Eva von Contzen, “Lists in Premodern Literature” — 27 March 2018

Workshop: Lists in Premodern Literature: Exploring the Practices of Enumeration

Date: Tuesday, 27 March 2018, 10 am – 12:00 noon

Location: Room 310, Lillian Massey Building

Have you come across any lists or enumerations in your texts recently and wondered how to come to terms with these passages?

Premodern texts of all genres abound with lists: epic catalogues,genealogies, lists of people, animals, places, and things, inventories, rolls, litanies, indices, and many more. The premodern ubiquity of lists has been discarded as a “typically medieval impulse” (Muscatine) and has received surprisingly little attention by scholars. Lists and enumerations often leave us with a feeling of discomfort as modern aesthetics has shifted away from the appreciation of enumerative forms. What happens, though, if we take the form of the list seriously and approach it as a device in its own right that affords a wide range of functions?

Eva von Contzen:  Introduction: Enumerating the World

Jill Caskey: Person, Place, Thing

Laura Moncion: Lists of the Dead: the Durham Liber Vitae and Monastic Necrologies

Suzanne Conklin Akbari: Lists in Medieval Tomb Ekphrases

Evina Steinova: Synonyma Ciceronis

Markus Stock: The Love Bestiary by Burkhart von Hohenfels (KLD 6,2)


Come and join us for the discussion in Room 310, Lillian Massey Building, 125 Queen’s Park!

For questions or queries, please contact Eva von Contzen (eva.voncontzen@utoronto.ca).

Congratulations to Richard Shaw for his recent publication!

Congratulations to alumnus Richard Shaw (PhD 2013) for the publication of The Gregorian Mission to Kent in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History: Methodology and Sources, London, Routledge, 2018.

shaw gregorian miss

Historians have long relied on Bede’s Ecclesiastical History for their narrative of early Christian Anglo-Saxon England, but what material lay behind Bede’s own narrative? What were his sources and how reliable were they? How much was based on contemporary material? How much on later evidence? What was rhetoric? What represents his own agendas, deductions or even inventions?

This book represents the first systematic attempt to answers these questions for Bede’s History,taking as a test case the coherent narrative of the Gregorian mission and the early Church in Kent. Through this critique, it becomes possible, for the first time, to catalogue Bede’s sources and assess their origins, provenance and value – even reconstructing the original shape of many that are now lost. The striking paucity of his primary sources for the period emerges clearly. This study explains the reason why this was the case. At the same time, Bede is shown to have had access to a greater variety of texts, especially documentary, than has previously been realised.

This volume thus reveals Bede the historian at work, with implications for understanding his monastery, library and intellectual milieu together with the world in which he lived and worked. It also showcases what can be achieved using a similar methodology for the rest of the Ecclesiastical History and for other contemporary works.

Most importantly, thanks to this study, it is now feasible – indeed necessary – for subsequent historians to base their reconstructions of the events of c.600 not on Bede but on his sources. As a result, this book lays the foundations for future work on the conversion of Anglo-Saxon England and offers the prospect of replacing and not merely refining Bede’s narrative of the history of early Christian Kent.”


For more information, consult the publisher’s website.

Richard Shaw, “How Did Early Medieval Historians Use their Sources?” — 22 March 2018

USMC Fireside Chat Series presents:

Lecture by Dr. Richard Shaw, Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College

“How did Early Medieval Historians Use Their Sources?”

22 March 2018, 6:00 pm

The Basilian Common Room, University of St. Michael’s College.

Faced with the inclusion of fables, miracle stories and legendary or mythological elements it is sometimes difficult to take the works of writers from the early Middle Ages seriously. We continue to use these texts, however, when we produce our histories of the past. It is imperative therefore that we seek to understand both the methods and the sources of our sources if we are interested in attempting to reconstruct the past that they describe. Richard Shaw will examine these questions by looking in particular at Bede’s Ecclesiastical History and the ways in which Bede worked with the limited materials at his disposal.

Richard Shaw is Associate Professor and Chairman of the History Department at Our Lady Seat of Wisdom College. He completed his PhD at the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of Toronto. His book The Gregorian Mission to Kent in Bede’s Ecclesiastical History: Methodology and Sources was published by Routledge in 2018. Richard has also published on Antony of Egypt, Cassiodorus, Gregory of Tours, Augustine of Canterbury, Bede, Ælfric of Eynsham, Thomas Aquinas and François de Laval. He was awarded the 2014 Eusebius Essay Prize by the Journal of Ecclesiastical History and was shortlisted for the 2016 Medium Ævum Essay Prize.