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!

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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.

King’s Manor Apricot Jam

Those are four words I never thought I’d see together, but it’s true! The King’s Manor has a resident apricot tree that fruits every few years or so, and this year we got lucky enough to have a bumper crop!

Apricot Jam

And when life gives you apricots… well, make apricot jam.

This fabulous specimen was made by one of our* PhD students, Catherine-Rose Hailstone.


*Actually a History PhD student, but Catherine, like many of the medieval single-discipline PhD students, works in our PhD workroom at King’s Manor and is a vital member of the King’s Manor CMS community.

Congratulations Gary!

The Centre would like to congratulate Gary Brannan on his recent promotion to Keeper of Archives and Special Collections at the Borthwick Institute for Archives here at the University.

Our students primarily encounter Gary as one of our tutors in Palaeography (which we hope he still has time to be!), but his primary role (since 2014) has been as the Access Archivist at the Borthwick. Just recently, Gary had been acting Keeper of the Archives before the official appointment this month.

And if you needed more proof that York is a dangerously difficult city to get away from for medievalists, Gary also completed his undergraduate degree in History here at York before heading for his career in Archives!

Gary’s new responsibilities will include leadership of the Borthwick Institute, the Rare Books Collection, University Art Collection, and the York Minster library service based at the Old Palace (behind the Minster).

If you would like to know more about Gary’s work, or the Borthwick Institute itself, you can view his staff profile and the Institute’s homepage. You can also find Gary on Twitter @gbrannanarchive.


CMS-sponsored sessions at Kalamazoo 2020

Two PhD students based at the Centre, Emmie Rose Price-Goodfellow (CMS) and Kirstin Barnard (History), have come together to organise two sessions at ICMS Kalamazoo 2020.


To see the submission guidelines, please visit the official Call for Papers page on the Western Michigan University website.

Date:  7th–10th May 2020.

Organiser: Prof. Sarah Rees Jones

Chairs: Emmie Rose Price-Goodfellow & Kirstin Barnard

Title: Constructing Communities Through Story-Telling I & II

Work has been done on the creation of community identity through history writing in the Middle Ages, but other kinds of texts that tell stories – including exemplary or didactic tales, miracle stories, and court depositions – have rarely been examined for what they can tell us about the construction and shaping of communities. They are often seen as narratives about existing communities, whilst their instrumentality in creating groups, both formal and informal, has rarely been explored.

Use of the term ‘community’ itself within medieval scholarship and beyond has proliferated since the end of the twentieth century and yet the term has often been used ambiguously and uncritically. Previously connected to debates over whether medieval notions of individualism and self-consciousness existed, community is not, then, without controversy. One way to address issues of ambiguity in this topic is to consider how different communities were conceived of, and constructed by, contemporaries though the use of stories. The exploration of community creation is a developing area of study within medieval scholarship, but one by no means exhausted.

We would welcome proposals for papers on any part of the medieval world and from any discipline, so long as they explore how medieval communities or groups were, or could be, constructed through stories.