Congratulations to Magda Hayton for her Post-doctoral Mellon Fellowship

Magda Hayton (CMS 2014) has been awarded a one-year post-doctoral fellowship at the Pontifical Institute for the coming year, 2016-2017.Capture d’écran 2016-03-30 à 4.10.07 PM

During her post-doc, Magda will be researching Cistercian and Franciscan apocalypticisms in the thirteenth century, including how they relate to one another and to the emergence of apocalyptically-charged anti-mendicant discourse at the University of Paris.

Congratulations to our recent PhD students

Congratulations to our recent PhD students who defended in Fall 2015 or Spring 2016: Rachel Bauder, David Gugel, Madeleine Elson, Christopher Miller, and Andrew Dunning.

Rachel Anna Bauder (who defended in Sept. 2015), “Naming Particulars: A Thirteenth-Century Debate on Whether Individuals Have Proper Names”

Supervisor: Martin Pickavé. External reader: Henrik Lagerlund, University of Western Ontario

This dissertation is about a debate that occurred in thirteenth-century philosophy over an apparently bizarre question: Can individuals really have proper names? While scholarly studies have previously appeared on two philosophers (Geoffrey of Aspall and Richard Rufus of Cornwall) who discussed this question, I show that the question was widespread in the thirteenth century and involved many participants. Historically, I offer the first comprehensive account of how the debate over the possibility of proper names arose. I argue that it was instigated by Michael Scot’s translation of Aristotle’s Metaphysics and perpetuated by tensions within the new Aristotelian metaphysical and cognitive theories of the 1230’s-1260’s. Philosophically, I offer a detailed analysis of the arguments on both sides of the question, presenting and explicating over 15 arguments for and against proper names, in texts by eight different philosophers: Richard Rufus of Cornwall, Adam Buckfield, Geoffrey of Aspall, Robert Kilwardby, Pseudo-Kilwardby, Roger Bacon, Siger of Brabant, and Richard of Clive.

The questions I focus on are the following. First, how was it theoretically possible to doubt the nameability of individuals? To answer this question, I look at the medieval traditions in the language arts. Specifically, I argue that Boethius’s commentaries on Aristotle’s Perihermeneias provide criteria for what counts as a nomen or “name” in a philosophical sense, but those criteria specifically exclude words that might otherwise be regarded as nomina or “nouns” in a grammatical sense. Granting this distinction, I then ask the second question of the thesis: On what reasonable grounds might a philosopher think that a name of an individual is merely a grammatical “noun” rather than a genuine philosophical “name”? Here the answer seems to be that individuals cannot be named as such because they cannot be understood as such. I investigate two broad motivations in the arguments: (a) the human cognitive faculties are not equipped to grasp the individual as such, and (b) individuals are unknowable in themselves because they are composites of matter (which is unknowable) and form (which may be knowable, but which may also be common to many individuals).


David Michael Gugel (who defended in Feb. 2015), “The Social and Cultural Worlds of Elite Valencian Youth, 1300–1500”

Supervisor: Mark Meyerson. External Reader: Richard W. Kaeuper, University of Rochester.

This study examines the socio-cultural position of adolescents and youths – those between the approximate ages of fifteen and twenty-five years old – within aristocratic and patrician society in late medieval Valencia. It investigates how young people were defined and described by adult society, as well as how young people understood their own relationship with sources of adult authority – sometimes acquiescing to it and sometimes actively resisting it – and concludes that, far from being an insignificant or abbreviated period of transition from childhood to adulthood, adolescence was a vital and protracted period of preparation that was believed to require special vigilance and attention from adult society to ensure that adolescents and young adults became “successful” members of society.

