the conference itself really brought home how relevant Medieval Studies can be to our contemporary world and issues:

I was in fact really nervous at the beginning, but in the end, I think it was great to share my work with other amazing students and professors and to talk with them and exchange different ideas we had passion about. Overall, I did learn a lot from this conference. I noticed a theme that was mentioned, about how relevant the medieval history is to today’s world: the millennium we considered as the Middle Age was as shining as any other period in the world’s history. In China, we often think history as a mirror that reflects today’s society, and in this conference while we were talking about the past, we were also talking and thinking of the present day. I received some really good feedback on my paper, especially about how we think of governance, authority, and ideology that I did not think of when I wrote my paper.

And I think I would definitely love to have this great experience again, with other Fordham students and other amazing people from other places.”

Congratulations to the three Fordham presenters who so aptly represented our Medieval Studies department,  and a big thank you to Dr. Albin for his assistance and support.  “I encourage all of our students to apply with abandon to conferences like the Hudson Valley Symposium,” said Dr. Albin. “They provide unique opportunities to share work among a knowledgeable and enthusiastic community of fellow undergrads and committed faculty, and the public speaking and information-building skills you gain are invaluable for future pursuits, both inside and outside the university.”

Check back here regularly at The Venerable Blog: the Official Blog of the Fordham Center for Medieval Studies to see what our students are doing.

(Reporting for this story provided by Galina Krasskova)

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. [Read on for more about the 2017 Compatible Careers Workshop] Continue reading

Rita Orazi and Larissa Ross Present at the 2017 Hudson Valley Medieval and Early Modern Undergraduate Symposium

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

Medieval Studies students visit “Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections”

From the Magdeburg Missal, 1486
Harvard University, Houghton Library, Typ Inc 2756

On December 4th, students in Fordham’s Center for Medieval Studies visited Boston’s Beyond Words illuminated manuscript exhibit.  Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections features manuscripts from 19 different libraries and museums in the city.  Co-curated by Jeffrey Hamburger (Harvard University), William P. Stoneman (Houghton Library), Anne-Marie Eze (Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum), Lisa Fagin Davis (Medieval Academy of America), and Nancy Netzer (McMullen Museum of Art), the exhibit takes place at three different venues: Harvard University’s Houghton Library, Boston College’s McMullen Museum, and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum.  Visiting the exhibit gave the Medieval Studies MA students the unparalleled opportunity to view over 200 illuminated manuscripts in one day, supplementing their coursework in manuscript studies, medieval literature, and medieval art history.

The Fordham medievalists viewed the McMullen Museum first.  Titled Pleasure and Piety, the McMullen exhibit shed light on lay readership in the High Middle Ages.  We were lucky to receive a tour by Lisa Fagin Davis, one of the co-curators of Beyond Words and the Executive Director of the Medieval Academy of America.  The McMullen was packed with books of hours, antiphonals, breviaries, saints’ lives, Marian devotions, psalters, and the writings of medieval theologians, with items ranging from enormous folio-sized codices to minuscule prayer books meant to be carried on belts.  While showing us the manuscript fragments in the exhibit, Dr. Fagin Davis told us about her fascinating digital reconstruction of the dismembered Beauvais Missal.  She also introduced us to the Chronique Anonyme Universelle (Boston Public Library MS pb Med. 32), a 34-foot-long genealogical roll that recounts biblical events, the mythological history of Europe, and the succession of English and French kings.

After the McMullen tour, the group traveled to the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, which featured Italian Renaissance books.  The incunables in their exhibit allowed us to think closely about the ways in which visual culture and book culture changed in the wake of humanism and the invention of the printing press.

Items in Beyond Words: Illuminated Manuscripts in Boston Collections can be viewed in the exhibit’s digital catalogue and in a richly-illustrated print catalogue.  Many of the books are fully digitized.

The Center would like to thank the Graduate Student Association for their generous support, Dr. Fagin-Davis for the insightful tour, and Dr. Kowaleski and Dr. Stoneman for their help in planning the trip.

OMSB – an expanding resource

What do scripture commentaries, modern English translations of ribald Latin Poetry, Piers Plowman, and verse translations of Syriac hymns have to do with each other?

Bodlian Library, MS Douce 104, fol. 24r

Bodlian Library, MS Douce 104, fol. 24r

Not much, except that they are the most recent additions to Fordham’s Online Medieval Sources Bibliography.  The Online Medieval Sources Bibliography (OMSB) is a database of modern editions, both print and online, of medieval primary sources, designed to help users of all kinds find the most suitable edition for their needs by describing in detail an edition’s contents, best audience, and useful features. The sources described above represent just a small sampling what has been included in the database since its inception in 2003.OMSB logo

One interesting facet of the project is the way in which it has grown over the years, recently detailed by Fordham CMS Director and project founder Maryanne Kowaleski, in an article from the digital medievalist online journal, co-authored by Morgan Kay, who has played a crucial role as the project’s computer programmer and coordinator. As Kowaleski and Morgan have noted, entries are researched and recorded by graduate assistants from the Center for Medieval Studies who are employed on a year-by-year basis, so that  the site has grown according to the individual interests of each graduate student who has passed through.

This year, graduate assistants Nicole Andranovich, Rachel Butcher, Abigail Sargent and Joseph Rudolph are each contributing source descriptions in their areas of interest, including medieval Coptic and Greek literature, Copticbiblical commentary and exegesis, English documentary sources, Syriac theological work, and medieval Latin poetry. Abigail Sargent notes that working on the OMSB has been a great learning experience, and is “valuable for learning to efficiently assess how and by whom a source might be used. It also gives you exposure to a number of different materials you might not come across in your own coursework.”

