From the category archives:

British Literature

Magic in ME Literature

by Dr Davis on September 6, 2014

The Uses of Magic in Middle English Literature (Kalamazoo 2015)
full name / name of organization:
Tara Williams
contact email:
[email protected]
The Uses of Magic in Middle English Literature
50th International Congress on Medieval Studies
Western Michigan University
May 14-17, 2015

This session provides a forum for new work being done on representations of magic in the various genres of Middle English literature. Literary texts depict magic and its uses in a variety of ways, opening up new possibilities for categorizing magic (beyond the classic natural/demonic model) and understanding its effects (both within and outside of texts).

Please send a one-page abstract and completed Participant Information Form ( to Tara Williams at [email protected] by September 15, 2014.

From UPenn


Blog Contributors: Genre and Medievalism

by Dr Davis on September 1, 2014

Call for Blog Contributors – Genre and Medievalism – Open-ended
full name / name of organization:
Tales After Tolkien Society
contact email:
[email protected]
The Tales After Tolkien Society promotes scholarship exploring any and all ways in which popular culture genres engage with the Middle Ages. What does ‘medieval’ mean in different genres – including but limited to Fantasy, Science Fiction, Romance, Westerns, Historical, Horror, Young Adult and Children’s?

The Society aims to connect scholars and build a community of those working on medievalisms in genre literature, and to promote their work. We organize conference panels, and have two edited collections forthcoming.

We are currently seeking new contributors to our blog
Posts might take the form of book, film, or game reviews, short-form scholarship, comments on medievalist scholarship, but are not limited to these options. If it has to do with popular cultures genres and the Middle Ages, we’d like to hear about it.

Contact Helen Young at [email protected]

From UPenn


CFP: De/Constructing Monstrosity and Disability

by Dr Davis on August 13, 2014

“De/Coupling Monstrosity and Disability” — Kalamazoo 2015
full name / name of organization:
MEARCSTAPA (Monsters: the Experimental Association for the Research of Cryptozoology through Scholarly Theory And Practical Application)
contact email:
[email protected]
Sponsored by MEARCSTAPA (Monsters: the Experimental Association for the Research of Cryptozoology through Scholarly Theory And Practical Application)

It has been famously argued that there was no conception in the Middle Ages of the disabled as it would accord with modern notions of embodied difference. In looking for figures of the disabled and the deformed, scholars in medieval disability studies have often looked to monstrosity as an overlapping, if not entirely identical category. We are looking for papers that address the intersection of monstrosity and disability in provocative and searching ways. We especially encourage papers that do not simply collapse these two categories but rather look to interrogate the convergence and divergence of the monstrous and the impaired. What is the effect of reading monsters as disabled and the disabled as monstrous? How does the coupling of these two Othered figures obscure important features? How does reading them together illuminate the social and cultural processes by which difference is constructed? We invite papers from all disciplines and national traditions.

Please send abstracts of no more than 250 words together with a completed Participant Information Form (available here:
to session organizer Richard Godden ([email protected]) or Asa Simon Mittman ([email protected]) by September 15. Please include your name, title, and affiliation on the abstract itself. All abstracts not accepted for the session will be forwarded to Congress administrators for consideration in general sessions, as per Congress regulations.

From UPenn.


Clerical Habits & Doubtful Virtue- PD James

by Dr Davis on July 14, 2014

Dr. Chris Willerton
“Clerical Habits and Doubtful Virtue in the Detective Fiction of P.D. James”

4 people have died by end

religious conflict- priests at seminary are worried about the dissolution of the college at St. Anselm’s

disguise = power of ethos

detective stories deal with disguise
special terror in learning that a priest is the murderer

ideal detective, the minister’s son who spent 3 summers at St. Anselm’s

Church of England “national in special sense, physical symbol of religious/moral belief”
according to PD James, the church of her childhood

PD James is “breathtakingly candid” about showing the positive and negative, according to Ralph Wood.

