Otherness – The #IMC2017

The International Medieval Congress 2017 is held from 3-6 July at the University of Leeds. The special thematic strand of this year’s IMC is “Otherness”. For the next few days we will report regularly from the IMC and offer reviews of interesting papers and sessions. It’s a collaborative, steadily growing blog-post, so check back for updates! We are: Sébastien Barret (SB), Anja Blode (AB), Cornelia Dreer (CD), Eva Ferro (EF), Santa Jansone (SJ), Roderick McDonald (RM), Teresa Dröfn Freysdóttir Njarðvík (TN), Michael Schonhardt (MS), and Julia Wannenmacher (JW). Do you want to join us with your own session reports? Your contributions would be welcome, please send us an email!


Relics at the Interface between Textuality and Materiality, c. 400-C. 1200, I: Writing the Relics (session 103)
Moderator: Mayke de Jong
Speakers: Eva Ferro (Universität Freiburg) (also reporter)/Kirsten Wallenwein (Universität Heidelberg), Julia M. H. Smith (Oxford University), Grahame Mckenzie (University of Edinburg).

This was the first of a series of sessions on “relics between textuality and materiality”, organised by Elisa Pallottini (Universiteit Utrecht), Janneke Raaijmakers (Universiteit Utrecht) and Julia Smith (Oxford University) in relation to the project “Mind over Matter. Debates about relics as sacred objects, c. 350-c. 1150”, led at the University of Utrecht by Prof. Janneke Raaijmakers.

Paper 1: The paper was dedicated to relic labels, little straps of papyrus, parchment or, in the later Middle Ages, paper that identified the relics indicating the names of the saints´ or the objects from which the relics were taken from. The first half of the paper was dedicated to the contemporary reflection on relic labels. The contemporary sources, mostly hagiographical narratives, offer a wide range of termini to indicate the relic labels, which stress the small format or the materiality of the labels. Other than this, contemporary sources rarely offer a clear definition of the function and meaning of these writings and not even liturgical sources, while precisely regulating the handling of relics, describe particular requirements in connection with relic labels. This points at the fact that relic labels should rather be understood as a form of practical-pragmatical writing, more connected to the writing of document than to a sacral-magical form of writing. In the second half of the paper a series of historical findings connected to relic labels were presented, most of which referred to the treasure of Sens, where a particular rich collection of relics and of written documents (relic labels, lists) connected to relics is transmitted. The historical findings presented here also lead to the conclusion that relic labels had mostly pragmatical functions (for instance identifying the single relic when more than one object was kept in the same reliquary; documenting the dedication of an altar).

Paper 2: In this paper by Julia Smith lists of relics were used a starting point for an original exploration of the medieval imagination connected to saint´s and relics. This paper dealt, like the previous one, with documents from Sens, in particular with a list of relics dated 1192, which was studied in relation to earlier relic labels, also found at Sens. Far from being a reliable documentary source listing objects found in the church´s treasure, this list much more opened a window into what the speaker called “the medieval material imagination”. In the process of copying older relic labels into the list sometimes also ‘new’ relics were created: the difficulty of reading or understanding older relic labels as well the fact that the relic bundles weren´t opened when they got re-labelled opened a creative space between the material object and its imagination by the medieval scribe, who would have to fill in the gaps left by the illegible label or by the sealed bundle. In one instance for example the scribe changed “tunica” into “theca” and so listed – and, in a way, created – a new relic from the tomb of Saint Filibert . The paper managed to turn an a prima vista rather ‘dry’ topic like high medieval relic lists into a fascinating journey inside the rich medieval imagination connected with saints´ lives.

Paper 3: The paper handled relics found in Rome as these were described in pilgrim guides and Indulgentiae texts of the high and later Middle Ages. The speaker concentrated specifically on what he called “lithic” relics, like stones, columns or other similar ancient objects (spolia) found in Rome. In this paper as well, one could observe the medieval “material imagination” at work, since some of these objects were recognised as relics and provided with a narrative only during the Late Middle Ages in spite of the fact that they had been in the same spot for many centuries. This is the case for instance in the example of the so called Colonna santa, which was identified as the column on which Jesus preached in the Temple only much later in spite of the fact that it had been in Rom since the 8th or 9th century alredy. (EF)


“Scandinavia in Europe, I: An Imagined Other? (Session 115)

Speakers: Kristian Schmidt, Richard Holt, Rune Blix Hagen

In the first paper, Kristian Schmidt (115-a: Another look the other way: ‘Viking’ Ships on the Russian Rivers) looked at the East European sources about the Vikings. Many details about the Viking activities in the East are still unknown. He focused on the works of the history writer and later emperor Constantine III Porphygennetos. In these works different types of boats are mentioned, which are usually translated as “Viking Ships”.  Schmidt argued that scholars and translators don’t consider that there were different kinds of Viking ships throughout the centuries and that there was no such type as “the” Viking ship, but many different ones.  By comparing the written records with the archaeological material, the speaker was able to identify different type of boats. Thus, he could clearly show that there were more different types of boats or ships used in the Eastern part of Europe and that the use of the ships depended on the geography and the weather.  He concluded with the hypothesis that the cultures of the Vikings and the culture of the Byzantium Empire overlapped in the Eastern part of Europeand that there was more cultural transfer than expected, f.ex. that the Byzantines also build ships inspired by the Vikings.

The second paper was held by Richard Holt (115-b: Scandinavia? Poor and honest, but King’s Lynn is nicer. A Venetian view of the North from 1432). He presented a Venetian account by Pietro Querini, a merchant, who was shipwrecked and stranded with his crew on a little Norwegian Island. Later on, this merchant wrote a report about his experiences in Scandinavia and the sea voyage via Norway, Sweden and England back to Italy.  The horrors of the sea voyage had deep impacts on the merchants. Holt focused on the strange Scandinavian world the merchant experienced in Norway.  Although the Norwegians were kind and helped him to recover from the hardships he had to endure, they introduced him to another world of values and norms. In some cases they were more swinging than the people in the urban centres of Europe at this time. Norway was also strange to Querini because of the lack of urban centres and urban cultures.  First, when he came to King’s Lynn, England, he felt safe and secure again. Although Norway was very strange to the Italian merchant, he highly valued his rescuers and came back to Italy with a different view of the world around him.

In paper 3 (115-c: Far Out to Unknown Lands: The Medieval Background to the Writing and Map Drawing of Olaus Magnus), Rune Blix Hagen focused on the historical works of Olaus Magnus. First he gave a short introduction into the life and works of Olaus Magnus. Many of the information giving in these texts was collected by Olaus Magnus himself during his northbound journeys.  In the second part of the paper, Hagen focused on the magical aspect in the Historia de gentibus septentionalibus. Especially the Sami were known for being potential sorcerer and for practicing wind and weather magic. They used nature to their advantages, not only in times of peace but also in warfare. They even sold so-called wind-knots to travellers who wished for a favourable wind. By examining the aspect of weather and wind magic, Hagen could show that this motif was common throughout many written records, already in the Middle Ages. Famous sources for weather magic, which were used by Olaus Magnus are Adam von Bremen with his Church History and Saxo Grammaticus with the Gesta Danorum. (AB)


‘Self’ and ‘Otherness’ across conceptual, geographic and religious boundaries. (Session 123)

Speakers: Thae-Ho Jo, Yo Onuma, Natalia Petrovskaia

Paper 1. Thae-Ho Jo (Imagining Christian Unity: Images of Saracens as Ideal Religious Others in Middle English Romances) explored three broad ways in which saracens are characterized in Middle English romances, as literary devices that confirm the nature and unity of Christianity: the saracen as monstrous other, the saracen as noble convert and the saracen as travelling merchant. Each of these categories reveal some degree of overlap, but they can also be quite distinct. Their narrative monstrosity is found in characteristics of blackness, animal associations, lacking language and being held responsible for atrocities committed against Christians. Thae-Ho juxtaposed this against the noble convert, through which this ‘other’ achieves a possibility of assimilation, however fraught, while the travelling merchant, who represents a kind of fluid border-crossing saracen is able to exist in both Christian and non-Christian worlds.

Paper 2. Yu Onuma: (Otherness as an Ideal: The Tradition of ‘Virtuous’ Indians) traced the development of western classical and medieval thinking on the role, status and relevance of the classes in Indian society of the Brahman and the Gymnosophist, covering Plutarch’s and Strabo’s treatment of these Indian spiritual/religious classes through to such medieval texts as the letter of Prester John, and Mandeville’s Travels. Yu noted the texts’ acknowledgement of these non-Christian people as nevertheless virtuous and that over time these literary texts reveal a developing view that these people were worthy of God’s love, even to the point of being more acceptable in the eyes of God when compared with the sinfulness of European Christians. In this frame, Yu proposed that an ideal medieval self was in fact to be found in the virtuous other.