The study begins, in Part I, by investigating how adolescence was understood and defined by the Valencian legal code, the Furs, which collectively codified adolescence as a period of “quasi-adulthood.” Then, the second part examines how adolescence and youth were constructed in works of prescriptive literature composed by ecclesiastical and secular authors in late-medieval Valencia, with particular attention given to the writings of the Franciscan writer Francesc Eiximenis, as well as Ramon Llull’s Llibre de l’orde de cavalleria, and Joanot Martorell’s chivalric epic, Tirant lo Blanc. These sources highlight the importance of paternal or adult supervision of a child’s education, while also giving insight into societal constructions of aristocratic masculinity and femininity, aristocratic honor, masculine aggression, and socially acceptable forms of sexual expression between young men and women. Finally, Part III of this study explores how the values expounded by the sources used in Parts I and II were expressed by young people within society. Using legal records (court cases and judicial records) and documentary materials, this section analyzes how young members of aristocratic households, particularly squires and the younger members of aristocratic families, were socialized into the culture of violence, honor, and “proper” sexual comportment by adult society and, consequently, reproduced these values in their own lives.


Madeleine Beth Elson (who defended in March 2016), “Chaucer’s French Sources — Literary and Codicological Play and the Author’s Persona”

Supervisor: Alexandra Gillespie. External reader: Ardis Butterfield, Yale.

This dissertation studies the ways that Chaucer and his French contemporaries, Guillaume de Machaut, Jean Froissart, Oton de Graunson, and Eustache Deschamps, craft poetic authority. They do so in relation to the books that convey their writing and literary reputations to their audiences.

Chaucer, translating the work of these French poets, reacts to the constructions of authority he finds in medieval sources, in manuscripts, and in a scribal culture in which the transmission of texts can be unpredictable. I argue that Chaucer adapts Machaut’s pseudo-autobiographical narrative voice in his own poetry. He responds to a contrast evident in manuscript culture between the single-author codex — for example, surviving books of Froissart’s poetry, Paris, BNF 830 and 831 — and the ubiquitous miscellany, a contrast that seems to operate along gendered and poetic as well as codicological lines. Chaucer adapts the poetic form of Graunson’s Cinq Ballades to ensure that his Complaint of Venus circulates as a single piece, unlike some copies of his source text. Finally, I argue that Deschamps invites Chaucer to participate in a cross-Channel exchange of invective, one that is part of a bookish and literary tradition.

The main argument of my dissertation is that Chaucer puts ideas about books into play in his poetry. He imagines manuscripts as forms for literature and as forms for authority. For example, he models the form of the polyvocal miscellany in his General Prologue to the Canterbury Tales in order to create — ironically — a work of literature resembling a single-author manuscript: this miscellany is also a collection of works by a single author that circulates intact. Chaucer’s investigation of bookish forms is playful, but it also has high poetic stakes: for Chaucer, as for his French contemporaries, play locates the poet in an authoritative literary tradition and secures his future renown.


Christopher Liebtag Miller (who defended in March 2016), “Die sah man weinen: The Representation of Emotion and Dispute in Middle High German Heroic Epic”

Supervisor: Markus Stock. External Reader: Jan-Dirk Müller, Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität, München.

This thesis approaches the depiction of conflict and emotion in Middle High German heroic epic from an anthropological perspective, thereby establishing the norms and practices that obtain within the fictive societies the texts present. I argue that these epic narratives problematize the anxieties of medieval aristocratic society, critique those human elements deemed most disruptive to it, and establish positive and negative models for its ordering through variations upon a traditional progression of conflict and through the representation of communicative emotion within this progression.

Across many texts, medieval German heroic epics present a remarkably consistent

set of practices and behaviour associated with conflict. With recourse to medieval law codes and anthropological observations of societies lacking effective centralized authority, I demonstrate that these practices provide the texts with a flexible narrative structure and are a framework for engaging with social and political concerns. In chapter one, I begin with a consideration of the role played by displays of emotion as symbolic communication within heroic narrative, demonstrating that such displays are a primary means by which status and identity is expressed and established. In chapter two, I contextualize these displays within a semi-standardized progression of conflict comprising more-or-less discrete stages of dispute. In so doing, I show that the communicative content and performative valence of emotion is dependent upon its position within the conflict progression. In the third chapter, I establish these disputes as the expression of an economy of symbolic capital with honour as its essential currency.

