Program for the University of Toronto Colloquium in Medieval Philosophy 2018 – 21-22 September

Session I (4:30 – 6:30)
Chair: Peter Eardley (University of Guelph)
Christopher Martin (University of Auckland): “Only God Can Make A Tree: Abaelard on Wholes and Parts and Some Evidence of His Later Thinking About Them.”
Commentator: Jeffrey Brower (Purdue University)

Session II (10:00 – 12:00)
Chair: Kara Richardson (Syracuse University)
Riccardo Strobino (Tufts University): “Avicenna’s Account of Conditionals and the Logic of Scientific Discourse”
Commentator: Asad Q. Ahmed (University of California, Berkeley)

Session III (2:00 – 4:00)
Chair: Matthieu Remacle (University of Toronto)
Michael Fatigati (University of Toronto): “Avicenna on Uniquely Human Emotions”
Daniel Simpson (St. Louis University): “Naturally Apt For One Another: Ockham on the Nature of Causal Linkage”
Aline Medeiros Ramos (Université du Québéc à Montréal/Université du Québéc à Trois-Rivières): “The Status of Prudence in Buridan’s Ethics”

Session IV (4:15 – 6:15)
Chair: Claude Panaccio (Université du Québec à Montréal)
Irène Rosier-Catach (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris): “The ‘Linguistic Turn’ of Medieval Logic in the Early XIIth Century”
Commentator: Andrew Arlig (Brooklyn College)

All sessions are free and open to the public and will be held in Room 100 of the Jackman Humanities Building (170 St. George Street).

Organizers: Deborah Black, Peter King, Martin Pickavé

CMS students and faculty at IMC Kalamazoo 2018

A number of faculty members and students at the Centre for Medieval Studies will be presenting papers or organizing sessions at the 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, May 10-13, 2018.


B. S. W. Barootes, “A Readers’ Theatre Performance of the Pearl-Poet (A Performance),” “Charles d’Orléans: Forms and Genres,” “Postcards from the Edge: Boundaries and Liminality in the Pearl-Poet,” “The Provincial Aristocratic Household in Late Medieval England”

Claude L. Evans,” Changing Landscapes and Images: New Collaborative Projects in Ecclesiastical History: Monasticon Aquitaniae, Mont Saint-Michel, MILBRETEUR (l’an MIL en BRETagne et en EURope), Beauport Abbey (A Roundtable)”

Haruko Momma, “Insular/Continental Interface before 1100: Culture, Literature, History”

Medieval Ethiopia, presided by Michael Gervers



Suzanne Conklin Akbari, “Encyclopedism” as part of “Medievalists Read Moby Dick (A Roundtable)”

Suzanne Conklin Akbari, “War Memorial: Medieval Siege Poetry and the Onslaught of Time”

B. S. W. Barootes, “Enclosure and Release: Structural Mourning in Fortunes Stabilnes”

Alexandra Bolintineanu with Tamsyn Mahoney-Steel, Johns Hopkins Univ., “IIIF for Medievalists I: A Gentle Introduction (A Workshop)”

Deanna Brook’s, “Monks and Manuscripts: The Anglo-Saxon Use of Five Carolingian Reform Texts”

Brianna Daigneault, “Reformulating the Myth: Unicorns in Romance”

Augustine Dickinson, “Zärʾa Yaʿəqob’s Campaign against Magic: Prayer, Rhetoric, and Policy”

Michael Fatigati, “Avicenna on Evaluative Judgments and the Emotions”

Alexandra Gillespie, “Parker’s Tertullian”

Julia King, “Using IIIF to Digitally Reunite Manuscript Fragments” as part of “Methods and Tools for Reuniting Manuscript Fragments (A Roundtable)”

Cameron Laird, “The Insular Origin of the Bern Riddles”

Valentine Anthony Pakis, “Known Knowns and Known Unknowns: Prolonged Trends and Current Problems in Old High German and Old English Glossographic Research”

Stephen Pelle, “A New Witness to the Circulation of the Seven Heavens Apocryphon”

Daniel Price, “Political Authority and Divine Immanence in the Holy Tears of Genoveve of Paris”

Daniel Price with Ahmad Nazir Atassi, Louisiana Tech Univ., “Popular Piety in the Early Development of the Medieval State” as part of “Medievalists without Borders: Cooperative Projects on Popular Culture in Islamic and Christian Lands (A Roundtable)”

Vajra Regan, “A Thirteenth-Century Version of the Almandal: Newly Discovered and Described for the First Time”

Nora Thorburn, “Ditches, Wheels, und Druppenval: Keeping the Water out of the Records in Medieval Osnabrück, 1250–1400”

Nicholas Wheeler, “Anti-Episcopal Conspiracy and Perjury in the Visigothic Church”

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 (email hidden; JavaScript is required).

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.

Eva von Contzen, Visiting Professor at CMS

Eva von Contzen, Professor of English literature at the University of Freiburg, Germany, and principal investigator of the project “Lists in Literature and Culture”, funded by the European Research Council, is a visiting Professor at the Centre from 15 February to 15 April 2018. Her research interests include narrative forms and functions in medieval literature, especially hagiography; the reception of classical texts in the Middle Ages; the practices of list-making and lists in literary texts; and historical narratology. She is currently working on a monograph on the tradition of the epic catalogue from Homer to Omeros.


2017-18 J.R. O’Donnell Lecture: Michael Herren — 13 February 2018

You are invited to the 2017-18 J.R. O’Donnell Memorial Lecture in Medieval Studies by:

 Professor Michael Herren, York University

  “Comedy, Irony, and Philosophy: Menippean Satire in late Late Antiquity”


Tuesday, 13 February 2018

4:10 p.m.

