Leeds IMC 2018


Are you excited?  We’re excited!  We’ll be up bright and early on Tuesday morning for the 9am session in the Parkinson building (Nathan Bodington Chamber – fancy!).  Join our esteemed editor, Vanessa Wright, and our four speakers – Philippa Byrne, Stephanie Hathaway, Celeste Andrews, and Sean Tandy – for some fantastic insights into Memories of Empire.


Cerae at Leeds IMC 2018!

Twitter was absolutely buzzing last week with excited medievalists announcing that their panel had been accepted for the International Medieval Congress in Leeds in July 2018.  I have already triple booked myself in some time slots with all the fantastic papers and panels that friends and colleagues have been tweeting.  And now we are excited to announce that Cerae has it’s very own panel, too!  Join us bright and early on the Tuesday morning for four fantastic papers on Memory and Empire, all specifically chosen to complement and enhance Volume 5’s thematic strand Representations and Recollections of Empire.  We’re so in sync, Cerae and the IMC – memory-recollections, recollections-memory.

Cerae’s panel discusses 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 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.

We have four diverse but beautifully complementary papers.  Philippa Byrne’s paper will focus on rhetoric and political thought in Sallust, while Stephanie Hathaway explores magic and pagan thought in the French Reine Sebile texts.  Celeste Andrews will treat us to a paper on the remembrance of Rome in medieval Welsh texts.  Sean Tandy will close the panel with a paper on authorship and authority in mis-attributed late antique texts.

In all our excitement, we’ve decided also to extend the deadline for thematic submissions for Volume 5.  If this panel has got you all fired up about Representations and Recollections of Empire, you now have until the end of December to send us a submission.

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.


‘Economics of Poetry’ Conference: Rome, April 28-30 2016  

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Used with permission from the ‘Economics of Poetry’ conference organisers.

Tara Auty reflects on the recent ‘Economics of Poetry’ conference at the American University at Rome.

Held on the grounds of the American University at Rome (AUR), from April 28-30 2016, the ‘Economics of Poetry’ conference was an academic gathering to discuss and advance the study of ‘efficient techniques of producing neo-Latin verse.’ Organised by Paul Gwynne of the AUR and Bernhard Schirg of the Freie Universität Berlin, and funded jointly by those institutions, this conference brought international scholars together to share their research into the practices of efficiency that were intrinsic to the production of Latin poetry in the early modern period. This approach ‘analyses the techniques authors employed and developed to reduce the effort of poetic composition, streamline its production, and facilitate its presentation when time was a crucial factor for success.’ What follows is a brief summary of some of the insights that came to light over the course of seventeen varied and dynamic presentations that were particular helpful or novel to me, but the full listing of the abstracts can be found here.

Susanna de Beer launched the conference with her keynote presentation, Reveal, Reuse, Recycle! How Digital Tools Can Help Detect Efficiency in Giannantonio’s Campano’s (1429-1477) Poetry. Dr. de Beer’s paper questioned the very paradigm by which neo-Latin poetry has thus far been judged, and invited the attendees to consider repetition and self-referencing within the corpora of early modern Latin poets not as ‘laziness’ or ‘insincerity,’ but instead as well-developed strategies to meet the demands of the patronage system. One of the major contributions that the concept of ‘economics of poetry’ is making to the field of neo-Latin criticism is that it is encouraging scholars to reassess intratextuality (i.e., self-repetition and self-allusion), which has traditionally been devalued in contrast with intertextuality (i.e., repetitions from and allusions to other authors’ works, usually already well-regarded and known) as a viable and significant practice in literary production.

In a period where competition for patronage could be fierce, and an author’s livelihood depended on their ability to adapt, the capacity to reuse pre-fabricated material was a great benefit and was not necessarily viewed as a lack of originality. Paul Gwynne’s paper, The Economics of Eulogy: Johannes Michael Nagonius (c. 1450-c.1510), highlighted the ways in which Nagonius continuously revised his poetry to reflect developing political situations, with particular reference to a funeral song derived from an original pseudo-Ovidian source that he repeatedly adapted to mourn different significant personages. In Spamming the Council of Milan: Pietro Lazzaroni (c.1420-c1497) Spreading His Poems to Lombardian Patricians, Bernhard Schirg pointed out that these instances of self-repetition can be viewed as variations on a basic template, and allowed the extremely prolific Lazzaroni to engage in ‘cold-calling’ potential patrons by show-casing the kind of work he was capable of adapting to them specifically.