Paper 3. Natalia Petrovskaia (Europe and the Non-European Other in the Medieval European Tradition) discussed her current work in progress on medieval geographic traditions and the varying definitions and understanding of ‘Europe’ in the Middle Ages, forming one aspect of the tripartite medieval world view, alongside Africa and Asia. She noted that boundaries can be set geographically, but the concept of boundary as frontier is important – boundaries can be dividing lines or where shared interactions take place, and the medieval view of the location of the boundary can be based on religion and geopolitics. There are synchronic descriptions of Asia possessing both classical and Christian characteristics, so the differentiation is not certain. The simple delineation of Europe as opposed to Asia on Christian/non-Christian grounds was not readily accommodated, and the notion of Europe does not necessarily match a modern world view. (RM)


Foretelling The Future In The Carolingian World: Text And Context (137)

Moderator: Rob Meens (Universiteit Utrecht)

Speakers: Annemarie Veenstra (Universiteit Utrecht), Ria Paroubek-Groenewoud (Universiteit Utrecht), Marian de Heer (Universiteit Utrecht)

This excellent session dealt with the topic of foretelling the future in the past by presenting three different case studies on manuscripts with prognostical content. Although indeed being a somehow paradoxical approach (as Moderator Rob Meens put it in his introduction), it became quite clear that it is nonetheless a very fruitful field of inquest for different disciplines of medieval studies.

Paper 1: Annemarie Veenstra started the panel with her paper on ‘Scholarly Knowledge in Clercial Manuscripts’. After a few clarifying remarks on the genre of prognostics she presented her analysis of London BL Harley 3017, a computistical manuscript also including prognostic texts. Using this manuscript, she proposed that prognostics should not be understood as futuretelling, superstitious or ‘unchristian’ as it has been done by 19th century scholarship. Instead, these prognostics should better be understood as ‘calculation’ and as a useful tool for the clergy that required considerable knowledge by its user.

Paper 2: This more appreciative approach towards prognostics was also present in the second paper by Ria Paroubek-Groenewoud titeled ‘Clash or Complementary’. She presented prognostical texts transmitted in a distinctively medical manuscript, Berlin MS Phill 1790. Here, the texts that did not only tell the fate of a patient, but indicate further treatment as well, clearly made by someone familiar with medical issues. Again, this shows that medieval prognostics were far from being superstitious but part of medieval medicine. Also, she argued, her example of MS Phill 1790 shows that early medieval medicine should better be understood as a somehow fluid category between scholarly knowledge as well as craftsmanship.

Paper 3:The third paper by Marian de Heer ‘Pagan knowledge in a liturgical context’ was dealing with with prognostics in a rather unexpected environment, talking about Vienna ÖNB Cod. 1888. This manuscript mostly comprises of liturgical texts, but also distinctive prognostical texts in-between. However, instead of characterising the manuscript as liturgical, thus framing prognostical texts as out of place, it should better be considered as a practical handbook for pastoral care. Understood as such, the manuscripts shows how accepted prognostical texts have become in by the early Middle Ages.

Although focusing on three very different manuscripts, all papers showed that prognostics should neither be understood as ‘superstitious’ or ‘pagan’ texts, nor can they be categorised very easily. On the very contrary, prognostics should be considered as a very dynamic and diverse phenomenon and thus be studied as such.

PS: As the speakers are still building up their list of continental prognostic manuscripts from the early Middle Ages, they are very interested in being contacted in case of any new findings. (MS)


The Digital Scribe: Handwritten Text Recognition (HTR) of Medieval Texts (session 139)

Speakers: Elena Mühlbauer, Maria Kallio, Tobias Hodel.

The “Digital Scribe” session revolved around a question that has become quickly a classic one in computer-assisted medieval studies: the use of automated and semi-automated tools of text recognition, applied to manuscript sources. In that case, a further binding element between the papers was the use of the Transkribus software and the participation to the READ project. Elena Mühlbauer (From Tables to Transkribus: From Information to Knowledge. Working with Parish Registers) showed that the question is not limited to the Middle Ages, and presented the use of HTR for parish registers, focussing on a project concerning the dioceses of Passau. 800,000 pages have been digitized, and a special investigation concentrates on the years 1847-1878. For that time, 25,000 pages in tabular form, listing notably names, dates and causes of death, are being turned into a database including enriched metadata, including work on the identification of the different writers. The whole process, for which the treatment of one page takes 30-60 minutes, aims at transforming “tables into data, and data into knowledge”, through a multifaceted collaboration around the technical tools in use. Maria Kallio’s talk (Transkribus and the Archives of a Brigitittine Monastery: Making Digital Editions of the Naantali Documents) was based on the Diplomatarium Fennicum, a database of Finnish medieval documents (ca. 6700 dating 11th-16th centuries) based on paper editions, enriched with metadata, images of original documents, bibliographic data and links to other databases. A part of the enrichment of the Diplomatarium is the confection of new, electronic editions, such as the edition of the ca. 150 charters from the Brigittine monastery of Naantali (which are preserved party in Sweden and partly in Helsinki). Using a collaborative workflow based on the use of Transkribus and its markup and comment functionalities, 62 documents have been edited at the present point, in spite of a few problems with some of these functionalities. Tobias Hodel’s starting point (Sending 15th-Century Letters Through Algorithms: Testing and Evaluating HTR with 2,500 Documents) was teaching, and, specifically, using Transkribus as a tool for palaeography courses as well as trying to get the software to read cursive gothic script. The material he used consisted in a corpus of some 2,500 letters from the 15th century. It led to very interesting discussions with the students, with topics ranging from the transcription rules to the very nature of the medieval text. On the technical level, the automated text recognition attained an error rate of 26 % without linguistic model for machine-learning and 13 % with such a model. While this, though ultimately not a bad result, is not good enough if one speaks of edition, the pedagogical side of the project has been a great success.

The discussion afterwards revolved around the various possibilities of getting better results, of combining data from different sources, around the choice of software (Transkribus or Transcribo?) or the approach for establishing the ground truth (i.e. the data used to “train” the algorithms) (SB).


Relics at the Interface between Textuality and Materiality, c. 400-C. 1200, II: Inscribing the Relics (session 203)

Speakers: Paweł Nowakowski, Vincent Debiais, Estelle Ingrand-Varenne.

This was the second of a series of sessions on “relics between textuality and materiality”, organised in relation to the project “Mind over Matter. Debates about relics as sacred objects, c. 350-c. 1150”, led at the University of Utrecht by Prof. Janneke Raaijmakers.

Pawel Nowakowski (Ossa Loquuntur. Labelling Reliquaries and the Transmission of the Communal Memory of Martyrs in Late Antique Anatolia and the Near East) based his talk of ongoing works which are to lead to the opening at Oxford of the database “Cult of Saints in Late Antiquity” on the 1st November 2017, in which inscriptions play an important role. He began by noting the scarcity of the corpus he was to investigate, as only 5 % of the reliquaries coming in question for his paper bear any inscription at all. Very often, existing texts are not very informative, in addition to some objects being hard to access. In the more favourable cases, the reliquaries bear a description of the relics’ deposition; sometimes they mention donators, or the saints and relics they keep. In other occasions, formulas are inscribed to threaten violators with secular or spiritual punishments. The rarity of these mentions has led the orator to think that knowledge on relics and saints has had to go through other channels of communication, and that the few cases he found are to be considered exceptions, if not extravagances – which does not make them less interesting. Vincent Debiais (Scales, Sizes, and the Legibility of Medieval Relics Inscriptions) addressed the problem of the legibility and reception of inscriptions by focussing on the importance of their scale (a relative measure seen in relation to the environment of the inscription), as opposed to their size (an absolute measure). Basing on a choice of examples, he put forward his opinion that the scale and relation of the inscriptions to their environment is an essential criterion to analyse their perception or reception, as they are a key to understand how they should play a part in a whole tableau; the question not being whether they were more or less visible and legible to an exterior observer, but how they merged in a work and influenced its dynamics. Estelle Ingrand-Varenne (Poetry and Materiality: The Inscription on the Reliquary of Saint Savinianus by Odorannus of Sens) analysed an inscription on the reliquary of saint Savinius, made by Odorannus, which was ordered by king Robert of France (the translation of the relics taking place in 1028). In consists in a dedication poem to the saint (24 verses), and has been lost but transmitted in a modern drawing by dom Cotron. Not only does it commemorate a donation; it is also a piece of the memoria of Robert the Pious and his wife Constance, insisting on their proximity to the saint. As the object does not exist anymore, its precise configuration is difficult to assess; but the poem most certainly physically formed a kind of net around the reliquary, which thus merged poetry, maybe even liturgy, memoria and cult of the saints.

