Congratulations to our recent PhD students

Congratulations to our recent PhD students who defended in late Spring or Summer 2016: Christopher Liebtag Miller, Romney David Smith, Colleen Butler, Caroline Mae Smith and Kasandra Castle.

Christopher Liebtag Miller, “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.


Romney David Smith, “Across an Open Sea. Mediterranean Networks and Italian Trade in an Era of Calamity”. Supervisor: Mark Meyerson. External reader: Paul Freedman, Yale University.
In the eleventh century, commercial dominance of the Mediterranean passed from the Muslim and Jewish traders of the House of Islam to the Italians of such maritime cities as Pisa or Amalfi. Although the outcome of this economic transition is well-known, the purpose of this study is to consider the mechanism that motored Italian takeover. An examination of the characteristics of the trade network, both before and after the economic transition, finds that little structural change occurred; it is therefore argued that Italian merchants operated in conformity with the commercial paradigms of the existing Muslim and Jewish trade network, which are known to us from the Cairo Geniza. It was only the coincidence of major political failure in the large Mediterranean polities that enabled a realignment of Italian merchants from participants to dominant players in the existing trade network. This political failure, which I term “the great calamity,” saw the end of the Caliphate of Cordoba and left both Byzantium and the Fatimid Caliphate much reduced, a situation which rebounded to the advantage of smaller polities. Among them, the city of Pisa serves as a test case for this study’s assertions about Italian integration into the Mediterranean network of Muslim and Jewish traders
  Following the emphasis of the “New Mediterranean Studies” on interconnectivity, a key conclusion is that the spaces defined by trade, such as the decks of ships shared between Jewish, Muslim and Christian merchants, provided an almost neutral medium for the exchange not only of commodities, but also their conceptual, material or stylistic commensals. The final chapters of this thesis concentrate on the social mechanisms that propelled merchants, material culture and knowledge across the Mediterranean. They look at the shared visual culture that permeated the Mediterranean and its concomitant lexicon of shared symbols and motifs. This common visual culture includes architecture, the famous bacini of Pisa, and the broad category of spices, incense and materia medica. This last group, it is suggested, marked an expanding locus of practices shared across both the Christian and Muslim shores of the Mediterranean.


Colleen Butler, “Queering the Classics: Gender, Genre, and Reception in the Works of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim”. Supervisor: David Townsend. External reader: Ralph Hexter, UC Davis.
This thesis examines how the world’s first female dramatist, the tenth-century canoness Hrotsvit of Gandersheim, challenged pedagogical interpretations of gender in her imitations of Roman literature. The dissertation finds that while Hrotsvit imitated the content and form of Ovid, Terence, and Virgil, she denaturalized the binary conceptions of gender promulgated in their works by inverting the specific markers of gender identified in pedagogical texts associated with them and by linking those behavioural markers to imbalances of social power rather than to biology. Studies of the sex/gender system in the early medieval period have tended to focus on medical discourses which attribute gendered behaviour to biology. My doctoral research uses untapped primary sources to prove that gender was not invariably thought to be tied to biology in the medieval cultural imaginary. The commentaries, glosses, and other pedagogical texts on classical literature used in medieval classrooms presented readers with a concrete set of ideas about gender, including highly specific linguistic and behavioural expectations. While scholars have increasingly begun to analyze commentaries on classical literature for insights into medieval gender norms, the majority of this work has focused on the dissemination of ideas about masculinity in male homosocial schools during the twelfth century and beyond. My research contributes to this conversation by asking how early medieval female readers responded to the educational discourses on gender which they encountered in the female-led classrooms of women’s religious institutions. The thesis is also innovative in its proposal that Hrotsvit’s book of saints’ legends was written in imitation of Ovid. Overall, the dissertation revises current understandings of the sex/gender system in the Ottonian period, demonstrating that ideas which resemble the social construction of gender were circulating centuries earlier than previously thought.


Caroline Mae Smith, “Noble Canons, Clerical Nobles: the Cathedral Chapter and Society in Fourteenth-Century Girona”. Supervisor: Mark Meyerson. External reader: John S. Ott, Portland State University.
This dissertation is an examination of the cathedral chapter of Girona, Catalonia in the first half of the fourteenth century, looking at its composition, function, and role in local society. Using material from the Girona chapter and diocesan archives, I argue that the Girona canons were important members of both the ecclesiastical and secular hierarchies of the diocese. Due to a unique privilege requiring all canons to prove noble descent, the men of the Girona chapter were closely connected to the regional nobility. This shaped their sense of identity and influenced them as they sought to live like their noble counterparts and defend their honor. My work explores the boundary between secular and religious identities, discussing the range of activities carried out by these men.
In this dissertation, I outline the structure of the chapter and the norms governing daily life for the canons before discussing the canons’ duties in the cathedral and their work on behalf of the chapter. My research shows that many canons participated in religious activities not mandated by their position in the chapter and showed their devotion in their testaments by donating to charitable institutions, churches, and religious houses and by founding and endowing new benefices and altars in the cathedral. I then discuss the chapter as a corporate body, arguing that it worked to protect its rights, holdings, and jurisdiction in the face of challenges from both ecclesiastical and secular authorities. Finally, I examine the ways that the canons remained connected to their families, arguing that the canons’ noble identity was an important part of their identity.
My research shows that the canons actively built their personal patrimonies, conducted economic transactions for themselves and for relatives, and showed the enduring significance of ties with their families in their testaments. Many Girona canons made bequests to relatives, selected them as executors, and made provisions for their spiritual health in the afterlife. This dissertation shows that the canons could be both noble men and cathedral canons, and they maintained the values and mindset of men from both of these worlds.


