David Smigen-Rothkopf and Liz Light Recount Their Time In York

image001The Fordham-York exchange program was a wonderful experience full of challenges and inspiration! We’re two students at Fordham – Liz Light, a second-year PhD student in the English department who studies embodiment and gender in late-medieval devotional writing, and David Smigen-Rothkopf, currently finishing his MA Thesis on the idea of genealogy in Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur before starting in the English department this fall– who were chosen for the student-exchange program between the Center (and Centre) for Medieval Studies at Fordham University and the University of York. We helped out at York’s conference, Medieval Women Revisited, cosponsored by Palacky University in the Czech Republic. It was an experience filled with inspiring scholarship, excellent new studies from academics all over the world, camaraderie, and fruitful, thought-provoking conversations.

Upon our arrival from King’s Cross, Gillian Galloway kindly greeted us at the station and drove us to our apartment at which the York CMS had arranged for us to stay during our visit. We loved the apartment’s full kitchen, window view of the Minster, backyard rose garden, proximity to the CMS, and the really comfortable beds. Who could ask for more? Our hosts also gave us maps of amenities in the area, including a handwritten list of vegan restaurants for David!

On our first day we checked in with the Medieval Studies office, met everyone, and did a few quick preparations for the conference. One of the conference presenters, who lived close by, took Liz on a walk around town to point out some landmarks and get acquainted. When David arrived the next day, we went for a walk around the walls of York, through the park and the Shambles, eventually putting our heels up at the House of Trembling Madness (what a name!), a self-proclaimed medieval pub featuring a wall of over-the-top taxidermy, wooden beams flanking the ceiling, and many Yorkshire staples on the menu.

Zara Burford, PhD York, at left, and David Smigen-Rothkopf, MA, English Department, at right

Zara Burford, PhD York, at left, and David Smigen-Rothkopf, MA, English Department, at right

Our second day in York brought new adventures: a day trip with one of York’s PhD students, Zara Burford, who earlier this year had been on exchange to Fordham to help out at our “Manuscript as Medium” conference through the same bursary program that brought us to York! It was great to see her again and to have our hospitality returned with a trip through Yorkshire together.

Zara drove us to Rievaulx Abbey, a Cistercian monastery dating back to the twelfth century, now in ruins, nestled in the North York Moors. After a morning of exploring the abbey’s skeletal remains, we embarked on the seven-mile pilgrims’ walk to Helmsley Castle. The scenery was stunning, and we’re lucky it didn’t rain! Sheep, horses, cows, and the occasional hare greeted us on the walk. Arriving in Helmsley, we had tea in the castle’s walled garden before making the return trip to Rievaulx and then York.

The next day saw the beginning of the conference, but we still had time to explore York Minster in the morning! We spent a good amount of time admiring the many memorial stones and impressive architecture of the Minster, but we both agreed: the older, the better. It was amazing to go below the cathedral to see the remains of Roman and Norman York! After a quick bite to eat nearby, we made our way over to King’s Manor for the start of the conference.

The conference itself was wonderful. All of a sudden, no longer just guests, we were now hosts! The conference came to a rousing start with provocative presentations by Daniela Rywiková and Rachel Moss. Daniela’s opening

Daniela Rywiková, University of Ostrava

Daniela Rywiková, University of Ostrava

presentation about “Sin and Death Gendered” in late-medieval visual culture was especially interesting because her work is the first in Czech to investigate visual representations of “unspeakable” sins and their gendered associations. We also loved Rachel’s presentation on “(B)Romance and Rape Culture in Late Medieval England,” which asked provocative and challenging questions about homosociality and rape culture from Chaucer’s “Reeve’s Tale” to the modern-day case of Brock Turner’s recent prosecution. These two papers were an amazing way to kick off the conference, as they presented fascinating and refreshing new research. We reconvened for a homemade dinner in our apartment.

