The 2018 Chaucer Lecture by Professor David Wallace

MEMS and The School of English at the University of Kent are delighted to announce this year’s Chaucer Lecture by Professor David Wallace, Judith Rodin Professor of English at the University of Pennsylvania.

Entitled, Sacrifice Your Daughter, But Not Your Sons: Horrible History in Chaucer and the Book of Judges, the lecture will take place on Thursday, 29th November at 6.00pm in The Guildhall, Westgate, Canterbury CT1 2DB.

This is a public lecture – all are welcome and it is free to attend, although we would ask you to register your interest at the Eventbrite page.

Lecture abstract
Three children are appointed to be sacrificed by their fathers in the Bible, and two are spared. The one not spared is female, and has no name: she is remembered only as the daughter of Jephthah the Gileadite. Christian interpreters, such as St Augustine, struggled long and hard over hundreds of years to wring sense from this harsh tale. Chaucer, too, became fascinated by story of Jephthah’s ill-fated daughter, and the wider phenomenon of horrible history: can a tale be so sad, so unregenerate, that it makes you sick? Ironically, and typically, Chaucer assigns this episode in his Canterbury Tales to a physician, a man tasked to cure people (rather than, as Chaucer’s physician threatens to do, to bring on heart attack). But would Chaucer really experiment with bad storytelling? I will argue yes. And can anything like a happy ending be found for Jephthah’s nameless daughter, a tale much discussed by feminist theology? Again, I will argue yes– although the help that Christian interpreters desperately need will come from a most unexpected direction.

Kent to play leading role in €10 million research project

Researchers at the University are set to play a major role in a new €10 million research project on the key role the Qur’an played in European cultural and religious history.

Dr Jan Loop of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies will lead a Kent team examining the many ways in which the Muslim holy book influenced European cultural, religious and intellectual history in the period 1150-1850.

The funding is being made through the European Research Council’s (ERC) Synergy Grant and Kent will receive €2.5 million over the coming six years.

The project will produce ground-breaking interdisciplinary research through scientific meetings across Europe, with the universities of Madrid, Nantes and Naples also involved.

As well as producing  academic conferences and books, it is planned that the project will also be accessible to non-academic audiences through a creative multimedia exhibition on the place of the Qur’an in European cultural history.

Dr Loop said: ‘The Qur’an is deeply imbedded in the political and religious thought of Europe and is part of the intellectual repertoire of Medieval and Early Modern Europeans. As such, this research will question the belief that Islam is ‘foreign’ to Europe but also challenge certain Islamic fundamentalist views about the Qur’an.’

Professor Catherine Richardson’s Inaugural Lecture

MEMS is delighted to announce that Professor Catherine Richardson’s inaugural lecture, ‘local things for local people’?: Provincialism, Cultural Value, Shakespeare will be held in Grimond Lecture Theatre 1 from 18:00 on Wednesday 14 November. All are welcome and the event will be followed by a reception in Grimond Foyer. Please register at the following Eventbrite page.

In her inaugural lecture, Professor Catherine Richardson will explore connections and disparities between metropolitan and provincial cultures. She will ponder our often-pejorative sense of the differences between the two – between horizons, patterns of life, ways of thinking and valuing, and especially levels of creativity and the balance between cultural production and consumption. As these are rather large questions to answer in an hour, she will concentrate on the situation in early modern England, and on Shakespeare’s impact on these questions from then to the present. Along the way, there will be the opportunity to ponder travel, material culture, re-telling old tales, and how it might be that the speaker finds herself back in Kent, writing again about the same old play twenty years after her first attempts to understand it.

The lecture will take place in Grimond Lecture Theatre 1 from 18:00 and will be followed by a drinks reception in the Grimond Foyer.

Professor Richardson came to the University of Kent in 2007 from the University of Birmingham, where she was lecturer in English and History and Fellow of The Shakespeare Institute. She is interested in the relationship between texts and the material circumstances of their production and consumption and has published widely on the subject of early modern material culture.

The 2018 Renaissance Lecture by Prof Paul Yachnin

MEMS and the School of English at the University of Kent are delighted to welcome Paul Yachnin, Professor of Shakespeare Studies at McGill University, Montreal to give this year’s Renaissance Lecture. Entitled, ‘Thinking with Conversion in Shakespeare’s Playhouse’ the lecture takes place on Thursday 11th October at 6pm in Grimond Building, Lecture Theatre 2, the University of Kent.