Kasandra Marie Castle, “The Development and Decline of Malediction in the Charters of Anglo-Saxon England”. Supervisor: Andy Orchard. External reader: Catherine Cubitt, University of York.
This thesis focuses on the use of maledictory sanction clauses to protect charters, whether written grants of land or privileges, in Anglo-Saxon England. Based on a specially designed and created database of all Anglo-Latin sanction clauses from authentic and substantially authentic single sheets from the ninth to the eleventh century (approximately 171 documents), it traces the formulation of the clause through the pre-Conquest period, revealing lexical, structural, and thematic patterns. Because they were subject to scribal creativity, sanction clauses reflect themes of importance to their draftsmen and run parallel to punitive and infernal concepts emphasized in contemporary works.
The thesis begins with a historical overview of medieval cursing and examines each of the elements potentially included in a sanction clause. It then presents data that was collected in a century-by-century arrangement in order to reveal potential patterns. Finally, it looks at the Anglo-Norman Cartulary of Christ Church, Canterbury, extant in three medieval copies. The cartulary’s compiler recasts his source materials, altering them to fit a common mold. This recasting included the addition, deletion, and modification of the sources’ sanction clauses. Such interpretive acts tell us much about the intent of the early English cartularists, the archival environment that produced such a compiler, and the perceived function of malediction in the post-Conquest period.
This dissertation suggests that sanction clauses dropped from contemporary diplomatic use, not because of a newfound perception of their inefficiency—they were, arguably, fairly inefficient modes of preservation all along—but because of the gradual secularization of the previously highly religious genre. The detail with which formulation of the Anglo-Latin sanction clause is laid out herein sheds further light on its intricacies and provides material for further study of its significance in the broader Anglo-Saxon social context.

Congratulations to Jonathan M. Newman for his new tenure-track position

Jonathan Newman (CMS 2008) was hired as tenure-track Assistant Professor of pre-1800 English literature at Missouri State University in Springfield Missouri where he is teaching undergraduate and graduate courses in Old English, Medieval Literature, and History of the English Language beginning Fall 2016.

Jonathan is also completing a monograph on epistolography and clerical masculinity in medieval Western Europe begun as a SSHRC postdoctoral fellow at Dartmouth College.

Fifth Annual CMS Alumni Lecture, Judith Bennett (CMS 1981)

The Centre for Medieval Studies cordially invites you to a lecture by CMS alumna

Judith Bennett, Professor Emerita, UNC-Chapel Hill and University of Southern California

“Wretched Girls, Wretched Boys, and the Medieval Origins of the European Marriage Pattern”

James le Palmer / anonymous illustrator Detail of an historiated initial 'S'(sponsus) of a man placing a ring on a woman's finger. British Library Royal MS 6 E VI, fol. 104 (14th century)

James le Palmer / anonymous illustrator
Detail of an historiated initial ‘S'(sponsus) of a man placing a ring on a woman’s finger.
British Library Royal MS 6 E VI, fol. 104 (14th century)



Thursday, 20 October 2016, 4:10 p.m.
Centre for Medieval Studies, Room 310
Lillian Massey Building
125 Queen’s Park

Reception to follow

Program for the Cologne-Toronto Graduate Student Colloquium, 29 Sept-1 Oct


The Cologne-Toronto Graduate Student Colloquium will be held in Toronto from Thursday 29 September to Saturday 1 October 2016. This interdisciplinary colloquium is sponsored by the a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities at the University of Cologne and by the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto with assistance from the Germany/Europe fund of the University of Toronto.

Capture d’écran 2016-09-16 à 1.53.09 PM

Thursday 29 September (Great Hall, Centre for Medieval Studies)


2:00 pm Welcome: Suzanne Akbari, Director, CMS; Mark McGowan, Senior Academic Advisor to the Dean of Arts and Science, International


2:30-3:45 Session 1

Chair: Susanne Wittekind

Kathrin Borgers: ‘Seeing Through the Artist’s Eyes: The Creative Act of Painting Monsters’

Commentator: Matt Kavaler


4:00-5:15 Session 2

Chair: Jesse Billett

Maria Parousia Clemens: Consecratio duplex: The Relationship between the liturgical Rites of Consecration of Virgins and monastic Profession for Nuns in the Central Middle Ages’

Commentator: Susanne Wittekind


5:30-6:45 Session 3

Chair: Sabine von Heusinger

Eva-Maria Cersovsky: ‘Who Cares? Gender and Health Care in Late Medieval Strasbourg’