Brushing aside the jetlag with abundant coffee and Yorkshire tea, we were able to sit back and enjoy a full day of dynamic presentations and hearty discussion. The presentations were at the cutting edge of scholarship on medieval women’s social and economic roles. Through the collaborative effort of scholars from the United Kingdom and Central-Eastern Europe, the day proffered a vision beyond queens, saints, and nuns, to present a portrait of medieval Europe – indeed a multitude of portraits – where women played vital and active roles in the machinery of social, economic, and cultural life. Hollie Morgan’s opening paper discussed the magical and protective forces that ladies’ chambers played in medieval romance, tracing her findings to larger anxieties about women’s containment in contemporary culture. Gerhard Jaritz’s paper on gendered space in visual culture added important research to the field. Nicola McDonald’s presentation on women’s “unruly laughter” gave evidence for women’s reclamation of agency through irreverence, play, and “ludic misconduct.” Liz, who studies women’s embodiment and adores medieval medicinal manuals, especially enjoyed Kim Phillips’s paper on the cultural meanings of breast size for medieval women, titled “The Breasts of Virgins: Sexual Reputation and Female Bodies in Medieval Culture and Society,” which suggested that women’s breasts in the Middle Ages were active, not passive, body parts, with powerful meanings that inspired anxieties about female agency and sexuality.

After breaking for lunch, we prepared for the conference’s second half, which held a multitude of papers often exploring women’s economic roles in the Middle Ages. Maria Mogorovic presented invaluable research on marriage patterns and concubinage in medieval and early modern Istria, while Beata Mozejko explored women’s roles in Gdansk, Poland based on her groundbreaking findings from Gdansk’s written records. Vicki Blud offered a refreshing look at queer medieval women in Confessio Amantis and the Roman de Silence, revealing the instabilities of naturalized gender roles in these disruptive texts. Returning to the economic and social sphere, Cordelia Beattie asked of us, “Did Married Women Stop Making Wills in 15th Century England?” while Teresa Phipps “located” women in the town court rolls of Nottingham and Chester, showing us how medieval women traveled, trespassed, and traversed the streets, marketplaces, and homes of these towns.

The day concluded with a dinner, arranged by the York CMS, with the many speakers. Food, drinks, and laughter were in abundance, bringing the evening to a happy conclusion. David was so happy to see a vegan meal and dessert!

The next day brought us even more inspiring and thoughtful papers, focusing largely on women’s economic and social statuses. Michaela Antonin Malanikova explored spousal property relations in late medieval Czech towns while Deborah Young showed how women negotiated the boundaries of justice through their appearances as plaintiffs in Star Chamber court cases. Jeremy Goldberg, one of our kind hosts at York and the key organizer for this conference, revisited the social and economic implications for medieval women that he had considered in his 1992 book, Women, Work, and Life Cycle in a Medieval Economy, asking provocative questions about whether the so-called “position of women” can be categorized according to a single model, or through quantifiable statistical findings. Goldberg’s critique built an even more nuanced picture of medieval women’s economic position, this time revealing the problematic relationship between women and history by juxtaposing historical and literary sources.

We finished up the final day of the conference with a luncheon roundtable asking the question, “Medieval Women: Where Next?” It was wonderful to hear so many voices contributing to this discussion. What kinds of papers about medieval women are appearing in the academic world today? We talked about the need for more excellent scholarship on medieval women, especially work that crosses disciplinary boundaries and unearths concurrent and contemporary issues, such as women and power, embodiment and gender presentation, and internationalism. Provocative in its uncompromising appraisal of the current state of scholarship and its ambitious goals for the diversification of both the scope and participation in the field, this roundtable was a high point of inspiration and encouragement to both of us, and really reflected the camaraderie and solidarity that characterized the rest of the conference!

Liz Light, PhD candidate, English Department

Liz Light, PhD candidate, English Department

Our last day in York brought us to the Museum Gardens just behind the Centre for Medieval Studies, where we met some friendly owls through Yorkshire’s falconry group. A proper sendoff for a wonderful visit! We will dearly remember this fantastic experience. We want to thank the University of York’s Centre for Medieval Studies and, of course, Fordham University’s Center for Medieval Studies for such a great opportunity to meet new friends, rub shoulders with admired scholars, and encounter exciting ideas about medieval women and medieval scholarship in general!

David Smigen-Rothkopf, MA, English Department

David Smigen-Rothkopf, MA, English Department

Thank you, Fordham, and Thank You, York!
-Elizabeth Light and David Smigen-Rothkopf

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.