Material Witness: Taste, Contact and Memory

Our very popular graduate training programme, funded by the CHASE consortium, is back again for 2017 – book now to avoid disappointment!

Material Witness: Taste, Contact and Memory

University of Kent, 22nd-24th May 2017.

Material Witness this year is taking the form of a residential course at the University of Kent where we will work intensively to explore theoretical concepts about materiality in respect of the ideas of ‘taste’, ‘contact’ and ‘memory’. Taste has been a key concept in respect of material culture studies since the publication of Pierre Bourdieu’s Distinction (1984), with his concept of ‘cultural capital’ intimately linked to the accrual of particular, socially prestigious kinds of taste. Guided by some experts in material culture theory, the residential will explore how ideas of ‘contact’– in terms of both communication between people and the sense of touch – and the faculty of memory allow us to re-examine this critical concept. The residential will feature practical sessions, through which you will work in detail with various types of material things as critical prompts, alongside reading and discussion groups around key theory in the field. Delegates will be asked to apply readings to their own research before presenting on these findings. The residential, and the delegates’ incorporation of their readings into their own research, will feature on the Material Web (, and worked up versions will be published as a special issue in the CHASE Encounters journal.

Whilst the programme is run by pre-modernists, it strongly encourages participants from a range of disciplines and periods, so that we can debate with and learn from one another.

To book, go to:


Monday 22nd May

Session 1 (1-2): Introductions and discussion of preliminary reading; adoption of objects for discussion and writing project.

Session 2 (3-5): Beaney House of Art and Knowledge to get to know the objects.

Session 3 (6-7): Plenary lecture, Dr Kate Smith, University of Birmingham, ‘The Significance of Dispossession: Understanding Absence and Loss in Material Culture Studies’

Tuesday 23rd May

Session 1 (10-12): Discussion of reading set for the day on ‘Taste’, Dr Stephen Kelly, Queen’s Belfast.

Session 2 (1-3): Visit to Canterbury Cathedral Archive and Library to view documents and other objects.

Session 3 (4-6): Writing session for all participants (production of presentation for following morning/materials for blog), with Dr Kelly.

Session 4 (6-7): Plenary lecture, Prof William Engle, Sewanee: The University of the South, on ‘Material Traces of Early Modern Mnemonic Culture’.

Wednesday 24th May

Session 1 (9-11): Presentation on chosen objects.

Session 2 (11:30-12:30): Roundtable on Taste, Contact and Memory (Engel, Kelly, Richardson, Perry and others).

Session 3 (12:30-1): Final round-up and planning of written work.

Material Culture Web Workshop May 2017

Material Culture and Writing Practice from Antiquity to the Early Modern period: an interdisciplinary workshop

25th to 26th May 2017

Sibson Building, Seminar room 6, University of Kent

Registration fees: £40 or £20 (discounted price). Bookings open.

Organised by the Centre for Late Antique Archaeology, and Centre for Early Medieval and Modern Studies, University of Kent, and the Department of Archaeology, University of Reading,

Supported by the School of European Culture and Languages and School of English, University of Kent, the Roman Society, and the Department of Archaeology, University of Reading.

Literacy is a central aspect of society from antiquity to the present day, but there is often a disconnect between the study of written texts and the attention paid to the materiality of their production and consumption. This workshop aims to address the particular qualities of the materiality of writing in the pre-modern period, an era in which the technologies of writing by hand were paramount. Scholars researching material aspects of writing exist within diverse disciplines (Archaeology, Art-history, Calligraphy, Classics, English, History, Papyrology and Palaeography). Methods and approaches are diverse, ranging from studies of writing form and style, to technologies of writing and the wider social context of literacy and cultural transmission. Within individual disciplines, there are established traditions of scholarship that tend to constrain how the material is approached, and there is little cross-fertilization between scholars working either in different periods, or from different disciplinary perspectives. The workshop brings together scholars and experts across a wide range of periods and disciplines to foster new perspectives and to explore future directions that encourage interdisciplinary collaboration. This will include a consideration of writing as a material practice, the subsequent treatment and curation of writing documents, and the relationship between writing equipment and written documents. We will provide a fresh exploration of writing practices from Antiquity to the Early Modern period and consider the interplay between practices of literacy and diverse aspects of social and cultural identities and experience. A practical calligraphy session and a trip to Canterbury Cathedral Archive are included in order to foster an awareness of the material processes and equipment of writing, enabling scholars to gain new perspectives on the historical material culture that they study.