As well as reusing existing models within a given genre, authors also engaged widely in intertextual borrowing across genres and across languages. Elena Dahlberg’s presentation, String Your Lyre Promptly! Magnus Rönnow’s (1665?-1735) Latin Poetry from the Great Northern War, foregrounded the variety of sources used by the Swede neo-Latin poet in his coverage of contemporary military events. Detailed textual comparison showed that Rönnow used printed news sources alongside literary accounts of the conflict, so that his own poetry ‘blurred the boundaries between truth and fiction.’ Authors using these contemporaneous sources had to find linguistic strategies to render their material into neo-Latin, and these strategies in themselves can be viewed as part and parcel of the practice of ‘economics of poetry,’ wherein textual sources are the bare resources of poetic production, subject to the labour of the author to create a viable end-product.

Repetition in and of itself does not necessarily equate to less literary labour, and the genre of the Cento further highlights this complexity. The opening keynote presentation by Dr. de Beer invited attendees to question whether ‘repetition can be both efficient and meaningful,’ and in her paper, Riuso ed Economia Nella Pratica della Poesia ‘Centonaria,’ Maria Teresa Galli showed that repetition, far from being a ‘shortcut,’ in fact adds layers of meaning and can prove to be quite an inefficient practice. Assembled entirely from the fragmented lines of another author’s work, laid out in a new order, Cento poems were acts of ‘literary acrobatics,’ and the writing of them was an exercise undertaken by the learned to showcase their knowledge of classical works and to demonstrate the author’s ability to rework and remould well-known masterpieces. The finished product is a multi-layered puzzle, which simultaneously recalls the original stories from which they have been extracted while piecing together a new story, a feat made all the more impressive by the appearance of effortlessness.

This semblance of effortlessness was also a key feature in the phenomenon of ‘fast composition,’ as discussed by Marc Laureys in The Aesthetics of Mourning: Techniques of Composition in Neo-Latin Funeral Poetry from Germany and the Low Countries (16th and 17th Centuries). Speedy writing had long been associated with improvisation and extemporising, and diametrically opposed to polished sophistry. In this model, the latter was associated with guile and superficiality, while the former was authentic, candid and unpolished. Statius’ Silvae provided the key classical exemplar for this idea of ‘spontaneous’ writing, as Professor Laurey illustrated, and was one of the main literary precedents for early modern authors writing Latin funeral poems (who, naturally, had certain time-pressures on their compositions). Fast, unpolished writing is motivated by intense emotion in the Statian model, and the claims to extraordinary speed embedded in these poems were thus part and parcel of the ‘aesthetics of mourning’ characteristic of this genre.

In the final panel of the conference, Elizabeth Sandis similarly addressed the strategies employed by William Gager (1555-1622) to produce a high-quality piece of work in a very limited time-frame in Playing Virgil on Short Notice. Following the orders of the Chancellor of Oxford University to stage an original performance for a Polish dignitary visiting England in 1538, Gager wrote the 1,300 verse Dido in approximately three weeks. This new composition, partly based on his ‘youthful adaptations of Virgil’s Aeneid,’ was developed to serve a propagandistic purpose and highlight the beneficent generosity of Queen Elizabeth I to the foreign ambassador. One of the most salient points made by Dr. Sandis in this presentation was that the success of this performance relied on a shared knowledge of the story of Dido: by choosing an iconic text as a base model, Gager efficiently creates meaning by drawing on the audience’s assumed collective memory of the original story.

The question of how to detect efficient techniques of poetic production was one that was addressed to varying degrees by some of the papers, but the most practical guidance was given by Dr. de Beer in her keynote speech. Various digital tools have emerged, and are continuously emerging, that allow scholars to not only access Latin texts in their entirety, but also to quickly detect intratextual and intertextual relationships by enabling searches for individual words, phrases and motifs. Two examples are ‘Musisque Deoque’ and Dr. de Beer’s own project, ‘Mapping Visions of Rome.’

This is no doubt only the beginning of what is already proving to be an extremely fruitful and innovative movement to reassess particular features of neo-Latin poetry, and its usefulness in literary criticism and history will surely become evident to scholars working on material in other languages, genres and periods. Under the editorial guidance of Paul Gwynne and Bernhard Schirg, the findings of this conference will be further developed into a collection to be published by Peter Lang in late 2016/early 2017.This will be the largest contribution thus far to the growing body of ‘economics of poetry’ material already published:

Report on the ANZAMEMS 2015 Conference

Conferences can pass in a blur even though they also involve periods of sustained concentration while listening to papers in sessions. So it was for me at ANZAMEMS 2015 at the University of Queensland, which was an experience crammed into one day, the Friday of the conference, the day I delivered my paper and the only day I could attend. That still comprised three lots of sessions, each with three papers, which is a lot of listening.