There are currently  over 4000 medeival source descriptions on the OMSB, which can be searched by multiple fields, including date, author, geographic region, type of resource, and original language.

Beneventan Studies at Fordham

Richard Francis Gyug

Richard Gyug At Cruz de Ferro

This week on The Venerable Blog, we would like to draw your attention to the upcoming activities of Fordham History Professor Richard Gyug, who manages the website of the Society for Beneventan Studies.


The Society is dedicated to the study of the world surrounding the Beneventan script, a calligraphic text hand used in southern Italy and Dalmatia between the tenth and thirteenth centuries. Typically, works produced in the Beneventan script come from monastic houses and contain liturgical texts, though many classical, medical, and historical texts were also written in this hand. This field regularly generates conference proceedings, dissertation topics, and other research.

The Descent of the Holy Spirit, Italian, Montecassino, 1153  Tempera colors, gold leaf, and gold paint on parchment  7 9/16 x 5 3/16 in.  MS. LUDWIG IX 1, FOL. 289

Italian, Montecassino, 1153
Tempera colors, gold leaf, and gold paint on parchment

The Society for Beneventan Studies exists to compile these developments, functioning as a notice board for events, organizer of sessions at conferences, and sponsor of research initiatives. Their website gathers information about relevant events and initiatives and collects links to online resources for Beneventan studies.

Dr. Gyug will be giving a talk focused on Beneventan script at Drew University for the conference Communities of Italy: New and Traditional Approaches, Saturday, April 5, 2014 from 10:00 am-5:00 pm.

The lecture, entitled “Between East and West on the shores of the southern Adriatic: Dubrovnik and Kotor”, is part of a session focusing on Beneventan Italy as a textual community. Also taking part in the session is Andrew Irving of the General Theological Seminary of the Episcopal Church, whose talk will cover changes in mass book design at Montecassino.

In addition to his work as director of the Society for Beneventan Studies, Dr. Gyug has produced an edition of a Beneventan missal from Dubrovnik, an area covered in his upcoming talk. Complete with introductory material, the edition is entitled Missale Ragusinum: the Missal of Dubrovnik (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, Toronto, 1990) and can be previewed here.

To register for the conference, see the Drew Valley Medieval Association (DVMA) website.

Summer Conference on Europe After Wyclif

vaclav_brozik_-_husIn conjunction with the website, The Latin Works of John Wyclif, Fordham will be hosting a conference this coming June entitled “Europe After Wyclif”. Fordham is sponsoring the conference jointly with Michael Van Dussen at McGill University, the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada, and the Lollard Society. It is co-chaired by Fordham Theology Professor J. Patrick Hornbeck II, and will take place at the Lincoln Center Campus, June 4-6, 2014.

“Europe after Wyclif” aims to explore the impact of John Wyclif, a controversial Oxford scholar, and the L/lollards in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, particularly in continental contexts. By taking an interdisciplinary approach to the theme, the conference organizers highlight intersections between Wycliffism, traditionally considered a purely insular heresy of the fourteenth century, and broader European cultural trends. Most of the presentations will address Wycliffism or oppositions to it in England and abroad, but some will focus on related contemporary religious movements, such as the Hussites and Waldensians. Scholars of late-medieval religion, literature, and politics will find this conference exciting as it links geographic and cultural areas that are most often treated separately. The full program is listed on the conference website, along with instructions on how to register.

The Latin Works of John Wyclif, a digital initiative first undertaken by Dr. Hornbeck and Georgetown Professor Penn Szittya, includes Latin Wyclif image letters, sermons, and other works within the Wyclif corpus. The site’s continuing aim is to digitize the full canon of Wyclif’s works, first published in nineteenth- and twentieth-century editions.

The Sounds of Anglo-Norman at Fordham University

This week at the Venerable Blog, we are excited to introduce the audio content newly added to the webpage of the Center’s French of England Project. Through the efforts of Thelma Fenster and Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, as well as Matthew Schottenfeld, Television Production Manager at Fordham, the Project’s site now hosts nine audio readings of texts in Anglo-Norman, all part of an ongoing collaborative enterprise “to make the French of England audible.” 

french of outremer thumbnail (1)The first five readings were recorded informally, by various voices, during the Reading the French of England Aloud sessions at the Kalamazoo International Congresses of 2012/13. Four others were recorded especially for Fordham’s French of England Project by Professor Emerita Alice Colby-Hall (Cornell University), a leading expert in the pronunciation of the medieval French dialects and of the Anglo-Norman language.  Professor Colby-Hall also provides linguistic commentary. Each entry contains citations of a modern edition and translation, manuscript references, and a link to the external audio file. We encourage you to practice your Anglo-Norman aloud as the text scrolls past, or simply to listen along with us to these clear and instructive readings. The audio readings can be found here, at the French of England Project.

french of outremer thumbnail (1)

British Library Egerton MS 3028 f. 64r

These audio readings are only one aspect of the French of England Project. We also conduct a biweekly Anglo-Norman Reading Group. This semester, it is led by Dr. Thomas O’Donnell of Fordham’s English Department and Dr. Brian Reilly, an Old French specialist in Fordham’s Modern Languages and Literatures Department.Anyone interested in participating in the ANRG should contact the Center for Medieval Studies at We will be happy to provide you with the date and time of the next meeting and the material to be discussed.

Our next blog post will discuss the June conference to be held at Fordham University, stemming from the Latin Works of John Wyclif site. Visit Fordham’s searchable database of primary Wyclif texts to brush up before next time!