Interview with Mike Cressey

On Tuesday 17th March, Mike Cressey will be giving the final MEMSA seminar of term. We caught up with him and put him through the MEMSA interview.

Mike will be talking about ‘1679: Licensing, Impeachment, and the Birth of Modernity?‘ at 6:15 in the World Heritage Visistors Centre.

Where are you from?

– I’m from Barrow upon Humber, which is a village near Hull.

What brought you to Durham?

– I came to Durham because I liked the look of the early modern history MA course, and it was a good department.

What do you like most about being in Durham?

– My favourite thing about Durham is the county it’s situated in. You don’t have to go far to find somewhere interesting to walk.

What is your research on?

– My research is on conspiracy theories in the reign of Charles II. I’m trying to study how the authorities engaged with harmful ideas and how they attempted to control political thought in the mid-late seventeenth century.

How did you become interested in this topic?

– I wrote an essay on the myths surrounding the Knights Templar at undergraduate. I’m not interested in conspiracy theories as such. They’re not based on a particularly happy way of looking at the world. But I am interested in why people believe what they believe, particularly when that belief is based on an irrational process of logic. I also figured that if I studied conspiracy theories, I might one day be able stop Dan Brown selling any more books.

What’s your favourite book, academic or non-academic?

– My favourite book could be Animal Farm. I love how with each page you turn, the conceit should stop working. But actually, it’s just pretty flawless.

If you were not in academia, what would you like to be doing?

– I wish I was a florist, for two reasons. Firstly, I suspect that no-one ever races into a florist and yells ‘quick! Everyone! This is an emergency!’ So I think it would be quite an agreeable pace of employment. And secondly, I really like the idea of being able to match the flowers to the event. ‘It’s my Aunty Marjorie’s 85th birthday’. ‘Ah. You’ll be wanting dahlias’, etc…

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CFP for Early Modern Conference in Department of English (Durham)

See below for details on an upcoming conference on ‘Myth and Alterity in Early Modern Literature’ to be held in Durham this summer. Deadline for submissions: 1st May.

Myth and Alterity

“The Charm of the Unfamiliar”: Myth and Alterity in Early Modern Literature

Friday June 19TH 2015

St Mary’s College, Durham

Confirmed Keynote Speaker: Professor Michael Pincombe (Newcastle)

Postgraduate Conference of the Department of English Studies,

University of Durham

 

A hint of the far reaching and rich symbolic potential of the word “exotic” resides in one twentieth-century dictionary’s definition of the term as “the charm of the unfamiliar”. Haunted as it is by the spectre of nineteenth-century Orientalism, this potential has been largely left untapped by twenty first-century scholarship. Yet the word “exotic” was current as early as 1600, and bears significantly upon the genre, or genres, of early modern mythic literature. Returning to this period, this one day postgraduate conference aims to interrogate the importance of literary exoticism in its loose, “unfamiliar” sense, with a view to rehabilitate the term in light of a modern historical consciousness and ethics.

The focus of this endeavour will be the study of myth through alterity, a term that gestures towards the broader identity politics inseparable from modern ideas of the exotic.   Alterity proves fundamental to an era where a humanist renaissance of classical myths, often appropriated by political or “national” narratives, coincided with the philosophical and geographical necessity of negotiating new and old worlds. If for psychologist Jacob Arlow myth “is a particular kind of communal experience…it serves to bring the individual into relationship with members of his cultural group on the basis of certain common needs”, theorists since Levi-Strauss have shown that this fostering of communality is underpinned by a structure or metaphysics of myth that is primarily oppositional. Inclusion depends on exclusion, self upon other. Such “otherness” takes many forms, and for the purposes of this conference questions of sexual, religious or animal alterity, for example, are of no less importance than those of race or nationality.

Proposals for papers of 20 minutes on any aspect of myth and alterity in the early modern period (c.1500-1700) are warmly invited, to be sent to myth.alterity.durham@gmail.com by 5pm, Friday 1st May. We recognise and wish to foster the interdisciplinary nature of this topic and welcome contributions from areas of philosophy, politics, anthropology and translation as well as English studies.   Abstracts should be 300 words and may treat, but are not limited to:

Travel writing and colonial encounters; hermeneutics and mythic exegesis; classics and the bible; ecology and the natural world; gender and hybridity; myth and memory; humanism and science; metaphysical debate; the supernatural; magic and the occult; animality; national borders and transgressions; migration and translation; language and metamorphosis; monstrosity; folklores and fables; intertextuality; culture and history; creation narratives and founding myths; subject and state

All contributors will be invited to submit their paper to be considered for publication in “Postgraduate English”, an online, peer-reivewed journal sponsored by the English department at the University of Durham.

