Hwæt! Thanks to a CHASE Cohort Development Fund, we are delighted to announce that we will be running online Old English and Medieval French language classes throughout the coming academic year. These language classes will be free to attend for all members of the MEMS community, as well as graduate students based at all other CHASE institutions. Details about registering to attend either (or both!) language classes will be released in the coming weeks. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please do not hesitate to get in touch with Dr Robert Gallagher (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Dr Emily Dolmans (email@example.com).
Just over a month has passed to process the MEMS Summer festival, the sixth hosted by the centre, and one that proceeded against a decidedly unusual set of circumstances. ‘MEMSFest‘, as it is colloquially known, has always been student- organised. Originally the brainchild of the then MA student Becky Pope, ever since it has been completely run and organised by successive teams of students.
In Autumn 2019, a new team coalesced– Sam McCarthy, Michael Powell-Davies, Hetty Taylor, and Fay Braybrooke – and they began to make formative plans for the next event. As always, former organisers and the admin staff lent their experience – how to gain funding using all possible channels, how to advertise, how to do the dozens of things that make a conference happen, and how to keep the delegates happy when they arrive as our guests in the University of Kent. Little did any of us know.
Of course, exactly as these plans were beginning to take embryonic shape, the cataclysmic reality of a global pandemic swept across all of our lives. As the UK locked down, as the world locked down, and as our inboxes filled with announcements of shelved and cancelled events, it would have been the easiest thing in the world at this point for the organising team to have decided to cancel MEMSFest 2020. Instead, they bravely took a step into the unknown and organised the event electronically. It proved to be a decision that allowed us to see the potential inherent in the online conference format.
Nobody could be sure exactly how successful such an event might be, but it is certainly the case that we had almost double the number of registrants that we had the previous year, with over 190. MEMSFest has, in recent years, attracted delegates from far afield, but the scale of international involvement this year was unprecedented – around a quarter of our auditors this year came from outside of the UK and Ireland, with multiple people from Turkey, Finland, Brazil, U.S., Canada, Australia, Spain, France, New Zealand, Georgia and Germany. We also had many delegates from institutions closer to home, but who would have had to undertake awkward domestic journeys in a conventional conference– for instance from Dublin, St. Andrews, York, Bangor, Newcastle, Durham and Manchester.
It would be naïve to think that we could have attracted such a geographically broad audience in normal circumstances. As it was, as our equally international and far-flung delegates presented in parallel panels, we had unprecedented numbers in attendance, and hosted engaged discussion from people in various forms of lockdown in remote corners of the planet following the panels.
Senior members of the scholarly community from across the academic world were noted as being in attendance at various sessions. Despite not having the same level of personal interaction that we would have had in a material conference, a loss that should be recognised as significant, we nevertheless gained something, in terms of providing a platform for new and exciting postgraduate and early career researchers. The feedback received by the organisation team indicated the positive way in which auditors and delegates responded to the experience:
“This was an uplifting and inspiring event. It show-cased serious, important new research and was enriched by being truly international.”
“Really well done to all – I was very impressed by the online delivery, and barely noticed I wasn’t there!”
“Well done to everyone involved. In adversity and tragedy, we have fast-forwarded to a more inclusive and planet-friendly future for academic exchange, I hope, and the MEMS fest was a model for how it could be done”
One of our presenters contacted the organising committee after the conclusion of the conference, and provided a very interesting take on what it meant to her to be able to present research as part of an online conference. The delegate revealed that because she was acting as a carer with a severely ill family member, and suffering with her own disability, that quite apart from the Covid-19 pandemic, her academic life was necessarily taking place ‘remotely’. The event allowed her to present a paper that she had previously had to postpone because of caring demands. Going forward, it is perhaps the case that we should consider not only the benefits that online conferences have in terms of engaging an international community, but appreciate how we can support the research profile of those with challenging personal circumstances. As we (hopefully) move beyond strict social distancing, ‘blended’ conferences could also allow access for those for whom presence at academic conferences might be difficult—those with caring responsibilities, parental demands and disabilities, in particular.
In an age too of environmental responsibility, we might also consider the carbon footprint of our dissemination strategies. How much CO2 would have been expended if our delegates had all travelled to Canterbury? Getting together with fellow academics in shared physical spaces will undoubtedly remain hugely important, and especially in facilitating the more relaxed forms of social interaction and off-the-cuff chats that happen at conferences, learning about colleagues and peers as real people over food and drink (and discos!) Nonetheless, this conferencing format will and should have a place in the future of the presentation of academic research. Conferencing might never be the same again.
