Medieval Studies, Uncategorized, undergraduate news, Undergraduate Studies

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.

                Larissa, who majors now in Medieval Studies, plans to continue her studies of late medieval female piety and its influence on religion, social environment, and literature.  She reflects upon her time working toward and during the conference as an invaluable chance for intellectual exchange that has aided her in expanding both her understanding of medieval studies and narratives and of how to approach them.

Rita Orazi delivered her paper, “Motivations for Crusading: Vengeance or Love?” which was an elaboration of a paper she wrote for Dr. Yeager’s “The Medieval Traveler” class.  Looking at the debate begun by Jonathan Riley-Smith and Susanna Throop over whether we can approach the act of crusading as one of love or of vengeance, Rita discussed revisionist interpretations and manipulations of history.  She emphasized the difficulty for modern audiences to understand the circumstances surrounding the Crusades and how problematic it can often be to relate the Crusades to modern conflicts in the Middle East now.

Rita, a History major minoring in Medieval Studies, also presented at the Symposium last year.  She said that, in comparison to the conference last year, this year was slightly more intimidating for the fact that the presenters were to present in panels before the entire assembled audience, rather than in smaller concurrent sessions.  However, because of this, this year’s Symposium had a livelier and more open-ended Q&A session after each panel.  While the prospect of presenting on something as wide and discipline-spanning as the Crusades was a bit daunting, Rita’s previous experience presenting and knowing that she was focusing on only on part of the discussion surrounding her subject material eased her mind and allowed her to focus all the more clearly.

The Center would like to congratulate Larissa and Rita for their presentations and would like to wish them well as they continue in their budding medievalist careers.

Undergraduate Studies

Fordham Undergrads Attend Conference in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Moravian College


This past 5 December, three Fordham undergraduate students of Dr. Alex Novikoff’s presented their respective papers at the tenth annual Undergraduate Conference in Medieval and Early Modern Studies. Rita Orazi, Kyle Stelzer, and Arthur Mezzo III were driven by Dr. Novikoff to Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where the conference was held. At this conference, undergraduate students from across the country are invited to present their finest papers pertaining to subjects Medieval and Early Modern on topics ranging from literature, art, and music to history and philosophy. The study and perception of the medieval world in the modern day also holds a prominent place in the topics discussed.

Moravian College professors, Dr. Sandra Bardsley, of the history department, and Dr. John Black, of the English department, founded the annual conference in 2006 for the purpose of nurturing and promoting undergraduate interest in historical studies by highlighting the myriad interdisciplinary methods of approach to those studies, building a bridge between scholars of medieval and early modern history and the musical and performing arts. This year’s plenary lecture was delivered by Dr. Michael Drout of Wheaton College, a scholar of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English literature and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Rita Orazi presented her paper, “The Emperor as Classical Hero in Ana Komnene’s Alexiad,” which demonstrates how Ana Komnene proclaims her Roman identity in the Alexiad in the manner in which she makes her father, Alexios, out to be a hero of a Homeric epic. Rita highlighted that Ana Komnene’s narrative focuses on the main channels of power in Constantinople (an archetypical trait of Roman histories), and her distrust of the barbarian “other,” a role occupied by the Franks. Acting not only as a body of work meant to praise her father, the Alexiad may also have served as a defense or justification for Alexios’ actions during the events of the First Crusade, as a result of which his popularity dwindled. Rita believes the fact that this work is one of only two surviving Byzantine accounts of Alexios’ reign possibly indicates that Ana Komnene wrote of her father fearing none other would care to do so, and wanted to leave a positive view of her father for future generations to inherit. Rita Orazi, having set her sights on medical school, was drawn to the Alexiad because, aside from it being one of the few Byzantine accounts of Alexios’ reign, Ana Komnene herself was a practicing and teaching physician and ran a hospital in Constantinople.

Arthur Mezzo III’s “God and King: Biographies of Medieval Frankish Kings,” explored the biographies of medieval Frankish rulers and the parallels they drew between themselves and stories and contemporary images of Christ. Arthur paid special attention to the works of Gregory of Tours, Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne, and the anonymously authored panegyric Beatus Ludovicus, composed for the canonization of Louis IX.

Kyle Stelzer’s paper, “The Tibyan: One Ruler’s Account of Christian-Muslim Relations in Eleventh-Century Iberia,” focuses on the Tibyan: Memoirs of ‘Abdallah ibn Buluggin, Last Zirid Amir of Granada, an autobiography discovered by Levi Provencal in 1933 and translated into English in 1986. These memoirs provide a firsthand account of the history of the Zirid dynasty of the Ta’ifa of Granada from circa 1013-1095. ‘Abdallah ibn Buluggin’s autobiography is one of a very few accounts of eleventh century Al-Andalus actually written in the eleventh century. ‘Abdallah’s recounting of Andalusian politics, society, and culture provide both historical and personal insight into the era. Kyle presents the Tibyan more specifically as elucidating both the ethno-racial hostilities present amongst Muslim communities and the struggles for power between the various Muslim and Christian states of the Iberian Peninsula. This drastically modifies the common notion of how Muslims, Christians, and Jews related to one-another and lived together, referred to often as “La Convivencia,” or, “The Coexistence,” and the multicultural identity of the Iberian Peninsula.

Our most heartfelt congratulations are extended to the presenters for their excellent work and for their contributions.


By Kevin Vogelaar and Andrew O’Sullivan