Professor David d’Avray at Magdalene Medievalists

We are delighted to announce that our speaker for Easter Term 2017 will be Professor David d’Avray (University College London), who will be addressing us on Tuesday the 25th of April on the topic:

‘Genres as Social Systems in the Middle Ages’

The abstract for the talk is as follows:

In Britain, empirical scholars and theory aficionados sometimes seem to belong to different camps, but their relationship ought to be symbiotic (as it often is in Germany). The loose everyday senses of ‘genre’ are too muddled to be serviceable in the framing of intelligent questions for empirical research, and for more carefully thought out concepts the empirical scholar can learn from literary and social theorists. The paper will introduce some of the ideas about genre of H. R. Jauss, and of N. Luhmann about social systems, and then show the affinities between them. The resulting ‘mise’ of concepts will be used to analyse two medieval genres, the Romance and Canon Law.

David d’Avray is a medievalist who has worked on medieval marriage, on preaching, on attitudes to kingship and death, and on rationalities. He is currently working on royal annulments and papal dispensations, instrumental ethics in the Middle Ages, and ‘longue durée’ structures of papal history, from the 4th century decretal legislation Congregatio Concilii after Trent. His new books Dissolving Royal Marriages: A Documentary History, 860-1600 and Papacy, Monarchy and Marriage, 860-1600 have just been published.

The talk will be held at 6pm in the Parlour, First Court, Magdalene College.

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Dr Jordi Sánchez-Martí at Magdalene Medievalists

We are very pleased to announce that our last speaker for the academic year is Dr Jordi Sánchez-Martí (University of Alicante), who will be addressing us on Tuesday 17 May on the subject of:

‘The English Early Printers and Medieval Romance from a Continental Perspective’

The abstract for the talk is as follows:

The first book printed in English is a romance, namely the Recuyell of the histories of Troy, which significantly was published not in England but on the Continent. Originally composed in French by Raoul Lefèvre, the Recuyell was both rendered into English and printed by William Caxton in Flanders in ca. 1473. All the romances printed by Caxton were in prose and, except for Malory’s Morte Darthur, originated on the Continent. The predominance of the printed prose romances in England during the incunabular period can be regarded as an imposition of a foreign literary fashion and a departure from the English romance tradition in the manuscript period, when verse was preferred to prose. To what extent did Caxton’s residence on the Continent determine the type of romance texts that obtained printed distribution in English? Were the early English printers following developments on the Continent, or were they instead shaping European romance printing? Did the early English printers participate in the creation of a European canon of romances? Using the tools of enumerative bibliography, this paper hopes to improve our understanding of romance printing in English by placing this commercial and literary activity in its European context and comparing it to continental printing trends.

Dr Jordi Sánchez-Martí is a senior lecturer in English Literature at the University of Alicante. The main focus of his research has been the study of the romance genre in late medieval England, with a particular interest in the transition of the Middle English verse romances from manuscript to print. His research on this topic has appeared in journals such as Modern Philology, Neuphilologische Mitteilungen, and Word & Image. More recently he has considered the publication of Iberian chivalric romances in early modern England and is currently finishing a critical edition of Anthony Munday’s Palmerin d’Oliva (1588), to be published in the Medieval and Renaissance Texts and Studies series from the University of Arizona.

As usual, the talk will take place at 6 pm in the Parlour, First Court, Magdalene College.

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Dr Marco Nievergelt at Magdalene Medievalists

We are delighted to announce that our speaker for Lent term is Dr Marco Nievergelt (Paris Institute for Advanced Studies), who will be giving a colloquium on Tuesday 23 February, entitled:

‘The Shadow of Faux Semblant: Fiction, Truth, and Deception in Fourteenth-Century Allegorical Poetry (France, England, Italy)’

The abstract for the talk is as follows:

The Roman de la Rose is not only one of the most influential literary texts of the later middle ages (surviving in over 300 Manuscripts), but it is also one of the most problematic and intellectually challenging texts of the period. Far from being a ‘canonical’ work in the ordinary sense, the Rose in fact invites its readers to interrogate the very notion of literary authorship and discursive authority. Rather than affirming his own identity as author in self-confident fashion, as many readers of this influential poem assume, Jean de Meun’s attitude towards his own poetic craft is in fact deeply ambivalent and ironic. This culminates in the exact centre of the poem, with the appearance of the character of Faux Semblant, the embodiment of hypocrisy and deception. As a personification of the liar-paradox, Faux Semblant thus crystallises a whole range of anxieties concerning the epistemological status of literary fiction, and this concern comes to play a central role in later European literature influenced by the Rose, notably in the work of such figures as Machaut and Deguileville in France, Langland and Chaucer in England, or Dante and his contemporaries in Italy. In this paper I propose an initial sketch for a wider study of a European reception history of the Rose, with particular attention to the ethical function of poetry, and its problematic, unstable relation to truth and deception.

