Previous Years Events

2019-2020 EVENTS

  • Delphine Demelas

"Chansons, Poems or Cycles? Composing French Epic at the End of the 14th Century"

The late chansons de geste, the French epic poems composed between the 14th and the 15th century, have long been hated by critics. Too long, too complex, too repetitive… the attacks have abounded all along the 20th century to highlight all of the shortcomings of these poems. In this lecture, Delphine Demelas will shed some light on the stylistic patterns of these songs to understand their composition. She will explore the link between old and more recent French epic style, discussing linguistic, historical and sociological hypotheses to explain the transformation of epic from the 14th century to the end of the Middle Ages.  She will try to rise some interest for these outcast texts, which have suffered misinterpretation for too long.

Delphine Demelas studies French medieval language and literature. Her research focuses on late chansons de geste and scientific edition. She has published several works on the literary value of late epic medieval literature. Her research also deals with the life of medieval artifacts and the use of manuscripts after Middle Ages. She is currently working on a digital edition of La Chanson de Bertrand du Guesclin using the XML/TEI guidelines.

  • Christopher Michael Berard (Providence College)

“King Arthur’s Charter: A Thirteenth-Century French Satire Against Bretons”

The lecture will center on a faux charter (written c. 1250) purporting to have been issued by Arthur, king of the Briton, in the hundredth year of his immortality (c. 642). The Arthurian portion of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s History of the Kings of Britain, the genesis of the myth of King Arthur’s return, and the medieval history of negative ethnic stereotyping of the Brittonic Celts all factor into Berard’s contextualization of the act.

Christopher Berard (Ph.D. 2015 in Medieval Studies, University of Toronto) is Visiting Assistant Professor of English at Providence College and has recently publishedArthurianism in Early Plantagenet England: From Henry II to Edward I(Boydell Press, 2019). He is a specialist in Arthurian literature and medieval chronicles, and in his monograph he investigates how post-Conquest kings of England emulated and otherwise used the legendary King Arthur of Britain for political gain, as well as how this activity in turn impacted depictions of Arthur in literature. Professor Berard’s writing shows how “medievalism” was already being practiced in the twelfth century by Anglo-Normans interested in the ancient (to them) past of the sixth-century Briton, King Arthur.

  •  Alani Hicks-Bartlett (postdoc, French Studies and Hispanic Studies)

"Loving Firmly or Not at All: On the Fixity of Desire in Medieval Love Poetry"

From descriptions of the singularity of one’s lady to exaltations of the singularity of one’s voice, Medieval Love Poems—particularly those written in a seemingly felicitous key—have a tendency to extol the unique combination of Fortune, virtue, and chance, along with certain vagaries of time and chance that facilitate the moment of innamoramento. Once enamored, the poet is able to hone his desire and refine his identity as a loving subject while establishing himself through song. It is this song, of course, self-referential as it is, along with the proclamations of desire that it contains, that are crafted and mobilized such that they reinforce the lover’s persistent argument: they insist on his amorous exemplarity, and the singularity of his voice, while making the case for his suitability for reciprocal love. His devotion is unmovable, he claims, and the fidelity in love that he demonstrates through descriptions of the eternal fixity of his desires are techniques he uses to prove his commitment to the lady and enjoin her to love him.

Yet what happens when the possibility of reciprocity is no longer an option and the lover’s plans (and poetry) are fundamentally contravened? “Loving Firmly or Not at All: On the Fixity of Desire in Medieval Love Poetry” examines these instances of frustration in love through select examples from Medieval French, Italian, and Spanish poetry.

Alani Hicks-Bartlett is a Presidential Postdoctoral Research Associate in the Departments of French Studies and Hispanic Studies, and the Program in Medieval Studies. Her research interests include the querelle des femmesfabliaux, gender and violence in chansons de geste and Early Modern epic poetry, Chrétien de Troyes, and the development of the love lyric/Petrarchan tradition. Her current projects focus on gender and race in Medieval French literature, representations of disability in Medieval and Early Modern prose compositions, and Medieval women’s writing and the complaint tradition.

  •  Mohamad Ballan (Stony Brook University)

"The Sword and the Pen in Late Medieval Granada"

The crisis and transformation that characterized the territorial fragmentation of Islamic Spain and North Africa during the 13th century contributed to the rise of a distinct class of scholar-administrators who reshaped the intellectual and political culture, as well as the urban politics, of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada (1238-1492). Drawing on a variety of sources written in Arabic, Castilian and Catalan, including political treatises, biographical dictionaries, historical chronicles, and official documents, as well as material culture (especially architecture and epigraphy), this talk will explore the complex relationship between two of the leading social groups in Nasrid Granada, the noblemen ("men of the sword") and scholar-officials ("men of the pen"). It examines how this struggle for power provides significant insight into the broader social and institutional transformations taking place within the kingdom, paying particular attention to the interrelationship between social mobility, royal power and power politics during the 14th century.

