Toronto-Cologne Colloquium 2015 Call for Papers

The Centre is soliciting abstracts (one page) from CMS students for 30-minute papers dealing with any aspect of medieval studies. Submissions for papers on any topic are welcome: history, literature (Latin and/or vernacular), art history, philosophy, music, medicine, etc.

The colloquium will be sponsored jointly by the a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School of the Universität zu Köln and the Centre for Medieval Studies of the University of Toronto and it will take place in Cologne on November 19-21, 2015. The University of Bonn Department of English will also participate this year. The aim of the colloquium is to promote discussion and exchange among graduate students and faculty from both institutions. Costs for travel and accommodation of six students will be covered.

Cologne was among the most important German cities of the Middle Ages and still boasts twelve Romanesque churches and many other buildings from the later Middle Ages. It is home to the biggest medieval urban archive north of the Alps and several other important archives and libraries (e.g. the library of the archdiocese). With over 40,000 students the University of Cologne is also one of the biggest German universities.

Please send abstracts to Professor Lawrin Armstrong ( by 19 June 2015.

For a PDF version of this Call for Papers, click here.

The Canada Chaucer Seminar–18 April 2015

The Canada Chaucer Seminar will take place on Saturday April 18th, 2015 at the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Toronto from 9:00-5:30 with a reception to follow. All are welcome to attend. There is no registration fee.

Keynote Speakers:
Emily Steiner (Pennsylvania): “Encyclopedic Style: Trevisa’s Literary Prose”
Paul Strohm (Columbia): “Chaucer’s Poetical and Empirical ‘I’ “

Papers By:
Suzanne Hagedorn (College of William and Mary)
Andrew Kraebel (Trinity)
Anne McTaggart (University of Western Ontario)
Megan Murton (Xavier University)
Peter Robinson (University of Saskatchewan)
Eve Salisbury (Western Michigan University)
Andrea Schutz (St. Thomas University)

The full program is available at: Canada Chaucer Seminar 2015

Historia calamitatum: Consolation to a Friend, edited by A. Andrée

Historia calamitatum: Consolation to a Friend
Toronto Medieval Latin Texts

Edited from Troyes, Médiathèque du Grand Troyes, MS 802 by Alexander Andrée

Peter Abelard’s Letter to a Friend, frequently known as The Story of My Calamities, recounts the meteoric and disastrous career of one of the driving forces of the twelfth-century renaissance. The son of a minor Breton noble family, a public intellectual who turned the academic establishment on its head, lover of Heloise, and sometimes his own worst enemy, Abelard produced in elegant prose one of the signal works of medieval autobiography. This new edition presents the Latin text as it appears in the earliest manuscript—until recently misdated by a hundred years—studded with a commentary that explicates the circumstances of its composition, context, and language.

Toronto Old English Colloquium 2015

Friday, 1 May 2015

Chair: Roy Liuzza (University of Toronto)
Sarah Keefer (Trent University): Looking at it Another Way: the Bayeux Tapestry through the Lens of Liturgy

Chair: Mary Catherine Davidson (York University)
Ian McDougall (University of Toronto): Bits and Pieces:  Some Fragmentary Thoughts on Dealing with Fragments in the DOE

Chair: Rob Getz (University of Toronto)
Robin Norris (Carleton University): Eadui Basan, Prince of Litanists?

Chair: Valentine Pakis (University of Toronto)
Michael Fox (Western University): Beowulf: Following the Formula

All sessions will take place at the Centre for Medieval Studies, Room 301. All are welcome.

For more information, contact Roy Liuzza ( or Fabienne Michelet (

This event would not be possible without the generous support of the Centre for Medieval Studies, the Department of English, the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies and St. Michael’s College at the University of Toronto.

To download the program click here.

