MRG #2 – Bodies, places, and textual communities – Mel Berrill

Mel’s hand out for the session is here.

Mel and Matt after the MRG.
Mel and Matt after the MRG.

Mel led a fascinating session this week in which she introduced us to a strand of her current research on the Old French Crusade Cycle. Focussing on the first few laisses of the Chanson d’Antioche, she gave a close reading of the text, exploring representations of the body, and asking how and where bodies are situated – whether whole or dismembered. She suggested that this has particular implications for creating communities both of crusaders and of readers.

She also outlined some ways for thinking about how the narrative offers itself up as an object in economies of exchange and gift giving. Ultimately, the passage offered a useful way into the broader questions of Mel’s research, which aims to challenge the distinctions drawn between chanson de geste and romance, as well as between historical and literary accounts of the Crusades. As such, her work interrogates and offers alternatives to dominant historiographies of the Crusades.

Mel’s presentation was followed by a very open and fruitful discussion that suggested further avenues of investigation both for Mel moving forward in her research, and for members of the reading group. Thank you Mel for a great session!

– the MRG team

Mel is in the second year of her PhD in the French Department of the Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages at the University of Cambridge. She is the co-organiser of the Cambridge Medieval French Research Seminar ( and of the Approaching the Medieval Reading Group ( Contact: mb754[at]


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