I’ve attended each ANZAMEMS since 2008 (which actually still makes me a newcomer in terms of the long history of many Australasian scholars with ANZAMEMS and its predecessor organisations) and while it’s good to see the conferences never get any smaller, it’s also interesting to see the themes and ideas get broader. To an extent this growth testifies to the broadening in both medieval and early modern studies, and the way both fields have fruitfully harnessed the methodologies and ideas from other disciplines. For example the final session I attended on Friday comprised papers by Aidan Norrie, Helen Young and Douglas Eacersall on (respectively) portrayals of the Virgin Queen (Elizabeth I) in film, crowd sourcing multimedia productions with medieval settings, and the revival of medieval style martial arts in Australia. Yes, Australia, not normally a setting or subject to be expected in even an Australasian medieval and early modern conference. That is not to say there is any type of artificial division between ‘traditional’ medieval and early modern studies and more contemporary approaches to subject matter, but given how extensively or even exhaustingly researched many aspects of early modern history are (the reformation for example) it seems timely and necessary for other questions and other approaches to develop.

Another aspect of this conference was that even though there are discernible and exciting developments in medieval and early modern studies, the background news that UWA is planning a reduction in majors, including early modern studies. In doing so it joins a trend notable at other ‘sandstones’ but other universities as well in diminishing the space and weight given to particular fields, including the early modern. The sadness is that each successive ANZAMEMS takes place where the enthusiasm of Australasian academics and postgraduate students remains undiminished but where another program or major in European studies may have disappeared. By the next conference what will the attrition be? What momentum can be built at each hosting institution about this subject matter?

Marcus Harmes (University of Southern Queensland)

Michelle Brown, Public Lecture: ‘The Luttrell Psalter: Imaging England on the Eve of the Black Death’



On the evening of Thursday November 28th, after an intensive day and a half of inspiring around thirty postgraduates and early career researchers in the Postgraduate Advanced Training Seminar, ‘Understanding and Using Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts’, Professor Michelle Brown opened the CMEMS/PMRG conference with an informative and thoroughly entertaining public lecture: ‘The Luttrell Psalter: Imaging England on the Eve of the Black Death’.

The centrepiece of this lecture was the Luttrell Psalter, an exquisite manuscript that immortalises the name and history of Geoffrey Luttrell and his family, who were members of the rural gentry in Lincolnshire during the fourteenth century. This psalter was initially commissioned by Geoffrey in the 1330s, but most of the final third of the book remains incomplete, apart from a couple of pages ostensibly illuminated by Geoffrey’s heir, Andrew, who was overall not particularly interested in having the manuscript completed after the death of his predecessor in 1345. Indeed, it is estimated that the Luttrell Psalter would have costed about 22 pounds to commission – about half of Geoffrey’s annual turnover from his inherited estates!

Over the course of the lecture, Professor Brown provided an extensive tour of this remarkable object, the margins of which revealed many amusing and occasionally shocking anecdotes about scandals which would have otherwise been long-forgotten. For a time, we were able to gain some insight into the life and world-views of Geoffrey Luttrell, a devoutly religious old soldier, who was profoundly anxious about the future of his soul after death. There were also references to contemporary political events, such as the image of a saint being beheaded by a sword labelled ‘Lancaster’, an allusion to the gruesome beheading of Thomas of Lancaster, the cousin of Edward II, whom Geoffrey helped to establish as a sanctified figure.

The central third of the manuscript, possibly illustrated by a close advisor of Geoffrey’s, uses a quirky Italianate style to give a closer insight into the fortunes of the Luttrell family. One such example refers to the story of the young heiress, Elizabeth, who, upon being dispatched to the Duke of Worcester’s household for betrothal, elopes. In a scenario reminiscent of a certain Jane Austen novel, Elizabeth is retrieved, at no small cost to her family, and the marriage goes ahead. The rest of Elizabeth’s life is hinted at throughout subsequent margins, including her widowhood, where her promiscuity and agency are implied through the surrounding iconography.

By the end of the lecture, we had only explored a small portion of the Luttrell Psalter, but had a far richer understanding of the lives, fortunes, and worldviews of this one family that lived during a politically and socially turbulent time. Although various records of the Luttrell family survive, it is through the survival of this remarkable manuscript that we can still access these more nuanced details and anecdotes that often do not survive more than a generation or two. Perhaps the most profound point that can be taken from this lecture is that through being able to understand these marginal images, at least to some extent, the name of Geoffrey Luttrell, and that of his family, will survive in perpetuity.

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.