In the course of the discussion, it was notably pointed out to the fact that analytical categories must be used with care and, in the present case, deconstructed to some extent, as they often already imply a far-going interpretation of the artefacts. More than too strictly separated categories for their analysis, one should look for a diversity in the various possibilities of interaction between an individual and the epigraphic text (SB).


“The Reception and Use of Medieval Icelandic Texts after the Reformation, I” (Session 206)

Speakers: Matthew Driscoll, Katarzyna Anna Kapitan, Sabine Heidi Walther

All three papers were concerned with looking at the reception and use of medieval Icelandic texts after the reformation.

Matthew Driscoll (206-a: Icelandic Manuscripts in 18th century Ireland: The Collection of Rev. James Johnston) presented his current work in progress. He gave a very interesting and fascinating paper, but provided the audience with more questions than answers. The focus was on the collection of Icelandic manuscripts, which was collected by reverend James Johnstone. There is not much information about Johnston. It seems clear, that he was a Scot, that he was interested in Scottish history and that he worked for many years in Copenhagen. During these years, he worked with Icelandic texts, collected nearly 50 Icelandic manuscripts and published several editions and translations of medieval Icelandic sagas in the 18th century. These translations provide an interesting source for scholars nowadays, as he used original manuscripts from the Middle Ages. Most of these manuscripts are copies of manuscripts from Copenhagen, made or required by his Icelandic colleague Thorkelin. Unfortunately, we don’t know yet which manuscripts from Copenhagen they actually used for their own editions and what happened to the original manuscripts in Copenhagen and where they are now. Hopefully, the future will show some conclusions to these questions, which will contribute to a better understanding of the use of medieval texts in postmedieval times.

Katarzyna Anna Kapitan (206-b: The Early Transmission of Hrómundar saga Gripssonar) looked at the different version of Hrómundar saga Gripssonar. She compared the earliest manuscripts of this saga, and tried to create a new stemma. The already existing stemma from old editions did not consider the many variants in the manuscripts. For most of the manuscripts, Kapitan could also identify the scribes and give exact dating. By identifying the scribes, she could also show that there were corrections and changes to these texts, f. ex. in some manuscripts the word “Denmark” was changed to “Norway”. By choosing 23 major variants and nearly 100 minor variants for creating a new stemma, she was able to present a new and corrected stemma which will give more insight into the relationship between the surviving manuscripts.

Sabine Heide Walther (206-c: The Postmedieval manuscripts of Trójumanna saga) looked at the many surviving manuscripts of the Trójumanna saga, which tells the story of Troy. Of all 39 manuscripts containing the saga, only four texts are actually medieval. By examining the first sentences of every manuscript, Walther was able to discover that all the medieval manuscripts rely on the common source written by Dares Phrygius. She could also show that intermediary sources are not named in these manuscripts, but sometimes additional sources. This saga is also often transmitted with the text of Breta sögur, which is a translation of Geoffrey’s of Monmouth text Historia Regum Brittaniae. The medieval manuscripts can be placed in the tradition of medieval romances, as they show some literary import from this side and transport the same value systems and norms. Despite the more Latin influence in the postmedieval manuscripts, Walther argued, that the four medieval manuscripts can be placed in a French traditions, as they show variants from French vernacular sources. She concluded that the medieval version of the Trójumanna saga was so popular that this story was copied until the beginning of the 19th century. (AB)


Relics at the Interface between Textuality and Materiality, c. 400-C. 1200, III: Writing and Presence – Relic Lists as a Bodily Trace of the Holyness? (Session 303)

Moderator: Robert Wiśniewski (Uniwersytet Warszawski)

Speakers: Elisa Pallottini (Universiteit Utrecht), Susanna E. Fischer (Universität München), Marco Mostert (Universiteit Utrecht)

This was the third and final of a series of sessions on “relics between textuality and materiality”, organised  by Elisa Pallottini (Universiteit Utrecht), Janneke Raaijmakers (Universiteit Utrecht) and Julia Smith (Oxford University) in relation to the project “Mind over Matter. Debates about relics as sacred objects, c. 350-c. 1150”, led at the University of Utrecht by Prof. Janneke Raaijmakers.

Paper 1: The paper focussed on relic lists written on early and high medieval (from the 9th to the 11th century) reliquaries, especially on reliquaries in form of crosses. Cross reliquaries were highly mobile and were sometimes worn by its owner as it is the case of a so called pectoral cross. They were not only objects of excellent artistry, made of costly materials and adorned by precious stones, but also contained relics, also a way, argued the speaker, of improving their spiritual value and a way to make the owner or recipient of the objects aware of their exceptionality. The speaker then concentrated in particular on the relic lists engraved in such object and observed that sometimes the relics contained inside the reliquary didn´t coincide with the names engraved on the surface of the same objects. The speaker argued that not only were the relic lists meant to improve the spiritual and symbolical values of the objects, but also that they fulfilled the function of tangibly materialise the presence of the relics and of the saints that were treasured inside the reliquary and that were present but invisible to the physical eye.

Paper 2: This paper focussed on medieval relic lists from a refreshing different perspective than the others in the overall session on textuality and materiality of relics, since it analysed lists of relics as these are found in medieval pilgrimage descriptions penned by either known or anonymous authors. The speaker distinguished between lists and listings: while the first merely mentions relics and other objects (like souvenirs) connected to Jesus and the saints, in a listing the mention of relics is integrated by the author in a more extensive narrative structure. In narrative listings the holy objects are described in details and especially their material and physical characteristics (like their form, colour, smell and so on) are emphasized. At times, the authors even describe how they could touch the relics and take some pieces with them. Such narrative devices, argued the speaker, aimed at evoking the physical presence of the objects for the readers and thus enable them to ‘experience’ the relics more vividly.

Response to the SessionRelics at the Interface between Textuality and Materiality, c. 400-C. 1200‘: In his response to the sessions the speaker pointed out some general aspects regarding the topic of writing and relics. He mentioned that in studying relics one should not forget to ask “who the saints were” to whom the relics belonged to and thus to integrate hagiographical sources in the study. Furthermore, he stated that a difference in the symbolical meaning existed between relic lists written on blank pieces of parchment and those written in Gospel books: he argued that inscribing relic lists in proximity to the holy text was meant to endow the writing with more authority. He argued for the importance of the study of the palaeography of the writings connected to relics and observed that “often relic labels or lists were written in a more legible manner”. He also touched upon aspects such as the visibility of relics and their writings and pointed out how difficult it is for the researcher to study their perception and reception by the medieval audience. (EF)


Decolonizing Medieval Studies: A Round Table Discussion (Session 443)

Moderator: Jonathan Hsy, participants: Dorothy Kim, Adam Miyashiro, Vincent van Gerven Oei.

This panel discussion was configured around the conference theme of ‘Otherness’ as being race-blind, constructing a white Euro-centrism to Medieval Studies while non-white and diverse positions (gender, differently-abled etc.) are effectively already othered. Dorothy Kim opened the discussion declaring the importance of medieval studies acknowledging its public image and the way in which this intersects with a contemporary public discourse of whiteness and toxic masculinity: a discourse based on the notion of authoritarian supremacy of white western European/US hegemony over the non-white otherness of the south and the east. She also discussed the importance of understanding the application of post-colonialism to medieval studies: that racist colonization was not simply a product of the modern world and to treat it as such is to accept inadequate and uncritical periodicity in our work. Medieval Studies’ cultural archive is not race-free, and such an orientation feeds into the white-supremacist program, such that the political alignment of the conference theme and the CFP was in accord with the rhetoric of current dominant white supremacist discourse.

Adam Miyashiro spoke next, pointing out that white supremacists who appropriate medieval discourse are not concerned with accuracy or context, and it is important that we, as medievalists, must seek out ways of engaging in the debate, both as a corrective to misinformation and as a way of staking a claim to the relevance of medieval studies in the wider world. He spoke about the example of an arab chronicler of the 2nd crusade, in which the European Templars and the arabs were well acquainted and respected each other, while French newcomers misunderstood the respect and the Templars brought the newcomers into line. He discussed examples of modern racist rhetoric around mistaken ideas such as Bethlehem being Christian, that the repudiation of Islam from the western state is a crusade, the naming of undifferentiated arabic people as ‘saracens’ and so on. Adam particularly identified this from the theoretical perspective as a conflict of temporality – periodization that posits Europe as modern, the rest as pre-modern and therefore of lesser value. He exhorted us to think of Medieval Studies as global, to recognise that all periods and cultures have histories, and that we must recognise and value non-western and pre-colonial indigenous cultures, and recognise that the colonial programme has been to replace indigenous with European histories and ideologies.

