Two New Professors

Congratulations to newly-appointed Professors Craig Taylor (History) and Sarah Brown (History of Art), both key members of the CMS and its teaching and research profiles.

Prof. Craig Taylor

Professor Taylor has previously served as the Director of CMS on two occasions, from 2010-2011 and 2014-17. He has recently returned from Research Leave, and will be teaching his module on Late Medieval Life-Writing this Spring. You can read about his latest book, A Virtuous Knight: Defending Marshal Boucicaut (Jean II Le Meingre, 1366-1421 (2019) in an earlier post.

Professor Brown is the Course Director of the MA in Stained Glass Conservation and Heritage Management, and the Director of the York Glaziers Trust. She will be teaching her module on Art and Imagery in York Minster in the Autumn term – her speciality, as her 2014 book Apocalypse – The Great East Window of York Minster testifies.

Prof. Sarah Brown

Return to the Manor

From Monday 3 August some staff and research students will be returning to our city centre campus at King’s Manor.

This is especially welcome for those who cannot efficiently or easily work from home, as it allows them a peaceful work-space – probably a lot more peaceful than usual, given the restrictions on numbers permitted in the buildings.

The Headmaster’s House in simpler times.

Hand sanitiser stations and allocated entrances/exits are just a few of the new features of what is known as the “Headmaster’s House”, in which the Centre for Medieval Studies resides.

The new “kitchen” in the PhD workroom. Desks have been reallocated to accommodate the social-distancing requirements.

It is hoped that these highly-regulated returns will pave the way for increasing use of the campus in the lead up to the beginning of term; although it is likely that strong social-distancing measures, including face-coverings and reduced capacity will continue throughout the autumn.

Nonetheless, it is excellent to see some life returning to the buildings, and we look forward to seeing our colleagues again, albeit from an appropriate distance! We miss you all.

The Centre is nothing without the people who work within these walls.

This blog is the first in a series of notes and observations that we will be posting as researchers return to King’s Manor.

Monarchy, State and Political Culture in Late Medieval England: Essays in Honour of W. Mark Ormrod

On Thursday 16 July, Dr Craig Taylor (History) hosted a launch for Monarchy, State and Political Culture in Late Medieval England: Essays in Honour of W. Mark Ormrod (Eds. Gwilym Dodd and Craig Taylor, York Medieval Press, 2020). This Festschrift has been produced by Mark Ormrod’s former students and Research Assistants, and honours his long and illustrious career in the political, social, and cultural history of medieval England.

The cover of Monarchy, State and Political Culture in Late Medieval England.

Mark Ormrod, a Professor Emeritus at the University of York, is among the leading historians of the Later Middle Ages in the British Isles. Having joined the University of York in 1990, Mark was promoted to Professor five years later, and subsequently held the positions both of Head of Department in History (in 2001, and 2003-7), and Director of the Centre for Medieval Studies (1998-2001 and 2002-3). When the newly-created Faculty of Arts and Humanities at York needed a Dean in 2009, Prof. Mark Ormrod was the man for the job, holding the position until his retirement in 2017. Needless to say, Medieval History and Medieval Studies at York has been shaped by Mark’s influence through his teaching, supervising, and leadership.

A special consideration in Mark’s work has always been to set up projects with funded opportunities for doctoral and postdoctoral researchers – and it is these researchers and colleagues who have come together in this volume to celebrate the legacy of this remarkable historian and man. Thank you, Mark, for your contributions to Medieval Studies, to York, and to the CMS.

You can find out more details about the book on the Boydell & Brewer website.

Graduate Conference 2020

On 23-24 June, the CMS (virtually) hosted its annual Postgraduate Conference. We asked the organisers, Katie Vernon (CMS), Jordan Cook (HoA), Isobel Staton (History), Yuki Sugiyama (English), and Karli Grazman (CMS), to write about the conference, and their experience of organising a virtual event.

As a team of five, we organised the CMS graduate conference for June 2020. Originally intended as an in-person conference, the world had other plans! Despite having to adapt quickly to move the event online due to Covid-19, the conference was a great success and a lot of fun to see come together on both days.

We were faced with significant challenges upon transitioning to an online platform. For example, we had originally applied and received funding to cover travel grants and catering for an in-person conference. Part of this funding came with the stipulation that we would provide training workshops relevant for early career researchers and those in the postgraduate community. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to use those grants but we were still very keen to provide the workshops. These became one workshop on writing proposals for conferences, and another on “impact” in academia. 

