6th Cologne–Toronto Graduate Student Colloquium – 1-3 November 2018

The 6th Cologne–Toronto Graduate Student Colloquium takes place Centre for Medieval Studies, 3rd Floor, 125 Queen’s Park, from Thursday, 1 November to Saturday, 3 November 2018. All are welcome to attend.

Thursday November 1

14:00: Welcome

14:30–15:45: Session 1
Chair: Shami Ghosh.
Alexandra Atiya: ‘The depiction of agricultural labour in Mankind’.
Commentator: Irina Dumitrescu.

16:00–17:15: Session 2
Chair: Jill Caskey.
Jared Johnson: ‘Alcuin’s Vita Richarii: linguistic renovation as a mechanism of control’.
Commentator: Dominik Waßenhoven.

17:30–18:45: Session 3
Chair: Susanne Wittekind.
Hannes Fahrnbauer: ‘Gloves in ritual actions: objects, texts, and images in normative configurations of the Latin Church (11th–13th centuries)’.
Commentator: Jill Caskey.

Friday November 2

9:00–10:15: Session 4
Chair: Bert Roest.
Kamil Majcherek: ‘William of Ockham on Artifacts’.
Commentator: Andreas Speer.

10:30–11:45: Session 5
Chair: Andreas Speer.
Christoph Burdich: ‘The end of ignorance? Some observations concerning the transformation of ‘heresiological knowledge’ in late-medieval Austria’.
Commentator: Bert Roest.

12:00–13:15: Session 6
Chair: Dominik Waßenhoven.
Pavla Ralcheva: ‘Implementation of kinetic images as a mode of presentation and preservation of relics in the later middle ages’.
Commentator: Matt Kavaler.

14:30–15:45: Session 7
Chair: Matt Kavaler.
Ariana Ellis: ‘“It was a graveyard smash”: Humour and the Dance of Death in the fifteenth-century Danse macabre des femmes and the Bergamo Oratorio dei disciplini’
Commentator: Susanne Wittekind.

Saturday November 3

9:00–10:15: Session 8
Chair: Udo Friedrich.
Antje Strauch: ‘ich lass in disem walde alles mein künigreich: Not lost, but found: the meaning of wandering in the Middle High German heroic epic’.
Commentator: Markus Stock.

10:30–11:45: Session 9
Chair: Markus Stock.
André Flicker: ‘Running into the woods: nonsense and non-sense in Middle High German Mären on the three cunning women’.
Commentator: Udo Friedrich.

12:00–13:15: Session 10
Chair: Irina Dumitrescu.
Adrian Meyer: ‘Fair trade: economic equivalence as de-escalation strategy in medieval German narratives’.
Commentator: Shami Ghosh

14:30–15:45: Session 11
Chair: Sabine von Heusinger.
Eva-Maria Cersovsky: ‘Compassionate hearts and thaumaturgic bodies: feminising care and healing during the 13th to 16th centuries’.
Commentator: Isabelle Cochelin.

16:00–17:30: Session 12
Chair: Shami Ghosh.
Emma Gabe: ‘Patrimony, gender, and pious strategies in fifteenth-century Besançon’.
Commentator: Sabine von Heusinger.

7th Annual CMS Alumni Lecture: Oren Falk – 8 November 2018

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

Oren Falk (CMS 2001) Professor of History and Medieval Studies, Cornell University  

Hayden White Doing Headstands in Saga Iceland: Telling the Truth about History


Thursday, 8 November 2018, 4:10 p.m.

Centre for Medieval Studies, Room 310
Lillian Massey Building
125 Queen’s Park


Reception to follow

SMC-PIMS Symposium 2018 – 19-20 October 2018


Mediaeval Studies at the University of St. Michael’s College:

Past, Present, and Future



Unless otherwise stated, all events will take place in the Laurence K. Shook Common Room, PIMS.


Friday 19 October

9:30                     Coffee

10:00                   Opening remarks: Ann Hutchison, PIMS, and David Sylvester, USMC

10:20-12:30       First Sitting: Origins and Development

Presenters: Fr. James Farge, Giulio Silano

Motivator: Alison More

12:30-2:00         Lunch

2:00-4:00           Second sitting: Curriculum

Presenters: Joe Goering, Michèle Mulchahey, Bob Sweetman

Motivator: Greti Dinkova-Bruun

4:00-4:30           Coffee

4:30                     Theme speaker: Paul Dutton. Introduction by John Magee

6:00                     Reception


Saturday 20 October

9:30                     Coffee

10:00-12:00       Third sitting: Projects and Teachers

Tom Burman, Richard Gyug

Motivator: Isabelle Cochelin

12:00-1:00         Summary and Conclusions: Alexander Andrée

Congratulations to our recent PhD students!