Letter of support from CMS faculty members

11 March 2015

Professor Cheryl Regehr
Office of the Provost

Dear Professor Regehr:

As members of the faculty appointed principally or cross-appointed to the Centre for Medieval Studies, we would like here to express our solidarity with all efforts to improve conditions for professional life and learning at the University of Toronto. We share with our students a commitment to academic integrity and learning, and we deplore the dramatic inequalities between different working positions at this university.

We recognize the precarious labor conditions under which teaching assistants, course instructors and sessional instructors work–and the impact that these conditions inevitably have on the quality of both undergraduate and graduate education, as well as on a sense of true and equitable academic community among colleagues. Teaching assistants and many course instructors subsist on wages below poverty level. Many are responsible for dependents. Many who struggle to complete their degrees once they exit the cohort covered by the current funding scheme rely entirely on paid teaching work.

We admire and support the commitment our teaching assistants and junior colleagues have made to address these issues, and we urge the administration to return to the bargaining table with CUPE 3902 Unit 1 as soon as possible.


David Townsend

Lawrin Armstrong

Jill Ross

Peter King

David McDougall

Ian McDougall

Yolanda Iglesias

Suzanne Akbari

Alexander Andree

Claude Evans

Isabelle Cochelin

Congratulations to Ryan Greenwood

Congratulations to Ryan Greenwood (PhD 2011), who has been appointed Curator of Rare Books and Special Collections and Assistant Professor of Law at the University of Minnesota Law School. During research for his doctoral thesis, “Law and War in Late Medieval Italy: the Jus Commune on War and its Application in Florence, c. 1150-1450”, Ryan became intrigued by manuscript and early printed law books, an interest he pursued at Rutgers, where he completed a Master of Library and Information Science degree. He has served in positions with a focus on special collections at Rutgers, Columbia, and, most recently, at the Yale Law School, where he was 2013-14 Rare Book Fellow at the Lillian Goldman Law Library. Ryan recently discussed the relationship between his research and librarianship in an interview with the online journal “Fine Books and Collections” (

Well done, Ryan! All best in your new position.

Of healing and henbane: what a medieval sedative says about modern medicine

Aug 21, 2014
Author: Jim Oldfield

Martino Gabra and Nicholas Everett

“In fact, the history of medical treatment, until recently, has been essentially the history of the placebo effect.”

— Arthur and Elaine Shapiro*

For Nicholas Everett, the future of medicine may lie in the past.

Everett is an Associate Professor in the University of Toronto’s Department of History and an expert in the history of medicine. He argues that many ancient and medieval treatments, which were often mixtures of plants, minerals and animal products, were neither ineffective nor placebos — although he admits a few were lethal.

“A lot of experience and medical practice formed over millennia of trial and error underlie many historical recipes and recommendations,” says Everett. “In fact, the most commonly used medicines today derive from folk traditions, and many of the active ingredients in plant medicines are still the subject of intense research for new medicines.”

Everett has been busy uncovering practices that might spark new medical research.

In 2012, he published The Alphabet of Galen: Pharmacy From Antiquity to the Middle Ages. The book is an English translation, with critical notes, of a Latin text that describes almost 300 traditional medicines and why people used them.

And this summer Everett and Martino Gabra, a graduate student in the Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, published a paper that describes the chemical composition and probable effects of a medieval medicine called the “Great Rest,” which included opium, henbane and mandrake.

The pair calculated the likely effective dose and toxic dose for the popular sedative. The study represents the first assessment of a medieval drug using the principles of modern pharmacokinetics, which measures how the body processes drugs.

“One interesting finding about the Great Rest was that henbane may have reduced the potential for overdose or addiction by creating a sense of disassociation within 20 minutes, making repeated self-administration unlikely,” says Gabra. “The morphine in the opium would have kicked in later, providing pain relief for about 12 hours.”

Gabra says the idea that henbane can temper morphine abuse could be useful to researchers today, and that the history of medicine offers many possible avenues for new research. He and Everett plan to apply their approach, which they’ve dubbed “historical pharmacology,” to other medieval and ancient treatments.

