Interview with Moriah Kennedy

Our next seminar will be taken by Moriah Kennedy on 15th January 2018. As usual tea and biscuits will be served at 17:40 with the seminar starting at 18:00. Below we talked to Moriah about her love of folklore, Arthurian legends, and rogue metal detectorists.

Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from?

I have lived most of my life in the Bronx in New York, though I also lived for a few years in Israel when I was young.

What brought you to Durham?

Back in 2012 a friend recommended Durham to me, and the following week I got a glimpse of Durham from the train on the way to Edinburgh. In the brief glance I had of the city I was very impressed by the cathedral (sans scaffolding) rising above everything else. A few years later when I decided I wanted to do a postgrad degree I found that Durham seemed most suited to my interests and most flexible when it came to choosing a dissertation topic, and it was the only school to which I applied.


What is your favourite thing about the medieval/early modern period?

This isn’t specifically a medieval/early modern interest but one of my favourite things is the folklore associated with landscapes and monuments, though I have a particular interest in how these ideas were interpreted during the medieval and early modern period. Likewise I’ve also become interested in medieval and early modern attitudes towards death and the rituals associated with it. As an undergrad I majored in anthropology so my interest tends towards understanding why people of the past did what they did.


What does your research focus on?

The research in my talk is primarily concerned with the post-Medieval English turf maze, mainly researching why they existed and how their use and form changed over time. Turf mazes have also existed in Germany but in style the English turf mazes most closely seem to resemble the French cathedral pavement mazes so I have focused a lot on the evolving use of those. I have also done a lot of research into when in the calendrical year the turf maze would have been used, so I have done research into the English ritual year, with specific focus on Lent through just after Midsummer. I have also researched how the English would have understood the concept of the maze and the stories connected with it, such as those concerning Daedalus and Ariadne, Theseus and the Minotaur and Aeneas and the Trojan games.

What do you plan to focus on in your seminar?

In my seminar I will be focusing on the more archaeological elements of my Masters dissertation. This includes a look at a GIS map I created looking at the geographical naming trends of turf mazes. I will also focus on the drone survey I commissioned for my dissertation which helped me conduct research into a mostly unstudied overgrown turf maze in Yorkshire. The landowners wish the exact location to be kept secret (an issue with metal dectorists in the past (looking for non-maze related objects)) so I can’t publish my findings anywhere, but I can talk about them during my seminar and show the results.

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

I am currently not in academia but back at work as a librarian of sorts in New York. For now that’s what I’m doing but my other non-academic interests would include taking part in more archaeological excavations, or historical costume design or a study in folklore. If I could I would also spend a lot more time painting landscapes and sewing historical costumes.

Do you have a favourite medieval/early modern text?

Most of my literary interests tend to the eighteenth and nineteenth century, a number of those taking place during medieval-esque times (sometimes to the point where they are so very nineteenth century that you would never know they took place at any other time!). I do however enjoy Arthurian legends, especially the ‘newer’ ones which added Sir Galahad to the Grail cycle.


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