CFP Leeds IMC 2018 Panel ‘Memories of Empire’



‘Memories of Empire’


Cerae is sourcing submissions to participate in a panel focused on ‘Memories of Empire’ for the IMC Conference at the University of Leeds (2-5 July, 2018). The focus of our panel is on the ways in which individuals or collectives used, or were influenced by, recollections and remnants of the Roman Empire.

Medieval ideas about education and civic duty were heavily influenced by Roman authors, for example, while Roman ruins were continuously used in Medieval buildings. Medieval theologians constantly grappled with the legacy of their ancient pagan forebears, while poets and playwrights sought to establish authority and prestige by placing themselves in the classical tradition through emulation and imitation. In Medieval memories and imaginations, the Roman Empire served as not only a past point of reference, but as an aspirational destination. In our panel, we would like to explore the relationship between memory, imagination and destiny. Submissions might focus on – but are not limited to:

  • studies in the visual, literary and material culture of the Carolingian empire
  • the birth of Renaissance humanism with its focus on classical notions of civic duty
  • religious appropriations of the imperial claim to political supremacy
  • medieval romance and epic as genres innovating on classical styles and themes
  • the imperialist legacy in early colonial propaganda

Cerae is aiming to gather together panellists with varied disciplinary approaches, and submissions from scholars working in art history, literature, politics, intellectual history, social studies and beyond are encouraged.

Submissions by participants willing to write up their paper as an article for review and publication in 2018 as part of Cerae Volume 5 (of the same theme) will be prioritised. We can offer bursaries of $100 towards travel costs for postgraduates and ECRs travelling from Australia and New Zealand.


Women’s History Month – Elisabeth von Nassau-Saarbrucken


How were medieval noble women involved in the transmission of secular literature? Stephanie Hathaway shares an example with us to celebrate Women’s History Month.

The Chanson de la reine Sébile exists in 13th-century alexandrine fragments, which are the oldest and only known metrical version of the story in existence.  They were found in bindings and MS covers, some heavily damaged.  Most are at the Bibliotheque Royale in Brussels.  These fragments comprise varying dialects, mostly Lorraine and Anglo-Norman. Much of the content of the text can be attested in the Spanish historia. A prose translation of this story into German, in the form of Königin Sibille, was written by a woman: Elisabeth von Nassau-Saarbrücken.

Born Elisabeth of Lorraine-Vaudémont between 1429-1453, she was the daughter of Marguerite of Joinville whose parents were the heirs of Champagne and Marie of Luxembourg.  Elisabeth’s father was the multi-titled lord of Lorraine, Baron of Vaudémont who also held land in Picardie and died in 1415 at the Battle of Agincourt.

About 1412, Elisabeth was married to Philipp, Baron of Nassau-Saarbrücken lord of Commercy on Maas and Merenberg in Taunus.  In 1425, when her son, Baron Johann III, was only 11, Philipp died at 61 and Elisabeth became regent.  She excelled at the task, strengthening political and religious ties and securing the inheritance for her son during a precarious time for the barony, caught between French, English and German interests.  Much of her correspondence survives, attesting to her involvement in administrative affairs, as well as to her literacy.

Elisabeth was familiar with literature from an early age.  When she was 11 her mother had Lohier et Malart translated from Latin into French for her.  She was fluent in both French and German.  Elisabeth was already forty years old when she produced prose translations of four chansons de geste, as a cycle from the life of Charlemagne to Hugh Capet, intended for her son.  Alone among the sparse German versions of Reine Sébile that exist, Elisabeth’s is the only one in the ‘French family’.

The surviving text that we have from Elisabeth helps fill in gaps in the reception history of the epic material, as well as attesting to the mobility of this material across linguistic, political and cultural boundaries of the Middle Ages. Elisabeth’s legacy leaves us a picture of not only the literacy of noble women, but their ability to participate in the arena of politics and administration that has been generally, and perhaps incorrectly viewed as an exclusively male domain.



Listening to the Gaoler’s Daughter


From whence come ideas? Kendra Leonard explores the origins of her new article (now live on the Cerae website) in this guest blog.

