Postgrad Forum #2 – Episcopal Exon – Lois Lane

screen-shot-2017-01-20-at-12-44-32At first Medieval Postgrad Forum of 2017, Lois Lane (History, King’s) gave us a detailed insight into the Exon Domesday project that she has been involved with. The project is funded by the AHRC (2014-2017) and is a collaboration between scholars from the King’s College London, the University of Oxford, and the Friends and Dean and Chapter of Exeter Cathedral.

The Exon Domesday is a detailed register of the lands, properties, and subjects of the South West region of England, put together for William the Conqueror as part of his Domesday survey project.

Until this project, the details, intrigue, and stories held in the manuscript – MS 3500 in the Exeter Cathedral Library – have been inaccessible to most. There’s no published translation available, and the only edition (in Latin) was compiled in the eighteenth century, long before we had many of the historical and palaeographical insights now available to us.

Lois’ PhD project has a particular focus on the role of Bishops in the Domesday survey. By analysing the type of information collected, how it is presented, and whether any corrections were made in the writing process, Lois explained how she can get a sense of the political roles played by Bishops, and differences between the political clout and interests of sheriffs and members of the church. Studying the type of information collected, as well as linguistic oddities or variance in spelling, also offers clues as to the origins of the scribes, the administrative interests of William and his allies, and can give us an insight into the writing and documenting cultures of church and state authorities in the eleventh century.

Keen Domesday scholars will have to wait a little longer until the Exon Domesday – a marvel of administrative power put together in just a few short months – in all its manuscript, transcription, and translated glory will be available. Have a browse around the project blog in the meantime!

Fran – MRG co-organiser

Full forum schedule Spring 2017

2nd Feb – Fran Allfrey (English, Anglo-Saxon poetry, objects, and place, and contemporary museums)

16th Feb – Get in touch if you would like to present (see below)

2nd March – Manuel Garcia Munoz (History, ‘Matthew Paris and his collaborators: scribes at St Albans’ scriptorium (1230-1259))’

16th March – Anais Waag (History, on 13th century queenship)

30th March – Harriet Cook (Spanish, representations of masculinity in medieval Galician-Portuguese love lyric)

If you would like to present at the PGF this term, please do email the organisers Matt Lampitt and Fran Allfrey

We especially would welcome MA students to propose ideas for sessions. You may want to practice a paper for a conference, or present initial dissertation ideas, using the group as a ‘sounding board’ to pose questions and develop your thinking. Two to three MA students may present during the same session.

Postgrad Forum #1 – Images of Iberia in Oswald von Wolkenstein’s poetry – Doriane Zerka

Oswald von Wolkenstein, via Wikipedia

This Thursday, Doriane Zerka from the German Department at King’s presented some of her research on Oswald von Wolkenstein (c.1376-1445). This eccentric polymath was a diplomat for the court of Sigismund I, a knight, and prolific writer. In his poems, Doriane explained, he retells his travels across Europe. Doriane’s focus is on his poetry about medieval Spain, or Iberia.

Doriane began by explaining how even introducing her research topic is a tricky task: with ‘Spain’ and ‘Europe’ as we understand them not yet established in the medieval period, there are a whole host of other place-names that describe the area. The different names for ‘Spain’ as a whole, or parts of Spain – Iberia, Galicia, Grenada – didn’t just have different connotations of the space they refer to. In her reading of Oswald’s poetry, these different names also carried various political or cultural meanings too.

Oswald’s poetry can be read as autobiographical. He tells his travels in particularly fantastical ways, casting himself alternately as a brave traveller, a charming courtier, and a proto cultural-tourist. He is equally happy to show off being adorned with rings in his ears and beard by the fairy-like ‘white hands’ of an Iberian queen as he is describing donning a ‘Moorish’ outfit to dance and parade in Grenada.

This map shows the kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula from 1270 to 1492. It shows how medieval kingdoms have shaped present-day Spain. Adapted from Muir’s Historical Atlas, 1911. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook.
This map shows the kingdoms of the Iberian peninsula from 1270 to 1492. It shows how  many areas of Spain have retained the names of medieval kingdoms. Adapted from Muir’s Historical Atlas, 1911. The Internet Medieval Sourcebook.

Doriane explained how many scholars have read his poetry and then tried to prove it ‘true’ or ‘false’, searching for other records and letters which show that Oswald was where he said he was, when he said he was. But Doriane’s interest is to look at Oswald’s images and language closely, to read his motives for casting himself in so many various roles, which on the surface might contradict the sort of behaviour one might expect of a knight of a Western court. She explained how throughout his poems Oswald performs the role of the well heeled yet enigmatic diplomat. European courts in the Middle Ages were all about performances and personas. Writing the poetry was therefore an act of performance about performances. Oswald was shaping his identity through and within his writing.