Dr Marco Nievergelt is currently a EURIAS research fellow at the Paris Institute for Advanced Studies (2015-2016), and is working on a book-length study entitled Allegory as Epistemology: Dream-Vision Poetry on Language, Cognition, and Experience. His research interests include allegorical literature, chivalric literature and culture, Arthurian literature, Anglo-French cultural relations, and the history of literary self-representation from the medieval to the early modern period. His first book is entitled Allegorical Quests from Deguileville to Spenser.

The Talk will take place at 6pm in the Parlour, First Court, Magdalene College.

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Dr Megan Leitch at Magdalene Medievalists

We are pleased to announce that our last speaker of the academic year is Dr Megan Leitch (Cardiff University), who will be giving a colloquium on Tuesday 2nd June, entitled:

Chaucer, Hypertextuality, and the Memory of Middle English Popular Romance

The abstract for the talk is as follows:

This paper reconsiders the cultural and cognitive work of Middle English popular romance and the relationship of Chaucer’s Sir Thopas to this insular genre. The narrator’s proposition that Sir Thopas trumps ‘Horn child’ and ‘Lybeux’, ‘Beves and sir Gy’ is a playful way of reinforcing Chaucer’s mockery of the shortcomings of both insular romance and his own pilgrim persona. However, as this paper will explore, Chaucer’s comparative catalogue of protagonists also finds a number of sophisticated parallels in other English romances, from the chivalric Richard Coer de Lyon and the pious Emaré to the bourgeois or burlesque Squire of Low Degree. Even this satirical yet laudatory list in ‘Sir Thopas’, then, further demonstrates Chaucer’s indebtedness to the conventions that other Middle English romances likewise deploy. Accordingly, this paper is concerned with the ways in which ‘Sir Thopas’ is a romance as well as the ways in which it may respond to romance in parodic fashion. This paper will examine the hermeneutics of Middle English popular romances through their explicit intertextual references. This intertextual analysis, I suggest, can further elucidate both the ethics and the enjoyment that these narratives offer, in their form as well as in their content.

Dr Megan Leitch is Lecturer in English Literature at Cardiff University. She received her PhD from the University of Cambridge in 2012. She is the author of Romancing Treason: The Literature of the Wars of the Roses (Oxford University Press, 2015), and has published essays in journals including Medium Aevum, The Chaucer Review, and Arthurian Literature. Her research interests include romance, Arthurian Literature, Chaucer, and the fifteenth century; she is currently working on a monograph on Sleep and its Spaces in the Pre-modern Imagination.

The talk will take place at 6pm in the Parlour, First Court, Magdalene College.

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Professor C. David Benson at Magdalene Medievalists

We are very pleased to announce that our first speaker of the new 2014-15 academic year will be Professor C. David Benson (Professor of Medieval English, University of Connecticut), who will be giving a colloquium on Tuesday 28th October, 2014.

The title of Prof. Benson’s talk is: “Fear and Fascination: The Marvels of Rome in a Middle English Poem.”

Professor Benson has written widely on medieval literature. Among his books are: Public Piers Plowman: Medieval Scholarship and Late Medieval CultureThe Manuscripts of Piers Plowman: The B-Version (with Lynne Blanchfield); Critical Essays on Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde and His Early Major Poems (ed.); Chaucer’s Troilus and CriseydeChaucer’s Religious Tales (ed. with Elizabeth Robertson); Chaucer’s Drama of Style: Poetic Variety and Contrast in the Canterbury Tales; and The History of Troy in Middle English Literature.

As in previous years, the colloquium will take place at 6pm in the Parlour in Magdalene College (located in First Court, to the left of the Porters’ Lodge), although on this occasion there will not be an opportunity to go for dinner with the speaker afterwards.

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Dr Hannah Burrows at Magdalene Medievalists

Our next speaker this academic year is Dr Hannah Burrows (Durham University), who will be giving a colloquium on Tuesday, 11th March, entitled:

Old Norse Kennings: gátur skálda (the riddles of the skalds)?

The abstract provided for this talk is as follows:

“To describe kennings, the characteristic feature of Old Norse skaldic diction, as ‘riddling’ or ‘riddle-like’ is common and helpful. But to what extent are kennings actually like Old Norse riddles? Appropriately enough, the small corpus of Old Norse gátur (riddles) remains shrouded in mystery: where do they come from? What are they for? In this paper, I will probe the kenning-riddle comparison in the context of the Old Norse riddle corpus (rather than in terms of the use of the modern English word) to see exactly where the similarities lie, and whether this can shed any light on the composition and function of the Old Norse riddles. In turn, I hope to provide a new perspective on the mental processes involved in the composition and comprehension of kennings, the artistry involved in each figure, and the conceptions of the world they reveal.”