In order to maintain the networking aspect of an in-person conference, we were keen to ensure that the online version had space for socialising at the end of each day. This wasn’t quite the same as physically attending a conference, but it did bring about some good surprises! For example, the Q&A sessions were very lively with lots of questions and conversations between both delegates and presenters. One indicator of successful panel organisation is a group of papers that inform each other and presenters who are engaged with each other’s work and this was definitely the case for each Q&A session. 

We made the decision early on to have pre-recorded papers, rather than relying on unsteady internet connections, or assuming everyone’s schedules would be able to avoid disruption. We had all speakers send in their PowerPoint with correct timings, a video of them presenting, and a transcript. We embedded the video of speakers into a movie file of the PowerPoint and uploaded them to YouTube as unlisted videos. Using speakers’ transcripts we were able to then provide each video with accurate closed captions.  Having the papers pre-recorded and captioned made it a lot easier to follow along and listen at a slower pace if needed. Being able to caption these presentations helped to make the sessions more accessible and also meant that people from all over the world could listen in – we had people from as far away as the US! We had presenters from a wide range of different countries, and this illustrated our theme of “relationships” because it provided another way of thinking about how we can build and maintain networks with other medievalists. Considering the benefits of using online platforms for conferences include increased accessibility, as well as reducing our impact on the environment and enabling flexible working or improved work-life balance, it’ll be important to take forward some of the elements of digital working with future conferences.

During the two days of the conference, we were really happy to see papers from not only the four disciplines of Literature, History, History of Art, and Archaeology, but also to see many of the papers engaged with their materials in a truly interdisciplinary way. We had a wide range of panels from sessions on people and animals, or people and environments, to relationships with the divine, and even relationships within new methodologies for research. This huge range provided an excellent opportunity for delegates to learn about new research areas and communicate with members of the academic community they might not normally see. The importance of communication between different disciplines and research areas was discussed in our wonderful keynote talk by Dr Hollie Morgan, who presented on life after PhD and her experience doing postdoctoral work in an area which differed from her PhD research. As early career researchers it was incredibly helpful to hear about the experiences of someone who can give relevant and timely advice to everyone thinking about how they will approach their future careers. 

All in all, it was a great opportunity to organise the conference, especially at such an uncertain time, and it was amazing to be able to see it all come together successfully on both days. We hope that everyone who participated had a good time and was able to take something interesting or useful from it.

Katie, Jordan, Isobel, Yuki, Karli 

CMS Summer Party

On Thursday 25 June, we welcomed staff and students to our virtual King’s Manor lawn (a Zoom meeting, I know, a poor substitute), to celebrate another fabulous year at the CMS. Despite the global pandemic, we had kept our cohorts and community going, through the hard work of staff, both academic and administrative, and students – especially those organsing virtual reading groups and even conferences. There was a lot for which to be thankful.


Congratulations forthcoming once the promotions have been approved by Senate!


We had three academic prizes to award at the Party. The Mark Ormrod PhD prize was awarded to Dr Alice Toso (as highlighted in our previous post); the Garmonsway Prize for best MA coursework across the programme was awarded to part-time CMS MA student James Sillitoe; and the Olivia Toubkin Prize, which goes to the student who writes the highest-scoring Viking Poetry essay, was given this year to Medieval Literatures and Languages MA student Timothy Long.

Limerick competition

We also had a prize to award for the best medieval-themed limerick delivered on the night. Competition was fierce, but we think the two winning entries deserve their rightful place in CMS history. You can see the entries below, with the wife of Bath and sword-wielding vaginas taking the winning spots (thanks to English PhD Giacomo Valeri and HoA PhD Jordan Cook for the laughs!).

Hopefully next year’s party will take place on the sunny lawn outside the Headmaster’s House – but until then, stay safe everyone.

CMS Christmas Party & Medieval Bake-Off

The CMS community gathered on Monday 9 December for our Christmas party and the seventh annual Medieval Bake-Off. Staff, students, and CMS alumni enjoyed festive refreshments and a spectacular selection of baked goods that included Latin epigraphy, gingerbread dragons, and a real whale of a cake!