Both clerics are partly right
There is a good argument for closing it,
but holiness and peace will devolve if social justice is the focus.

noblesse oblige, men only
Woman comes every year to lecture on poetry.
Detective admits college’s “ethos is out of step with the views of the church”

the last warden wonders if he had changed a single life
archdeacon admits class envy, wants edu focused on sociology
clerical ethos forced him into a mask
His first wife was insane.
She took an overdose. He found her unconscious and did not call the police.

Who killed the archdeacon who supported closing the college? Who killed the old servant?

4 priests are believers
One was put in prison for 3 years for child molestation.

Some working at the college are not believers.
One woman pretends to be sister, is half sister, and has sex with her brother.
Greek teacher is an unbeliever. Murderer. Writes boastful confession letter.
The student who is related to Anselm’s founder is the Greek teacher’s son. He will inherit the property if the school is closed.

Anselm papyrus was hidden by Father Martin. At the end he burns it, having concluded that it was a tool for evil, not for good.

The problem with the detective’s search for truth is that he doesn’t get the whole truth.
Father Martin burning the papyrus.
Canadian scholar believing in the existence of the papyrus.
Limits our thinking to evidence.
When thinking of the papyrus, not thinking of Christ.

Christ offers humanity the option of not listening.

No character speaks only for PD James,
but humility and faithful patience of visiting prof is similar to James.

Take away lesson: Humility.


Jerusalem Delivered

by Dr Davis on July 10, 2014

Melissa Haichel Bagaglio
SCMLA notes 2013

Jerusalem Delivered is a poem
major battle of Christians v pagans

time poems written
criticizing church was not allowed (Ariosto)
post-reformation, church more reverent (Tesso)

Paris against pagans (like Troy against Greeks)
Christianity was open minded.
Christians cast spells.
Christians use enchanted objects.
Christians listened to witches and dead wizards.
There was lots of adultery and hanky panky (queen and dwarf–sex through peephole).
Morals are from Knights’ Code of Honor.
The knights’ Code comes from Christianity, but this is not mentioned by Ariosto.

Christianity as force takes precedence over nationality. –Molinaro
moral code in epic

A trip to the moon to recover wits involves Christ, Moses, and a flying hippogriff with an enchanted horn.

baptism – ritual
done by hermit, without witnesses
lacked pomp and circumstance
rite itself was all that mattered

no mention of church
no priest
instead witch and demons set up pavilion
Charlemagne presides

Tasso’s baptism involves water in a hat, because dying.
Still created a rite, was ritualistic.
Tancred performs the ritual, later becomes a crusader.

Clorinda–daughter of black Ethiopian queen, but her skin was white because she prayed before the image of St. George and the dragon.
Her patron saint is St. George.
Clorinda intended to be a Christian. This is why she is good. The saints look out for Christians.

Angels and demons enter the battle.

Mass organized in the middle of war.
Many priests and 2 bishops with the warriors.
Warriors able to confess and take communion.

Tasso: mass serves as the dinner of war.
Eucharist feeds body and soul.

Tasso and Ariosto wrote the same story into the poem.

Ariosto shows God with Gabriel as businessman ordering his employee.

Tasso’s first character is God.
God gives the first view of the world in the poem.

Tasso and Ariosto diverged.

Ariosto used Christianity as satire, criticized the church.

Tasso was writing during the Christian reformation, supported the church.


CFP: Kalamazoo, Medieval Congress

by Dr Davis on July 9, 2014

The CFP for the 50th International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, May 14-17, 2015, is now available.

Some important information from the CFP:
The Congress Committee will schedule only one paper per participant, with the exception of plenary lecturers and those giving papers in the Saturday evening Pseudo Society session, who may give two papers.

The Congress Committee strongly discourages multiple submissions and obliges participants to inform organizers when they submit paper proposals to more than one session. The committee reserves the right to disallow all participation to those who breach professional courtesy by multiple submissions.

The Congress Committee will schedule each participant as paper presenter, panelist, discussant, workshop leader, demonstration participant, poster presenter, presider, or respondent for a maximum of three sessions. Organizers may organize as many sessions as the committee approves.

Organizers of Sponsored and Special Sessions are obliged to forward unused abstracts, together with their Participant Information Forms, to the Medieval Institute by October 1 so that the papers can be considered for General Sessions.