Approaching these strategic performances in such a manner reveals that the dispute

practices previously outlined function as a form of status competition in which the

negotiation and valuation of honour serves to establish and consolidate social hierarchies. The final chapters are devoted to the varied communicative valences of specific emotion displays in this context. Here, I demonstrate that public displays of grief are utilized to delineate and confirm membership within the honour group, even as they broadcast collective injury, solicit aid, and legitimize violence. Public anger, on the other hand, serves to make or refute status claims, threatening or accompanying reactive violence.


Andrew Nelson Judd Dunning (who defended in March 2016), “Alexander Neckam’s Manuscripts and the Augustinian Canons of Oxford and Cirencester”

Supervisor: Joe Goering. External reader: Faith Wallis, McGill University

Alexander Neckam (Nequam, Neckham; also known as Alexander of St Albans; 1157–1217) was a teacher and Augustinian canon, leading St Mary’s Abbey in Cirencester as abbot from 1213 to 1217, where he took part in royal and papal operations. His extensive writings are typically studied according to genre (grammatical treatises, biblical commentaries, sermons, poetry) and assumed to be directed to two separate audiences, scholastic and monastic. This dissertation shows that Alexander’s works form a more coherent whole by considering them within the historical circumstances of his career and the intellectual context of the Augustinian order.

While past scholarship has assumed that Alexander only became a regular canon c.1197 at Cirencester, he more likely had already joined the Augustinians in Oxford, where he moved c.1190 and was associated with the Priory of St Frideswide (now Christ Church). The order’s influence shaped Alexander’s largest body of writings: his commentaries on the biblical wisdom books, often thought of as encyclopedias but better understood using his own label of meditationes. These reify the idea of meditation as a natural step in the progression of learning, as promoted by figures such as Hugh of St Victor. Alexander viewed this as a means of caring for souls, promoting female figures as universal models of holy living and seeking closer cooperation between religious orders.

Alexander’s fellow canon Walter de Melida directed a campaign to preserve and promulgate these writings. Walter’s work is reconstructed here from cartularies, letters, and palaeographical analysis of manuscripts. His efforts were outwardly focused, using books to pursue closer relationships with Cirencester’s neighbours.

Sol meldunensis, the miscellany in Cambridge, University Library, Gg.6.42, is here identified as having been created by Geoffrey Brito, who as Alexander’s nephew and a canon at Cirencester personally benefited from the preservation of the abbot’s memory. He presented the collection to Geoffrey, abbot of Malmesbury from 1246 to 1260, and the two houses exchanged the book with successive additions, continuing a literary relationship dating to the time of Robert of Cricklade and William of Malmesbury, and providing a fitting monument to Alexander’s unreserved optimism and nurturing of sustainable enlightenment.

Grace Desa is the winner of 2016 Dean’s Outstanding Staff Awards – Dean’s Distinguished Service!

Please join us in congratulating Grace, our Graduate Administrator, for an ABSOLUTELY, AMAZINGLY, and DEFINITIVELY well-deserved award: Grace is being awarded the 2016 Dean’s Outstanding Staff Awards – Dean’s Distinguished Service.

Here are some passages from the letter Grace received:

Dear Grace:
Re: Dean’s Outstanding Staff Awards

I am very pleased to advise you that you were nominated and have been selected by the Dean’s Outstanding Staff Awards Review Committee as the recipient of the 2016 Dean’s Distinguished Service Award.

[…] The submission of a nomination expresses how highly you are regarded by those with whom you work and interact. The nomination speaks of your outstanding contributions and your strengths as they relate to professionalism and teamwork, your demonstrated commitment to the Faculty and your Centre, the contributions you have made to morale as well as the strong positive impact you have made within your work area and beyond.

Below are a few excerpts from these letters that I thought you might enjoy.

20160331_100032“It is very difficult to express in a brief letter Grace’s vital importance for the Centre for Medieval Studies: she is the human continuity of the institution (besides being our source of continual joy, warmth, humour and colour, the latter thanks to her great clothing style). Grace is ever present, ever helpful, and always cordial human face of CMS. The unit is famous for its outstanding Latin and Palaeography programs but it is also famous for Grace.”