The arduous task of judging fell to some of the newest faces around the CMS –  Prof. Tom McLeish (Physics) and Dr Rachel Delman (History) – and our dear friend Dimitris Charalampopoulos (King’s Manor Catering Manager). After due deliberation, the judges were unanimous in awarding the following prizes:

Best Tasting – Charlotte Williams’ Gyngerbrede (based on a 14th-century recipe)IMG_20191209_161019

Best Design – Aaron Sheldon’s Gingerbread Dragon Boat & JörmundgandrIMG_20191209_161501

Best Overall – Amy Cooper’s Inspired by the Lindisfarne GospelsIMG_20191209_160939

The Bake-Off was also a chance to display our MA students’ posters, made for their Introduction to Interdisciplinary Methodologies module; party-goers voted for the favourite, based on content and visual presentation, and a Best Poster prize was awarded:

Cris Doyle, Trishan Signh, and Taylor Peterson – Celestial ImageryCelestial Imagery Poster-page-001

Finally, two Garmonsway Dissertation Prizes for the highest-marked MA dissertation in the 2018-19 cohort were awarded:

  • Annabel Hancock: Tracing Connections: Using Network Analysis to Study Trade and Movement in the Mediterranean in the Eleventh to Fourteenth Centuries
  • Arianna Dalla Costa: Following the Path of the Moon: the Use of Lunar Mansions in the De Signis Astronomicis

We hope that you had a wonderful time, and that you enjoy reliving it through our photos of the event. Wishing you all a very merry Christmas and a happy New Year!

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


CMS staff in The New York Times

Dr Lydia Zeldenrust reached an international audience last week helping a New York Times reporter explore the mystery behind a German tote bag.

The bag in question, sold in Hugendubel, one of Germany’s largest bookstore chains, shows a Gothic script, and a red logo – but no one was entirely sure what the text said, if anything. Dr Zeldenrust helped identify isolated Middle Dutch or Low German words in the design, but there was no overarching meaning.

You can read the full article here.

Lecture by Richard McClary available online

The British Institute of Persian Studies has made Dr Richard McClary’s lecture: The rediscovery of mina’i wares and the fiction of completion: 13th century polychrome Iranian ceramics and their reception in the 20th century available to listen to for free on their website

Richard McClary is one of the most recent additions to our CMS family, having started at the University in 2018. Based in the Department of History of Art, he works on Medieval Islamic architecture and Iranian ceramics.



New book from Dr Lydia Zeldenrust

Lydia’s book, The Mélusine Romance in Medieval Europe: Translation, Circulation, and Material Contexts will be released by Boydell & Brewer in January 2020 as part of their Studies in Medieval Romance series.

Here at the CMS, we would like to congratulate Dr Zeldenrust on what looks to be a fantastic contribution to scholarship on the international elements of medieval romance and translation. We look forward to it appearing in the University library in the Spring Term.

You can see more details of the contents (and how to pre-order!) over on the Boydell & Brewer website.

Lydia's book

Hrotsvit of Gandersheim’s ‘Callimachus’

Earlier this summer, the CMS theatre group The Lords of Misrule, put on a performance of Hrotsvit of Gandersheim’s ‘Callimachus’ at the Leeds International Medieval Congress.

Directed by Nicola Peard, the free performance took place on Wednesday 3 July in Beech Grove Plaza, and was blessed by good weather and an interested crowd.


Photo credit: Leeds IMC

Written by the 10th-century cannoness Hrotsvit of Gandersheim, Callimachus tells the story of a lustful pagan’s conversion and redemption.

Hrotsvit’s works are something of a favourite for Lords, having formed the focus of multiple past productions; but the group also perform works adapted from or inspired by Old Norse and Old English literature, as well as some completely original productions (for example, their latest production: Upstaged! based on the event of the York Mystery Plays).


Photo credit: Leeds IMC

You can find out about The Lords of Misrule from their Facebook page, or their Twitter.

The International Medieval Congress this year also saw a performance by another CMS PhD student, Alana Bennett: ‘Romanz-reding on the Bok’: An Evening of Performative Reading.

This event, which took place on Tuesday 2 July, saw Alana undertake a performative reading of Sir Eglamour of Artois, a Middle English romance found in three so-called ‘household manuscripts’. Alana’s PhD research focusses on reading practices, and this performance invited attendees to experience a medieval text a little bit differently: in a way that explored the interplay of text, space, sensory experience, and material culture.