Keynote Speakers

Wednesday, 2nd February (11.00am)

Professor Dauvit Broun (Glasgow University)

‘The Chronicle of Melrose: The Englishness of an Anglo-Norman Scottish Chronicle’

The Chronicle of Melrose survives as the manuscript on which it was first composed in 1173/4 (running from AD 1-1171) and then updated from c. 1200 to c. 1290 (continuing its annals only as far as 1270, with occasional additions). It therefore provides an excellent opportunity to see how an annalistic chronicle was written. The lecture will begin with a palaeographical investigation of this process, and will use the insights gained from this to explore how a chronicle might be used not only for information about events, but above all as a source for how a monastery saw itself in relation to others in time and place. This will be used to shed light on the English identity of Melrose—a Cistercian monastery which was founded by the king of Scots in 1136, and saw itself as within the Scottish kingdom, but nevertheless continued to see itself as English or associate itself with England.


Thursday, 3rd February (11.00am)

Professor Michael Hunter (Birkbeck College)

The 'Decline of Magic': Confrontations between Sceptics and Believers

in early Eighteenth-century England This paper offers a fresh approach to the vexed issue of the 'Decline of Magic' by considering instances when those sceptical about occult phenomena orally encountered others committed to their reality. One such episode in June 1712 and its background will be scrutinised in detail, and from it more general conclusions will be drawn about the affiliations of scepticism and belief in late seventeenth- and early eighteenth-century England.



Friday 4th February (11.00am)

Emeritus Professor Peter Matheson (University of Otago)

‘Let the muck give out a good old stink’: Encountering Early Modern Writers.

Over the past two decades letters, autobiographical writings, diaries and family chronicles have grown in prominence as cultural history has come to complement socio-political and intellectual analysis. But what are we to make of these often intimate writings, how should we steer our way between naïve replication and impenetrable theory? Is it helpful to describe such writings as ‘Ego-documents’ or ‘Self-representations’? What did early modern writers such as Erasmus, Cardinal Contarini, Luther, Thomas Müntzer, or Argula von Grumbach, think about genre, identity, processes of communication? What actually happens when thoughts, events, emotions are distilled into writing and when scratchings of quill on paper are transmogrified into print? What balance should today’s readers strike between respect for early modern social context and intellectual content, and the ineluctable grid of their own interests and perspectives? What rituals should we academics observe when crossing the threshold into these distancing worlds?



Saturday 5th February (3.30pm)

Professor Alastair Minnis (Yale Unviersity)

The trouble with theology: Ethical poetics and the ends of Scripture

The thirteenth century witnessed a major turn within the history of Biblical exegesis. The different styles and didactic modes deployed in the various books of the Bible were formalized at considerable length, the ‘poetic’, ‘affective’ and ‘imaginative’ nature of various types of scriptural writing being described and justified. But this trend brought with it several troubling questions. Given that secular poetry – the work of merely human (uninspired) authors – was generally categorized under ethics, did this imply that theology and ethics had a lot, maybe too much, in common? They shared many stylistic means, so were their ends the same? Was theology moving too close to poetics? Was the ‘queen of the sciences’ being reduced to the level of her most unreliable servant? I will investigate the proportions of this problem with special reference to the exegetical theories of Alexander of Hales and Bonaventure, proceeding to consider how and why the Averroistic version of Aristotle’s Poetics found favour with the schoolmen, and concluding with the ways in which Petrarch and Boccaccio drew on ‘Biblical poetics’ as they sought to defend and valorize secular poetry. This proto-Humanist trend incurred the wrath of Girolamo Savonarola, whose fulminations make quite clear what was at stake: opposing claims to truth, competing negotiations of authority and desires for authorization. All of which marks the fraught transition from the medieval to the early modern.