Author Archives: Hannah Collins

University of Kent hosts The European Society for Textual Scholarship annual conference

Earlier this month, the University of Kent hosted the annual conference for The European Society for Textual Scholarship.

The European Society for Textual Scholarship provides an international and interdisciplinary forum for the theory and practice of textual scholarship in Europe. It was established in 2001 in close collaboration with the Society for Textual Scholarship (North America).

Members of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) were central to the conference’s planning and organization. The Chair of the Organising and Planning Committees was Dr Rory Loughnane (School of English; Co-Director of MEMS) and other key roles were taken by current PhD students in MEMS: Ségolène Gence (Programming and Communication Officer), Jon Pinkerton (Registration Officer and Secretary) and Samantha McCarthy (Social Officer and Canterbury Cathedral Library and Archives Liaison Officer). The Planning Committee included colleagues from across the University of Kent, Canterbury Christ Church University, Canterbury Cathedral Library and Archives, and Loughborough University.

The conference was the largest ever gathering the ESTS society with more than 110 delegates. Across a packed two-day schedule, the conference featured 32 parallel panel and roundtable sessions, literary walking tours in Canterbury, exhibitions in Canterbury Cathedral Library and Archives and the Templeman Library Special Collections, digital exhibitions, and a reception at Canterbury Cathedral Chapter House.

Dr Loughnane said “It was an honour to host the European Society for Textual Scholarship (ESTS) at the University of Kent. We were delighted to welcome delegates from around the world and to help showcase the exciting research in textual studies taking place at the university, not least in the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies. We look forward to future collaborations with the ESTS and to providing further opportunities for our postgraduate researchers with interests in textual studies.

“The success of the conference was down to the hard work of the members of the organising and planning committees, and the wonderful Conferences team here at the university (led in this instance by Jan Williams), who created such an exciting programme of events. A special note of thanks should be given to the three MEMS PhD students, Ségolène Gence, Jon Pinkerton, and Samantha McCarthy, who did so much to support the planning, organisation, and hour-to-hour running of the conference. It was a real team effort and speaks to the strengths of the research community of MEMS and beyond in the university.”

Student Blog – A trip to Malling Abbey: the face of Bishop Gundulf?

We are sharing with you today a blogpost written by our wonderful PhD student Harry Gilbert, who first did his MA with us in 2020 and who is now back again this year for his doctoral adventure. Harry’s thesis focuses on Rochester Cathedral and its medieval history – a truly fascinating topic which led him to Malling Abbey two weeks ago.

Here is what Harry discovered:

“Not too long ago I accompanied Rochester Cathedral’s heritage officer, Jacob Scott, to Malling Abbey. This was the first of several planned visits that aim to photograph and create 3D models of points of interest across the abbey’s buildings, from the gatehouse to the abbey proper.

The head of a monk sculpted similarly to how Benedictine monks were depicted with big ears in manuscripts.

Though much of the abbey is later, or indeed modern, remnants of the Norman abbey survive to this day, primarily in some of the surviving masonry. What was striking to me was much of the architectural similarity shared between the abbey and Rochester Cathedral; unsurprising considering their intertwined histories.

The highlight of my visit, however, was the face of what appears to be a monk, or possibly even a monk-bishop, within some of the stonework, found upon an older survival of the abbey positioned parallel with one side of the modern cloister.

Though we will never truly know the identity of the monk, Sister Mary Owen informed me that many in the community like to imagine that the face is that of Bishop Gundulf, the second Norman bishop of Rochester who founded Malling Abbey and cared for its administration until he sanctioned the election of an abbess upon his death bed. The head of this mystery monk certainly falls in line with depictions of Benedictine monks, particularly the ears, which bear a striking resemblance to the monks pictured upon fol. 108r of London: British Library, Cotton MS. Nero D II, a version of the Flores Historiarum written at Rochester.

London: British Library, Cotton MS. Nero D II, fol.108r

To this day, Bishop Gundulf is revered at Malling Abbey, and rightly so. From what we know of him from the Vita Gundulfi, this bishop was a man always invested in the spiritual well-being of women. Not only did he oversee his biological mother’s transition into becoming a nun in Normandy, but he loved the Virgin Mary above all other saints, is compared only to the saints Mary and Martha within his Vita, and founded Malling Abbey and provided it with an abbess upon his death.”