My article about song and meaning in The Two Noble Kinsmen came about through my already-existing research interest in Shakespeare and music and a symposium held on Two Noble Kinsmen organized by my friend and colleague Niamh O’Leary at Xavier University in Cincinnati, Ohio. My 2009 book Shakespeare, Madness, and Music: Scoring Insanity in Cinematic Adaptations examined the relationships between madness and music in film versions of Shakespeare’s three political tragedies—Hamlet, Macbeth, and King Lear. But there is madness—or the simulacrum thereof—in many of Shakespeare’s other plays as well, and I wanted to examine the supposedly mad vocality of the Gaoler’s Daughter in particular.

The Two Noble Kinsmen is based on Chaucer’s “The Knight’s Tale” from The Canterbury Tales and was first published in 1634. Two previous plays had taken this tale as their source: Richard Edwardes’s Palamon and Arcite from 1566, written for the young Elizabeth I, and an anonymous version that was played in 1594 by the Admiral’s Men. These works focused on the story of the aristocratic cousins divided by their love for the same woman and did not include the secondary plot line of the Gaoler’s Daughter and her love of Palamon. Scholars believe that the schoolmaster and his coterie were based on Francis’s Beaumont’s Masque of the Inner Temple and Gray’s Inn from 1613. Despite a title page stating that the play was by ‘Mr. Iohn Fletcher, and Mr. William Shakespeare. Gent,’ Shakespeare’s involvement was often dismissed, and authorship was given to Fletcher and Beaumont. Recent research divides up the play between Fletcher and Shakespeare, assigning Act 1, scenes 1–3; Act 2, scene 1; Act 3, scene 1; Act 5, scene 1, lines 34-173, and scenes 3 and 4 to Shakespeare, the Prologue; Act 2, scenes 2–6; Act 3, scenes 2–6; Act 4, scenes 1 and 3; Act 5, scene 1, lines 1–33, and scene 2; and the Epilogue to Fletcher. The authorship of Act 1, scenes 4-5 and Act 5, scene 2 remains undecided. The songs sung by the Gaoler’s Daughter are contemporary ballads and broadside tunes that would likely have been well-known to audiences. That the Daughter knows so many ballads suggests that she is an avid collector of them—if not in print, then in aural memory.

Because of its later entry into the canon of Shakespeare’s plays, The Two Noble Kinsmen has not been produced as frequently as Shakespeare’s other works. To this date, it remains one of the few plays that has not been adapted for television or cinema. However, there are several recordings of professional, university, and amateur productions online. Many of these are particularly interesting for their treatments of the Gaoler’s Daughter’s songs. Often, actors and directors use the music for these songs as provided in Ross Duffin’s Shakespeare’s Songbook (Norton, 2004). Others sing the song texts to melodies of their own composition or improvisation. In some cases, the Gaoler’s Daughter sings fragments of music rather than entire melodies, and in an especially excellent performance of the play by students at Victoria University in Wellington, the Gaoler’s Daughter incorporates bits of song and speech together, creating a Sprechstimme effect that truly conveys the character’s emotional distress and gradual healing. Yet other productions bring new music into their stagings, such as the Brave Spirits Theatre did in 2014, using songs by Billy Idol (“White Wedding”) and Ingrid Michaelson (“The Chain”), among others.

Regardless of what kind of music is used, the Gaoler’s Daughter has much to say through it, and her songs provide alert audiences with a narrative too often overlooked.

Read Kendra’s article, ‘Listening to the Gaoler’s Daughter’, for free by clicking here!

Cross-Cultural Exchange in the Renaissance


Behind every great book likes a great culture. In her new article (now live on the Cerae website), Lisa Tagliaferri explores the intricate relationship between text and translation in the Renaissance.

Translation is a careful act of negotiation across not only language but culture, which becomes even more pronounced when we approach historical documents from a contemporary perspective. The work that is done to make a new text in the target language perform the same function as the source text seems remarkably similar to the kind of work that Baldassare Castiglione’s conception of the courtier must do: strike a balance between subtle nuance and astute daring, and achieve a certain amount of that untranslatable quality: sprezzatura.