In this presentation, Paul Yachnin provides an account of how thinking about the person and the world (including the political world) in Shakespeare’s playhouse developed inside the problematics and possibilities of conversion.  Thinking about and with conversion extends across Shakespeare’s whole canon, from Taming of the Shrew to The Tempest. The focus here is on Measure for Measure and King Lear. One goal is to make a case for Shakespeare as the creator of a “conversional theatre” (though not in what might be the expected sense of the phrase). Another is to rethink Shakespearean philosophy by adding greater historical specificity—not to mention adding the body, the soul, and the social world—to familiar ideas about Shakespearean scepticism.

All are welcome and a wine reception will follow the lecture.

MEMS welcomes Professor Rachel Koopmans

MEMS is delighted to welcome back Prof. Rachel Koopmans of York University, Toronto as Visiting Professor for the duration of the coming Autumn Term. Supported by British Academy funding, Prof. Koopmans will be examining the Saint Thomas Becket miracle windows at Canterbury Cathedral for her next book. Working closely with Dr. Emily Guerry (School of History/MEMS at Kent), Rachel will be involved in the delivery of some teaching and workshops on Medieval visual culture. Drs. Koopman and Guerry are also co-organising a series of educational events for Kent students, along the lines of the fascinating Masterclass which Dr. Koopmans led for MEMS in 2015; Reading Canterbury’s Medieval Glass:  A Primer in Stained Glass Scholarship and Text/Image Analysis.

Earlier this month, Rachel’s research with Leonie Seliger (Director of the Stained Glass Studio) and team at Canterbury Cathedral prompted national press coverage following the discovery that stained glass panels – previously thought to be the work of Victorian restorers – in fact date back to the c.1180s. One of these extraordinary panels depicts the earliest-known images of pilgrims travelling to Canterbury.

Prof. Koopmans said of the findings: “Our work was prompted by an early photograph of the window which showed these panels decades before they were thought to have been made. Careful analysis has proved that while most of the heads were replaced by a modern restorer, the majority of the glass is original and the panels are genuine medieval compositions. The date of the panels has been fixed by the distinctive aesthetic style of the glass, which is very similar to glass dated to 1180, as well as the date of the completion of the rebuilding of the chapel in which the window is found, 1182-1184.”

The School of History and the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Kent are thrilled by the opportunity to learn from Prof. Koopman’s expertise and enthusiasm for the study of medieval stained glass windows at Canterbury Cathedral.

MEMS Festival 2018 a truly international success

This Summer saw the return of the ‘MEMS Festival’ – a two-day celebration of all things Medieval and Early Modern – and this year’s event welcomed a record number of attendees from as far afield as New York (Ithaca College), Pennsylvania (University of Pennsylvania), Norway (NTNU University), and Russia (Lomonosov Moscow State University) making MEMS Festival 2018 truly international!

Now in its fourth year, ‘MEMS Festival’ is organised by postgraduate students of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (‘MEMS’) at the University of Kent, and welcomes researchers interested in the field from throughout the UK, EU and internationally. Sponsorship for the annual event is kindly provided by the Consortium for the Humanities and Arts of South East England (CHASE) and the School of History and the School of English at the University of Kent.

MEMS Festival 2018 featured papers that brought together scholars from a range of disciplines, academic schools and institutions which fostered conversations and created a sense of community for all.  Always popular, this year’s workshops were truly interactive and featured ‘Pens and Pigments: A Practice Based Workshop’ which was a hands-on practice-based manuscript workshop led by PhD students Hannah Lilley (MEMS) and Cassandra Harrington (MEMS).

Our own Dr Ryan Perry (MEMS) engaged us with a workshop from the Cultures of Performance Research Cluster and examined the problems inherent in punctuating Medieval texts and asked; do modern applications of punctuation alter the reader’s experience?  Our wonderful colleagues at Special Collections in the Templeman Library offered the opportunity to explore some of their Early Modern printed materials and a ‘behind-the-scenes’ look at their new storage facilities in the basement of the library, and 12 broadswords were used for the HE-MA (Historical European Martial Arts) demonstration!

An amazing 57 papers were delivered covering a diverse range of topics such as snail water (who knew there was such a thing!), the graffiti of Rochester Castle, the male homoerotic audience in Renaissance theatre and the commemorative ceramics of Charles II. Phew! We’re already looking forward to MEMS Fest 2019!

