Reflections on the CMEMS/PMRG Conference


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This past weekend saw most of the Perth-based Ceræ committee at the CMEMS/PMRG Conference: Textuality, Technology and Materiality in the Medieval and Early Modern World. The conference welcomed both interstate and overseas visitors and offered two days of excellent papers and a friendly atmosphere.

The conference opened with a lecture by Professor Michelle P. Brown on the Luttrell Psalter to a packed lecture theatre of conference attendees, students and the general public. Professor Brown’s lecture was wide-ranging and informative and was based of her own examination of the manuscript as featured in its facsimile edition. A more detailed account is necessary to do the lecture justice, so stay tuned for a future blog post!

The first plenary talk was delivered by Professor Brown and was a fascinating discussion of how to read and understand manuscripts and their makers. The material covered ranged from the Lindisfarne Gospels, to a little-known collection of manuscripts with elements of Latin in the East, to the book trade in fifteenth-century London. Once again, Professor Brown’s ability to read into the multiple layers of evidence in manuscripts and to clearly explain these to her audience was truly inspiring.

The second plenary was given by Professor Tim Fitzpatrick, whose research focuses on early modern performance practice and architecture. The paper began by examining evidence in plays by Shakespeare for two stage doors (rather than the more commonly believed three). Professor Fitzpatrick then moved deftly from literary analysis to architecture, reconstructing the Globe Theatre using the a sketch of 1630s London by Wenzel Hollar and modern computer programming (‘CAD’ – Computer Aided Design). Using the stage layout suggested by this architectural model, Professor Fitzpatrick made further conclusions about performance practice and the use of two stage doors. Later in the afternoon we were watched (and, for some, participated in) a performance workshop demonstrating staging techniques that result from the use of cue scripts and two stage doors.

Other highlights of the conference included Dr Annamarieke Willemsen’s (from the National Museum of Antiquities, Leiden, NL) examination of the material culture associated with medieval and early modern education (including some extant wax tablets); a paper by Ceræ Reviews Editor Michael Ovens, complete with audience members wielding swords; and Dr Tomas Zahora’s discussion of eschatology, technology and plagiarism, which also discussed medieval theories of authorship. All the papers were of a very high quality and all very relevant to the conference themes, which made choosing which of the parallel sessions to attend very difficult!

The conference was preceded by a Postgraduate Advanced Training Seminar (generously sponsored by ANZAMEMS) on Understanding and Using Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts. The seminar was led by Professor Michelle P. Brown and was an intense but inspiring crash-course in palaeography and analysing early books and manuscripts. Professor Brown guided us through the immense amount of technical terminology and then taught us how to recognise and transcribe various scripts. With the assistance of Erin Fraser, Manager of the Special Collections, we were treated to a display of manuscripts, printed books and facsimiles from the UWA Special Collections.

A huge thank you to the CMEMS staff and members of the PMRG who made this conference possible!

Interested in the work of the plenary speakers? Have a look at these links:
The article of Tim Fitzpatrick’s plenary lecture can be found here.
Watch Michelle Brown discuss the Holkam Bible here.

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