Vincent van Gerven Oei spoke from the point of view of a scholar of Old Nubian working in a marginal status in respect to the academy. He noted the importance of recognising that our very academic discourse, in which specialization invokes mastery and thus embodies a discourse of domination. This does not necessarily acknowledge the ‘other’ in the process, often with the academic work ending up as a parasite on the culture which it dominates, from the white western point of view. Nubian people are a displaced and oppressed minority whose culture has no official status and is likely to die out. Vincent spoke about the importance of understanding the importance of para-academic work alongside academic. We are often at the margins of academia, due to our love of an unpopular subject, and this necessarily involves struggle in a precarious existence. He proposed a list of 6 key actions by which we need to guide our work:

  • DIY: we cannot always rely on the academy.
  • Open access: we need to take control of our intellectual work.
  • Collaboration: create your own journals, form your own societies.
  • Multidisciplinarity: we are essentially multi-disciplinary, we need to embrace the differences and work with them.
  • Resist Academic Appropriations: our objects of study may be artefacts and cultural products of another culture, but they are not ours, and the intellectual property does not belong to the academy.
  • Give back: acknowledge gratitude for the opportunity to live and work with another’s culture, and respect that culture as important and valuable.

Discussion ensued (RM)


Manifest Violence in a Comparative Perspective (Session 505)

Speakers:  Birgit Kynast, Sabrina Niederelz, Leonie Exarchos

Paper 1: Birgit Kynast (Church law and Violence: The Example of the Decretum of Burchard of Worms) discussed aspects of violence relevant in the Middle Ages: physical violence against the body, psychological violence of threat, and the violence inherent in the disregard of laws, such as disregard of approved processes for legitimate marriage. She then went on to describe aspects of the early twelfth-century Decretum of Burchard of Wurms, which incorporated aspects of both religious and secular law, as an instrument of penance, through the application of religious penalties for secular acts, which were also taken as being religious crimes. Birgit also noted the use of the Decretum for educational purposes, and that the laws as developed therein can be applied to judgment in the absence of precedence, by laying down principles of punishment and penitential rules. In her consideration of a variety of crimes, ranging from trespass and abduction to murder and attempted murder, Birgit outlined the overlap of secular and ecclesiastical law that Burchard established.

Paper 2: Sabrina Niederelz (The Rape of Ginover: Manifest Violence in the Arthurian Romance Diu Crône) explored in detail the characteristics of the rape of Ginover in the Middle High German poem Diu Crône, noting in particular the metaphorical treatment of the rape as a knightly attack on a castle, and the explicit detail that was employed in describing of the breaking of the gates by Gasuzein to get inside Ginover’s body/castle. This rape narrative is peculiar to medieval Arthurian romance: while metaphorical, it is highly explicit, it doesn’t appear in any other tradition, and the social and legal conditions at the time of the text are explcit about the right for a woman to travel unmolested. Gawain is the rescuer of Ginover, and in his view she remains innocent, which is contrary to the Lancelot tradition in which Guinevere is accorded some complicity due to her secret relationship with Lancelot. The legal sanction for the perpetrator make it clear it was a crime, and the punishment is justified, thereby reinforcing the security and authority of Arthur’s reign.

Paper 3: Leonie Exarchos (Violence and Minorities: Conflicts and Violence between Westerners and Byzantines in 12th Century Byzantium) discussed the nature of violence as not necessarily being majority violence on minorities, but included violence between minorities and violence by minority people on majorities. She noted that in Byzantium westerners were not a homogenous group, comprised of such people as clerics of different types, merchants and mercenaries, and there were noble as well as non-nobility among these. This diversity had the potential to create a range of different tensions between the Latins and with the muslim population. Leonie used the example of the Hugh of Etherianus, a westerner at the Byzantine court, to exemplify the variant types of violence performed and the nature of it resolution, in the context of different points of religious and secular authority. Religious antagonism was often a cause, but not exclusively. Otherness was not necessarily a dominant factor of the attacks but it could be a contributing factor. (RM)


“Otherness, Monstrosity, and Deviation in Old Norse Literature and Culture, I: (Were)Wolves (Session 529)

Speakers: Minjie Sue, Kolfinna Jónatansdóttir, Gwendolyne Knight

This session was sponsored by the Old Norse Network of Otherness (ONNO) which was founded in 2015. The first paper dealt with the story of Bisclavret, which is one of twelve lais by Marie de France written in the 12th century. The Old Norse version is part of the collection called Strengleikar (Stringed Instruments), commissioned by King Hákon Hákonarson (1217-1263). Minije Sue (529-a: Taming the Wolf: Reading Bisclaret in Light of Old Norse Kennings) presented this well-known story of a knight who was turned into a werewolf in a different light. The meaning of this paper was to look at the kennings in this text. A kenning is a kind of circumlocution, which was very common in Old Norse. After a short summary of the text, the underlying motifs were closely examined. Every character is driven by the emotions, like fear, courage and revenge. In the next part, the various kennings for the word ‘wolf’ were examined. There are different meanings to this word, which range from wild animal, kin to other wolves, and mythical creatures to the characterization of other people. Most kennings for ‘wolf’ are connected with warriors. The warrior feeds the wolf on the battlefield by killing his enemies. Wolves are also considered as strong and ferocious animals and the Old Norse word for wolf ‘úlfr’ was an appropriate name for a warrior. Su could show that in the story of Bisclavret the experience of being turned into a werewolf was more of an opportunity for the knight than a curse. The substance of the knight was not taken away from him, when he was turned into a wolf. Even in the shape of a wolf he shows his noble qualities. Although he’s no longer a man, he still obtains human reason. Kolfinna Jónatansdóttir (529-b: Fearing the Wolf: Fenrisúlfr in Old Norse Mythology) focused on the end of the world: Ragnarök when the monstrous Fenriswolf will be released. Eight medieval texts give information on this mythological figure, but only two texts give a coherent narrative. Wolves are a common motif in the Icelandic literature, although there never were wolves in Iceland itself. They are described as big, ferocious and strong animals. According to Su, this appearance as terrifying animals was caused by the Northern gods. First, the Fenriswolf was part of the community of Asgard and not an opponent to the gods. As the gods began to fear this animal, they tricked him and finally were able to bound and gag him. Deprived of his human voice he was now only able to howl and act like a real wolf and so became the enemy of the gods and a thread to the future of the whole world.  By doing this, the Fenriswolf also became the archetype of an enemy for medieval Iceland. In the last paper (529-c: Categorising the (Were)Wolf: Or, are Shapeshifters People?), Gwendolyne Knight focused on the different kinds of shapeshifting. Two major kinds can be distinguished. The first one is the transformation of the body and/or the soul, while the second one only involves a wandering soul or a free soul. She presented various examples from the medieval Icelandic sagas and identified the different kinds of shapeshifting in these texts. There was also a comparison to the shapeshifting in Old Irish and Anglo-Saxon sources. The vocabulary of shapeshifting in Old Norse texts is quite consistent in contrast to sources from the Irish and Anglo-Saxon area. This inconsistency is one of the causes that a typology of shapeshifting is still missing. Another cause is the method, in which people shift their body or soul. In most of the texts there is not much of a consistency on this side either. The speaker’s attempt is one of the first ones to create such a typology and she made it very clear, that there is more work to be done and why this work is much needed for the study of shapeshifting in European literature.