For the full programme of papers at MEMS Festival 2018, please see the event website . If you would like to register interest in attending the MEMS Festival 2019, please email

By Angela Websdale, PhD Candidate and MEMS Fest Co-Organiser

The 2018 Chaucer Lecture

MEMS and the School of English are delighted to announce the University of Kent’s 2018 Chaucer Lecture on Thursday 22nd March at 6pm in Grimond Lecture Theatre 2, Canterbury Campus.

Entitled, ‘The Imaginative Syllogism: The Idea of the Poetic in the Middle Ages’ this year’s lecture will be given by Professor Vincent Gillespie, J.R.R. Tolkien Professor of English Literature and Language, University of Oxford.

All are welcome to the lecture and a reception afterwards.

Between 1150 and 1450 increasing numbers of commentators showed a heightened interest in the effects of reading poetry on its audience. This interest was not just in the ways those effects were created, but also increasingly in the impact that poetic effects had on the affections, imagination, and understanding of readers and listeners. More than any other medieval mode of discourse, the Poetic required its audience to perform thought experiments.

This lecture will explore the undervalued category of the Poetic, and argue that it needs to be recognised as radically different from the more usually discussed critical category of Rhetoric.


Call for Papers: MEMS Summer Festival 2018

MEMS is delighted to announce that it’s fourth annual Summer Festival will this year be taking place on the 15th and 16th June at the University of Kent, Canterbury Campus.

MEMS Summer Festival is a celebration of the Medieval and Early Modern periods, including the study of religion, politics, history, art, drama, literature, and domestic culture from c. 400 – 1800. The festival – hosted at the University of Kent – is designed to bring together scholars from a range of disciplines, academic schools, and institutions. MEMS Fest aims to be an informal space in which postgraduate students, early career researchers, and academics can share ideas and foster conversations, while building a greater sense of community. Undergraduate students in their final year of study are also welcome to participate in the conference.

We invite abstracts of up to 250 words proposing individual research papers of 20 minutes in length on any subject relating to the Medieval and Early Modern periods. Work in its early stages is very welcome, as are more advanced projects and creative, less traditional forms of criticism.

We also encourage 700-word abstracts proposing a three-person panel to present on a particular subject or theme in Medieval and Early Modern studies. If you have an idea but no fellow panellists, please contact us at; we are happy to publicise it for you under our Festival banner, with your contact details.

Deadline for Paper and Panel Proposals: 23 March 2018. Please submit all paper and panel applications to

This is a wonderful opportunity to showcase your own research, share ideas, and develop networks for future collaboration. For more information you can send us an email or find us on Facebook, Twitter, and at Please do not hesitate to contact us with any questions.

The 2018 Renaissance Lecture

Taking place on Thursday 15th February at 6pm in GLT2, this year’s Renaissance Lecture will be given by Professor Greg Walker of the University of Edinburgh, and is entitled, ‘“The red blood runneth down about my head”: Reformation, Moderation, and Innovation in John Heywood’s ‘The Pardoner and the Friar’.

Lecture abstract:
John Heywood lived through the reigns of four Tudor monarchs, Henry VIII, Edward VI, Mary I, and Elizabeth I. He was a professional singer and a player of keyboard instruments and taught Queen Mary how to play when she was a young woman. He was a joker and a wit, remembered long after his death as “merry John Heywood” for his humour and amiability. He wrote idiosyncratic plays for performance at the royal court and other venues, wrote poems, collected a huge corpus of popular proverbs and epigrams, which he published in six volumes, and produced a monumentally long allegorical epic called “The Spider and the Fly.” He was also the poet John Donne’s grandfather. Significantly, he was also a committed Catholic, a nephew of Sir Thomas More, who lived close to the centre of power through the early English Reformation under Henry and Edward. And he never concealed his opposition to religious change, or his horror at the persecution of people like Thomas More who died resisting it. He hid his views in plain sight in plays and songs that celebrated religious toleration, moderation, and traditional religious values, loosely disguised as discussions of seemingly inoffensive topics such as singing styles, the problems of being in love, or the vagaries of the English weather. And everyone seems to have liked him, even people on the other side of the religious debate such as Archbishop Cranmer, the architect of the English Reformation, for whose household he put on a play in the 1540s.

This lecture will look at the ways in which Heywood engaged with the political issues of his day, speaking truth to power, so far as that was possible, through the drama he wrote in the later 1520s and early 1530s. It will look closely at perhaps the strangest of his plays, ‘The Pardoner and the Friar’, an angry, experimental interlude dealing with religious dissent and violence which may have been inspired by a particular act of sacrilege committed in a London church.

Professor Greg Walker is Regius Professor of Rhetoric and English Literature at the University of Edinburgh