The organising team would like to also give special thanks to Pietro Mocchi, Róisín Astell, Cassandra Harrington, Anna Hegland, Daniella Gonzalez and Katie Toussaint-Jackson from the MEMS Centre for chairing panels, to Claire Taylor and Jacqueline Basquil for their guidance and help throughout, and to Tim Keward, Tim Jenkins and James Cordery for their assistance in taking the MEMS Festival into the virtual realm. We would also like to thank the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies, the School of History, the School of English at the University of Kent, and the Consortium for the Humanities of the Arts South-East England for their support of this event.
Dr Ryan Perry
Co-Director of the Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies,
Senior Lecturer in Medieval Literature, The University of Kent
With Covid-19 closing the doors of our physical libraries, a team of postgraduate students at the University of Kent’s Centre for Early Modern Studies (MEMS) set out to create an online library of digital resources and research materials designed to support their peers throughout the pandemic. Anna-Nadine Pike – one of MEMSlib founders – reflects on the hard work involved in creating this resource, and the phenomenal success it has generated since its launch in June:
“Far from days spent surrounded by precarious piles of books, coffee in KeepCups and chance conversations in corridors, academic life in 2020 has increasingly become a game of Student vs Bandwidth, thirty tabs open across three different browsers, and memorising a Zoom password because the Copy-and-Paste has already been filled by the Meeting ID. As the move into a new world of online teaching, researching and collaboration starts to become a strange norm, June has seen the launch of MEMSlib, a new, student-led platform from the Centre of Medieval and Early Modern Studies.
With the supervision of Dr David Rundle, our team (Roisin Astell, Dr Daniella Gonzalez, Anna Hegland, Emma-Louise Hill, and myself) have been working to compile a comprehensive website with an integrated forum, bringing together a range of open-access online resources to aid research beyond the library space. We have each edited pages speaking to our own research focus, be that Drama, History of Art, Literature or History, and have gathered together resources including image databases, online archives, digitised primary texts, academic research projects, and relevant blogs or media pages. Our aim was not only to showcase the range of study within MEMS, from ninth-century charters to eighteenth-century women’s writing, but to introduce students and researchers to the rich variety of materials which have been online, assisting with (and hopefully inspiring) the transition to our new working normality.
We hope that MEMSlib will facilitate communication and collaboration between researchers, ensuring that academic research in these new times remains not only possible, but rewarding. We are constantly adding to our resource pages and absolutely welcome any recommendations; we even have a designated Suggest a Resource page. We are incredibly grateful to the individuals who have already put together their own resource lists for us to include; we must thank Dr Daniel Starza Smith from Kings College London for sharing the online resources used within their MA Early Modern English Literature: Texts and Transmissions, Kent’s own Dr Edward Roberts, who is curating our interdisciplinary Early Medieval Studies page, and Dr Alison Ray from the Canterbury Cathedral Archives who, together with Dr David Rundle, has compiled our extensive Manuscript Studies section, subdivided into resources for Codicology and Palaeography. We are also in the exciting process of creating a page in collaboration with MEMS’s Dr Sheila Sweetinburgh and the History department of Canterbury Christ Church, to focus on Kent’s local history and archival materials particular to Canterbury.
Our intention was always for this project to maintain a sense of academic community, even while our department no longer has its central campus focus; we wanted a means of keeping conversations going, and which would allow us to share the texts to which we already had physical access. The value in collectively sharing resources, and making things possible for others, has become so evident in the last few months. For this reason, it seemed important to include a Forum as part of MEMSlib, which we hope will facilitate new discussion and provide a moderated space in which to request specific reading materials, ask for assistance, and make contact with others. The Forum is protected and open to Site Members only; we’ve had a brilliant number of scholars signing up from universities and associations internationally, which really widens opportunities for sharing material, and for introducing others to MEMS at Kent!
We’ve had an absolutely brilliant response on social media; Twitter has been our main platform for promotion, and on our launch day we gained around 500 new followers and had over 100 retweets, which are still continuing. Our launch post reached universities across the UK, Europe, the United States and Canada, and it has been incredibly rewarding to see the amount of engagement which the site has received, from university members, Archivists and Librarians, as well as independent scholars. We’re hoping to maintain this engagement with frequent Twitter posts, either showcasing individual pages, highlighting new contributions, or sharing our favourite resources with followers. We’ll be sending out regular newsletters to encourage others to contribute as well, to become part of our online community.