Discussion ensued. (AB)


New Approaches to Researching Cartularies and Charters (session 1039)

Speakers: Joanna Tucker, Dauvit Broun, Matthew Hammond

This was the second of the sessions which have been organised by the project Models of Authority: Scottish Charters and the Emergence of Government 1100-1250; it aimed at presenting results from currently ongoing research by its members and associates. Joanna Tucker (Rethinking cartulary manuscripts from 13th-century Scotland) focussed on her exploration of the cartularies of Glasgow cathedral and of the Abbey of Lindores. Basing of a very thorough observation and analysis of the material components and structures of the manuscripts, she could show that they were definitively bound only in the 15th or 16th century, and that they must have long been a collection of unbound or only loosely bound gatherings. The first step in the constitution of both cartularies was made by a single scribe writing a ‘core’ compilation, followed by strikingly many additions which make it indispensable to concentrate not only on this first step, but also, and equally importantly, on the additions. Applying both notions of absolute and relative dating (a tribute to the archaeological side of codicology), she could constitute series of additions by crossing dates and hands, and thus reconstitute the first order of the gatherings, which was different from the present state of the manuscripts, to grasp the lives and evolutions of the cartularies before their final binding. She argued that by adding gatherings with blank spaces, the scribes showed their conception of the cartularies as evolving works and, moreover, that their mostly piecemeal additions did not represent updates of the content as documents came in, as they were mostly added one or several decades after having been produced. Her opinion is that these additions were a reaction to the reading of the cartularies, which had been made for lecture by the members of the communities, and that this reading triggered the additions the scribes deemed necessary. Dauvit Broun (Investigating Single-Sheet Copies with Anachronistic Features of Handwriting and Diplomatic) explored cases where documents which do not seem to be forgeries where obviously written long after the date they mentioned. They form roughly 1 % of the corpus he investigated, and illustrate archival activities and practices beyond the inscription of shelfmarks and summaries on the back of the charters. Four possible causes for establishing a copy several decades after the original document had been made could be listed, the first of one being the importance of the charter. Another reason could be the will to have a document available in several different places distant from each other, or it could be the fact that the originals had been damaged by time or men – which gives a scenario for some cases where only the later copy is preserved and no original. The duplication of a document could also be linked to strictly archival reasons, as the people in charge of a collection could wish to have a given document present in several files. Comparing originals and copies made in these various cases gives the possibility to assess what later scribes considered as important features of the charters the duplicated: it does not seem to have been the script, which does not get imitated, sometimes even not the formulae, but the seal was, strikingly, reproduced, except in purely “archival” cases. In addition to MOA, Matthew Hammond (Tracing the Use of Status Language in Scottish Charters, 1100-1286) worked with the People of medieval Scotland database to assess how the vocabulary related to the assertion of status was used in the charters. He focussed mainly on four elements which could accompany the names: the expression Dei Gratia, the use of the plural of majesty, the terms nobilis vir and dominus. Dei gratia was used by bishops since their earliest charters, and by the kings since the reign of Alexander I. Lay magnate did not use it. The use of the plural of majesty seems to have started among bishops in the first third of the 12th century, and reached the lay aristocracy in the 13th century after having been adopted abbots and kings. Nobilis vir did not prove to be a useful expression for analysis. Dominus was rare at the beginning of the 12th century, was used by bishops first, then by kings (from 1194 on), and came suddenly in use in the lay aristocracy at the beginning of the 13th century. Interestingly, it does not seem to be only a trickle-down phenomenon, as the lesser aristocracy was simultaneously part of this latter evolution. He pointed out to the fact that the use of such terms must be seen in the context of concurrent pretentions, social ambitions, and human relations (including, for instance, jealousy), not only as the result of one-way influences and practices. The interplay between the different actors and their chanceries led to them spontaneously establishing hierarchies in which, for instance, in clerical courts, venerabilis pater was deemed higher that venerabilis, which was in turn still better than dominus, and where magister and dominus obviously excluded one another (SB).


Sharp Thinking: New Research on Early Medieval Swords (session 1041)

Speakers: Dušan Maczek, Independent Scholar, Bratislava; Sue Brunning, British Museum, London; Annemarieke Willemsen, Rijksmuseum van Oudheden, Leiden; Ulrich Lehmann, Landschaftsverband Westfalen-Lippe (LWL) – Archäologie für Westfalen, Münster

Moderator/Chair: Nelleke IJssennagger, Faculteit der Letteren, Rijksuniversiteit Groningen

First paper – Lost on Purpose?: Carolingian Swords from European Rivers (Dušan Maczek)
A lot of swords have been found in the Central European Rivers (France, Belgium, the Netherlands and Germany). In his paper researcher drawn attention to the places where those swords were found and also mentioned possible reasons to why such a custom has been developed. Possible reasons include rituals; hostilities; battles and Viking influence. Mainly those swords are concentrated inlands, rarely more than 10 in one deposit and usually those swords are simple.

Second paper – A Hack-Sword?: The Golden Hilt in the Bedale Hoard (Sue Brunning)
Swords, with their often lavishly decorated and gilded hilts, are among the best known and most admired objects of the Early medieval period. New finds like the many demolished sword parts in the Staffordshire Hoard, together with fresh assessment of the many sword finds from settlements and river contexts, are changing our views of this highly individual weapon and its various and often complex meanings in the Early Middle Ages. In this paper a further analysis of the late Saxon sword hilt from Bedale hoard. It also included comparison with similar sword hilts from England.

Third paper – Mixed Emotions: The Swords from Carolingian Dorestad (Annemarieke Willemsen)
A lot of swords and saxes have been found in a Dorestad- very well excavated settlement and cemetery. Several swords are exceptional samples on their own and thus were examined more closely. One sword was refitted – older blade was refitted with newer and very elaborated hilt. Another sample was sword with gilded elements, found together with fragments of glass beakers and not far from the famous Dorestad brooch. Other elements which were included in the paper was on injuries from swords which surprisingly were very few.

Fourth paper – Symbols Losing Meaning?: On the Decline of the Pattern-Welded Sword (Ulrich Lehmann)
A short overview on pattern wielded swords was given. Main idea was that it was the snake, religiously binding the owner to gods and ritually guarding owners. The elements of snake/wyrm/dragon was examined on finds from Nydam, Valsgarde and German cemeteries. The possible theory on decline of the pattern wielded swords was that it is connected with the rise of Christianity thus marking the way for the new concepts and abandoning the snake cult.



Session 1143 Medieval Romance and its Influence

Speakers: Carlos A. Sanz Mingo, Heidi Richards, Roderick McDonald (reporter)

Paper 1: Carlos A. Sanz Mingo (On Deers, Moors, Chests and Beheadings: Early Arthurian Literature in Castilian) described the evolution of Arthurian narrative in medieval Castille, appearing earliest as an interest of the upper nobility, commencing with the marriage of Leonora (Eleanor) Plantagenet to Alfonso VIII, who brought a copy of Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Historia with her to Spain. Carlos then described the later spread of Arthurian texts through the non-aristocratic classes of Castillian society, in which the texts, while clearly Arthurian, reveal possible influence of Islamic narrative motifs, and appeared in more folk-influenced forms such as the ballad. He then went on to discuss a number of texts as revealing the social and political contexts of their production, in particular the evocation of Arthur in a Catellan/Occitanian text in which he is a figure with symbolism highly relevant to dynastic conflict between Majorca and Catalunia at the time of composition.

Paper 2: Heidi Richards (From Romance into Reality: Influences of Medieval Romance Literature on Late Medieval English Castles) described progress on her current research into the characteristics of medieval castles that may show influence from the romance genre and from the ways in which romances describe the social and physical arrangements in the court. Heidi is working in building archeology, and looking to the remance genre and the ideals of chivalry for themes of influence in the design and construction of castles. She outlined cultural context she is researching, including the forms of monarchy, aristocracy and patronage as represented in various medieval romances, and focusing her case studies on a number of Anglo-Normand and English castles. (RM)

Roderick McDonald (Didactics in Tristrams saga ok Ísöndar and Parcevals saga and the influence of continental ethics on the courtly literature of C13th Norway) discussed the translation of Tristrams saga ok Ísöndar and Parcevals saga from French into Old Norse at the court of Kings Hákon and Magnus in thirteenth-century Norway. The translations are shown to reveal the specific courtly interests of the Norwegian court, in terms of ideals of behaviour, and cultural values. This is shown in particular in the language used, being more closely aligned to religious, moral and courtly genres, rather than the Sagas of the Icelanders. Particular interests in martial order and prowess, honourable behaviour within the courtly hierarchy and the treatment of women appear in the Norse version that are in marked difference to the French. The translations also indicate certain important pedagogical characteristics, and they appear to be of didactic purpose, and probably not solely for the sake of entertainment.


Mappings I-IV (sessions 1012, 1112, 1212, 1317)
The 7th instalment of Mappings sessions at the IMC, organized by Felicitas Schmieder (FernUniversität Hagen) and Dan Terkla (Illinois Wesleyan University), featured once more a promising range of participants from revered experts to brand new map enthusiasts. Over the course of Wednesday twelve speakers exemplified the broad spectrum of the field, as four sessions discussed the Peutinger Map of the Roman Empire, local mappings from the 14th to 17th centuries, practical contexts within medieval culture, and, of course, otherness in different cartographic media.