Castiglione’s The Courtier, a bestseller of the early modern period that warranted an English translation by Thomas Hoby, continuously invites analysis with its broad scope that considers court life, laughter, and metaphysics. The historical setting makes the piece even more interesting, which is addressed throughout the book and in the preceding letter to Signor Don Michel de Silva, the Bishop of Viseu, and taken up again in Hoby’s rendition which includes an extra epistle of the translator, addressed to Lord Henry Hastings.

The letters are fascinating to me because they add an extra texture to the books, leaving substantial traces of the interpersonal relationships that live on the periphery of the texts. As I have studied Vittoria Colonna’s writing in the past, her mention in each Castiglione’s and Hoby’s introductory letters piqued my interest. Book III of The Courtier has served as a point of inquiry and often contention for feminist criticism (for good reason), and I was intrigued by the ways in which that section seemed to pivot off of the relationship that Castiglione had with Colonna, and that Hoby had with Elizabeth Parr.


Baldassare Castiglione and Vittoria Colonna

The correspondence between Castiglione and Colonna that took place outside of the books of The Courtier fueled my interest even more, as I considered this external material alongside the Renaissance classic. Realizing that Colonna was very much staking a claim as a literary critic of the text herself, while also serving to fuel the revision and publication process of the book, placed her in a paradoxical position that was both crucial to the eventual text yet challenged her friendship with Castiglione. Her situation, and that of her corollary Elizabeth Parr, present a feminine foil for the courtier, as individuals who both wield a certain amount of power and leverage an absence of power in an endeavor to advance their careers.

There is a growing interest in cases of cross-cultural exchange throughout the global Renaissance, and the transmission of texts between Italy and England is an area ripe for investigation. Additional inquiries into the texts produced by Castiglione and Hoby would certainly broaden our understanding of these works, as well as deepen our historical knowledge of both the Italian and English cultures of the early modern period.

Read Lisa’s article, ‘A Gentlewoman of the Court: Introducing and Translating the Court Lady’, for free by clicking here!

Ulrike Draesner’s Nibelungen . Heimsuchung – Book Launch


How has the Nibelungenlied inspired modern poet Ulrike Draesner’s new book? Stephanie Hathaway attended the book launch this November. 

Tuesday evening, New College, Oxford hosted the book launch for Ulrike Draesner’s latest volume of poetry: Nibelungen . Heimsuchung. The event was organized by Professor Karen Leeder and Mediating Modern Poetry, and attended by students and staff from modern, early-modern and medieval backgrounds. Ulrike Draesner, a visiting fellow of New College, presented and read selections from her new book that marks the advent of a completely new look for Reclam. Draesner explained that Reclam had acquired the rights to the 1908 Nibelungen illustrations by Carl Otto Czeschka, and asked her if she would compose poetry to accompany them. The result is a beautiful hard-cover volume showcasing the Czeschka colour illustrations in their full Jugendstil glory, complete with gold leaf, placed exactly as Draesner wished, to complement her expressive verse.

Hardly a work has been so charged with complexity in meaning and political and cultural undertones as the Nibelungenlied material. Indeed, Czeschka’s illustrations were themselves instrumental in inspiring Austrian director Fritz Lang to create his epic five-hour silent film version in 1924, at a time during which German cinema was at the forefront of the development of motion pictures.

It is through all of this background that Ulrike Draesner’s verse shines a light of perspective both selective and thought-provoking. She talked about how she had studied the Nibelungenlied at university and, as an “honorary medievalist”, how the Middle High German epic had inspired her then, and again upon coming back to it later, always giving new meaning. Her verse is modern, rhythmic and evocative, focussing, as she says, on the individual.  The book treats each of the four heroic figures: Kriemhild, Sigfried, Brünhild and Hagen, giving their feelings and perspectives voice in “lyric monologues” in German, occasionally interspersed with Latin, English and Middle High German, and concluding with 23 short Nibelungen “novels”.

Draesner was in fine form as she read selections, many from the Kriemhild section, and then from the chorus of crows. Showing some of Czeschka’s illustrations, Draesner focussed on the scene in which Kriemhild dreams about her future husband, Sigfried, as a flacon who is attacked by two eagles. The rhythmic, kinetic verse leapt from the page as Draesner read with her emotive, velvet voice, and the interplay between language and senses could be keenly felt. English translations were read by Professor Almut Suerbaum and Karen Leeder, and were equally well-composed to evoke the images and feelings of the figures.