 Room 310

Centre for Medieval Studies

125 Queen’s Park

Toronto, Ontario

Reception to follow

 This lecture series is free and open to the public.  If you have an accessibility or accommodation need for this event, please contact the Centre for Medieval Studies email hidden; JavaScript is required 416 978 4884

Jointly sponsored by: The Centre for Medieval Studies, Centre for Comparative Literature, Department of Classis, JMLAT, and PIMS

Congratulations to our most recent PhD graduates!

Congratulations to our recent PhD graduates who defended over the last few months:

Daniel Brielmaier: “Selves and Subjectivities in Medieval North Atlantic Verse”

This thesis explores the construction of speaking-subjects and their subjectivities in medieval North Atlantic verse.  Although first-person poetry in medieval Irish and Welsh, Old English, and Old Norse-Icelandic has enjoyed a good deal of critical attention, little of it, with the exception of the Old English material, has focused on the strategies and rhetoric poets employed in the creation of lyric poetry’s speaking personas.  The intent of this project is thus to analyze, discuss, and bring to light the creativity and skill with which medieval North Atlantic poets brought the speaking-subjects of their poetry to life.
“Subject” and “subjectivity” are understood in psychoanalytical terms, primarily through the narrative of signficiation articulated by Julia Kristeva.  In particular, Kristeva’s understanding of the formation of subjectivity through the interaction of the semiotic (i.e., the wordless drives of the body) and the symbolic order (i.e., the world of objects and social structures outside the self) forms both the thesis’s primary tool of analysis – along with close reading – and its organizing principle.  The lyric poems under consideration here are thus organized into chapters according to the relationship of the semiotic and symbolic in the formation of their speaking-subjects. The first chapter, then, examines how Irish monastic poets constructed a Christian subjectivity in
which the semiotic, bodily drives of the speaking-subject – in its ideal form – ran in perfect accord with the Christian symbolic order.  The second chapter takes up the theme of consolation, and examine how Old English, Irish, and Norse verse could be used as a therapeutic tool to end a speaking-subject’s alienation by modelling a process through which the subject signifies himself within an alternative symbolic order, one which enables the speaker to understand his or her subject-position in a more positive light, thus bringing semiotic and symbolic closer to accord.  The third and final chapter turns to those alienated speaking-subjects for whom there is no hope of achieving accord between the semiotic desires of the body and the symbolic order, or of
finding even consolation.  The chapter explores some of the topoi of alienation – eros, old age, illness – prevalent in North Atlantic verse, examining the conditions through which these lyric speakers have become alienated, and what strategies poets employed to represent their estranged state.

Jacob Wakelin: “Making History in High Medieval Austria (1145-1203)—The Vorau Manuscript in its Secular and Spiritual Context”

This dissertation focuses on the historical, social, and political context of the Vorau manuscript (Stiftsarchiv Vorau Codex 276), a collection of more than a dozen Middle High German poems from the late eleventh to the mid-twelfth century in addition to Otto of Freising’s Gesta Friderici I. imperatoris.  When taken together, the manuscript’s disparate assortment of texts creates a roughly coherent history of the world from Genesis down to about 1150. Compiled by the Augustinian canons of the Styrian house towards the end of the twelfth century under the provost Bernard I, the manuscript references local historical events and individuals that were intimately tied to the region’s monastic houses.  As Styria’s margraves, the Otakars (1055-1192) were the founders and advocates of a large number of the monastic communities, and this dissertation argues that the interplay of interests between the Styrian court and its religious houses forms the backdrop to the Vorau manuscript’s creation.  These interests centred on the political legitimacy, social relevance, and stability of both parties that resulted from a monastery’s role in creating a history of a dynasty through commemorative practices and historical writing.  This emphasis on dynasty and heritage was also a key aspect of crusading movement of the twelfth century, playing up the importance of dynasty and heritage in the context of salvation history and increasing demand for the commemorative services offered by canons and monks.  The spiritual and secular importance of dynastically driven historical consciousness at Styria’s monasteries and its court constitute the context which imbued the texts of the Vorau manuscript with relevance for its composers and subsequent users.

Amanda Wetmore: “The Hermeneutics of Desire in Medieval English Devotional Literature”

This dissertation explores the way medieval English devotional writers utilized the hermeneutics of contemporary biblical exegesis, in order to frame their depictions of an erotic and embodied encounter with the divine. The way they manipulate the construction of literal to allegorical realities enables—rather than constrains—the relationship of flesh to spirit, so that the desiring body does not disappear into discourse, but rather, language operates in service of the flesh, articulating a profoundly incarnational devotion, not divested of the body that produced it.  My first chapter explores these themes in Aelred of Rievaulx’s (died 1167 CE) De institutione
inclusarum and De Iesu puero duodennni, where I examine the way Aelred constructs an economy of affect through his manipulation of readers’ desire through the focalization of their gaze on the body of Christ. In my second chapter, I analyze John Whiterig’s (died 1371 CE) Meditacio ad Crucifixum, and notably his erotic semiotics, and erotic interpretation of the Crucifixion, following a four-fold biblical exegesis. Third, I look at the way the The Cloud of Unknowing (late 1300s CE), as part of the “negative” or apophatic tradition, deconstructs some of the typical ideas of cataphatic devotion, positing its own way of accessing the indescribable divine, through darkness, silence, binding, and even anal eroticism. In this chapter, I use modern BDSM (bondage, domination, and sado-masochism) as a comparative context with which to
compare the Cloud’s use of bondage and denial to achieve transcendence. Finally, I analyze the parable of the Lord and Servant in Julian of Norwich’s (died 1416 CE) Long Text, in which I argue that Julian constructs her own “exegesis,” which both responds to and critiques the dominant hermeneutical modes of her day. Julian’s parable demonstrates a metonymic structure of relations, in which the literal and spiritual levels are not hierarchized, but united.