Thursday 25 May from 11 a.m. – 5.00 p.m. (Sibson Building, Seminar Room 6, University of Kent)
11.00 a.m. – 12.00 p.m. Coffee and registration (Foyer of Sibson Building)
Papers are 15 minutes long with 5 minutes for questions.

Session: Economy of Manuscripts
12.00- 12.20 p.m. Alison Wiggins: Material meanings and Tudor bookkeeping: the case of the production and reception of Bess of Hardwick’s household financial accounts (c.1548-1608)
12.20- 12.40 Julia Crick: Calligraphy and cursivity in Insular writing before 1050.
12.40 – 1.00 p.m. Ryan Perry: Utility Grade Scripts and Manuals of Religious Instruction
1.00 p.m. – 2.00 p.m. Lunch (Foyer of Sibson Building)

Session: Writing Equipment and Writing Practice
2.00 – 2.20 p.m. Peter Kruschwitz: Thinking about writing
2.20- 2.40 p.m. Ellen Swift: Investigating the relationship between writing equipment and writing practice: book hands and Roman and late antique reed pens
2.40- 3.00 p.m. Susan Moor:  Framing the Page: measurement and freedom in medieval manuscripts
3.00 – 3.30 p.m. Coffee  (Foyer of Sibson Building)
3.30-3.50 p.m. Hella Eckardt: Writing in ink – the archaeology of Roman inkwells
3.50- 4.10 p.m. Ewan Clayton:  A craftsman’s perspective on scribal workplaces: ancient and modern (keynote)

4.10 – 5.00 p.m. Discussion

Friday 26 May from 10 a.m. – 4.00 p.m. (Woolf College, Seminar Room 6, University of Kent)
Session: Transmission of writing/circulation of texts
10.00  – 10.20 a.m. Matthew Nicholls: Libraries and writing in the Roman world
10.20 – 10.40 a.m. Simon Horobin:  “Go litel bok”: The Manuscript Circulation of Chaucer’s Works
10.40 – 11.00 a.m. Daniel Smith: Unfolding action: letters as props in the early modern theatre
11.00 – 11.30 a.m. Coffee (Foyer of Woolf College)
11.30 – 12. 00 p.m. Discussion
12.00 pm. – 1.30 p.m. Lunch (Foyer of Woolf College)
1.30  – 2.00 p.m. Cherrell Avery, Calligraphy Drop-in session (Woolf Seminar Room 6)
2.00 – 4.00 p.m. Cherrell Avery, Calligraphy Workshop on Uncial Script (Woolf Seminar Room 6).
3.00 – 4.00 p.m. Cathedral Archive Tour  (Cathedral staff)

We are pleased to confirm that we are able to accommodate everyone’s first choice for Friday afternoon activities. For those taking the archive tour, you may wish to attend the calligraphy drop-in session before leaving campus.

It takes about half an hour to walk into the centre of town from campus, or there are regular buses.

University and Cathedral renew collaborative working agreement

On 17 March, representatives from The University of Kent and Canterbury Cathedral renewed the Memorandum of Understanding they first signed in 2014.

The signing ceremony took place in the Cathedral Archives & Library with Dr Simon Kirchin, Kent’s Dean for the Humanities, and Canon Librarian The Revd Christopher Irvine ratifying the new three-year agreement.

The signing was attended by: Dr Juliette Pattinson, Head of the University’s School of History; Cressida Williams, Head of Archives & Library, Canterbury Cathedral; Jeremy Carrette, Professor of Philosophy, Religion and Culture and Head of the School of European Culture and Languages; Catherine Richardson, Professor of Early Modern Studies in the School of English; and John Sotillo, Kent’s Director of Information Services, among others.

The first MOU resulted in a number of very successful projects. These included:

  • a Festival of Ideas (‘Questions of Space’) which presented a series of public interactive talks, walks, sights and sounds created by Humanities staff at Kent and hosted by the Cathedral;
    work opportunities and placements at the Cathedral for students;
    a number of research and public events around the Gateways to the First World War project;
    Shakespeare 400, with the University and the Cathedral, alongside other partners, offering a local view of the Bard’s work.

The MOU also resulted in a strong and evolving relationship between the Cathedral and Kent’s Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, as well as a close partnership between the Cathedral Archives & Library and the University’s Special Collections & Archives.

Anticipated notable events and projects for the next three years include a second Festival of Ideas and the delivery of the Heritage Lottery-funded project ‘The Canterbury Journey’.

