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

by KELLY MIDGLEY

Dining_room_scene_from_the_Luttrell_Psalter

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.

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Reflections on the CMEMS/PMRG Conference

by ALANA BENNETT

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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.

Call for Papers – From Byzantium to Clontarf: Emotional, Intellectual and Spiritual Perceptions in the Construction and Reception of the Early Medieval Past

From Byzantium to Clontarf: Emotional, Intellectual and Spiritual Perceptions in the Construction and Reception of the Early Medieval Past
The 10th conference of the Australian Early Medieval Association (AEMA)
Macquarie University, Sydney
7–8 February, 2014

AEMA

AEMA’s 10th conference spans the eight centuries from late antiquity through to the twelfth century, extending from the Byzantine capital of Constantinople in the East to Ireland in the West, and all areas in between. Impressions of the early medieval world over this period and region are based on sources that capture the emotional, intellectual, cultural or religious perceptions and biases of their creators.

2014 marks the 1000th anniversary of two important early medieval battles, Clontarf in the West and Kleidion in the East. Accounts of events, including battles like Clontarf and Kleidion are often highly subjective and emotionally charged, while modern cultural, intellectual, political, and religious sentiments can influence our reading of sources and our perceptions of events of the early medieval past. These events can then sometimes take on new meaning or symbolism for later audiences, just as perceptions of the battles of Clontarf and Kleidion and their aftermath have shifted over the last millennium.

This conference invites papers that address the emotional, intellectual, spiritual, or cultural aspects of written and non-written sources of the Late Antique and Early Medieval periods (c. 400–1150).  Priority will be given to papers which relate to the conference theme but submissions related to any aspect of the early medieval world will be considered. Papers on the reception of events of this period by non-contemporary writers and artists are also welcome, particularly the role played by emotion, intellect, politics, culture, or religion in framing the ways in which societies or individuals view their past.

Abstracts of 250-300 words for 20-minute papers should be sent to conference@aema.net.au by 11 October 2013.

Limited financial assistance may be available for postgraduates and early career researchers travelling interstate for this conference and there will also be a prize for the Best Postgraduate/ECR paper at the conference (AEMA membership required).

For more information, see the conference website or contact the convenors, Janet Wade and Nicole Moffatt, at conference@aema.net.au.

Second Call for Papers – Urban Culture and Ideologies in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: c. 1100-1600

Urban Culture and Ideologies in Medieval and Early Modern Europe: c.1100-1600
Massey University, Albany Campus, Auckland, New Zealand

30-31 January, 2014

Urban Culture and Ideologies picture

This conference will focus on the textual traditions of the urban world: the literature of all kinds produced in the urban context, from chronicles to song, illumination to speech acts. Its main theme is notions of ‘urbanity’. What is ‘urban’ about ‘urban culture’? In what ways did urbanity contribute to cultural and ideological sign systems in political speech, historiography, literature, the visual arts and music? How did the production and reception of chronicles shape urban identity – or identities?

If you would like to give a paper, please submit an abstract to Tina Sheehan, t.m.sheehan@massey.ac.nz – ideally before 15 October. 

Senior scholars and postgraduate students are equally welcome. For more information and for registering attendance at the conference, please see the conference website.
Early-bird registration and abstract submission closes 6 December 2013.

Postgraduate Advanced Training Seminar (PATS): Understanding and Using Medieval and Early Modern Manuscripts

27-28 November 2013
University of Western Australia, Perth
Conference website: http://conference.pmrg.org.au/

The Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies at UWA will host a Postgraduate Advanced Training Seminar (PATS) on 27/28 November 2013. This is timed to precede the conference ‘Textuality, Technology, and Materiality in the Medieval and Early Modern World’ to be held at the University of Western Australia, Perth, 29-30 November 2013.

This two-day event will comprise hands-on work with manuscripts and incunables held at UWA, and will cover palaeography, scribal practice, material features of manuscripts, and the technology of the book.