Commentator: Nicholas Terpstra


7:30 Dinner


Friday 30 September (Great Hall, Centre for Medieval Studies)


9:00-10:15 Session 4

Chair: Suzanne Akbari

Bogdan Smarandache: ‘Border Warriors and Border Agreements: The Study of the Latin East as a Frontier’

Commentator: Andreas Speer


10:30-11:45 Session 5

Chair: Peter Orth

Kim Alings: ‘Semantic Accesses to the Keyword auctoritas in Primary Sources from the Second to the Ninth Century’

Commentator: Nicholas Everett


12:00-1:15 Session 6

Chair: Nicholas Everett

Jacob Goldowitz: ‘Renovation and Resurgence: Salernitan Medicine’s late-antique and early-medieval Heritage’

Commentator: Peter Orth




2:15-3:30 Session 7

Chair: Monika Schausten

Fabian Scheidel: ‘Turning and Transforming: Body Concepts and binary Oppositions in the Allegory of ‘Frau Welt‘ (‘Lady World’)’

Commentator: Shami Ghosh


3:45-5:00 Session 8

Chair: Shami Ghosh

Walker Horsfall: ‘Frauenlob’s catechistic Imperative: Form and Function in the Kreuzleich

Commentator: Monika Schausten


5:15-6:30 Session 9

Chair: Andreas Speer

Lars Reuke: ‘Many Lives: Vegetal, Animal, and Human Life in Albertus Magnus’

Commentator: Peter King

Dinner-Students’ night


Saturday 1 October (Great Hall, Centre for Medieval Studies)


9:00-10:15 Session 10

Chair: Lawrin Armstrong

Jason Brown: ‘The Composition of St Antoninus’ Summa

Commentator: Sabine von Heusinger


10:30-11:45 Session 11

Chair: Guy Guldentops

Francesca Bonini: ‘The Manuscript Tradition of the Lectura Thomasina

Commentator: Martin Pickavé


12:00-1:15 Session 12

Chair: Martin Pickavé

Boaz Schuman: ‘Quid est veritas? John Buridan on What Makes a Proposition True’

Commentator: Guy Guldentops


Concluding comments


 Tour: The medieval manuscripts of PIMS Library

 Concluding dinner


Program for the University of Toronto Colloquium in Mediaeval Philosophy, Sept 23-24, 2016


Session I (4:30 – 6:30)

Chair: Antoine Côté (University of Ottawa)

Speaker: Stephen Dumont (University of Notre Dame): “The Condemnation of Giles of Rome Revisited”
Commentator: Peter Eardley (University of Guelph)



Session II (10:00 – 12:00)

Chair: Christina Van Dyke (Calvin College)

Speaker: Dag Nikolaus Hasse (Julius-Maximillian-Universität, Würzburg): “Averroës on Knowing God”

Commentator: Luis Xavier López-Farjeat (Universidad Panamericana)

Session III (2:00 – 4:00)

Chair: Michael Fatigati (University of Toronto)

Speaker: Kendall Fisher (Syracuse University): “Thomas Aquinas on Hylomorphism and
the In-Act Principle”
Speaker: Philip Choi (University of Colorado at Boulder): “Skepticism, Reliabilism,
and Evidentia in William of Ockham”
Speaker: André Martin (McGill University): “Terminative Cognition and the Object of Cognition in Peter John Olivi”


Session IV (4:15 – 6:15)

Chair: Andrew Arlig (Brooklyn College)

Speaker: Cecilia Trifogli (Oxford University): “Thomas Aquinas, Giles of Rome, and Thomas Wylton on the Subject of Thought and the Intellectual Soul”

Commentator: Therese Scarpelli Cory (University of Notre Dame)

ScotusAll sessions will be held in Room 100 of the Jackman Humanities Building

(170 St. George Street) and are free and open to the public.

Registration and inquiries:

The colloquium is sponsored by the Department of Philosophy, the Collaborative Program in Ancient and Medieval Philosophy, the Centre for Medieval Studies, the Department of Near and Middle Eastern Studies, and the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies.

Organizers: Deborah Black, Peter King, Martin Pickavé

Friends of the Library Lecture: Prof. Adam Cohen, on Monday 19 Sept

The Friends of the Library invite you to attend their 2016 Fall Lecture:

“The Book: A Symbol of Monastic Ascent”


(Department of Art, University of Toronto)

Among the activities of monastic reformers around the year 1000 was the production of illuminated manuscripts. Examining a cluster of Ottonian and Anglo-Saxon pictures reveals the central place of the book itself as the ideological site of monastic reform and spiritual ascent.

Capture d’écran 2016-09-09 à 3.55.00 PM 3:00 p.m., Monday, 19 September

Room 100, Alumni Hall

University of St. Michael’s College

121 St. Joseph Street

All are welcome. A reception will follow the lecture in the Laurence K. Shook Common Room at the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, 59 Queen’s Park Crescent East, Toronto. For further information, please visit www.