MEMS Summer Festival returns in June

Now in its third year, we’re delighted to announce that the MEMS Festival will once again be taking place in mid-June (dates to be confirmed very soon). We would like as many students and staff as possible to come and speak about their work – please see the call for papers, below, which invites submissions by the 28th April.

MEMS Festival is a two-day celebration of all research in the medieval and early modern periods, including the study of literature, history, drama, art, politics, religion, and everyday culture of different nations from c.400-1800. The festival, hosted at the University of Kent, is designed to bring together and create networks between scholars from a range of disciplines, academic schools, and institutions. MEMS Festival aims to be an informal space in which postgraduate students, early career researchers and academics can share ideas and foster conversations, and build a greater sense of community – we therefore invite the following:

  • Abstracts of c. 250 words for individual research papers of 20 minutes in length on any subject contained within the Medieval and Early Modern periods. Work in its early stages is as welcome as more advanced projects, as are less traditional paper formats.
  •  Abstracts of c. 700 words for a three-person panel to present on a particular subject or theme relevant to the Medieval and Early Modern periods.

If you have an idea but no fellow panelists we are happy to publicise it for you through our channels and under our Festival banner, but with your own contact details. Please contact us at the email below.

This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase some of your own research, share ways of working, benefit from the ideas of others, and develop networks for future collaboration.

Please submit all paper and panel applications to: by 28th April 2017

MEMS supports plan to save Heritage Museum

The City Council is consulting on closure of the Canterbury Heritage Museum.

Those named below call on the City Council NOT to close the Museum and deny access to a comprehensive collection telling the story of Canterbury’s heritage, but to work with a consortium of archaeologists, historians, societies, universities, arts organisations, community groups, schools and volunteers, to renew and re-present the buildings and collections for the 21st century.

Our ambition will be to transform the building into a dynamic hub to explore and share new insights into the city for people who live, work or study in Canterbury or who come as visitors.

The first aim of our new consortium of supporters will be to work with Canterbury City Council on a plan to save the Museum in partnership. If that fails, we propose to form a new Trust to apply to take over operational management of the Museum, its collections and heritage buildings in Stour Street.

We will then seek to raise funds to redisplay the buildings and collections and promote them. We will also seek to provide programmes of learning and creative engagement for local people and visitors to experience and enjoy the whole of the city’s story set in one of Canterbury’s most inspiring and complete medieval buildings.

We call on the City Council to work with the consortium to achieve these objectives.

  • List of supporting institutions:
    Canterbury Archaeological Trust
    Friends of Canterbury Archaeological Trust
    Canterbury Christ Church University
    Centre for Kent History and Heritage, Canterbury Christchurch Uni
    Centre for Heritage, University of Kent
    Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, University of Kent
    The Canterbury Society
    Kent Archaeological Society
    Canterbury Heritage Design Forum
    Canterbury branch of the Historical Association
    Department of Classical & Archaeological Studies, University of Kent
    Lawrence and Marjorie Lyle (awarded Freedom of the City for their lifelong work on Canterbury)
    Canterbury Tourist Guides
    The Oaten Hill and South Canterbury Association Local History Group

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The 5th Annual TEEME Conference: 3-5 November

‘Matters of Representation’ will be the theme of the fifth annual Text and Event in Early Modern Europe (TEEME) conference, taking place from 3rd-5th November, 2016 at the University of Kent, Canterbury, UK. The conference will feature keynote speeches from:

  • Jonathan Gil Harris, Professor of English, Ashoka University, India
  • Catherine Richardson, Professor of Early Modern Studies, University of Kent, UK
  • Léonie Seliger, Director, Stained Glass Studio, Canterbury Cathedral, UK

Questions concerning the study of objects can provide productive entry points to an exploration of early modern texts and events because they problematize the desire to achieve access to the past via the (apparent) tangibility of objects, and because the early modern period was marked by an acquisitive materialism, described by Lisa Jardine as ‘a celebration of the urge to own, the curiosity to possess the treasures of other cultures, and pride in a new craftsmanship which can make the most humdrum commodities desirable’.

Speakers presenting at this conference will thus begin with an object. By this method, we would like to observe how our discussions develop as they move from these material beginnings through the perspectives of each speaker, like the trajectories of objects whose use and meaning changes as they pass through different cultures across time and space. This is not a conference about early modern objects or material culture, however; rather, we hope that this method will allow us to ask new questions and achieve new insights into the social and historical lives of the objects, subjects, texts, events, images, ideologies, and other ideas that we will discuss.

Please see the conference website for more information and contact details.