We are most fortunate to have secured the services of the internationally renowned manuscript scholar, Professor Michelle Brown, Curator of Illuminated Manuscripts at the British Library (1986-2004), and now Professor of Medieval Manuscript Studies at the School of Advanced Study, University of London. Prof. Brown will coordinate the PATS, with contributions by UWA experts in palaeography, editing, and the technology of the book.

Applications and Travel Bursaries:

This PATS is generously sponsored by ANZAMEMS to provide travel and accommodation bursaries for Postgraduates and Early Career Researchers who wish to attend the PATS and the associated 2-day conference.

ANZAMEMS sponsorship means that there will be no registration fee for the PATS, but bursaries for travel and accommodation are restricted to members of the association. Student and unwaged membership fees are a very reasonable $36.30, and can be paid online at http://www.anzamems.arts.uwa.edu.au/membership.

If you wish to apply for an ANZAMEMS bursary for the PATS and linked conference, please apply by 1 October 2013. Applications, no longer than 400 words, should contain:

  1. Proof of status as postgraduate student (PG) or early career researcher (ECR)
  2. Reasons for wishing to attend
  3. Current research interests
  4. Endorsement by supervisor (PGs) or senior colleague (ECRs)

Please address applications, by email, to Dr Anne Scott anne.scott@uwa.edu.au.

Call for Papers – Urban Culture and Ideologies in Medieval and Early Modern Europe

Thursday 30 January 2014 – Friday 31 January 2014 
Massey University, Albany Campus, Auckland, New Zealand 

Conference Website

This conference will focus on the textual traditions of the urban world: the literature of all kinds produced in the urban context, from chronicles to song, illumination to speech acts. Its main theme is notions of ‘urbanity’. What is ‘urban’ about ‘urban culture’? In what ways did urbanity contribute to cultural and ideological sign systems in political speech, historiography, literature, the visual arts and music? How did the production and reception of chronicles shape urban identity – or identities?

Speakers include:

  • Jan Dumolyn (University of Ghent)
  • Johan Oosterman (Radboud University, Nijmegen)
  • James Murray (Western Michigan University)
  • Tracy Adams (University of Auckland)
  • Kim Phillips (University of Auckland)
  • Mark Amsler (University of Auckland)

If you would like to give a paper, please submit an abstract to Tina Sheehan, t.m.sheehan@massey.ac.nz

Senior scholars and postgraduate students are equally welcome.

If you would like to register attendance at the conference, please do so on this website (this function will be available soon).

Abstract submission and early-bird registration closes 6 December 2013.

If you have any queries please contact Dr Andrew Brown, School of Humanities, A.D.Brown@massey.ac.nz

Call for Papers – Children’s Literature, Childhood Death, and the Emotions 1500-1800

The University of Western Australia
5-6 December, 2013

Conference Website

Confirmed plenary speakers from the Children’s Literature Unit in the School of English Literature, Language and Linguistics, Newcastle University, UK:

  • Kate Chedgzoy, Professor of Renaissance Literature and Head of School
  • Matthew Grenby, Professor of Eighteenth-Century Studies
  • Kimberley Reynolds, Professor of Children’s Literature

Proposals are invited for papers on any topic from any discipline that can be used to increase understanding of how the death of children was presented to children in texts for them as part of the emotional economies of the period.

Topics of interest could include but are not limited to:

  • Childhood death and grief/sorrow
  • Adults’ responses to childhood death
  • Institutional responses to childhood death
  • Illustrating death for/of children
  • Managing children’s responses to childhood death
  • Children’s fear of death
  • Emotions associated with potentially fatal illnesses and injuries
  • Child martyrdom, child murder and infanticide
  • Dramatizing the death of children

Please send 300-word abstracts to kim.reynolds@ncl.ac.uk by 31 July 2013. General queries about the conference theme should also be sent to Kim Reynolds at that address.

Queries about travel, venue, and other practical arrangements should be addressed to Pam Bond at UWA.

It is intended to bring a number of papers from the conference together to create either an edited volume suitable, for example, for the Palgrave History of Childhood series, or a special number of an appropriate peer-reviewed journal.