Interview with Helen Clifford

Our next seminar will be taken by Helen Clifford on 14th May 2018. As usual tea and biscuits will be served at 17:40 with the seminar starting at 18:00. Below we talked to Helen about Shakespearean productions and the weirdness of Early Modern theatre.

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

I’m originally from Watford and have spent most of my academic life up here in Durham, apart from my MA year in Stratford-upon-Avon (unsurprisingly!).

What brought you to Durham?

For the PhD, the supervisor combination and the reputation of the English department. And I knew that I liked the place from undergrad!

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

Probably the variety and sheer strangeness of early modern drama – once you start to make moves away from Shakespeare, everything gets very weird very quickly, which is a lot of fun.

What does your research focus on?

I work on Mikhail Bakhtin’s criticism of Shakespeare and drama more generally. Bakhtin writes mainly on the novel and medieval carnival, so I’m hoping to expand the ways he’s been used in Shakespeare scholarship so far and think about what a Bakhtinian aesthetics of theatre might look like.

What do you plan to focus on in your seminar?

My seminar is a very early test run using Bakhtin as a critical framework to analyse Shakespeare productions – for this paper, they’ll be two of Toneelgroep Amsterdam’s shows, Roman Tragedies (which brings together three of the Roman plays) and Kings of War (which incorporates 5/6 English histories).

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

I honestly don’t know. Probably something quite unexciting interspersed with lots of theatre trips to break up the monotony!

Do you have a favourite medieval/early modern text?

My favourite Shakespeare play changes weekly, but for the moment maybe Measure for Measure? The Donmar Warehouse have just announced a production with some interesting gender-swapped stuff going on, so I’m hoping to get to that later in the year.

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Interview with Barbara Hargreaves

Our next seminar will be taken by Barbara Hargreaves on 30th April 2018. As usual tea and biscuits will be served at 17:40 with the seminar starting at 18:00. Below we talked to Barbara about coming out of retirement, barbaric twelfth-century nuns and tetchy monks.

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

I’ve lived pretty much all over the UK. We were a forces family so I moved house quite often as a child, but spent most of my working life in London with a few years living in Zambia. When I retired we moved up north to Alnwick where I live now.

What brought you to Durham?

After a few months of retirement it became apparent that I wanted to do something which would stretch me and which had a goal. So I thought of returning to university. I’d been a mature student when I’d done my BA and masters so wasn’t worried (much!) by the prospect of being an even more mature student. I contacted a few universities and Durham was far and away the most welcoming and encouraging one, so I came here and did a masters by research and last year started a PhD. Of course the wonderful setting and academic expertise here was a great draw too.

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

I love the stories of ordinary people, their everyday experiences, their hopes and beliefs, their way of considering and understanding themselves and the world around them. If I could time-travel I’d definitely go back to twelfth-century England – as long as I had a sure way back, a good pair of shoes and a secret supply of antibiotics that is!

What does your research focus on?

I’m looking at how health related narratives are used in twelfth-century English religious works, particularly in saints’ Lives. My background is as a nurse and midwife, so the subject area sits well with my professional knowledge.

What do you plan to focus on in your seminar?

The seminar explores the story of a nun who, in the twelfth century, became pregnant. It is a shocking and disturbing account of sexual, physical and psychological violence, horrifying in some respects. Although those elements underlie the nun’s story, my focus is on the pregnancy itself and how, in the written account, the condition of the nun’s gravid body is used to illustrate her fall from grace and eventual salvation.

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

Well I could be properly retired and indulging my love of travelling and immersive theatre, perhaps increasing my volunteering commitment with VSO or spending a lot more time walking in the beautiful Northumberland countryside. Or none of those … I don’t know – its great to have such freedom and choice!

Do you have a favourite medieval/early modern text?

I do enjoy reading Walter Daniel’s Life of Ailred of Rievaulx, mainly because Walter’s own voice is heard so clearly in his written words. He has the gift of speaking directly to his reader and his work is engaging and lively. Walter comes across as opinionated, often tetchy and sometimes intolerant but always devoted to his master Ailred and full of love for the Cistercian life he has chosen. He was a doctor too so there are lots of detailed, and very useful, medical descriptions. I certainly wouldn’t want to have been a colleague of his, but the way his personality comes through his writing of the Life makes it an entertaining as well as an instructive text to read.

Interview with Katie Haworth

Our next seminar will be taken by Katie Haworth on 12th March 2018. As usual tea and biscuits will be served at 17:40 with the seminar starting at 18:00. Below we talked to Katie about moving back to the north, and the excitement of Anglo-Saxon objects and riddles.