Mappings I: The Peutinger Map’s World (session 1012)
Speakers: Monika Schuol, Emily Albu, Daniel Syrbe
Moderator: Dan Terkla

Monika Schuol (Freie Universität Berlin) explored in The Peutinger Map: Pagan Topography within Christian Geography? a conspicuous network of rivers in the map’s eastern part. She traced the Christian notion of the rivers of paradise in various texts and maps and argued that the motif also appears on the Peutinger map (c. 1200). In this way, the map reconciled its primarily Graeco-Roman concept of geography with biblical subject matter.
Emily Albu (University of California, Davis) was able to demonstrate in her paper Beyond the Roman Frontier: Eastern Lands on the Peutinger Map how the map’s portrayal of the east and additional details throughout created a vision of imperial order and power. The Roman Empire, as shown on the maps, provided validation and an aspirational model for the house of Hohenstaufen, which has been linked to the map’s production.
Daniel Syrbe (FernUniversität Hagen) charted the design and distribution of architectural symbols on the map. His question whether its medieval makers were Depicting ‘Civilisation’ on the Peutinger Map?, was met with the evidence of deliberate clusters of symbols, for example in Italy and Gaul, that supplied those regions with an air of sophistication and culture.

Mappings II: Producing and Reproducing Local Maps (session 1112)
Speakers: Paul Fermon, Margriet Hoogvliet, Desiree Krikken
Moderator: Paul D.A. Harvey (Durham University)

Paul Fermon (École Pratique des Hautes Études, Paris) gave an introduction to The Traditions of Geometrical Representation and the Rise of Local Mapmaking during the 14th Century and the 15th Century: Italy and South of France, which revealed two coexisting approaches to local mapping. One aspired to give the appearance of a scale drawing, the other preferred a freer depiction.
Margriet Hoogvliet (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen) showed how the creation of digital representations based on medieval sources may enhance historical research, especially where original sites are lost. Her paper Using Historical Maps for GIS-Based Analysis: Religious Books in Amiens and in Nearby Towns described an ongoing project that explores the influence of physical places on cultural properties by mapping “lieux de savoir”.
Desiree Krikken (Rijksuniversiteit Groningen) advocated local maps and especially their makers as valuable sources for the study of regional identities in her paper My Plot, Your Plat, Our Inhabited Landscape: Early Modern Land Surveyors and the Record of European Physical and Social Space. Surveyors’ manuals represent a promising basis for her work that focuses on the human element as a catalyst for overarching developments in the conceptualization of space.

Mappings III: The Cultural and Material Contexts of Medieval Maps (session 1212)
Speakers: Tomáš Klimek, Cornelia Dreer, Christof Rolker
Moderator: Dan Terkla

Tomáš Klimek (National Library of the Czech Republic, Praha) discussed Maps, Roads, and Texts: Possible Connections to ascertain the function of medieval road maps. He explained that maps played no apparent role in medieval travel and argued that units of miles on various road maps offered little practical information. The maps, however, are certainly proof of a scientific interest in geographical surveys.
Cornelia Dreer (Universität Kassel), that is, I was next with a paper on The Selection, Presentation, and Intention of Geography in Ranulph Higden’s Chronicle. It explored the geographical information presented by the chronicle’s text and maps, identifying the practice of memorization as a key to the interpretation of the content as well as the design of each medium.
Christof Rolker (Universität Bamberg) introduced an unusual area of cartographic study in his account on Mapping the World in Heraldic Sources: T-O Maps Structuring Medieval Armorials. There he linked a tripartite diagram of toponyms, found in the Aulendorf MS of Ulrich Richental’s chronicle and roll of arms (c. 1460), to the order in which coats of arms appear in the same manuscript.

Mappings IV: Otherness in Mapping – Strange Creatures, Delimited Spaces, Different Worldviews (session 1317)
Speakers: Jost Schmid, Katrin Kogman-Appel, Evelien Timpener
Moderator: Margriet Hoogvliet

Jost Schmid (Zentralbibliothek Zürich) brought a three-dimensional example into the cartographic discussion with his paper Of Monsters and Fabulous Places: Medieval Iconography on the St Gallen Globe, c. 1576. He traced the medieval origins of the exotic imagery on the large globe (a 2.3 m tall construction) and its direct model, the 1569 Mercator map, and highlighted the role of printed artworks and texts in the transmission of such motifs.
Katrin Kogman-Appel (Universität Münster/Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beer-Sheva) presented with Elisha ben Abraham Cresques: Scribe, Illuminator, and Mapmaker in 14th-Century Majorca the creator of the Catalan Atlas (c. 1375). She examined how his Sephardic background and his convictions shaped the content and design of the atlas he produced for his royal Christian patron.
Evelien Timpener (Universität Hannover) completed the day with yet another context for maps in Mapping Territory: Depictions of Self and Other in Dispute Maps of Hessen, 15th and 16th Century. From annotated sketches to intricate paintings she outlined the broad range of maps that accompanied court documents from the 15th to 17th centuries and discussed their different perceptions of space.


Piece by Piece: Medieval Fragments in the Digital Age, I (session 1211)

Speakers: Katharina Kaska, Åslaug Ommundsen, Veronika Drescher.

Two sessions and a round table have been organised to present new ideas and tools for the treatment of manuscript fragments; this was the first of these sessions. Katharina Kaska (Too Many Books. Cataloguing Fragments in the Austrian National Library) gave first-hand impressions of the task librarians are confronted with when trying to treat and study extant fragments in large library collections like the Austrian National Library where she works. Fragments are mentioned as far back as 1576 in the first inventory to have been made of the current library’s ancestor’s collections. Unfortunately, it appears that in the following times, not only were fragment used for binding purposes, but also books deemed useless were shred to fragments for that use. It is only in 1833-1834 that they have begun to be used for scholarship, when Endlicher and Fallersleben worked on fragments from the Monastery of Mondsee. Fragments where then taken out of the manuscripts in the binding of which they were, reorganised, re-grouped and given new shelfmarks – but not always. As a result, they are scattered among the collections. As cataloguing the whole of these fragments in one action would be impossible (as well as to get that financed), progress had to be made through limited, thematic projects: one of them is a renewed study of the fragments from Mondsee (including a partnership with Fragmentarium): Modellfall Fragmentendigitalisierung. Die mittelalterlichen Fragmente des Klosters Mondsee. While most of the fragments of the library are in Latin, there are some Greek pieces, and Hebrew fragments which are catalogued by the National Library of Israel as a part of a bigger project. On a side note, there are certainly still other fragments to be discovered in the printed books of the collections. Åslaug Ommundsen (Norwegian Book Fragments and the Internet) shared her experience of being confronted to a great rarity of manuscripts, as it is the case for Norway. Some 6000 fragment survive, representing approximately 1000 mutilated manuscripts. A further difficulty lies in the fact that they were used for binding books not only in Norway, but also in Sweden and Denmark. In Norway, there are fragments at the National Archives, at the National Library and at the University Library of Bergen. 99 % from them have been photographed as part of the project From Manuscript Fragments to Book History; at the current times, the partners are experimenting with various solutions for the digital dissemination of the pictures and of the studies being made on them. Two websites are used for this: one for the presentation of the documents, and one for a database. Fragments are usually kept in envelopes containing related pieces, and they are the basis of the approach which was chosen: study related fragments in order to try to reconstitute parts (folios) of past manuscripts. Each fragment is then kept individually and identified with a new shelfmark. The related database allows to find new connections between them. The graphical reconstitution of the folios is still experimental, being made with the help of software like InDesign. Veronika Drescher (Fragmentarium: challenges in digital fragmentology) presented a new tool for fragment studies: the Fribourg-based Fragmentarium. This is a scholarly network as well as a web application, offering a framework for uploading and studying photos of fragments. There are currently 16 partners and 12 case-study projects. In order to address the specific difficulties presented by such documents (lack of preparatory studies, physical damages…), partners are asked to follow a series of guidelines when using the framework and uploading data, which must be accompanied by minimal metadata; for instance, a ruler and a colour card are highly desirable on the first pictures of a series. The framework allows to order the images per drag-and-drop, which is convenient in the case of fragment whose original order in unknown; different vision angles are also possible. Assembly tools do not exist yet, but should be developed in the next future. The framework allows the import of the IIIF manifest (vide infra the report on session 1739) and will support the import and export of data in TEI format (but this is no obligation for data upload), so as to make interoperability possible. For the future steps of the project, several other tools could be created for assembly, transcription, measure, comparison and automatic scaling of the images (SB).