There followed a short discussion of the ways that the Middle High German epic Nibelungenlied was used in this work, and how it inspired Draesner, who said that she had tried to connect with the psychology of the figures, where the epic described only action, inaction and power-play. The evening wrapped up with drinks and lively discussion in one of those rare occasions that modernists and medievalists are met with the same subject matter. Ulrike Draesner’s book is a real treasure for all Germanists from medievalists to post-modernists, and hearing her perform the verses she composed was an absolute pleasure.

Stephanie L Hathaway, University of Oxford, 10 November 2016.

Stephanie’s review will be published in volume 3 of Cerae Journal!

The Blinding of Harold II at the Battle of Hastings

Tapisserie de Bayeux - Scène 57 : La mort d'Harold

Bayeaux Tapestry, Scene 58 – The Death of Harold

What was it about eye wounds that so fascinated writers and illustrators in late Anglo-Saxon England? Matthew Firth explores this in the companion blog to his new article ‘Allegories of Sight: Blinding and Power in Late Anglo-Saxon England‘.

There are few images in medieval art as well known, or as well debated, as the depiction of Harold II dying with an arrow in his eye at the Battle of Hastings.  As a pictorial representation of a momentous event in English history, the transition from an Anglo-Saxon to Anglo-Norman realm, its fame is justifiable.  Much of the debate surrounding this depiction of Harold’s death revolves around whether this is indeed the way Harold died or if it represents an authorial invention, anachronistic restoration or the preservation of a vernacular tradition.  It is not a debate into which my paper, ‘Allegories of Sight: Blinding and Power in Late Anglo-Saxon England’, enters.  Indeed, I studiously avoided the Bayeux Tapestry in my exploration of Anglo-Saxon attitudes to punitive blinding; Harold’s death is only metaphorically punitive, and is extensively hypothesised elsewhere. Yet it was out of a now distant conversation on the iconography of Harold’s death with a fellow student at the University of New England that this paper was born: Why the eye? Was there subtext to an injury to the eye in this cultural milieu? Are there other examples in the late Anglo-Saxon/early Anglo-Norman world?

I should briefly disclaim that my Master’s research focuses on Anglo-Saxon societal attitudes to punitive mutilation, especially as represented in narrative sources. That is a nice neutral summation that tends to garner polite attention. ‘Societal attitudes to punitive blinding’ on the other hand tends to garner mildly shocked looks of bemusement and a disapproving interrogation. This is perhaps because the social mores of a society and time long distant and alien to modern sensibilities can be difficult to access.  The term ‘punitive mutilation’ gels with a popular image of brutality in the medieval world without being confronting, whereas the idea a person being deliberately punished through blinding provides a more palpable and horrific image. Certainly if we were informed on the news tomorrow of a deliberate and malicious blinding in our neighbourhood it would be shocking crime engendering the censure of the community.  Nonetheless, in the course of my research it did not take long to locate examples of blinding in Anglo-Saxon literature, both actual and fictional, being perpetrated from the highest tiers of society.

It is fair to say that all narratives of blinding in Anglo-Saxon society are didactic. Some more directly so than others.  The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle attributes numerous political blindings to Æthelred II (the Unready) during is tumultuous reign, while the law codes of his successor, Cnut, are the first codes to specify blinding as a legal punishment for recidivist criminals. Such historical blindings are multifaceted in motivation. For Æthelred, blinding deprived rivals of political power while stopping short of the sin of murder, while Cnut’s law codes reflect a theological concern to punish the sinner while preserving their souls that they may repent and receive redemption. In a society in which each person’s worth was defined by their ability to contribute to their community, the punishment of blinding extended beyond the victim.  The victim’s family was burdened by a member that still consumed valuable resources but was now functionally unable to add to those resources, while the mutilated features of the victim were a visual exemplar to the community, warning of the repercussions for criminal behaviour.