Doriane suggested how we might also read a sort of ‘proto-orientalism’ to Oswald’s depictions of Iberia. I was really interested in Doriane’s discussion of this – especially, as Doriane mentioned, it can be difficult to apply modern theories to medieval texts. For me, however, through his poetry we can certainly see the recognisable actions of colonial powers that still cause problems today. Whilst he seems to have a genuine affection for the people and places he describes, Oswald was able to put on and take off the garb of a ‘Moor’ without any apparent impact on his political standing. Was Oswald truly celebrating other cultures in his poetry? Or was he just showing off his own social and political powers by playing dress-up with other cultures that he found exciting and exotic, before he ultimately returned to courtly life with Sigemund I? Did he admire the different cultures he found in Spain, or was he part of a colonial project laying foundations of treating different cultures as ‘Other’?

Thanks so much to Doriane for providing so many provocaitons and food for thought. Thanks also for reading aloud in Middle German, as an Anglo-Saxonist I love getting the chance to hear other medieval poetry!

– Fran Allfrey, co-organiser of the MRG

Doriane Zerka is a PhD candidate in the German Department at King’s College London. Her work considers depictions of Spain in medieval German literature, from the epic, lyric and travel writing genres. @dorianezerka

CLAMS Postgrad Forum: dates for your diary

Livre du roi Modus et de la reine Ratio, 14th century.

We’re very happy to announce the dates for the coming year for the the CLAMS Postgrad Forum.

The Forum is open to all students of medieval history, literature, and culture at King’s and further afield. We meet fortnightly to discuss works in progress, practice conference papers, and test out thesis ideas. We will also share news of conference calls for papers, external seminars, and other medieval postgrad opportunities. Doing an MA or PhD can sometimes be a little isolating, so we hope the forum will be a great chance to get out of the library.

Although each meeting is informal, we are currently seeking postgrads who want to present their works in progress to the forum. Don’t worry, you don’t need powerpoints or handouts – although if you want to test them out you are very welcome to! Please do get in touch with us.

The first session of the year on 20th October is a chance for the CLAMS postgrad community to meet up and discuss our ideas for the year ahead. Bring along a thing or an image that represents your research interests, and be prepared to test your medieval skills in our quiz! Prizes will be awarded…!

We meet fortnightly on Thursdays at 6:30pm, with wine, juice and nibbles.
20 October
3 November
17 November
1 December
15 December

Fran & Matt – organisers 2016-2017

MRG #6 – Chaucer’s Big Bang – Charlotte Rudman

Today’s MRG was led by King’s second year PhD researcher Charlotte, who drew imaginative and provocative comparisons between how we imagine the internet today, and Chaucer’s Dream Vision poetry. Her comparisons elucidated how Chaucer imagined the functions of oral and written poetry, and suggested some anxieties that he may have felt about differences and effects of spoken and printed word. She also revealed how such a comparison reveals the very sonic qualities of the poetry.

Charlotte began by noting how scholars Ruth Evans and Leah Marcus have previously compared Chaucer’s poetry to ‘the internet’ and modern digital forms of communication technology, but have only gone as far as to introduce the idea as a metaphorical image. What we should do, she suggests, is unpick exactly what it means if a poem is ‘like the internet’.

We often imagine the internet as a collective of voices, of data whirring and whizzing about, continually moving, apparently sent into space with no physical form. Constructs such as ‘The Cloud’ imbue our fondest technology with a sense of the ethereal. But we forget that data takes up space, makes images, inhabits physical structures. Code is classified, collected, and passed on, continually written, unwritten and re-written, and housed within huge data banks: taking up space, energy, and resources. The metaphors we use for the internet imagine transience, speed, and sound.

Charlotte’s research focusses specifically on sound within Chaucer’s dream visions. Whilst we often imagine sounds as being invisible and transient, like the tweets we send off into the ether, they are actually saved, multiplied, and sorted. Chaucer’s sounds multiply and are sorted by Lady Fame: just as social media algorithms and user interactions multiply and sort images and posts. As multiplication happens (as a meme is shared over and over again) it becomes solidified. But there’s a play between being fixed vs continually and always needing to be in the process of fixing, to guarantee longevity. Repetition enables fixity, and movement guarantees continuation and preservation. The whirling branches of the House of Rumour are at once alive with movement and sound, but are stabilized in the continual act of re-making through sound and space.

Charlotte’s presentation led us to discuss ideas of power and control: within our imaginary of the internet but also of medieval fame and rumour. The internet is sometimes imagined and idealised as being not controlled, a free-to-use and democratic space. But, just as Lady Fame has control over her house, so too do large corporations own whatever we put into their servers. We wondered, by medievalists recognising the House of Rumour and House of Fame as ‘a model for the internet’, can we actually critique and ‘a-wake’ people up to the control that is exerted over their casual Facebook posts, instant Instagram images, and mindless tweets?

