London Old and Middle English Research Seminar

The seminar aims to include contributions from both leading medievalists and from new members of the London medievalist community, to encourage participation from graduate students, and to range as widely as possible within the fields of Old English and Middle English studies. The selection of topics offers a balance of detailed analysis and more general theoretical / methodological or historical discussion. The seminar fosters a friendly spirit of collaboration among London medievalists and is an essential and vital forum where London medievalists can meet, exchange ideas, and keep abreast of current trends in medieval studies.


Dr Alastair Bennett (Royal Holloway, University of London) & Dr Catherine Nall (Royal Holloway, University of London)

LOMERS Schedule, 2019-2020

All seminars begin at 5.30pm and will be held in Room 1-03 in Royal Holloway's Bedford Square building in Bloomsbury, central London.

A map of the venue can be found here.

September 24th 2019: Kellie Robertson (University of Maryland)

'Weather Prodigies: Climate Change and Medieval Narrative'Long before the advent of global warming accelerated by industrialization, humans imagined their own actions to be causally related to weather events. Looking at medieval technologies for weather prognostication alongside poetry and chronicle accounts, this talk explores what anthropogenic climate change looked like before the Anthropocene, particularly for medieval writers grappling with describing the aftermath of destructive storms. It argues that what Amitav Ghosh has recently called “the environmental uncanny” emerges from an odd but enduring subject position: one in which writers simultaneously imagine themselves as directly responsible for storms and other weather events, even as they experience themselves as being the helpless object of them.

January 29th 2020: Katie Walter (University of Sussex)

'Feet, Peasants, and Medieval Literature'

In the encyclopaedic tradition the feet are connected, through their soles, with the soil (solum): the sole of the foot is ‘so called because with it we impress footprints in the earth’. But both soil and soles are solum because they sustain other things – the sole of the foot ‘the entire weight of the body’, and the soil ‘everything’. In the theological and pastoral tradition, the feet are metaphorically connected with the soul’s movements: one is the foot of the intellect, the other is the foot of affection; and Accedia (or Sloth) is both a cripple and a foot. In the tradition of the body politic, feet are more specifically associated with a particular class: peasants are feet. In this paper I will establish these strands of natural philosophical, theological and moral thinking about feet, before turning to one figure, that of the ploughman, and one poem, Piers the Plowman’s Crede. I'll suggest that reading ploughmen as feet in general, and Piers as a foot in particular, alerts us to a poetics of feet in late-medieval vernacular theology. As even these snippets suggest, feet are thick with meaning. In their connection with the soil, the earth and work, but also with disability, feet might appear to be of limited spiritual value. However, their simultaneous connection, not only with sustaining but also with moving, with making footprints and tracks, and with intellect and love, open up another possibility for the ploughman-as-foot: for spiritual acuity and moral exemplarity, which, I'll suggest, is inextricable from his physical connection with - his adherence to - the earth.

February 12th 2020: David Callander (Cardiff University)

‘Bringing Medieval English and Welsh Literature Together’

Ever more scholars are seeking to compare medieval English literature with texts from Britain and elsewhere in other languages, including Welsh. This talk seeks to highlight some of the more productive avenues which could be pursued in bringing medieval English and Welsh literature together. I look at a number of possibilities, including the study of early modern Welsh translations of medieval English literature, such as ‘Troelus a Chresyd’ and the Welsh Mandeville’s Travels. I then discuss in particular detail the opportunity for comparative study provided by border-crossing saints like Winefride/Gwenfrewy, examining the often contrasting adaptations of her medieval Latin lives in Middle English and Middle Welsh.

This talk has been rescheduled from its original date on November 27th, 2019.

March 4th 2020: Marco Nievergelt (University of Warwick)

‘Medieval Allegory as Epistemology: Langland and Deguileville on Language, Cognition, and Experience’

This talk has been cancelled due to planned industrial action

May 20th 2020: Calum Cockburn (UCL) and Rebecca Menmuir (University of Oxford)

This talk has been postponed due to the Covid-19 outbreak