TEEME is an international doctoral programme in early modern studies funded by the European Union. It is structured around a unique collaboration between university-based researchers in the Humanities and the cultural and creative sector in four EU countries (United Kingdom, Germany, Portugal, Czech Republic). The partnership will foster intercultural dialogue and disseminate the best research in history, literature and culture to the wider community.


The annual Chaucer Lecture: 13 October 2016, 6pm

Given by Professor Stephen Rigby of the University of Manchester, this year’s Chaucer Lecture is entitled, Three Approaches to Chaucer in Context. The open lecture will take place on Thursday, 13th October at 6.00pm in Woolf College’s Lecture Theatre, at the University of Kent’s Canterbury Campus. All are welcome and a wine reception will follow the lecture.

Stephen Rigby is Emeritus Professor at the University of Manchester. One of his key interests in research and teaching is late medieval English literature in its historical context. Professor Rigby’s Chaucer in Context was a survey of critical attempts to establish the social meaning of medieval literature, an area he also explored in his article on medieval defences of women for Chaucer Review, his discussion of literature as social ideology in the Companion to Britain in the Later Middle Ages and his Wisdom and Chivalry which discusses Chaucer’s ‘Knight’s Tale’ in relation to medieval political theory.

He is currently editing a volume for Oxford University Press in which historians attempt to locate Chaucer’s pilgrims in the ‘General Prologue’ to the Canterbury Tales in their historical context and future projects include an article on the representation of peasants in medieval social ideology.


Illuminating the Past: free workshop and talks

If you would like to know more about the making and meaning of Gothic colour, then come along to Illuminating the Past, a one-day (and totally free!) cultural engagement event. On Thursday 16 June 2016, we have planned an interactive workshop and a lively series of talks by graduate students and early career scholars to showcase exciting new approaches to understanding the Gothic imagination. Illuminating the Past will take place at the Eastbridge Hospital of St Thomas the Martyr, a twelfth-century pilgrims’ residence located in the centre of historic Canterbury. To enhance the atmosphere of this special occasion, we are delighted that the choir of the University of Kent Minerva voices (@Minerva_Voices) will offer live performances of music from the Gothic era.

The programme for these talks is as follows:

9.00–9.15 Registration

9.15–9.30 Welcome and introduction to Illuminating the Past (Emily Guerry)

9.30–10.45 Session I: Building Gothic

1) James Hillson, University of York

How did that get there? International architectural exchange in Plantagenet royal patronage 1227-1307

2) Jana Gajdosova, University of Cambridge

The Decorated Style in Prague? The Evolution of Curvilinear Tracery in Central Europe

3) Jeffrey Miller, The Bartlett School of Architecture, University College London

Building Gothic Paris: The Left Bank Enclosure of King Philip Augustus

10.45–11.00 Coffee Break

During the first coffee break, Minerva Voices will perform the following musical pieces:

Kyrie – Hildegard; Ave Verum – Mozart; Da Pacem Domine – Gounod; Danse, ikke gratte na – Norwegian song; Wiegenlied (Lullaby) – Brahms

11.00–12.15 Session II: Sculpting Gothic

1) Cassandra Harrington, University of Kent

Sin or Salvation? Foliate Heads in the Margins of Chartres Cathedral

2) Robert Hawkins, University of Cambridge

Darkness Visible: Personifications of Light and Darkness from the North Porch of Chartres Cathedral

3) Ingrid Lunnan-Nøsdeth, Norwegian University of Science & Technology and the Victoria and Albert Museum

Reframing the Margin: The Human Face as Beauty or Beast

12.15–13.15 Lunch break

During the lunch break, Minerva voices will perform the following musical pieces:

Ah, Robin – Corynsh; Stabat Mater – Tartini; Unamuno – Lucier; O Swallow, Swallow – Holst; The Song of Roland

13.15– 14.30 Session III: Painting Gothic

1) Emily Guerry, University of Kent

Mistakes and Miracles: The Saint Maurille mural cycle in Angers Cathedral

2) Sophie Kelly, University of Kent

Heavenly Monstrosities: The Three-headed Trinity in Gothic Art

3) Katie Toussaint-Jackson, University of Kent

The Annunciation mural in the Sainte-Chapelle: The use of wall painting as a solution to blank space

14.30–14.45 Coffee break

14.45–16.00 Session IV: Reinventing Gothic

1) George Younge, University of York

Old English Sources of the Theological Windows at Canterbury Cathedral (1174 x c.1200)

2) Anya Burgon, University of Cambridge

The Art of Invention in the works of Bernard Silvestris and Alan of Lille

3) Hannah Place, University of Kent

The Form and Function of Female Bust Reliquaries: A Case Study of Saint Ursula and the 11,000 Virgins of Cologne

16.00–16.30 Special Lecture on Gothic Colour

Jayne Wackett, AHRC Cultural Engagement Fellow

Coloured with Meaning: New Discoveries at Canterbury Cathedral

16.30–17.00 Closing remarks (Emily Guerry)

We are deeply grateful to the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) and the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) at the University of Kent for supporting this cultural engagement event.