– the MRG team

Charlotte Rudman is doing her PhD with the English Department at King’s College London, her research looks at sound in Chaucer’s dream vision poetry. @CharRud

Charlotte will be giving a paper on architectures of sound at Leeds International Medieval Conference July 2016, #IMC2016, as part of panel #S1219 A Feast for the Senses: Taste, Sound, and Smell in Medieval Dream Visions. She’ll be presenting with fellow CLAMS researcher, Charlotte Knight.


MRG #3 – ‘He’ll latin-runes tellan in his horror-coat standing’ – Francesca Brooks

Find today’s handout here.

Inside the David Jones archive, National Library of Wales. Photo: Francesca Brooks

Today’s session very much indulged in the pleasure and romance to be found in archival research: the thrill of deciphering a handwritten scribble, discovering hidden-away postcards used as bookmarks, tracing someone else’s thoughts across pages and scraps.

Francesca Brooks introduced her research as trying to find a way ‘to read with David Jones‘, the modernist poet and artist. This led her to spend several weeks last summer within the David Jones archive at the National Library of Wales, rifling through his collected books and papers. She was looking for evidence of Jones’ medieval learning, searching for clues that might give away the inspiration and creative process which informed his long poem The Anathemata (1952).

She explained how the poem is Jones’ exploration of his idea of ‘man as a sign make’, a maker of meaning through symbol and language. Her specific interest in the poem is his play with Old English words, especially in ‘Part III: Angle-Land’. Francesca explained how Jones’ interest in Old English stemmed from his desire to explore languages of early Christianity in Britian: he also had an interest in Latin and, naturally, Welsh. The desire to return to origins being a marker of his modernism which appears across his written and visual work.

David Jones Tate.png
David Jones, Exiit Edictum, 1949. Image from Tate

Apparently, Jones always professed to not really knowing Old English. But Francesca explains how she was able to trace his studentship of the language through his books: noting how his readings of Guthlac, of Old English poetry, his underlinings and notes suggest thought processes that develop from simply glossing words, to translating, to ‘transluding’. James Joyce’s coined word is a perfect fit for describing the sort of linguistic play that is evident in Jones’ scribblings in his Old English glossaries, and in drafts of The Anathemata. His drafts of the particular line ‘he’ll latin-runes tellan in his horror-coat standing’, apparently describing a preaching Guthlac – made at once exemplary priest and warrior – is exemplary of both the influence of his experience of war, religion, and his studentship; they reveal a seriously playful scholar of Old and Middle English at work: a love of all aspects of language, etymologies, sound, sense, form on the page, inform Jones’ processes.

Questions and conversation following Francesca’s presentation led to musings on both the written word and how words become other forms of visual, material, or oral culture. How, or, did, the possibility of voice recording or live performance changed how modernist poets laid out poetry on the page or played with sound? How might language be a witness to history, to time passing? What does Jones reveal to us about Anglo-Saxon stories or the Old English language in his playful enquiries? We’d love to hear your thoughts!

– the MRG team

Francesca Brooks is doing her PhD with the English Department at King’s College London, her research looks at the influence of Old English on the twentieth-century poet and artist, David Jones. @frangipancesca

Francesca will be giving a paper ‘Multilingual and Multimedia Passion Narratives: David Jones’s ‘Dream of the Rood’ Inscription in The Anathemata’ at Leeds International Medieval Conference July 2016, session 1503 #IMC2016 #s1503.

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]

MRG 2015-16 Schedule

We are excited to announce our schedule for the coming year! Please do check on the CLAMS KCL website for most up-to-date listings and to find prior reading for each session, as we won’t be updating this post.

Thursday 5 November, 13.00-14.00
K1.27, King’s Building, Strand Campus
Anne McLaughlin (The Warburg Institute).

Thursday 3 December, 13.00-14.00
VWB4.08, Virginia Woolf Building, 22 Kingsway
Mel Berrill (Cambridge).

Thursday 21 January, 13.00-14.00
K1.27, King’s Building, Strand Campus
Fran Brooks (KCL).

Thursday 11 February, 13.00-14.00
K1.27, King’s Building, Strand Campus
Colleen Curran (KCL).

Thursday 10 March, 13.00-14.00
K1.27, King’s Building, Strand Campus
Simon Bate (KCL).

Thursday 5 May, 13.00-14.00
K1.27, King’s Building, Strand Campus
Speaker: Charlotte Rudman (KCL).

Thursday 2 June, 13.00-14.00
K1.27, King’s Building, Strand Campus
Old English Translation Group takeover!