Although MEMSlib has a clear pertinence to our present time of remote work and library closures, our intention was always to produce something of continuing value. However the global situation develops, online-only research will continue to be a necessity, and our resource pages hope to introduce users to the (often surprisingly) rich potential which this affords. Looking ahead to the next academic year, it may be that the Forum offers a place of connectivity for incoming and researchers; the linguistic and palaeographical pages will definitely be of practical value to future MEMS Masters students. Following our first virtual MEMS Festival conference, the Centre has been reflecting on the positive implications which online academia offers for accessibility and sustainability, and we really hope that MEMSlib can form part of this.”
What attracted you to this course?
Besides the amazing opportunity to study in both Canterbury and Paris – two cities saturated in medieval history – it was the interdisciplinary nature of the course that attracted me to it. I came from an English Literature background, however I wanted to explore my growing interest in medieval art and architecture. I have found that throughout the Master’s I have been able to delve deeper into medieval literature whilst exploring art, illumination, sculpture and architecture. Being such an interdisciplinary course has enabled me to approach essays and the dissertation in a creative and original way.
What are you particularly enjoying about your studies?
I am particularly enjoying the practical aspects of study. I have been able to access – and touch (!) – a wide range of manuscripts in the Canterbury Cathedral Archives, the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, Paris and the Bibliothèque Sainte Genevieve, Paris. Hopefully not too much of a cliché, but being able to handle the manuscripts has really brought my studies to life. At the same time, I have been able to appreciate the materiality of the ‘book’, a concept so vital to its medieval reception. Without doubt, the Latin and Palaeography modules have been invaluable in aiding my reading of the manuscripts, meaning that I can truly engage with them and form my own thoughts and ideas.
What is it like living and studying in Paris?
It is immersive, rich and caffeinated! Paris is a palimpsest of history that you can almost feel beneath your feet. It vibrates with creativity, there are so many museums to explore, and each arrondissement has a different feeling. I underestimated how great an experience it would be to study in the city I am learning about. One day, I can study in the library dedicated to the Patron Saint of Paris, and on the way back visit the church where her relics are kept, and the next I can visit the Sainte Chapelle, a spectacular feat of Parisian gothic architecture.
Which modules have you enjoyed the most?
My favourite module has been Gothic Art and Architecture which I took whilst staying in Canterbury, not only because of the trip to Paris, but because it was so interesting to trace the development of architecture from the Romanesque to the Gothic. The module is incredibly wide-ranging and rich, drawing upon the aesthetic, ethical, ecclesiastical and political aspects of medieval architecture.
How would you describe your fellow students?
Creative, enthusiastic, engaged.
How do you think postgraduate study differs from undergraduate study?
Postgraduate study is more self-directed and there is the opportunity to produce work that can make real scholarly impact. It is exciting because material in the modules is from current research, taught and presented by researchers at the top of their field.
How do you think your studies will affect your employment prospects?
As well as vastly improving transferable skills such as time management, organisation, problem solving and writing, I feel the Master’s will enable me to pursue a specialised career – for example, in curation or archival work. Throughout the degree, there have been valuable skills workshops, important practical sessions and talks from professionals at the National Archives. These have really helped give an understanding of career paths and the possibilities the degree
What are you planning to do next?
I am considering doing a PhD building on my Master’s dissertation I plan to write. It is only after the first term of this degree that I even thought about pursuing a PhD, however I feel it is easy to be swept away by passion for a subject! By teaching practical modules such as Latin, Palaeography and Codicology, this course has instilled a confidence in my ability to face primary sources head on and to ultimately produce original research that contributes to the field.
Any advice for those thinking about taking this course?
Latin is hard! But stick at it because it is so worth it. If you are passionate about any aspect of Medieval Studies, or even a mixture of aspects like myself, then feel assured that you will be able to pursue your interests. At the same time, be open to exploring disciplines within the Centre that you may not have done before, such as archaeology, literature or art history. Embrace interdisciplinarity and interact with your fellow students who have done their undergraduate degrees in a variety of subjects.
Many congratulations to Dr Ryan Perry (University of Kent) and to Dr Stephen Kelly (Queens University of Belfast) who have just been awarded £367,000 by the Leverhulme Trust for a project entitled, ‘Whittington’s Gift: Reconstructing the Lost Common Library of London’s Guildhall’.
The three-year project will employ two postdoctoral research associates, and include the input of two expert consultants, Emeritus Professors James Carley (York, Toronto) and Ralph Hanna (Keble College, Oxford). Whittington’s Gift will aim to trace the parts of the now lost Guildhall collection of ‘theological works’ that the project team contend engendered an explosion in pastoral writing in fifteenth-century London.
Whittington’s Gift aims to demonstrate that London citizens created new programmes of religious education for both the City’s clergy and for literate lay communities that have hitherto gone largely unnoticed by scholarship.