Congratulations to our recent PhD students who defended in the last months:

Leah Faibisoff: “Chancery Officials and the Business of Communal Administration in Republican Florence: Ventura and Niccolò Monachi, Chancellors of Florence (1340-48/1348-75)”

This dissertation studies the chancery of the Florentine Republic by examining the administrative offices which constituted the institution and some of the notary- administrators who held principal positions within the chancery. The scholarship on Florentine government often presupposes to the existence of some kind of permanent bureaucratic workforce that rendered stability to the city’s system of amateur, short-term political office. My dissertation instead suggests that the susceptibility to change in Florentine government extended also to its administrative organisation. It can be found at the level of institutional dynamics but it was also experienced by chancery officials themselves who continually had to negotiate between forces of instability and stability in the performance of their duties and in their attitudes towards their work.
The first half of this dissertation considers the institutional dynamics of impermanence within the chancery through an examination and description of the three main offices of the institution during the republican period: the notary of the priors, the notary of legislation, and the chancellor. The main contention of this section is that within the institution of the chancery there was an apparent tension between the semi-permanent, rationalizing force of a very few administrative agents and the impermanent destabilizing force of hundreds of administrative agents who cycled through the chancery. The second half of the dissertation then turns to look in detail at the lives and careers of two long-serving chancellors, Ventura Monachi (chancellor, 1340-1348) and his son Niccolò Monachi (chancellor, 1348-1375). In his lyric poetry, Ventura negotiates the incessant forces of unpredictability as both a notary-administrator and chancellor, while Niccolò’s book of Ricordanze demonstrates how even a notary-administrator who operated as a semi-permanent official was vulnerable to the shifting political sands of the Florentine commune.
This study contributes a new set of insights and perspectives to our understanding of the institution of the Florentine chancery through an examination of the relationship between socio-political dynamics and institutional form; the formation of an administrative habitus as evidenced by the exchange of symbolic capital in municipal poetry and communal art; and, the everyday functionality of an institution structurally based on a persistent tension between stability and instability.
Alexander Fleck: “The Narrative and Descriptive Influence of Latin Hagiography on Beowulf”The search for sources of elements in Beowulf has provided significant insight into the poem’s literary context, thematic makeup, and historical setting. While much value has been derived from identifying Norse and Old English analogues, less attention has been paid to Latin texts. If we accept that the Beowulf-poet was literate, Latinate, and possibly monastic, the influence of Latin literature—particularly hagiography—emerges as a distinct probability.

This dissertation suggests that the influence of hagiography manifests itself in similarities of narrative and description, and examines two common depictions found in both saints’ lives and Beowulf: sea journeys and the hostile wilderness. Through schematizing these scenes, it establishes a set of conventions underlying their depiction and compares them to their analogous scenes in Beowulf.

The voyages of seafaring saints can typically be articulated into overarching narrative components comprising a call to action, a commission and blessing, a procession to the shore and boarding, a voyage aboard ship, an arrival sequence, disembarking, and an onshore meeting, each component featuring remarkably durable elements. Beowulf’s two sea journeys echo the structural components of these vitae closely, and their corresponding elements tend to reflect those alignments found in hagiography.

Though less tied to narrative structure, sacred hermits’ wilderness homes typically depict a robust complement of primary elements: trees, water, mountainous stone, a route, hostile wildlife, fables about the region, negative descriptors, and fabricated space. Readers of Beowulf will be familiar with these elements as they appear throughout Hrothgar’s description of Grendel’s mere and its subsequent appearance in the text.

From these observations, it appears that the Beowulf-poet was incorporating the narrative and descriptive tendencies conventional to Latin hagiography into the Old English poem in spite of divergent subject-matter. These findings serve to reinforce the value of examining the Latinate literary culture of Anglo-Saxon England and its influence on Beowulf. Some compelling analogues within specific vitae suggest that further inquiry into their individual influence on the poem will be rewarded. However, this dissertation most clearly demonstrates the continuing value of seeking sources for elements of Beowulf in the wider conventions of hagiography.