Illuminating the Past will serve as a ‘full-day preview’ for the MEMS Festival, which will take place in the Grimond building at the University of Kent campus from 17–18 June 2016. Also, on this occasion, there will be two more Illuminating the Past panels that examine stained glass windows and illuminated manuscripts on the morning of Friday 17 June 2016:

10.15–11.30 Session I: Beyond Gothic Glass

1) Oliver Fearon, University of York

I will that a knoleche be sought’: The patronage of heraldic displays for English houses c.1490-1540

2) Jack Wilcox, University of Kent

‘O Radix Jesse’: The Iconography of Tree of Jesse Window

3) Bahar Badiee, University of Kent

 Orsi: Coloured Windows of Iran

11.30–11.50 Coffee break

11.50–13.00 Session II: Picturing Gothic

1) Roísín Astell, University of Oxford

Visualising the Visionary: Artistic Transmission and Adaptation in BnF MS Lat 14410

2) Amy Jeffs, University of Cambridge

Sight, Sightlessness and the Cult of Edward the Confessor

3) Dan Smith, University of Kent

The Man of Sorrows and the Domesman



Unlocking Canterbury


Many stories about Tudor and Stuart Canterbury can be unlocked from the Cathedral Archives. You can journey on our enormous floor map of historic Canterbury, hearing tales of ordinary people in their own words – from poor immigrants and single mothers to Cathedral officials and local governors.

Catherine Richardson, Avril Leach, Zoe Hudson and Danielle van den Heuvel (Medieval and Early Modern Studies)

Part of the Questions of Space Festival, Canterbury Cathedral, 20 &21 June 2016.

Listen to Programme here

Questions of Space Festival

On the 20 and 21 June 2016 Canterbury Cathedral hosts a series of public talks, walks, sights and sounds. The Festival of Ideas emerged from the partnership between the University of Kent and the Cathedral. The festival aims to engage new audiences with heritage as part of the Cathedral’s developing Canterbury Journey project.

There are several pre-modern material projects taking place as part of this event, including the following:

Off with their Heads!

As condemned prisoners began their route through Canterbury to execution at Oaten Hill in Renaissance times, the procession around them was full of song. This event recreates their journey to death, inviting you to hear and sing ballads of execution along the way.

Una McIlvenna (English)

Unlocking Canterbury

Many stories about Tudor and Stuart Canterbury can be unlocked from the Cathedral Archives. You can journey on our enormous floor map of historic Canterbury, hearing tales of ordinary people in their own words – from poor immigrants and single mothers to Cathedral officials and local governors.

Catherine Richardson, Avril Leach, Zoe Hudson and Danielle van den Heuvel (Medieval and Early Modern Studies)

Illuminating the Past

In a breath-taking display, this is a light projection onto the Cathedral exterior at night. The talk and spectacular illuminations will reveal how Britain’s first Gothic building was once adorned in splendid colours, and bring the past magically to life.

Emily Guerry (History)

Garden Paradise

What does a garden mean to you? An ancient map of the Cathedral grounds will help us to explore. Look at how through time gardens have been sacred places, romantic retreats, and places to think about how we connect with the environment.

Karen Jones, Barbara Bombi and Emily Guerry (History)

Bird’s Eye View

We will be delving into the archives to discover Christopher Packe, who in the 1700s climbed Bell Harry Tower to get a “bird’s eye view” of East Kent and, with the help of his theodolite (an instrument for taking precise measurements) created a new kind of map.

Gordana Fontana-Giusti (Architecture)

Secret Saints

Follow a winding trail to discover the stories and symbols behind the hidden and unexpected saints of Canterbury Cathedral. A family torn apart by pirates; children carried off by wild animals; a virgin martyr, tortured when her teeth are pulled out; the man who pinched the Devil’s nose; the woman who helped bring Christianity to England… all this and more will be revealed by looking at tombs, inscriptions and stained glass.

Anne Alwis (Classics)

For a full programme, along with details of how to book tickets, please see the Questions of Space Festival event website.