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Reading Group Archive


11th October 2017: Petrarch in a European context

The readings for this meeting can be found here: Canzoniere 1, readings 1, readings 2, readings 3, readings 4 , readings 5

22nd November 2017: Ovid transformed
For the next reading group we will be discussing the tale of Myrrha in the anonymous fourteenth-century French Ovide moralisé, a translation and allegorising of Ovid’s Metamorphoses. The focus of our discussion will be a reading of Myrrha’s transformation in the Ovide moralisé (lines 1900-1987 Old French, English translation), alongside Ovid’s version (Book X, lines 476-518 Latin/English), touching on broader themes of bodily transformation and translation across medieval literature.In addition to these two short passages, if you have time, we would also suggest reading the Ovide moralisé’s multiple allegorical and Christianising interpretations of the tale (lines 3678-3954 Old French, English summary). For even further reading, the entire tale is available to read here (OM lines 1900-1987, Met X.298-518).


Week 2 (12th October 2016): We begin our meetings for the year with an essay by the first speaker in this year's Medieval Seminar Series, Elizabeth Eva Leach, '"The Little Pipe Sings Sweetly while the Fowler Deceives the Bird"': Sirens in the Later Middle Ages', Music & Letters
Vol. 87, No. 2 (May, 2006), pp. 187-211. The essay can be accessed from the Library here:

Week 8 (23rd November 2016): Selections from Woman Defamed and Woman Defended, ed. Alcuin Blamires (Oxford, 1992). We will be reading extracts from a variety of texts and authors from the medieval antifeminist tradition, and examples of the defence of women. The extracts are: letters of Heloise and Abelard; Walter Map, Letter of Valerius to Ruffinus; Jacques de Vitry, extract from Sermon 66; Christine de Pizan, extracts from The Letter of the God of Love and The Quarrel of the Rose. The extracts can be downloaded here.

Week 10 (15th March 2017) Extracts from The Life of St Francis (Legenda maior) by Bonaventure, in the English translation by Ewart Cousins (Classics of Western Spirituality, Paulist Press, 1978). The extracts can be downloaded here.


Autumn Term

Week 2: Chapter 1 of Adrian Armstrong and Sarah Kay, Knowing Poetry: Verse in Medieval France from the Rose to the Rhétoriqueurs (London, 2011), pp. 27-48. The chapter can be downloaded here.

Week 5: The Coventry Corpus Christi Plays. We will be reading the Shearmen and Taylors' pageant, one of only two plays that survive from this local play cycle, which seems to have been known throughout England thanks to the central location of Coventry. The pageant can be downloaded here and is taken from The Coventry Corpus Christi Plays, ed. by Pamela King and Clifford Davidson (Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute, 2000), pp. 83-111.

Spring Term

Week 4

A. C. Spearing, Medieval Autographies: The I of the Text (Notre Dame, 2012), chapter 2: Autographies and Dits (pp. 33-64). Spearing's recent book proposes a new approach to reading first person narratives in French and English literature of the fourteenth century.

Week 8 Beast fables

This week we will be reading a selection of Middle English fables by John Lydgate (c. 1370 – c. 1451) and Anglo-French fables by Marie de France (late 12th century).

Summer Term

Week 8, Wednesday 15th June, 5-7pm
Cannibalism and the Eucharist
This 2-hour workshop will tackle a selection of short extracts from a wide range of medieval literary and devotional texts on the vexed subject of the relationship between Eucharistic and cannibalistic consumption. Texts discussed will range from the Life of St Gregory to an Arthurian prose romance, taking in miraculous visions and tales of foreign travel. All are welcome as we discuss the various ways cannibal imagery reflects on and reshapes the familiar sacrament of taking Communion. For more information and to download the reading, see the event page.


Summer Term

Wednesday 29th April (week 2)

Excerpts from La Vie de Barlaam et Josaphat

This unusual hagiographic legend is based on the Life of the Buddha. The legend was extremely popular, and it was translated into many languages and versions during the Middle Ages. The extract and details of the text below were prepared for the group by Merryn Everitt.

Anglo-Norman Close Reading Session & Anglo-Norman reading group extract

Wednesday 10th June (week 8): Prose Lancelot
Lancelot English & Lancelot French

Summary of the text

The French original version is taken from Lancelot: Roman en prose du XIIIe siècle, ed. by Alexandre Micha, vol. VIII (Geneva: Droz, 1982), pp. 452-464. The passage chosen starts at the beginning of chapter LXXIa on p. 452, and ends at the end of paragraph 17 on p. 464. The English translation is taken from The Lancelot-Grail Reader, ed. by Norris J. Lacy (New York: Garland, 2000), pp. 133-139. The passage starts at Chapter 12 on p. 133, and ends at the foot of page 138. Many thanks to Merryn Everitt for preparing these materials.

Spring Term

Wednesday 28th January (week 4) and Wednesday 25th February (week 8):
Our two meetings in the spring term tackled the 'problem poem' of the Gawain-poet, Cleanness, in the edition by J. J. Anderson, Sir Gawain and the Green Knight/Pearl/Cleanness/Patience (London: Everyman, 1996). A retelling of the biblical narratives of the Flood, the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah, and Belshazzar's feast, the poem's violence and attitudes towards sexuality have often troubled modern readers.