In hagiography blinding takes on a different aspect. Here the practice is almost always a narrative trope and almost always serves to demonstrate the power of the saint. This can take many forms (and are frequently rather entertaining). St Kenelm’s treacherous sister attempted to curse the procession translating her brother’s remains and, as she read an imprecatory psalm backwards, her eyes shot out onto the psalter. A man erroneously sentenced to mutilation had his eyes remove and, having lived like this for three months, had them restored by St Swithun.  St Dunstan fled from the shores of England just before King Eadwig’s mother-in-law (and some-time lover) could catch and blind him.  Whether the saint is enacting blindings, healing blindings or avoiding blindings, God’s favour for the saint is on display in their spiritual power. As artefacts of saints’ cults this is certainly one intent of the narratives, yet the duality of the trope cannot be ignored as a didactic motif. Those who do wrong in the eyes of God are blinded by his agents, while the innocent partake in his blessings.  These narrative elements are representative of moral archetypes familiar to an Anglo-Saxon audience and, as such, provide evidence of Anglo-Saxon societal attitudes toward blinding.

I do not believe that blinding was a common punishment in tenth- and eleventh-century England, nor that it was undertaken lightly. Indeed, it is this cultural reticence to the practice that grants blinding in hagiographical narrative its pedagogic impact. But I do believe that it began to gain some acceptance as a practical political and legislative expedient. It is clear that sight was a cherished faculty in Anglo-Saxon England and that blinding was a vehicle in which personal agency could be invested, political power could be diminished, and spiritual power could be augmented.

Read Matthew’s article, ‘Allegories of Sight: Blinding and Power in Late Anglo-Saxon England‘, for free by clicking here!

2016 Call for Papers – “Influence and Appropriation”

Influence and Appropriation

CERAE: An Australasian Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies is seeking contributions for its upcoming volume on the theme of “Influence and Appropriation”, to be published in 2017. We are, additionally, delighted to announce a prize of $200 for the best article published in this volume by a graduate student or early career researcher (details below).
Both individuals and entire cultural groups are influenced consciously and subconsciously as part of a receptive process, but they may actively respond to such influences by appropriating them for new purposes. Perhaps human beings cannot escape their influences, but think in terms of them regardless of whether they are taken as right or wrong, useful or otherwise. Such influences may have enduring effects on the lives of people and ideas, and may be co-opted for new social contexts to fit new purposes.
Contributors to this issue may consider some of the following areas:

  •     How writers adapt received ideas and novel conceptual frameworks or adapt to them
  •     How entire cultural groupings (national, vocational, socio-economic, religious, and so on) may be influenced by contact and exchange
  •     The mentorship and authority of ideas and people
  •     The use and abuse of old concepts for new polemics
  •     The shifting influence of canonical texts across time
  •     The way received ideas influence behaviours in specific situations
  •     How medieval and early modern ideas are reshaped for use in modern situations


These topics are intended as guides. Any potential contributors who are unsure about the suitability of their idea are encouraged to contact the journal’s editor (Keagan Brewer) at

The deadline for themed submissions is Friday 18th November, 2016. In addition to themed articles, however, we also welcome non-themed submissions, which can be made at any point throughout the year.



Articles should be approximately 5000-7000 words. Further details regarding submission, including author guidelines and the journal’s style sheet, can be found online at



Cerae is delighted to announce a prize for the best article to be published in Volume 4 by a graduate student or early career researcher (defined as five years out from PhD completion), on the theme of ‘Influence and Appropriation’. Cerae is able to offer this prize thanks to the generosity of our sponsors. For a full list of organizations which have supported us in the past, see our list of sponsors. The journal reserves the right not to award a prize in any given year if no articles of sufficiently high standard are submitted.



Cerae is a peer-reviewed Australasian journal of medieval and early modern studies. Administered from the University of Western Australia, the journal is directed by a committee of Australian and international graduate students and early career researchers, united in our commitment to open-access publishing, the possibilities of the digital humanities, and to forging a strong community of medieval and early modern scholars in the region. Cerae accepts manuscripts from any discipline related to medieval and early modern studies, including submissions with accompanying audio-visual material. Previous issues of the journal can be viewed online at


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