Otherness of God in Late Medieval Religion (session 1221)

Speakers: Sophie Conaghan-Sexon, Sophie Kelly, Jonah Coman

Moderator: Alicia Spencer-Hall, Institute of Advanced Studies, University College London

In her presentation Queer as Other: Queering the Wounds of Christ in Late Medieval Books of Hours Sophie Conaghan-Sexon (School of Critical Studies, English Language, University of Glasgow) contemplated the image of Christ’s body, hanging on the cross, a body which was according to the well-known description hanging there naked, though in none of the medieval pictures this very body was ever actually shown naked. Admittedly, it is very difficult to know exactly why this might have been the case, because, referring to a quotation by Eamon Duffy, the history of prayer was as difficult to write as the history of sex, both activities being of an intensely personal nature. It has been suggested that the naked body of Christ had been re-gendered in order to prevent sexual feelings arising. In fact the image of Christ’s side wound, almond-shaped, has often been depicted for example on pilgrims bagdes, the side wound thereby feminising Christ’s body. Though this does not mean an entire re-gendering, as in prayer books the side wound has often been combined with images of Christ’s conception: The female body is part of the human Christ. God was and is his own mother and father, feminine and masculine. The side wound alone is shown in many artefacts, e. g. birthing amulets. In his ‘On the Life of Saint Edmund’, Matthew Paris offered another perspective on the side wound and its function in prayer: ‘He sucked and licked the gaping wound in the side of the fiure, saying with sighs “With joy shall you draw water out of the wells of the saviour”‘. It seems that manuscripts, too, were kissed; after all they had once themselves been flesh, turned to vellum, and could stand in the place of Christ’s flesh. They combined animal and human, living and dead. It is not likely to suggest that medieval people did not see what we see when we these pictures. Or what can we make of Christ’s wound, depicted like a vulva, on a vellum, obviously touched by the readers? The past is not so much other than the present.

The second paper Heavenly Monstrosities: The Three-Headed Trinity in the St John’s Psalter, Cambridge, St John’s College MS K 26 was presented by Sophie Kelly (Centre for Medieval & Early Modern Studies, University of Kent) and discussed the meaning of this unusual image: diabolical or divine? Other manuscripts of Westminster and Leiden show the three men Abraham saw, as prefigurations of the Trinity; but do the manuscripts represent them as angels or rather as the Holy Trinity? The Bible of William of Hales, now a Royal manuscript of BL London, shows a head with three faces. Later images show God father and son with a dove between them. But also a three-faced man could represent the trinitarian God, solving the paradox of the triune God and three persons.

Calenders for December and January often show two-faced men similar to this three-faced man. At least three-faced men survive from the 13th century, among them the Bible of William of Hales. Maybe the pagan God Janus has served as model here, a picture which seems at first monstrous, and yet is not diabolical, but divine.

The third paper of this session ‘His nakede bodi red hi-maked mid blode’: The Gore of the Crucifixion in Late Medieval Imagination by Jonah Coman (St Andrews Institute of Mediaeval Studies, University of St Andrews/Glasgow School of Arts) began with an audiovisual, multi-media presentation of medieval and modern images of the bloody wounds of Christ: ‘Look to your Lord, who hung from the rood, and weep if you must the earth full of blood … Look at the nails in hand and in feet … No remedy one finds but distress and woe.’ Such texts were supplied in abundance, full of dripping blood, blisters and bruises. The bible is not very detailed, but medieval descriptions were, showing a body on which layers of torture were accumulated, the liquidification, splitting, fragmentation of a body. What were the reactions of those who looked at these pictures? Jesus’ body is like cold marble, not desirable. Christ hung ugly deformed, but, with Saint Augustine, ‘his uglyness was our beauty’. Some authors have stated that the ‘Shedding of blood was viewed without revulsion …’ (so Clifford Davidson, Sacred Blood, 1997). But was that really the case? History knows the example of the sinner woman whose hand Jesus draws into his side wound, but she is shocked and tries in vain to wash the blood away. The question remained vague – perhaps this presentation was too much of an art piece in itself than to be able to draw the listeners’ attention to a certain thesis. The discussion focussed on the observation that, obviously, medieval authors and painters tried to provoke reactions – but how did people react, or did they react at all? Many descriptions ask in the end: Why did you not react? But may we assume that the audience or readers really didn’t react? Another possibility might be that the intention was to say: Don’t be disgusted, it’s salvific; which proves that they were disgusted, were reacting. The questions remained open. (JW)

Apocalyptic Otherness: ‘They are Gog and Magog, gathered together for Battle’ – Scyths, Arabs, or the US Army?” (session 1529)

Speakers: Hans-Christian Lehner, Fabian Schmidmeier, Julia Eva Wannenmacher (reporter)

Moderator: Anke Holdenried, Department of Historical Studies, University of Bristol

In the first paper of the session, entitled The Far Enemy: Gog and Magog in Historiographic Writing of the High Middle Ages, Hans-Christian Lehner (Internationales Forschungskolleg ‘Schicksal, Freiheit und Prognose’, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg), described the history of the motif of Gog and Magog from its biblical roots in the Books of Ezechiel and Revelation to its reception and modification in the twelfth century, when chronologists used apocalyptic terminology and imagery in their historic writing describing past and present events.

The second paper From al-Iskanadar to Armageddon: Yajuj and Majuj in Medieval Islamic Apoclyptic Thought, presented by Fabian Schmidmeier (Lehrstuhl für Orientalische Philologie und Islamwissenschaft, Friedrich-Alexander-Universität Erlangen-Nürnberg) introduced Gog and Magog as they appear in the Qu’ran, their interpretation, role and functions in traditional and modern qu’ranic exegesis and apocalypticism and its use in present-day politic propaganda.

My concluding paper, A Surprising Career: Gog and Magog from Joachim of Fiore to the 21st Century, briefly described some traditional interpretations of Gog and Magog in medieval exegesis, before turning to the role of Gog in the exegesis of Joachim of Fiore that was an important starting point for apocalyptic thought and its political use in the 13th century and thereafter, which has by far not reached its end when used both by US-American Christian Fundamentalists nor by contemporary Islamic apocalypticism. (JW)

Digital Methods, I-III (sessions 1539, 1639 and 1739)

In addition to others (vide supra), the Models of Authority project sponsored three sessions on digital methods, which all took place on Thursday and were organised in close cooperation with the DigiPal project.

Further, live and illustrated reports on these sesssions can be found on Twitter, under the hashtags #imc2017 and #s1539, #s1639, #s1739, e.g. on the timelines of the organiser Stewart Brookes, of Lisa Fagin Davis or of Bridget Whearty, among others.

Digital Methods, I: Computer-Assisted Approaches to Palaeography (session 1539)

Speakers: Stewart J. Brookes, Michael MacPherson, Peter A. Stokes

Stewart J. Brookes (Models of Authority: All About that Database) made a presentation of the Models of Authority database and of the DigiPal framework at the base of it, and demonstrated their multiple functionalities and tools. DigiPal offers a framework basically allowing the upload of images – in the case of MOA, images of Scottish charters, and giving a set of tools for their treatment: markup, cut-out and constitution of own collections of images (for instance, images of a given letter which have been selected and copied off different documents), annotation, transcription and translation (the marking-up of textual elements is also possible, as well as linking tags between text and images); in MOA, these are of course tailored to the needs of diplomatics (e.g. marking up parts of the diplomatic discourse like the intitulatio). The back-end structure is TEI-based, allowing for better interoperability (but no TEI is required to enter the data, as user-(friendly markup tools are offered). There is also the possibility of manipulating images (the orator gave the example of the reconstitution of a chirograph); on the whole, this multifaceted tool allows for many discoveries based not only on systematic research, but also on random associations and serendipity. Michael MacPherson (Towards Digital Palaeographical Handbooks for Vernacular Scripts: Some Desiderata from the Perspective of Old Icelandic Script) offered his experience of trying to fit the specific problems of old Norse and Icelandic script into computer-based solutions. Old Icelandic manuscripts are often in a quite degraded state and hard to read, all the more because their text is heavily abbreviated. They have been dated for the most of them (cf. Dictionary of Old Norse Prose), but almost only on palaeographical criteria (reporter’s note: meaning that they would not be counted as “dated” in catalogues of dated manuscripts); their script is a Caroline minuscule with English influences before 1153, turning to a prae-Gothic script illustrating more and more Norwegian influences until 1262, and then turns to a fully Gothic script. Starting from this situation, the orator developed a database starting from the DigiPal model. For instance, he selected some elements of the script deemed to be important for the story of their evolution, which could be marked up and automatically extracted. He built some statistical tools, notably based on linear regression. For the future, he would like to really integrate the DigiPal model, and refine the typology of elements to be taken in consideration: he expressed his suspicion that the element which traditional Icelandic palaeography has retained as significant could have been more because it was possible to treat them with the technological possibilities of a few decades ago, and that other, which can now be treated by digital means, might be more or just as relevant. This, he noted, will require funding. Peter A. Stokes (The Problems of Multigraphism: A Digital Approach to Transversal Palaeography) shared his reflections on the future of the DigiPal project. It has formally come to an end, and it is time for some perspectives on the future. He first recalled the latest developments regarding the DigiPal framework: it is a generic tool, which can be used for a multiplicity of goals. It can be installed on a server and on a personal computer, using a virtual machine based on the Docker software. DigiPal has been and is still used for a number of projects, focusing on Latin (e.g. VisigothicPal, MatthewParisPal), but also Hebrew (SephardiPal) and other, non European scripts (MultiPal), and even for projects with no script (BayeuxPal). As DigiPal in the present state is the name of a project, of a website and of a framework, it is possible that the latter may change its name in the future. The present reflections on the further develoments around DigiPal aim at trying to create a general model for the descriptions of scripts, which would let it be used for any kind of writing and thus allow structural comparisons between them. Its backbone would be the hierarchical model “character-allograph-component-feature”, the level of the component being where the common links could be made, if the various descriptions and their vocabulary can be seized together (e.g. “ascender/shaft/stem/lamed”). This could be a way to explore phenomena of multigraphisme, digraphism… in mono- or pluriligual contexts.