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

Originally I’m from Huddersfield in West Yorkshire, but I spent four years at Cambridge for my undergraduate and masters.

What brought you to Durham?

Partly it was the expertise and reputation of the department and the medieval heritage of Durham itself. But I’ve also enjoyed moving closer to home. I missed the friendliness of northerners and the hills when I was in Cambridge.

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

Definitely the surviving objects. My undergraduate degree was in ASNC, so there was a focus on history and literature, which was great, but it was an interest in the material culture that made me switch to Archaeology. The chance to examine and research things that were once owned and used by people over a thousand years ago is so exciting.

What does your research focus on?

My research aims to catalogue and study the beads and pendants worn by women in the seventh century. The aim is to consider these necklace assemblages as comprehensively as possible and consider the light they can shed on key religious, economic, political and social shifts during the period.

What do you plan to focus on in your seminar?

I’m going to introduce my research project as a whole, examine a few key case studies and hopefully demonstrate the value of a holistic, interdisciplinary examination of a single object type.

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

I’m a keen baker, so maybe I would have opened a café or a tea room somewhere.

Do you have a favourite medieval/early modern text?

An Old English poem called Wulf and Eadwacer. Apart from the fact that the narrator is female, the deliberately riddling language means everything else about the narrative and meaning of the poem is up for debate and I like the mystery.

 

Interview with Tom Kearns

Our next seminar will be taken by Tom Kearns on 26th February 2018. As usual tea and biscuits will be served at 17:40 with the seminar starting at 18:00. Below we talked to Tom about the intrigues of medieval religion and the joys of Anglo-Saxon poetry.

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

Well I’m from Birmingham originally but since starting uni I’ve been all over. I did my undergrad in ASNC at Cambridge and my masters in Church History at Oxford. Basically I decided that I wanted to see as many different places as I could so study has taken me all over.

What brought you to Durham?

Besides funding? Well the cathedral was a big draw since there are lots of manuscripts there that would be really helpful for my work. Plus I just heard it was a really nice place so it seemed a good choice.

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

Well when I was younger I was really interested in mythology and paganism so I kind of gravitated towards Vikings. But since I started studying it all I’ve gotten really into Church history and medieval theology. It should come as no shock that I’m a big J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis fan so the origins of this fantastical medieval society and religion is really interesting to me. So it’s probably monks and different expressions of belief.

What does your research focus on?

Well when I was younger I was really interested in mythology and paganism so I kind of gravitated towards Vikings. But since I started studying it all I’ve gotten really into Church history and medieval theology. It should come as no shock that I’m a big J. R. R. Tolkien and C. S. Lewis fan so the origins of this fantastical medieval society and religion is really interesting to me. So it’s probably monks and different expressions of belief.

What do you plan to focus on in your seminar?

Well this seminar is basically a version of an article that I’m working on. It’s sort of an iconoclastic criticism of scholarship up to this point and attempt to show the need for reassessment in light of primary evidence for real and significant ideological diversity among the English monastic reformers.

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

I don’t know. I used to think about politics, so maybe that but I don’t think I’m sociopathic enough. So now I tend to think that I would follow my dad into the police or maybe train to be a priest. There are options!

Do you have a favourite medieval/early modern text?

Yeesh that’s hard. It’s cliché I know but I do have a soft-spot for Beowulf. Anglo-Saxon poetry in general is pretty great but Beowulf is just particularly good.

Interview with Laurie Atkinson

Our next seminar will be taken by Laurie Atkinson on 12th February 2018. As usual tea and biscuits will be served at 17:40 with the seminar starting at 18:00. Below we talked to Laurie about being a Northumbrian and the thrill and dread of deciphering manuscripts.

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

My village sits on the border between County Durham and Tyne and Wear, so I just say that I’m a Northumbrian! I did my undergraduate in English at Durham, then spent last year in Cambridge studying for an MPhil in Medieval Literature.

What brought you to Durham?

Why go down South for Chaucer’s Boece when you’ve got an autograph of Hoccleve’s Series at home?

 

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

It’s got to be the manuscripts. I still get a thrill every time I open a codex, followed by a dim sense of dread when I realise that I’ve got to read the thing!

What does your research focus on?

My research focuses on late medieval dream-poetry and its paratexts. I’m interested in the way that conceptions of authorship encoded in the dream-frames of vernacular literary works are transmitted and re-imagined in manuscript to print. Chaucer, Lydgate, Skelton and Caxton all get a look in, but I’m most excited about some of the dream-poem’s less known practitioners, as the form begins to wane at the turn of the sixteenth century.