Gabra also hopes their methodology will aid another coming area of research: how plant-based dietary supplements and food interact with drugs.

Many plant ingredients react with drugs and food to adversely affect health. For example, chemical compounds in grapefruit juice can change the activity of blood-pressure medications. Ginseng can increase bleeding in people taking aspirin.

“Some researchers view plant medicine as fringe science, but many people are using plant-based supplements,” says Gabra. “There’s almost no regulation of these products, and patients often have no idea what’s in them. As pharmacologists, we have an obligation to study alternative medicine.”

Gabra will begin graduate research on cancer and tumour suppression this fall in the lab of Assistant Professor Leonardo Salmena. He also plans to keep reading beyond his main area of study — a habit that led to him to Everett’s history of medicine course as a first-year undergrad in life sciences. (The two have stayed in touch since.)

Everett continues to step outside his discipline as well. He registered for a B.Sc. at U of T in 2011, and has taken several life sciences courses. He says the course work has confirmed his belief that humanities scholars can reap huge benefits from studying science — and that medicine has a lot to learn from the humanities.

“Scientists today are under great pressure to look forward and to create new knowledge, but there is huge value in looking at past traditions,” says Everett. “People in the past were not stupid. There was logic in many of their practices.”
*Shapiro, Arthur K, and Elaine Shapiro. The Powerful Placebo: From Ancient Priest to Modern Physician. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press, 1997. Print.

Cologne-Toronto Graduate Student Colloquium 2014

University of Toronto – 5-7 December 2014

Friday, Dec. 5 (Centre for Medieval Studies)

1:15 pm Welcome

1:30-2:45 pm Session 1
Chair: Suzanne Akbari
Patrick Breternitz: The Collectio Herovalliana – A canonical collection from Boniface’s circle?
Commentator: Nick Everett

3:00-4:15 pm Session 2
Chair: Lane Springer
Alessia Miriam Berardi: The Localization of an 8th-Century Commentary on the Song of Songs. The Case of the Anonymous of Orléans-Wolfenbüttel
Commentator: Karl Ubl

4:30-5:45 pm Session 3
Chair: Joe Goering
Andreas Berger: De his, qui contra naturam peccant. The ‘sin against nature’ in early medieval legal sources
Commentator: Peter King

6:00-7:15 pm Session 4
Chair: Bogdan Smarandache
Andrew Dunning: Personal Correction Practices in the Manuscripts of Alexander Neckam and Samuel Presbiter
Commentator: Andreas Speer

 Saturday, Dec. 6 (Sessions 5-7: Centre for Medieval Studies; sessions 8-10: Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies)

9.00-10.15 am Session 5
Chair: Martin Pickavé
Simon Liening: Envoys and Diplomacy in Early 15th-Century Strasbourg
Commentator: Lawrin Armstrong

10.30-11.45 am Session 6
Chair: Lochin Brouillard
Leah Faibisoff: Trademarked Testaments: Paper from Venetian Morea to Rialto
Commentator: Sabine von Heusinger

12.00-1.15 pm Session 7
Chair: Isabelle Cochelin
Christopher Berard: King Arthur and the Canons of Laon
Commentator: Udo Friedrich 

2.15-3.30 pm Session 8
Chair: Kirsty Schut
Jitka Ehlers: Word – Image – Object: Negotiating Inscriptions of the Romanesque Art
Commentator: Jill Caskey

3.45-5.00 pm Session 9
Chair: Dorothea Kullmann
Zinaida Uzdenskaya: Thomas Beckett – an Ideal Martyr. Studies in the Iconography of Canterbury Pilgrim Souvenirs.
Commentator: Susanne Wittekind

5.15-6.30 pm Session 10
Chair: Elaina Lysack
Michael Schwarzbach: Telling the Truth by Telling Lies: Beast Fables in Medieval Chronicles
Commentator: Suzanne Akbari

Sunday, Dec. 7 (Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies)