Thanks to the legacy of Richard Whittington (d. 1423), perhaps London’s most storied mayor, an extraordinary resource for religious education emerged under the auspices of Whittington’s innovative executor, John Carpenter, common clerk of London’s Guildhall, who founded a new ‘Common library’ as part of the Guildhall’s complex of buildings. By tracking the transmission of texts that the applicants contend were sourced from the Guildhall Library, the project aims to radically complicate understanding of fifteenth-century devotio-literary culture in the capital and beyond.
In February of this year’s Spring term, a group of twelve MA Medieval and Early Modern students took part in a five-day study trip to Italy to explore the history of libraries and of post-classical Latin epigraphy in Florence and Rome.
The trip was organised and led by Dr David Rundle, Lecturer in Renaissance History at the University of Kent, and made possible by the generous support of the University’s Internationalisation Fund.
Designed to enhance the learning that students had already gained in the MEMS core modules of palaeography and ab initio Latin, some highlights of the trip included a private view of the Bliblioteca Riccardiana, facilitated by Prof. Stefano Baldassarri (International Studies Institute, Florence) and a tour of the Basilica of San Clemente by Prof. Paul Gwynne (American University of Rome).
The full itinerary of the trip was as follows:-
Day 1: Arrival in Florence – introductory walking tour
Day 2: Morning: Visit to San Marco, with particular attention to its prototypical library space (but also time to see the Fra Angelico frescoes); Afternoon: Visit to the Uffizi, with special interest shown in the depiction of script in paintings
Day 3: Morning: Private view at the Biblioteca Riccardiana, facilitated by Prof. Stefano Baldassarri (International Studies Institute, Florence), with a seminar, led by Dr David Rundle, discussing five fifteenth-century manuscripts; visit to the Biblioteca Laurenziana, designed by Michelangelo; Afternoon: Visit to Santa Croce, with the tomb of the leading humanist Leonardo Bruni, and the Pazzi Chapel
Morning: The Capitoline Museums, with discussion of the Latin inscriptions
Afternoon: tour of the Basilica di San Clemente, guided by Prof. Paul Gywnne
Day 5: Free time so students could explore before getting the flight home
Students were wholeheartedly enthusiastic about the trip, describing it as a ‘once-in-a-lifetime experience’ (as their @mems_ukc Twitter takeover in Florence and Rome can testify to!) and on their return, they wished to share the following reflections:
‘I thoroughly enjoyed the MEMs field trip to Florence and Rome guided by Dr David Rundle with special excursions led by Professors Stefano Baldassarri and Paul Gywnne…The trip enhanced my learning as I was able to immerse myself in the art and architecture of the Renaissance and visualise what the humanists were really looking at in terms of Roman architecture and wanting a return to the classical era’ – Eleanor Barrell
‘The MEMS trip to Florence proved as interesting as it was eye-opening… The trip allowed for numerous opportunities to apply the skills learnt in seminars to important pieces of history and art across museums in Florence and Rome, and such endeavours really put the usefulness of a MEMS skill set into perspective… The freedom that we had as students to explore churches, museums, and galleries on our own was much appreciated, but so too did I take solace in the fact that any questions that I had could easily be asked and answered. I feel that I got a lot out of the trip; I saw a country that I have never been to before through the framework of MEMS, seeing pieces that I wouldn’t have thought to have gone to see and learnt things that I surely wouldn’t have learnt had I gone on my own’ – Kim Walsh
‘I would like to thank the Internationalisation Fund and MEMS for funding the trip to Florence, it was an incredibly valuable learning experience and I really appreciate the opportunity. It was a fantastic experience to see the Latin inscriptions we studied at the start of this year in situ, really contextualising them and bringing the course full circle. The trip also really enhanced my palaeographical skills as I was able to study up close inscriptions in roman capitals at the Capitoline Museums and thus gain a fuller understanding of the script. My understanding of these was further enhance by our tour of San Clemente and the discussions surrounding the use of spolia, particularly those containing roman inscriptions’ – Ellen Meade
‘The MEMS and Humanities funded trip was absolutely fantastic. I would never have dreamt that I would have been able to go to this wonderful city, but thanks to your generosity I have been enlightened and my dream fulfilled. David’s organisation was top notch with an excellent agenda, his knowledge is second to none on the various libraries and churches we entered’ – Peter Stiffell
MEMS and The School of History at the University of Kent are delighted to welcome Professor Nicholas Paul, of Fordham University, New York State to give this year’s Anselm Lecture on Thursday 12th March at 6pm in The Guildhall, Canterbury: Violence, Value and Virtue in the Crusading Experience.