What do you plan to focus on in your seminar?

I’m going to be speaking about Gavin Douglas, an early sixteenth-century Scots bishop, diplomat, and ‘humanist’, who also turned his hand to poetry. Specifically, I’ll be looking at Douglas’ Eneados of 1513, the first full English translation of the Aeneid. I want to think about Douglas’s place within the textual communities of Scotland and continental Europe, the extent to which his Eneados warrants the epithet of a seminally ‘Renaissance’ translation, but also the unmistakable influence of insular, vernacular literary traditions in the remarkable prologues to his epic.

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

I dread to think. I know Cooplands are hiring.

Do you have a favourite medieval/early modern text?

I rly lyk the Eneados. Hoccleve is gr8 2. Ttyl. C u @ MEMSA x

Interview with Rhiannon Snaith

Our next seminar will be taken by Rhiannon Snaith on 29th January 2018. As usual tea and biscuits will be served at 17:40 with the seminar starting at 18:00. Below we talked to Rhiannon about life in the northeast, knights in shining armour and notorious nobles.

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

I’m a local! I grew up in County Durham. At 18 I wanted to get away a bit, so I went to university in Wales. I studied Medieval and Early Modern history at Aberystwyth. There were a lot of seagulls, and once a blue shark was found parked on a set of double-yellow lines. It made the front page of the local paper. The place had an awful lot of charm!

What brought you to Durham?

I came back north to Durham for my MA because I’d been feeling a little homesick (and was tired of seagulls clog-dancing on my skylight). Wales was lovely, but there’s nowhere like the North East!

After working in North Yorkshire for a couple of years after my MA, I decided to jump back into higher education. Completing my PhD felt a lot like unfinished business. I’ve been feeling like a pig in mud ever since.

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

As a child I was always in love with the traditional notions of knights in shining armour, and I guess, given my research interests, some of that never really went away.

I’ve always been a bit of a story-teller at heart. I love how we have to play detective, piecing together different kinds of evidence to try and reconstruct a  kind-of ‘lost world.’ Studying this period often brings home to me that, despite the differences between our times and theirs, human beings don’t really change very much.

 

What does your research focus on?

My research focuses on the relationship between noble reputation and noble power in late medieval England. I explore contemporary notions of reputation (both noble and non-noble) and their role in society, culture and politics. Reputation mattered, and I’m just keen to find out the hows, the whys and the how-much-es!

What do you plan to focus on in your seminar?

My talk focuses on the posthumous reputations of two late medieval dukes of Gloucester. I explore the uses their reputations were put to by others in the wake of their deaths. It really does seem like an example of history repeating itself, and I don’t think that was an accident. I hope it will demonstrate why studying reputation is a worthwhile thing to do!

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

I really have no idea! My old job made me miserable, so definitely not that! I think I would have to be doing something creative because I’m happiest when I’m making new things. Writing was always my first love, so possibly something to do with that.

Do you have a favourite medieval/early modern text?

I really have no idea! My old job made me miserable, so definitely not that! I think I would have to be doing something creative because I’m happiest when I’m making new things. Writing was always my first love, so possibly something to do with that.

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.

Interview with Louise Garner

Our next seminar will be taken by Louise Garner on 20th November 2017. As usual tea and biscuits will be served at 17:40 with the seminar starting at 18:00. Below we talked to Louise about living abroad, medieval manuscripts, and working between Chemistry and History.

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

I’m from Leicestershire, but haven’t lived there for a long time. Before I left Britain I lived in Pendle, near the Witches. After Lancashire I moved to The Falkland Islands, and then lived in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia for four years and then lived most recently in Kathmandu, Nepal for a few years.

What brought you to Durham?

Moving back to the UK from living abroad was like a blank canvas, I could go anywhere and do anything! I decided to indulge a passion and study for Masters in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Durham. I’d been to Durham as a visitor and liked it, and the university setting and expertise seemed perfect.

I intended to stay just for my masters’ year, but ended up buying a house here and starting a PhD.

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

I’d be lying if I said I wasn’t drawn to the high drama – Kings, Queens, executions, battles, Viking raids, plague etc.

Manuscripts have captured my heart though. The more I find out the more I realise there is to know. I’m really enjoying learning about how manuscripts were made, from preparing parchment from animal skins, through to the pricking and ruling, the copying, scribal practice and how scriptoria operated. Of course pigment preparation is a key feature of my research and I’m enjoying mixing up pigments in the laboratory.

What does your research focus on?