I was going to put down some of the sessions that I am particularly interested in attending, but when the list reached 7 pages, I thought I should not do that.

There is a lot to interest folks at Kalamazoo, even non-medievalists.


Chaucer and Allegory: The Physician’s Tale

by Dr Davis on July 6, 2014

Dale Priest
SCMLA 2013 (took notes, but lost them)

The story was transformed from history into allegory.
Prologue shows the physician as secular.
Ironic discrepancy between the teller and tale, but may remind us of God as the Great Physician.

Personified Envy doesn’t praise the girl’s beauty.

ref to Augustine

speech by personified Nature (l. 11-28)
shows nature’s interest in divine work
described as archetypal artist = standard convention
Nature as divine artison.
Shapes into pattern of ideal primary.

Chaucer turns the sympathetic judge in Livy’s history into a ravaging devil:
“his heart was metamorphized”
“devil ran into his heart”

in both:
Appius rules in favor of accomplice, without time for refutation

father stabs her heart
her fiancé holds her body while father slips away

50-line discussion preceding death
Death before dishonor.
Daughter proceeds to compare herself to Jeptha’s daughter.

St Augustine –typological exegesis to uncover truth behind scriptural veil
all related to charity and condemning cupidity

delivery of head to judge shows triumph of virtue over evil

French Allegorical poem Le Roman de la Rose also deals with the same story.

Le Roman de la Rose:
20,000 lines
written between 1260 and 1280
69 line reference to Virginia episode
says if folks looked to God, there would be no corrupt judges
This poem has daughter beheaded (as Chaucer does later) in court (not at home, as Chaucer).

Virginia is alive in God’s hand and the judge is in Hell with the devils.

Chaucer says there is a reason for clemency:
Claudius was doomed to hang, but father asked for exile, lest he die in his evil due to beguiling.

Father of girl = God
Appius = beguiler (Father of Lies, devil)


CFP: Teaching Rape in Brit Lit

by Dr Davis on June 24, 2014

Hubert_Gerhard rape Tarquinius_Attacking_Lucretia_-_Walters_54662 c1600 WC pdTeaching Rape: Approaches to Difficult Texts in the Medieval Literature Classroom
CFP for Collected Essays

Alison Gulley
contact email:
[email protected]

I am seeking submissions for a collection addressing effective and ethical approaches to teaching episodes involving rape in medieval literature. I am looking for discussions that address the needs of students at all levels, from freshman and sophomore surveys to graduate seminars, and in a wide variety of institutions of higher education including community colleges, small private and public 4-year liberal arts colleges, church-affiliated colleges and universities, single-sex colleges and universities, flagship and Research I institutions, HBCUs, and regional comprehensives. In addition, the volume will cover a variety of genres spanning the Middle Ages in Europe.

The issue of rape has been an important one among feminist circles for several decades, but only recently has it become the focus of a national conversation, involving voices from across the political spectrum and society. While some conservative voices are actively trying to discount the severity of the problem and to deny the existence of an American “rape culture,” most participants in the discussion agree that we are at a critical cultural moment in terms of dealing with the kinds of policies, belief systems, attitudes, and behaviors that lead to sexual violence. Our students, consciously or not, come to the classroom informed by such traumatic events as the Steubenville, Ohio, rapes of 2012, and by the growing press coverage of the status and treatment of women around the world. The recent shootings at UC-Santa Barbara highlight the schizophrenic attitudes that Americans have toward women, sexuality, and violence. In addition, many of our students have first hand experience with sexual violence: several studies suggest that 1 in 4 or 5 college women is the victim of rape or attempted rape and that as many as 8% of college men have engaged in behaviors that meet the legal definition of rape. At this point in the project, I am particularly interested in non-Chaucerian texts.

