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

The Anselm Lecture by Prof. William Chester Jordan

MEMS is delighted to welcome Prof. William Chester Jordan to give this year’s Anselm lecture: ‘1096: Killing as Retribution, Defiance and Atonement’ on Tuesday 7th November 2017 at 6pm in Grimond Building, Lecture Theatre 2.

Abstract of the lecture
There are many earlier examples of the elevation of acts of lethal violence to a sanctifying status.  As this lecture attempts to demonstrate, however, the year 1096 was remarkable for how many people of widely different backgrounds contributed to and came to accept the appropriateness of this conceptual shift.  What were the circumstances of the transformation? What justifications were alleged? What were the long-term consequences. Building on the superb work of many other scholars, this lecture aims to further the discussion.

Speaker biography
William Chester Jordan is the Dayton-Stockton Professor of History and Chairman of the History Department at Princeton University. He is also a former Director of the Program in Medieval Studies at Princeton. Prof. Jordan has studied and published on the Crusades, English constitutional history, gender, economics, Judaism, and, most recently, church-state relations in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries.


New ‘Cultures of Performance’ Research Group

Cultures of Performance in Medieval and Early Modern Europe is a new research cluster founded by University of Kent colleagues, Dr Clare Wright, Dr Sarah Dustagheer and Dr Rory Loughnane. The group comprises staff and students from the University, and will investigate a range of performance events in Europe, c. 500 to c. 1700.

From plays and pageants to poetry and processions, music, liturgy and dance, performance here is broadly conceived and studied from a variety of methodological and historical perspectives, including its place in modern performance practice.

The research cluster launches on Thursday 12th October with the first of its interactive performance workshops, followed by drinks and discussion. The event is free and open to all. Starts at 5.15pm, Lecture theater 2, Darwin College, University of Kent.

Cultures of Performance in Medieval and Early Modern Europe will hold regular performance workshops throughout the year where it will explore some of the texts, ideas and questions members encounter in their research. Details of these can be found on the cluster’s blog.

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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