Mohamad Ballan received his PhD (with distinction) from the Department of History at the University of Chicago in 2019. A former Junior Fellow in the Dartmouth Society of Fellows, he is currently an Assistant Professor of Medieval History at Stony Brook University. He specializes in the intellectual, political and cultural history of the pre-modern Mediterranean world, with an emphasis on Iberia and North Africa during the late medieval and early modern era. His current book project, tentatively titled "Lord of the Pen and Sword," examines the phenomenon of the "scholar-statesman"—litterateurs, physicians, and jurists who ascended to the highest administrative and executive offices of state—in the late medieval world. It focuses on the career and writings of Lisān al-Dīn ibn al-Khaṭīb (d. 1374), the preeminent historian, philosopher and chancellor of the Nasrid Kingdom of Granada, situating this figure within a dynamic intellectual and political network of scholars, functionaries and statesmen across the late medieval Mediterranean world.

2018-2019 EVENTS

  • Steven Mitchell (Harvard University)

“Charm Traditions in Northern Europe: Continuities, Similarities, Differences.”

Traditions of charming exist throughout Northern Europe in the early Middle Ages, from Old Irish to Old English to a common Scandinavian tradition.  Within that Old Norse set of practices, a particular Old Icelandic tradition of charming both highlights commonalities with European charming as a whole and points toward an argument about the peculiarities of the Old Icelandic situation.  

  • Warren C. Brown (Caltech) 

“Freedom and Unfreedom in the Carolingian Formula Collections"

Students of early medieval Europe often resort to the term “unfree,” rather than “slave” or “serf,” to describe people who were dependent on someone more powerful and whose freedom of action and choice was limited in some fashion. The term reflects the difficulty of dealing with the varied, unpredictable, and often contradictory terminology used by our sources. It also reflects the fraught nature of still-raging debates over the transition from Roman slavery to high medieval serfdom, where it can provoke confusion or opposition to talk in terms of one or the other. In this lecture, I will try to shed some light on the lives of the unfree in the early Middle Ages, in a source that opens a wider door into their lives than most: collections of legal formulas from the Carolingian period. I will explore how these collections of model documents, compiled as sources for scribes and students, envision the lives of the unfree and the freed, both men and women, and their possible relationships to the fully free. The unfree appear in the formulas most often as the passive objects of the power and interests of their betters. However, they also display a significant amount of agency; they were fully aware of how power worked and could work the social and political system to their own advantage. Moreover, status at the interface between free and unfree was fluid. People could not only fall into dependence; they could significantly weaken the restrictions on them, or even get clear of them altogether.

Warren C. Brown studies the social and political history of early medieval Europe, with a focus on power, law, and writing. His work has explored conflict resolution both peaceful and violent, and the use of documents by lay people. He is currently writing a book on images of the laity in Carolingian legal formularies.

  • Medieval Cultures Honors Presentations

Flannery McIntyre: "Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep: Gender, Christianity, and Anglo-Saxon Bed Burials"

Thesis Advisor: Dr. Sheila Bonde 
Secondary Reader: Dr. Andrew Scherer

Amanda Morton: "“Those Dark Letters”: Runes, Mythology and Magic in Old Norse and Old English Literature"

Advisor: Lesley Jacobs
Second Reader: Jonathan Conant 

  • Prof. Laurie Shepard (Boston College)

    "Women Troubadours and the Preservation of their Poetry in Southern French and Northern Italian Manuscripts"

Laurie Shepard is an Associate Professor of Italian in the Department of Romance Languages and Literatures at Boston College (Chestnut Hill, Massachusetts). Her research focuses on medieval literature, and she has published on Medieval Latin epistolography (Courting Power: Persuasion and Politics in the Early Thirteenth Century, Garland, 1999), and lyric poetry, including an edition the trobairitz  (Bruckner, M., Shepard L. and White, S. Songs of the Women Troubadours, Garland, 1995; paperback, Taylor & Francis 2000). Her current research also includes Renaissance comedy, and she is working on a website that will reconstruct the communities that produced, performed and published comedies in the early decades of the sixteenth century in Italy.

  • Francisco Gago-Jover (Holy Cross)

"Bi"Data for the Spanish Middle Ages: The Old Spanish Textual Archive."

The creation of digital collections of texts, or textual corpora, for research and preservation may be one of the seminal technological innovations in the digital humanities that still remains at the core of many text-oriented disciplines, including those belonging to medieval studies. When creating a textual corpus, digital humanists face many key choices that will determine their project’s success. These decisions include the selection of standards, format types, methods for text recollection, searchability, access, lemmatization, and interoperability, among others. In this talk I will discuss the development of the Old Spanish Textual Archive (OSTA), a morphologically tagged and lemmatized corpus of more than 25 million words, based on the more than 400 semi-paleographic transcriptions of medieval texts written in Castilian, Asturian, Leonese, Navarro-Aragonese and Aragonese prepared by the collaborators of the Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies (HSMS).   

Francisco Gago-Jover is Professor of Spanish at the College of the Holy Cross. He received his Ph.D. in Hispano Romance Linguistics and Philology at the University of Wisconsin-Madison in 1997 with a dissertation on Medieval Spanish military lexicography. He is the author of two dictionaries, an edition of the Spanish version of the Art of Dying Well, numerous articles on lexicography, and several paleographical transcriptions of medieval Spanish texts. He has taught doctorate courses in different universities in the United States (University of Massachusetts-Amherst and Boston University) and Spain (Universidad de León, Universidad de Valladolid, and Universitat de les Illes Balears). He is the Director of Digital Projects at the Hispanic Seminary of Medieval Studies and is in charge of the Digital Library of the Old Spanish Texts and the Old Spanish Textual Archive.