Topics include but are not limited to the following:
? How are we supposed to understand an episode of rape in relation to the text in which it occurs?
? How does modern reception of texts differ from that of the original, intended audience? And how might we help our students effectively bridge that gap?
? As teachers and students, what do we do with medieval morality and humor that don’t naturally translate for a modern sensibility?
? What religious, political, and social contexts of a medieval text are necessary for our students to understand when reading medieval texts that include rape?
? How are instances of rape, attempted rape, or accusations of rape portrayed in such works, and how might students’ preconceived notions of the Middle Ages, of sexuality, or of violence shape their responses?
? What are the important distinctions, if any, that students might see between didactic texts such as saints’ lives and those texts generally considered to be written for entertainment?
? Are there specific activities or assignments that you’ve found to be effective in the classroom?
? Women are usually the victims in such texts, but how are men depicted as victims, if at all? Do you approach narratives in which men are victimized differently from those in which women are the victims? Do students react differently to such texts?

judith dining Cranach the elderPlease send a completed essay (4000-6000 words) or a proposal (500 words) along with a recent cv to Alison Gulley at [email protected] by September 1, 2014. A decision will be made by October 1 and final drafts of essays will be due by January 15, 2015.

From UPenn


Sir Walter Scott, Abbotsford

by Dr Davis on June 19, 2014

Dr Sandra McNeil, Abbotsford House (Scott’s home)
Scott’s Conundrum Castle: Abbotsford as a Place of Learning

Learning Officer with Abbotsford, right in the heart of the Scottish borders

Discussing own engagement as a heritage educator: Offer Abbotsford as a case study, profound change through major capital development with a goal to re-engage local community with Abbotsford and with Scott’s work…

Abbotsford Sir Walter Scott home 1812This is an image of Cartleyhole Farm c. 1812 (purchased in 1811). As soon as he purchased the farmhouse, he added the columns.
locals called it “clarty hole” (muddy hole)
Scott renamed it Abbotsford.
humble farmhouse cottage and set about to change it
buildings associated with writing, but this is synonymous with him because he recreated it (Jefferson and Monticello)

Scott spent ½ year in Edinburgh, ½ year on the borders.

strange classical portico added as soon as he bought it
3 different architects
1 architect “Scottified it” (scots or scott? We don’t know.)
more like abbeys, churches
Turner sketched the cottage and first extension 1819. This was a simple sketch, outline only on yellow/yellowed paper.
removed the farmhouse and added second building–seen in an image entitled “house from the south court”
used “salvaged” or reclaimed articles
One example is The Tolbooth door from the Midlothian… Tradition held this was the door you passed through on your way to execution.

The house represents Scott’s antiquarian interests… emotional creation… perhaps a fiction.

Abbotsford_Morris_edited WC pdAmong other things he called Abbotsford:
a conundrum castle
flibberty gibbet of a house
Delilah of my imagination

His literary career was always part-time.
laird of Abbotsford, land of his ancestors
property opened to public as a tourist attraction within 5 months of his death
g-g-g-great-granddaughter died in 200X. 2007 a trust was established. Capital project to preserve building and catalog objects and education.
11.68M pounds
2010 green light to project

engage under-represented groups
schools, local families, adult learners, community groups

Heritage Education is very well developed in Scotland. Focuses on historic places/spaces. Experiential approach. Explore, engage with, be inspired by…

Abbotsford House, north elevation, by M. Schnitzler, WC CC3.

Abbotsford House, north elevation, by M. Schnitzler, WC CC3.

Evaluate what Abbotsford could offer to targeted audiences?
failing to attract the audiences
usually it was enthusiasts who came, making their own links between Abbotsford and their own connections to work
borderers’ enthusiasm with Scott not being passed down
not looking at its community

previous audience (restricted with those already familiar with Scott)
most visitors from overseas

Talked to the local teachers and found most of them were united in their guilt about their own lack of knowledge.
There is also a lack of teaching materials on Scott:
some adaptations, a few brochures, nothing related to Abbotsford
The teachers recognized it was in town, but didn’t understand how to link their classrooms to Abbotsford.
Scott’s writing was seen as a barrier. Difficult, long-winded…

Abbotsford by LeCardinal. WC CC3.

Abbotsford by LeCardinal. WC CC3.

Been learning as I go on about Scott and Abbotsford. That has helped me because I am thinking it through from audience point of view.