Dr Nicholas Paul’s research concerns the world of the lay nobility in the central Middle Ages, and the intersection between that world and the experience of crusading. His work seeks to uncover how shared concepts such as ‘nobility’, ‘lordship’ and ‘lineage’ were shaped and to discover more about how attitudes toward the crusades developed over time among the aristocracy. His research explores topics such as the uses of the past in the formation of the political identity of the nobility and on the uses of literacy by the laity in the early twelfth-century.
All are welcome at this open lecture.
MEMS is delighted to announce that Professor David Ekserdjian, world-renowned authority on Italian Renaissance paintings and drawings will give this year’s Renaissance Lecture. Entitled Raphael and his Sources, the lecture will take place at 6pm on Thursday 27th February 2020 in the Templeman Library Lecture Theatre, The University of Kent’s Canterbury Campus.
David Ekserdjian is Professor of the History of Art and Film at the University of Leicester. As well as writing and lecturing widely on Renaissance art, Professor Ekserdjian is also an expert on the history of collecting. He acts as an adviser to international museums and galleries, including the National Gallery and Tate Britain, as well as to private collectors and auction houses such as Sotheby’s and Christie’s. Bronze sculpture is another of Professor Ekserdjian’s areas of expertise and it formed the topic of an exhibition that he conceived and curated at the Royal Academy.
All are welcome at this open lecture and a wine reception held afterwards.
The Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies (MEMS) at the University of Kent is delighted to announce that its popular and lively MEMS Summer Festival will return – for its sixth year – between 12th-13th June 2020 at the University of Kent’s Canterbury Campus.
Call for Papers
Join us in Canterbury for the University of Kent’s sixth annual MEMS Summer Festival. This two-day event celebrates Medieval and Early Modern history, 400 – 1800, and encourages a wide range of interdisciplinary topics, including but not limited to, politics, religion, economics, art, drama, literature, and domestic culture. MEMS Fest aims to be an informal space in which postgraduate students, early career researchers, and academics can share ideas and foster conversations, whilst building a greater sense of community. Undergraduate students in their final year of study are also welcome at the conference.
We invite abstracts of up to 250 words for individual research papers of 20 minutes in length on ANY subject relating to the Medieval and Early Modern periods. The research can be in its earliest stages or a more developed piece.
We also encourage 700-word abstracts proposing a three-person panel, presenting on a specific subject or theme in Medieval or Early Modern studies. If you have an idea and would like us to advertise for it, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Deadline for all Paper and Panel Proposals is Friday 20 March 2020. All applications must be sent to email@example.com with ‘MEMS Fest 2020 Abstract’ as the subject of the email.
This opportunity allows you to showcase your research in a friendly environment and to network with fellow scholars from far-reaching institutions. For more information please contact us on either Facebook, Twitter, or at memsfestival.wordpress.com. Please do not hesitate to ask questions.
A new book entitled, Religious Materiality in the Early Modern World has just been published by Amsterdam University Press. Co-edited by Dr Suzanna Ivanic (University of Kent)
Professor Mary Laven (University of Cambridge) and Dr Andrew Morrall (the Bard Graduate Center, New York) this collection of essays offers a comparative perspective on religious materiality across the early modern world.
Setting out from the premise that artefacts can provide material evidence of the nature of early modern religious practices and beliefs, the volume tests and challenges conventional narratives of change based on textual sources. Religious Materiality in the Early Modern World brings together scholars of Catholic, Protestant, Jewish, Islamic and Buddhist practices from a range of fields, including history, art history, museum curatorship and social anthropology. The result is an unprecedented account of the wealth and diversity of devotional objects and environments, with a strong emphasis on cultural encounters, connections and exchanges.
About the editors
Suzanna Ivanic is Lecturer in Early Modern European History at the University of Kent. Her research focuses on religion and material culture in central Europe and she has published on religious material culture and on travelogues in early modern Bohemia. She is currently working on a monograph on the religious materiality of seventeenth-century Prague.
Mary Laven is Professor of Early Modern History at the University of Cambridge. While she has published on many different aspects of religion, her recent work has focused especially on the material culture of devotion. In 2017, she co-curated the exhibition, Madonnas and Miracles: The Holy Home in Renaissance Italy at the Fitzwilliam Museum.
Andrew Morrall is Professor of Early Modern Art and Material Culture at the Bard Graduate Center, New York. He has written widely on the visual and material culture of the Reformation and, most recently, on urban craft productions and the Kunstkammer. His publications include Jörg Breu the Elder: Art, Culture and Belief in Reformation Augsburg.