Samuel Klumpenhouwer: “The Summa de penitencia of John of Kent: Study and Critical Edition”

This dissertation presents for the first time a critical edition of John of Kent’s Summa de penitencia and an accompanying study of the text. The Summa is a thirteenth century manual for confessors, informing them of the canon law of the Church and advising them on how to properly hear confessions. The dissertation has four introductory chapters before offering the edited text. The first chapter explains the contribution this critical edition will make to the scholarly community. The second chapter offers a general view of the scholastic milieu and pastoral reforms of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. It likewise examines the genre of pastoralia, within which the Summa may be included. The third chapter offers all the known biographical details of John of Kent, including several newly discovered details that are discussed here for the first time. It also details the circumstances in which the Summa was written. The fourth chapter is an introduction to the edition itself. The codicological descriptions of the five extant manuscripts are here offered, as well as my stemmatic hypothesis, editorial choices and formatting decisions. The remainder of the dissertation is the critical edition of the Summa, which John of Kent divided into three books. The first book primarily addresses clerical issues, such as excommunication, simony and certain sacraments. The second book primarily addresses lay issues, such as marriage, tithes and oaths. The final book is a fictional priest/penitent dialogue, where the penitent is depicted confessing various matters in the confessional, with the priest responding appropriately.

Benjamin Wheaton: “Venantius Fortunatus and Christian Theology at the End of the Sixth Century in Gaul”

The writings of the poet Venantius Fortunatus are a major historical source for the study of Gallic society in the sixth century CE. The amount of Christian doctrine treated in these writings is considerable, and provides a fascinating perspective on late sixth-century Gallic theological thought and how it fit into broader Christian discussions of doctrine across the Mediterranean world. This approach to studying Fortunatus’ writings is different from previous scholarship on the poet, and in addition to shedding light on Gallic society’s approach to doctrinal issues will also serve to illumine Fortunatus’ own capacity for theological discourse. Part 1 of this thesis explores his two extant sermons, one on the Apostle’s Creed (The Expositio symboli) and the other on the Lord’s Prayer (The Expositio orationis dominicae). The Expositio symboli of Fortunatus, when considered in the context of both the text from which it was adapted, Rufinus of Aquileia’s fifth-century Expositio symboli, and other sermons on the same subject from the fifth and sixth centuries, showcases his skill at shaping and transmitting Christian doctrine. The Expositio dominicae orationis also does this, but has the additional facet of containing a strong polemic against semi-Pelagianism. It becomes clear from this polemic that Fortunatus held to a strongly Augustinian doctrine of the freedom of the will. Part 2 of this thesis looks at Fortunatus’ interaction with the Christological controversies of the sixth century, centring around the Three Chapters schism fomented by the decisions of the Second Council of Constantinople held in 553. Fortunatus’ writings that touch on the subject display a careful attitude towards the schism that sought to reconcile the two sides. Venantius Fortunatus shows himself to be adept at doctrinal exposition amidst a late sixth-century Gallic church that retained a vibrant interest in these matters.

Nicholas Wheeler: “Perjury and False Witness in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages”

This dissertation investigates changing perceptions of perjury and false witness in the late antique and early medieval world. Focusing on primary sources from the Latin-speaking, western Roman empire and former empire, approximately between the late third and seventh centuries CE, this thesis proposes that perjury and false witness were transformed into criminal behaviours, grave sins, and canonical offences in Latin legal and religious writings of the period. Chapter 1, ‘Introduction: The Problem of Perjury’s Criminalization’, calls attention to anomalies in the history and historiography of the oath. Although the oath has been well studied, oath violations have not; moreover, important sources for medieval culture – Roman law and the Christian New Testament – were largely silent on the subject of perjury. For classicists in particular, perjury was not a crime, while oath violations remained largely peripheral to early Christian ethical discussions. Chapter 2, ‘Criminalization: Perjury and False Witness in Late Roman Law’, begins to explain how this situation changed by documenting early possible instances of penalization for perjury. Diverse sources such as Christian martyr acts, provincial law manuals, and select imperial and post-imperial legislation suggest that numerous cases of perjury were criminalized in practice. Chapter 3, ‘Peccatization: Perjury and False Witness in Latin Patristic Literature’, investigates analogous developments in the Latin Christian church. Chapter 4, ‘An Early Medieval Case Study: Perjury and False Witness in the Visigothic Church and Kingdom’, studies the effects of these developments on one early medieval society. A concluding chapter suggests a class-based dimension to these changes; interrogates the nature of perjury; and proposes further avenues for research. Conceived as a thesis in the history of law and religion, this dissertation doubles as an investigation of a prominent feature of late antique and early medieval culture.

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 (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.