2 major sources:
1. paper given Dr. E Gordon Brown, 2000, examined Scott’s impulse to create Abbotsford—ties between literary achievements and building
“antiquarianism wasn’t an idle hobby” it was writing and collecting absolutely indivisible for Scott.
2. Abbotsford is the product of antiquarianism and its inspiration.
Scott offers lots of engagement. David Hewitt “bricalage of fragments” commenting on Scott’s guidebook to Abbotsford
“museum for living in” constructing a creative place of inspiration
use heritage to engage
taking their first steps to engaging with the poems and novels

Abbotsford by Ad Mesken, WC CC3.

Abbotsford by Ad Mesken, WC CC3.

Examples of last 3 years:
young people recording Scott’s border ballads
started reciting them together
not prompted, but enjoyed it

140 come for 3 days every September (4 had been there before)
this year half had been
now in this one school everyone in SD 1-5 has come to visit.

They’re coming…
We worked with an Edinburgh poet who specializes in responding to historic places, Ken Cockburn.

Photo by Christian Bickel, WC CC2.

Photo by Christian Bickel, WC CC2.

Engagement with local primary story, design intensive day, create a play trail in Abbotsford
almost everybody in this small village has been to Abbotsford
from there, these children all know the name

nursery class came in this morning

Sir Walter Scott. He was a writer. He built this interesting place.

project: October 2013, collaborative project with Scottish Chamber Orchestra
entire school system (200 students)
worked with composers to create their own songs


Sir Walter Scott, Portraiture

by Dr Davis on June 18, 2014

Continuation of
Sir Walter Scott and the New Science of Reading, a discussion forum
Royal Society of Edinburgh
June 16, 6 pm

portrait Sir Walter ScottDr Viccy Coltman, U of Edinburgh
portraiture in image and text
Scott’s attitude toward material culture, the visual arts, based on his copious correspondence was very negative. Basically he was an iconophobe.

Scott saw illustration of his works as lowering the work to meet the popular culture demands of the middle class.

But there are significant pictorial aspects of Scott’s work. Such as the different senses used to describe a face in the last discussion.

Fergus Mac-Ivor and Waverly in their Highland dress… reference to Raeburn
Scott sat for Raeburn 13 different times, for paintings

2 interrelated aspects of my ongoing work
chapter of a book I am writing

painted portraiture
“physiognomy of Romanticism” real and rhetorical practices of portraiture
look at an ekphrastic portrait in The Bride of Lammermoor (1819) chapter 26

staring picture of John Girder himself ornamented this dormitory, painted by a starving Frenchman…. utterly inconsistent with the dogged gravity of the original, that it was impossible to look at it without laughing…in presuming to hang it up in his bedchamber, had exceeded his privilege as the richest man of the village… respect for the memory of my deceased friend… has obliged me to treat this matter at some length; but I spare the reader his prolix through curious observations, as well upon the character of the French school as upon the state of painting in Scotland at the beginning of the 18th century

fictional portrait into the 1819 novel (first description of Scots painting–their unique styles–was 1817)

Scott was one of the 2 most painted private figures of the 18th C. (Wellington was the other.)

Russell’s catalog of Scott has 200+ busts, portraits, etc.
kaleidoscope of views from 5 yo Scott to after his death…

1871 exhibition had 171 images
2 Sir Walters, courtly baron surrounded by grandeur, others earthy Scott in the Scottish landscape

Portrait_of_James_Northcote_Painting_Sir_Walter_Scott WC pd
Northcote’s work 1828 capitalized on the fact that Scott has been painted so often
Sir Walter Scott being painted by James Northcote
Northcote in his Titian cap, before an enormous rectangular canvas—extends beyond the right hand frame
Scott with his back to the window, painted on the canvas of the portrait of Northcote is a full-frontal
original image has been lost
we have a smaller copy of it (38×49)
another presence in the canvas, the person who commissioned the image

Northcote includes his own portrait in the doubled portraiture of Scott
“I thought it a great honor to be on the same canvas with Sir Walter.”
double portrait of celebrity and artist’s self-portrait