Digital Methods, II: Manuscript Images in Theory and Practice (session 1639)

Speakers: Keri Thomas, Bill Endres, Thomas Konidaris

Keri Thomas (The Practical and Theoretical Consequences of the Use of Digital Surrogates) presented her thoughts on the implications of the use of digital images of objects, going far beyond medieval studies. Acknowledging the many advantages offered by digital means, she chose to point out to some of their potential drawbacks. Notably, using a digital surrogate could give the impression of using a complete equivalent to the original object, without this being the case – actually, there is good reason to think that the production of a digital image is very akin to a further “edition” of the object in question. The surrogate dissolves the physical form, which, in the case of scripts, can come in the way of their interiorisation by the reader. It loosens the ties of the original object with its context, or makes them completely disappear – a fact which digital precision tends to hide. Relying exclusively on digital images also leads to put oneself in the hand of their producers and distributors (the famous “first result page of Google”), so that some have come to think that digital diffusion of culture could be but the last avatar of the entertainment industry. While wider dissemination certainly helps giving access to cultural objects to those who wouldn’t have any, it should be remembered that it also can canalize and reinforce extant social structures, thus cementing extant cultural canons and social hierarchies. She also noted that experience proved that digitization, contrarily to some expectations, does not always protect the original objects: in some instances, it has even led to more request for the consultation of the the original. The exclusive use of surrogates could lead to make the real objects disappear behind their phantoms, and replace an unique essence with a multiplicity of incidences: in an age of post-truth, this is to be considered. All this does not mean that one should not use digital surrogates; but certainly that one should have a clear conscience of their limitations. Tackling on the technical side of the matter, Bill Endres (Color Literacy: What Every Medievalist Should Know Who Has Taken a Photo of a Manuscript with a Smartphone and Thought, It Might Be a Palimpsest) demonstrated how the use of digital image processing can be used to help decipher partially damaged scripts. RGB images can be easily divided in their three channels – corresponding to the red, green and blue primary colours, which results in three images (one per channel), giving a basis for further, individual processing, as each channel has its own characteristics in the rendering of the image’s different elements. A further step is represented by the use of alternative colour spaces, using mathematical models (represented in a three-dimensional space) to further bend the colour structure, and the filtering through different colour charters. This can be very useful to make fast-erased traces of pigments come forward, or partially “remove” blots. Using the level of saturation of the images is particularly convenient for that, as it represents the amount to which a given hue is diluted by white. To this aim, Bill Endres primarily uses the Fiji distribution of the ImageJ software, which comes with a handful of useful plugins; he also uses Color Transformer 2, a plugin which offers the possibility of converting images into 32 colour spaces – he uses mainly four models: Lab, HSV/HSB, HCY, and YIQ. For on-the-field, direct and quick processing experiments with a smartphone, he uses iDStretch. Thomas Konidaris (Image Processing Methods for Determining Visual Manuscript and Character Features) gave his views from the computer scientist’s perspective, offering his experience on the conditions of a fruitful cooperation between computer and palaeography experts. He pointed out to the necessity of finding a common language, a terminology that is understable by all parts; of then precisely defining the necessary tasks, to cluster identical needs in order not to “reinvent the wheel”; and, finally, of deciding on the solutions in common, applying such criteria as fiability, robustness and innovation. He illustrated this with examples from his own work at the Sonderforschungsbereich 950 “Manuskriptkulturen“: Writing style identification, word spotting and interactive similarity matching. In all these projects, the implication of palaeographers is essential. In the first two cases, they must help establishing the ground truth (reference datasets used for machine learning) and further train the algorithms by controlling the first results of (semi-)automatic style identification or word query. In the last example, the images of individual letters are divided into points, and the researchers mark the points they think important in the characterization of each given occurrence. The images are then surimposed to each other to make out their common points and differences. Collaboration is essential to success, as well as better access to manuscripts (including the possibility of passing images on for collaboration between institutions), larger datasets and open-access data.

Digital Methods, III: Metadata, Shared Standards, and Tools for Manuscript studies (session 1739)

Speakers: Samuel Rubenson and Elisabet Göransson, Matthew L. Holford, Cai Henderson

The first speakers of the series’ last session, Samuel Rubenson and Elisabet Göransson (The Monastica Database) reported on their database project on the dissemination of the Apophtegmata Patrum, a collaborative, dynamic library equipped with research tools for scholarship (and possibly edition and teaching) on this elusive corpus of early monastic sayings literature. There are approximately 5440 sayings in 30,000 attestations, which have being very fluidly disseminated and translated, undergoing constant adaptations, resulting in a sometimes confusing situation for scholars. Monastica integrates a SQL database and TEI encoding, and gives the text of all known editions (in 8-10 languages) and modern translations, together with “direct” editions from selected manuscripts, and concordance tools. There are indices for citations, uses of the various saying in other texts, person and place names, and annotations, as well as statistical and graphical functionalities. The workflow for the integration of a given corpus begins by its analysis and repartition in an Excel table following the structure of the manuscript. The corresponding edition is then fed into the database or, alternatively, a transcription is directly made and saved; in any cases the text is encoded following intern standards which can be later converted to TEI. Annotations are given on the same pattern as what would be done in the case of a traditional, critical edition. This procedure works well, and has the advantage of being practicable by people who would not be able to encode text following the TEI standards. Matthew L. Holford (Manuscript Cataloguing in a Digital Age), offered his insight as a librarian at the Bodleian, giving his opinion that digital catalogues, for all their positive sides, are still failing their readers in several ways, which could be an explanation for the relative slowness of the transition from printed to virtual manuscript catalogues. An user poll led by the Bodleian Library showed difficulties for the readers to find shelfmarks and names, for instance, in spite of the existence of authority files like VIAF. While some realizations show that progress has been made (e-codices for instance), more could be done. The orator especially mentioned the possibility of making all of the data available through online catalogues, such as the dimensions of manuscripts (an example of this being the Digital Walters); it would also be good to offer the possibility of exporting data in TEI format, as the British Library does for Hebrew manuscripts. The data given by most online catalogues is structured, but it should be accompanied by a richer range of available formats and informations, e.g. on past possessors of the manuscripts (individual as well as institutions). In that regard, the kind of data aggregation offered by resources like Biblissima seems to be a good direction to follow, as well as a broader use of protocols like the IIIF manifest. Suitedly, IIIF was at the core of Cai Henderson’s talk (Uses and Applications of IIIF for Medieval Manscript Repositories). The International Image Interoperability Framework allows, when its manifest is used, to group in the same virtual space images which are hosted in different locations, and on different servers. It also gives the user the possibility to visualize them with their tool of choice, and not necessarily with the one provided by a given institution hosting the images. It is therefore possible to reconstruct manuscripts if their pages are dispersed in several libraries which have separately put them online, or to reconstitute mutilated pages with images of their fragments hosted anywhere, as Biblissima has done with the Grandes chroniques de France. IIIF can be used with such tools as Georeferencer, or with the Mirador viewer (which also has annotation functionalities). IIIF is currently not easily accessible to individuals for the publication of images. The project Digital Tools for Manuscript Study developed a plugin for IIIF integration in Omeka, a virtual exhibition platform. In that case, images can be directly used from a IIIF-compliant repository, or uploaded by users: IIIF-relevant data will be created automatically. For the future, the DTMS would like to create a personal, usable-by-all IIIF framework, completed by numerous functionalities and plugins, which could go under the name of “IIIF to go” (SB).


IMC reporter

This account is used conjointly by several medievalists to report news from the IMC, post reviews of papers and sessions and comment on the congress.

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