Dr Burrows is currently COFUND International Junior Research Fellow in the Department of English Studies, Durham University, where she is engaged in writing a monograph on riddles and riddling language in Old Norse-Icelandic poetry. She is also Bibliographic Editor for the international editing project Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages ( and has edited the poetry from Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks for the project. Her doctoral thesis (from the University of York) was on Literary-Legal Relations in Commonwealth Period Iceland, and she has published several papers in this area.

The talk will take place at 6pm in the Parlour at Magdalene. We have ten spaces to come for dinner with the speaker afterwards at a local restaurant, so please let us know if you would like to come (via email to

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Dr Jaclyn Rasjic at Magdalene Medievalists

On Wednesday, 4th December at 6pm, Dr Jaclyn Rajsic will give a colloquium:

Revising the British Past in some Fifteenth-Century Genealogical Rolls.

Dr Rajsic is currently a Postdoctoral Research Assistant in the School of English at Birmingham City University, where she is helping to research and design a bilingual thesaurus database of Anglo-Norman and Middle English words used in daily life from c. 1200–c. 1450. The project aims to provide fresh insight into the development of and interactions between the medieval French and English languages at a time of their overlapping presence and use, and hopes to be able to shed light on questions of code-switching and language borrowing. She completed her D.Phil. in English at the University of Oxford in January 2013. Her doctoral thesis examined the ideological role and textual re-shaping of mythical British history in short chronicles and genealogies of England’s kings written in Anglo-Norman, Latin and English from the twelfth to the fifteenth century. She continues her research on Brut history and genealogical rolls alongside her postdoctoral work.

The talk will take place at 6pm in the Parlour at Magdalene. All are very welcome to come for dinner afterwards at a local restaurant, although unfortunately, due to transport issues, the speaker will not be able to join us this time as per usual.

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Dr Joanna Bellis at Magdalene Medievalists

On Tuesday, 30th April at 6pm, Dr Joanna Bellis (Pembroke College, Cambridge), will give a colloquium:

On the trail of the ‘trew copy’: the manuscripts of John Page’s The Siege of Rouen.

Dr Bellis is currently the Harry S. Guggenheim Research Fellow at Pembroke College. As well as preparing an edition of John Page’s eyewitness poem The Siege of Rouen, she is working on a monograph provisionally entitled The Word in the Sword: Writing the Hundred Years War, 1337-1600. This will discuss attitudes to language and ‘writing history’ in accounts of the conflict between England and France from the contemporary fourteenth- and fifteenth-century chroniclers and poets who witnessed it, to later sixteenth-century narrators for whom it was their recent history, up to Shakespeare’s history plays. Future projects include a book on representing atrocity in medieval and early modern literature, and a student edition of accounts of the Hundred Years War.

The talk will be held at Magdalene, in the parlour. We have eight spaces to join Dr Bellis afterwards for dinner at a local restaurant. To book your place, please e-mail mms [at] by 12pm on Monday, April 29th.

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Dr Laura Ashe at Magdalene Medievalists

Our next speaker is Dr Laura Ashe (Worcester College, Oxford), who will be giving a colloquium on Monday, 18th February:

‘Self, love, and God: Christina of Markyate and the Ancrene Wisse’.

Dr Ashe works primarily on the literature, history and culture of England during the High Middle Ages, c.1000-1400. Her first book, Fiction and History in England, 1066-1200, was a study of the ideologies of national identity, the genres of romance and chronicle, and the colonial discourses of the English in medieval Ireland. She is currently writing volume one of the new Oxford English Literary History (1000-1350). Wider research interests include romances, saints’ lives, multilingualism, crusading, kingship, sanctity, and chivalry.

The talk will be held at 6pm in the parlour at Magdalene. All are very welcome to join us afterwards at a local restaurant.


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Dr Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough at Magdalene Medievalists

At 6pm, on Tuesday 30th October, Dr Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough will be giving at talk at Magdalene College:

 ‘”They call me Troll”: Things That Go Bump in the Night in Old Norse Literature’.

Dr Barraclough is currently a fellow of Queen’s College, Oxford. Research interests include hybridity in post-classical sagas, medieval Icelandic outlaws and the conceptual place of Greenland and Vinland in the Norse world. Her current project is ‘Mapping the Viking World: Conceptualising Geography and Constructing Identity in Saga Literature’, an exploration of how the medieval Icelanders conceptualised the geography of the world and their place within it through the sagas.

The talk will take place in the Parlour, at Magdalene. All are very welcome to join us for dinner afterwards at a local restaurant.

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