Conveners: Abigail Richards (Durham) and Sherihan Al-Akhras (Durham)

myth.alterity.durham@gmail.com

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Interview with Margaret Carlyle

On Tuesday 3rd March, Margaret Carlyle (Cambridge) will be coming up to talk to us about ‘Corpses in Carriages, Corpses in Boudoirs: Lady Anatomists in 18th Century France‘. In anticipation, we asked her a few questions.

Where are you from? I was born and raised in Canada and my mum is British, so I have the good fortune of having two nationalities (and passports)!

What brought you to Cambridge? I came to Cambridge on a two-year Postdoctoral Fellowship to pursue a project in the Department of History and Philosophy of Science on eighteenth-century birthing technologies.

Where were you before? Before coming to Cambridge, I completed my PhD on Cultures of anatomy in Enlightenment France (ca. 1700-1795) at McGill University in Montréal, Canada. Besides being a lively and engaging place to study, Montréal lives up to the ‘bon vivant’ reputation of its inhabitants. I can admit to being distracted at times by the city’s wonderful restaurants, wine bars, beer patios, and dance clubs, as well as ‘the morning after the night before’ brunch spots that get your weekend back on track for school work! It was also a great place to practice my French.
What is your research on? My research focuses on the history of science, medicine, and technology in Enlightenment Europe, especially in France, with special emphasis on women’s contributions to the creation of scientific knowledge. I am currently working on a couple of related projects. One is transforming my PhD on the history of eighteenth-century anatomy into a book and the other is embarking on a new project on the subject of birthing technologies. This new project focuses on the male surgeons and female midwives who developed technologies to respond to the demands of birthing crises, and their role in creating a new medical culture before the rise of the modern hospital. I am also preparing an English translation of a seventeenth-century female amateur astronomer’s French-language account of the Copernican universe (i.e. the sun-centred universe) for the “Other Voice” series, which specialises in recovering primary sources penned by early modern women.
How did you become interested in this topic? When I embarked on my undergraduate degree, I was studying to be a physician, so I enrolled in the usual battery of science and maths courses. I really enjoyed the theoretical sides of these subjects, but quickly tired of my afternoon laboratory work, soon turning my attention to the activities of my students’ union. I as a result ended up switching into the Arts (foolishly thinking I would have more free time for activism), but quickly realised that studying History and French literature was also hard work! By the time I began my Master’s degree in History, I realised that I missed the science side of things, so I turned my attention to the history of science, coming full circle, so to speak.

What is your favourite book, academic or non-academic? Although Truman Capote’s In Cold Blood and L.M. Montgomery’s Anne of Green Gables are high on my list, my favourite book is without a doubt Graham Greene’s The End of the Affair, which I typically read dockside every summer at my parents’ cottage in the wild and–especially by British standards–very isolated lake district of the Canadian Shield. The novel is set in World War II era Britain and as a result may seem a bit dated, but it has all the elements of a timeless classic that we can all relate to in some way. Plus, it has a pretty memorable opening line for those with history on the mind:

“A story has no beginning or end: arbitrarily one chooses that moment of experience from which to look back or from which to look ahead.”

If you were not in academia, what do you think you would be doing? I think I would be backpacking around the world! I’m an adventurous spirit at heart and would much rather invest in ‘experiences’ than in ‘things.’ This is probably what also makes me hopeless at finances–I am always planning the next trip without knowing how I’ll afford to pay for it!

 

Margaret’s paper will be given in the World Heritage Visitors Site at 6:15. Join us from 5:45 for tea and coffee.

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Interview with Rick Vert

In anticipation of this week’s MEMSA seminar on ‘Symeon’s Libellus and the Identity of the Haliwerfolc‘ (Tuesday, 6:15, World Heritage Visitors Centre), we caught up with speaker Rick Vert and asked him some questions.

Where are you from?

Washington DC.

How did you come to Durham?

I met Ben Dodds on a summer course at Cambridge.  When I decided to pursue an MA in Medieval History, he directed me to Len Scales and I decided Durham would be the place to continue my studies.

What’s your favourite thing about Durham?

The high quality and approachability of the teaching staff and the proxmity of the Cathedral to the University.  The surroundings help bring some of the history to life.

What is your research on?

I am researching the development of an ethnic identity amongst the Community of St Cuthbert during the twelfth century and how it might have spread to the people of St Cuthbert’s Land.

How did you become interested in this topic?

I am interested in ethnicity and national issues.  Originally, I intended the rapid process by which the Normans assumed an English identity so quickly after the Conquest.  During my MA, I became much more interested in how that happened in Durham which led me to study the works produced by the Community during the twelfth century.

What is your favourite book, academic or non-academic?

Bloodlands by Timothy Synder is a wonderful book on a very chilling topic.  Academic historians I enjoy reading are Anthony Smith, David Rollason, and John Gillingham.

If you could do anything, what would it be?

I love the English countryside and exploring places off the beathen path (Kiev, Sarajevo, Belgrade, Zagreb).  If there is no Starbucks around then I’ll probably enjoy being there!