10:00-11:15 am Session 11
Chair: Jake Wakelin
Christopher Liebtag Miller: Virgin Virago and Devil’s Bride: The Female Warrior and the Economy of Honor in Middle High German Epic
Commentator: Monika Schausten

11:30-12:45 pm Session 12
Chair: Andreas Speer
Julia Stiebritz: dâ begunden herze und ôren / tumben unde tôren / und ûz ir rehte wanken. Gottfried of Strassburg’s Literary Depictions of Courtly Music Life and the Latin Court Criticism of the High Middle Ages
Commentator: Markus Stock

The event is free and open to the public.

Sponsors: Faculty of Arts and Science, Centre for Medieval Studies, Department of Germanic Languages and Literatures, and Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, a.r.t.e.s. Graduate School for the Humanities Cologne.

Welcome to our New Students!

The Centre for Medieval Studies welcomes everyone to a new academic year 2014-15. A special welcome to our new MA and PhD students. We have 25 new MA students this year and 14 students entering the PhD class. We hope everyone will have a chance to meet them as soon as possible. Here is a list of some of the new students.

MA students:

  • Eun Seon (Ludia) Bae, BA (York University): gender history, monastic communities in the High Middle Ages, and stained glass windows.”
  • Jonathan Brent, AM (University of Chicago), BA (Maryville College): Late Medieval England, Romance, Animal Studies
  • Mark Doerksen, BA (Hons.) (University of Saskatchewan): Anglo-Saxon Studies and Germanic Literature
  • David Foley, BA (Hons.) (University of Saskatchewan): St. Thomas Aquinas, Philosophical Theology, Rhetoric and Poetics
  • Anthony J. Fredette, BA (Fresno Pacific University): the expression of philosophical and theological themes in medieval literature, particularly in Boethius, the Lancelot-Grail Cycle, and Dante
  • Walker Horsfall, BA (University of Toronto): Medieval German vernacular literature; medieval esoteric religious movements and philosophies
  • Leonardo Lombardi, BA (McGill University): Political discourses, Government, and Law in Late Medieval Italy
  • Namiko Hitotsubashi,BA (Wheaton, MA): Old English history and literature, Old Norse Lit.
  • Matthew Monk, BA (University of Tennessee): Northern European economic and social history, material culture, medieval industry and trade, and textile and book production
  • Elizabeth Perfetto, BA (University of Toronto): English and French vernacular literature, food culture, medieval reception
  • Robert Smth, BA (University of Oxford), History. Interests: Early medieval, esp Carolingian, history; hagiography and political admonition
  • Angela Warner, BA (University of Kansas): troubadours, Cathars, emotional communities, emotional expression, medieval mystics, medieval medicine

New PhD students:

  • Benjamin Durham, BA (Ohio), MA (Toronto): Codicology and Palaeography
  • Boaz Faraday Schuman, BA (Calgary), MA (Toronto): scholastic metaphysics and philosophy of mind, especially in the thought of Duns Scotus and his pupil Franciscus de Mayronis; and Old English biblical paraphrases and saints’ lives
  • Caitlin E. M. Henderson, BA (Wilfrid Laurier University), MA (University of York): medicine; codicology and palaeography; Middle English
  • Terri Sanderson, BA (Dalhousie) BA (Ottawa), MA (Toronto): medieval cosmology, Old English literature
  • Cameron Wachowich, BA (Toronto), MA (National University of Ireland, Galway), MA (Toronto): Insular medieval vernaculars, especially Irish; text editing and translation; reception studies; historiography
  • Julia Warnes, BA (Ottawa), MA (National University of Ireland, Galway), MA (Toronto): Late Antique private letter collections
  • Sarah Wilk, BA (Lethbridge), MA (Toronto): Late Medieval Warfare, Chivalry, Masculinity
  • Dylan Wilkerson, BA (UCLA), MA (Toronto): English Literature and Scandinavian Literature