“Writing this letter has provided me with an opportunity to discover just how deeply valued she has been by this succession of academic leaders, underlining my own experience: Ms. Desa is, quite simply, the most gifted, creative, and dedicated academic administrator I have known during my 21 years at the University of Toronto. She serves the needs not only of the faculty and students of her own academic unit, but also the wider community that is touched by the work of CMS.

“…She is not at the heart, but rather the heart of the Centre, her office being located right when one walks into the Department, an unmissable stop for any visitor. Grace is the first person that new students meet, and probably the last one to bid farewell to our graduates. She is there when we take our first steps in the department, patiently addressing our worries about admission and reference letters not arriving in time. It is also to Grace that we turn for everyday as well as life-and-death matters throughout our time at the university, from registering to courses to finding housing in the city and fixing problems with funding.” […]

Diana Tiernan
Manager, Administrative Human Resources Faculty of Arts & Science


Congratulations to Andrew Dunning for his one-year position at the British Library

Andrew Dunning (CMS 2016) will be joining the British Library for one year as Curator of Medieval Historical Manuscripts, 1100 to 1500, working with Andrea Clarke and Claire Breay. He will be developing programming to make the library’s manuscripts accessible to both academics and the general public, writing descriptive catalogue entries, and publishing research on the collections.

Capture d’écran 2016-03-30 à 3.13.24 PM

His Key Areas of Responsibility will be:

  • To contribute to the documentation and interpretation of the medieval manuscript collections.
  • To provide an on-site as well as remote service for higher-level enquiries referred to the section.
  • To assist in implementing collaborative programmes of work, liaising with other relevant teams in the Library.
  • To exploit the collections for both a research and a wider audience – through contributions to the medieval manuscripts blog, exhibitions, publications, talks, helping to organise seminars and workshops.
  • To work with a focus on medieval manuscript collections, but working flexibly across boundaries whether linguistic, format based, chronological, or structural, within the section and elsewhere, as required.
  • To work with colleagues across the Library to support and further the Library’s overall strategic priorities, for example, in contributing to fund-raising initiatives, strategic communications with our stakeholders or with the media.
  • To undertake research based on personal knowledge of the Library’s collections in post-holder’s specialist field as a contribution to the Library’s research reputation and to maintain its Independent Research Organisation status with the Arts and Humanities Research Council.

Assistant Professor of Medieval History: Shami Ghosh

The CMS community is happy to welcome Shami Ghosh as our newest faculty member, appointed as Assistant Professor of Medieval History in a position shared jointly by CMS (75%) and the Department of History (25%). After receiving his PhD from the University of Toronto in 2009, Shami Ghosh held postdoctoral fellowships at the University of Leicester (2009–10), Magdalen College, Oxford (2010–13), and the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, as a Mellon Fellow (2014–15). He is currently a Research Fellow at the PIMS, holding a SSHRC Insight Grant (2015–17) to fund his research into late medieval German economic history.

Capture d’écran 2016-03-30 à 3.05.06 PMA remarkably productive scholar of extraordinary range, Dr. Ghosh has already published two monographs (Kings’ Sagas and Norwegian History, Brill, 2011; Writing the Barbarian Past, Brill, 2015) and nine refereed articles. His first monograph demonstrates his mastery of Scandinavian historiography and the related literature of the sagas; his second monograph demonstrates his mastery of the early medieval history of Europe.

His current research promises to reshape the field of late medieval economic history, enlarging the conventional focus of that field on English and Netherlandish economies to include a comparative exploration of medieval Germany. In addition, Dr. Ghosh’s work includes a comparative South Asian dimension that brings the study of medieval Europe into dialogue with other regions of the world, and expands the reach of the discipline of Medieval Studies.

Connell Monette, ‘The Royal Edition of Malik’s Muwatta and its English Translation’

Connell Monette (Al Akhawayn University, Ifrane, Morocco)

will give a lecture on

“The Royal Edition of Malik’s Muwatta and its English Translation”

04:10 pm

Laurence K. Shook Common Room,

Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies

Capture d’écran 2016-03-03 à 1.22.45 PMConnell Monette, a former student at the Centre for Medieval Studies (CMS 2007), is now an Associate Professor of Religious Studies and Associate Director of the Mohammed VI Library of Al Akhawayn University.