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MEMSA Conference 2015: Darkness and Illumination

Medieval and Early Modern Student Association, Durham University
Ninth Annual Postgraduate Conference
15-17th July 2015

 

Memsa 2015 CFP

 

“Darkness and Illumination: the Pursuit of Knowledge in the Medieval and Early Modern World”

The pursuit of knowledge has had an essential and constant influence upon the shaping of society. The means of its acquisition, interpretation, and dissemination informs the way in which people interact with the world around them, forming religious and cultural identities, scientific knowledge and gender roles among other things. This was as much true in the past as it is today.

This year’s Medieval and Early Modern Student Association conference will focus upon aspects of knowledge, learning, and control over information in the medieval and early modern periods and in doing so broaden perspectives not just about how people perceived their world, but also how they interpreted the past and the idea of progress.

We welcome abstract from postgraduates and early career researchers on all aspects of this topic in medieval and early modern archaeology, history, literature, theology, art, music, and culture. Presentation topics may include, but are not limited to:
• The ‘myths’ of the Dark Ages and the Renaissance
• The limits of archaeological, literary, and historical evidence
• The creation of the ‘primitive’ past
• Ideas of spiritual progression and improvement
• The growth of networks of learning
• Historical characterisations of race
• Scientific knowledge and discovery
• The expansion of the known and unknown world
• Gendered control of knowledge
• Urban and rural centres of learning
• Heretics, mystics, and conflicts over belief
• Publication, translation, and the availability of texts
• Artistic, musical, and cultural innovation

Postgraduate and postdoctoral students are welcome to apply for presentations. In addition to the panels, the conference will offer two keynote addresses (TBA). Tours of Durham Cathedral and Castle as well as a visit to Durham Museum and Heritage Centre are scheduled for any interested delegates.

Please send abstracts of 200-300 words to memsaconference2015@gmail.com for papers no longer than 20 minutes by Friday 17th April 2015.

For more information, please visit our blog, website, or sponsor’s pages:
durhammemsa.wordpress.com * dur.ac.uk/imems/memsa * dur.ac.uk/imems
Arranged with the support of Durham University’s Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies

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Interview with Jamie Beckett

Ahead of this week’s MEMSA seminar, we caught up with speaker Jamie Beckett and asked him some questions. Don’t forget to come by on Tuesday at 6.15 to hear his paper!

Where are you from?
 
I’m originally from a small town near Leamington Spa in Warwickshire, though I’ve lived for the past four years in York, studying for my BA and MA there. I did also work at Warwick Castle whilst growing up, but serving chips from a hatch rather than doing anything historical, which does negate my medievalist street-cred somewhat.
 
How did you come to Durham?
 
My supervisor at York knew I was interested in late medieval theatre, and had heard about an opportunity to join the REED-NE team at Durham, looking into records of early English drama in the North East.  I applied, and – luckily – here I am.
 
What’s your favourite thing about Durham?
 
Although Durham seems tiny at first, it’s a wonderful city to explore with lots of hidden nooks and crannies. I love walking, and the fact that it’s so easy to escape into the wilderness here is brilliant.
 
What is your research on? 
 
Although it’s still a little rough around the edges at the moment, my research essentially looks at humour and comic performances within late medieval drama. Focussing especially on the so-called ‘Mystery Plays’ – vernacular biblical dramas – which abound in the region, I’m interested in the interaction of people and performances, particularly where laughter is concerned.
 
How did you become interested in this topic?
 
I got quite involved with various productions of the York Mystery Plays whilst living in the city, as they’re still so popular there, being staged every few years largely my members of the public. I loved seeing these static medieval play scripts being turned back into performances, and found the role of laughter in this – whether in response to perceived anachronisms, or engaging with contemporary issues – very interesting.
 
I find the analysis of social relations within towns and cities in the late medieval period really fascinating, and dramatic performances (especially those sponsored by elites, but seen by all) give a real insight into the alternating discourses and behaviours of those living in an urban space. I enjoy a bit of acting myself – particularly the more comic roles – and think we should be more comfortable in studying humour and the motivations for laughter, especially when looking at a period more normally characterised by hard brutality, absolute piety or the unwieldy spectre of  ‘Merrie England’.
 
 
What is your favourite book, academic or non-academic?
 
A horrible question. But I do love Decline and Fall by Evelyn Waugh, as well as anything by Terry Pratchett or Ian McEwan.
 
If you could do anything, what would it be?
 
I would say ‘travel back to the fifteenth century to see the mystery plays performed’, but I fear I’d just get annoyed at the audience for laughing in the wrong places.
 
In reality I’d like to travel a lot more than I do now and see the world a bit; either that or age disgracefully and become a particularly snide and verbose food critic, revelling in my own sense of self-conceitedness. On reflection, the travel one sounds better. 

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MEMSA Epiphany Term Card

MEMSA Epiphany Term CardMEMSA Epiphany Term Card

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