My current research is on non-destructive identification of pigments used in illuminated manuscripts. However, the knowledge of which pigments were used means nothing without context so although I’m based in the Chemistry department I am also in History – I have a supervisor in each camp! I’m delighted to be able to utilise my physical sciences degree and my history based masters together.

What do you plan to focus on in your seminar?

My MEMSA talk is an overview of my research so far, how and why ‘Team Pigment’ do what we do and what we’ve learned. In particular I focus on The York Gospels, a manuscript made around 1020 in Canterbury, as a case study.

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

I’m a qualified teacher, and before I left to come to Durham I was a head teacher. So I’d probably be teaching somewhere, probably in South East Asia, perhaps in Myanmar or Hong Kong. Although I hear the Seychelles has a lovely little school…

Do you have a favourite medieval/early modern text?

I guess I have to say the Lindisfarne Gospels are my favourite for their history, beauty and the amazing craftsmanship that went into them. Manuscripts are a crystallisation of the skills and trade of the time– animal husbandry, scribal practice, parchment making, artistry, pigment and ink preparation, trade routes from Afghanistan and the continent. The more I learn the more fascinating they become.

Interview with Pete Bibby

Our next seminar will be taken by Pete Bibby on 9th November 2017. As usual tea and biscuits will be served at 17:40 with the seminar starting at 18:00. Below we talked to Pete about manuscripts, proverbs, and Guardian crosswords.

Tell us a bit about yourself, where are you from? What brought you to Leeds/Durham?

I’m a retired lecturer living in Sheffield. When I was 14 I had to give up Latin and promised myself I’d get back to it one day. When I retired (my last paid employment was teaching life drawing) I joined the Medieval Latin Reading Group at Sheffield University which led to a Latin Palaeography summer school at Durham which led to an MA at the Institute for Medieval Studies in Leeds which led to….

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

The manuscripts it left behind. My project could have the title “An Excuse for Peter to Explore Manuscripts “.

What does your research focus on?

I’m looking at vernacular medieval proverb collections with the emphasis on the word “collections”, trying to find ways to analyse, describe, categorise and make them more generally available. Trust me, it’s more interesting than it sounds.

What do you plan to focus on in your seminar?

The Durham Proverbs were my introduction to proverb collections and I’m hoping they’ll do the same job for the audience. They’re witty, puzzling, obvious, obscure and entertaining. As is their scholarship.

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

Sitting in a real ale pub doing the Guardian crossword while complaining that they aren’t as good as they used to be, doing the same with the beer and occasionally feeling pleased when they publish a letter of mine. Mind you, I did that when I was in academia….

Do you have a favourite medieval/early modern text?

Leeds, Brotherton Library, Ripon Cathedral Library MS1, a 13th century English Bible. I love the way its chapter numbers don’t.

Interview with Kelly Clarke

Our next seminar will be taken by Kelly Clarke on 23rd October 2017. As usual tea and biscuits will be served at 17:40 with the seminar starting at 18:00. Below we talked to Kelly about the excitement of early medieval research and ideas for the BBC! 

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

I grew up and still live in an old mining village in the North-East, though I like to tell fellow early medievalists ‘Bernicia’ to make it sound less grim!

What brought you to Durham?

I completed my BA and MA at Durham and received funding for a PhD which was great because I’m a homebird at heart. I also established a fantastic relationship with my supervisors during my earlier studies and wasn’t quite ready to walk away from that yet.

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

Studying the early medieval period is pretty exciting because you can’t rely on one piece of evidence and have the opportunity to cross disciplines. I’ve had the opportunity to work with so many different types of surviving evidence in the past four years and no week is ever the same!

What does your research focus on?

My PhD examines the political, economic and ‘long’ distance interactions between the Merovingians and Anglo-Saxons in the seventh century through a comparison of the surviving material culture, numismatic, manuscript and written evidence. It’s been quite an eye-opener (and a challenge!) to see how differently scholars in France and Britain have assessed evidence and approach the early medieval period, but I definitely think transnational approaches should be more strongly encouraged.

What do you plan to focus on in your seminar?

There are so many points I could pull out of my research, but I’ve chosen coinage because it’s a relatively ‘new’ form of evidence. I’m going to use the coins to see what we can learn about the connections between the Merovingians and Anglo-Saxons during the seventh century and encourage you to share your opinions and thoughts with me. At the very least, I’d hope that you will go away wanting to buy a metal detector to ‘do your bit’!

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

I’d still be working at Beamish Museum as a costumed demonstrator!

Do you have a favourite medieval/early modern text?

Stephen of Ripon’s Life of Saint Wilfrid. I encourage everyone to read this because the scandal and drama is a page turner and will make you want the BBC to produce a drama series!