Monday, April 1, 2019

Shifting Vocabularies
Sarah Novacich (Department of English, Rutgers University)
April 5, 2019
CUNY Graduate Center
Room 4406
Chaucer uses a large number of homophonic rhymes in the Book of the Duchess. The practice formally enacts the substitutions and confusions that occur at the level of plot. They also invite thinking about two traditions of medieval thought: a reveling in wordplay and repetition, but also a suspicion about how language works

Thursday, February 21, 2019

Pious Kings, Promiscuous Priests and Italian Hussies
Gender and Sexuality in Early Medieval Italy
Nicole Lopez-Jantzen, PhD
Borough of Manhattan Community College, CUNY
Friday, March 1, 2019
CUNY Graduate Center
Room 4406
There has been little scholarship directly addressing sexuality in early medieval Italy. Indeed, the main scholar of early medieval Italian sexuality, Ross Balzaretti, notes that the early Middle Ages is often ignored both in histories of western sexuality more generally and by early medievalists despite the early medieval evidence. The majority of sources for early medieval attitudes towards sexuality were written by clerics, and thus are not necessarily representative of women’s views, or those of lay men. An analysis of these sources shows that the idea of pious rulership, which extended over the morality of subjects, began in the late Lombard period and developed further as it was encouraged by the Carolingians. However, Christian and especially monastic norms coexisted with and at times came into conflict with an array of masculine sexual values. Above all, both aristocratic men and many clergymen denied the idea that sexual behavior marked a man’s suitability for public office, although our sources throughout the period equate women’s sexual behavior with their appropriateness as queens, duchesses, and nuns. Instead, aristocratic men placed more value on family strategy, while clergy felt that not having a female partner opened one up to the charge of desiring men. Finally, issues of class and proper hierarchical relationships remained important throughout the early Middle Ages, from Liutprand’s laws prohibiting free women from marrying slaves, to Liudprand of Cremona’s charge that Pope John XII had sex with women from all social classes.

Thursday, January 24, 2019

Memory, Genealogy and Power in Twelfth-Century al-Andalus
Abigail Balbale, NYU
Feb 1, 2019
CUNY Graduate Center
Room 4406
The twelfth-century ruler known in Arabic as Muḥammad ibn Sa'd Ibn Mardanīsh and in Latin as Rex Lupus fought the Almohad dynasty in the name of the Abbasid caliphate in Baghdad and with the support of Christian Castile. He appears in contemporary Christian chronicles as a loyal vassal to Castilian kings and defender of Christians in his realm, and in Arabic sources as either a hero of the Andalusīs or dangerous enemy of the Almohads. But his treatment in later sources shifts, as Christians claimed more and more territory and recounting the history of al-Andalus became an opportunity to teach moral lessons. Later scholars sought to explain Ibn Mardanīsh’s alliances with Christians against fellow Muslims through reference to his genealogy, suggesting that his Christian roots determined his loyalties. But Ibn Mardanīsh’s own cultural production demonstrates his eastward orientation, as he imported motifs and architectural techniques from Abbasid territories and minted coins in the caliph in Baghdad's name. This talk will trace these two, opposing trajectories: material culture that linked Islamic west to east and historiography that separated al-Andalus from the rest of the Islamic world. Like al-Andalus itself, Ibn Mardanīsh's story was recast in the years after the Christian conquest to make it fit into narratives of an emergent Europe.

Monday, August 13, 2018

Medieval Club of New York
2018-2019 Schedule of Events

September 7th: Morgan Library from 5:30-6pm. A docent-led tour of their Medieval Monsters exhibit, a show that closes on September 23rd.
The tour accommodates 19 people, and the fee is $10 per person: the Medieval Club will pay the cost for any graduate student attendees. Please sign up by Aug 31 by writing Karl Steel at Attendees can pay by bringing a check made out to the New York Medieval Club.

October 5th: Sara Ritchey, Department of History, University of Tennessee, Knoxville

November 2nd: Eliza Zingesser, Department of French, Columbia University

February 1st: Abby Balbale, Department of History, New York University

March 1st: Nicole Lopez-Jantzen, Department of History, Borough of Manhattan Community College

April 5th: Sara Novacich, Department of English, Rutgers University

You are also encouraged to renew your Medieval Club Membership. Information on membership is available here: The fee is $12 for graduate students, and $27 for others. Donations may be added to membership checks. Membership fees can be paid using the Paypal link; alternately, you can bring a check to the Morgan Library event for $37 (or $12 for graduate students), or you can mail a check to:
Emily Sohmer Tai, Treasurer
Medieval Club of New York
33-47 14th Street, Apt. 5a
Long Island City, New York 11106

For more information: Medieval Club NY and Medieval Club NY on Facebook

Friday, April 6, 2018

Bloodfeud and Lawmaking in the Early Middle Ages
Laura Wangerin, Department of History, Seton Hall University
April 20, 2018
7:30 pm
CUNY Graduate Center
Room 5114
The Ottonians, the tenth-century German dynasty that founded what would become known as the Holy Roman Empire, produced almost no written law. And yet written law was a key element of early medieval kingship. It featured prominently in the rule of kings and emperors who preceded the Ottonians, as well as in that of their contemporaries, such as the Anglo-Saxons in England. That the Anglo-Saxons were prodigious producers of written legislation, and the Ottonians producers of almost none, begs the question: why did the English Anglo-Saxon kingdom have so much legislation and the German Ottonian empire so little? This dearth of Ottonian legislative activity has puzzled historians, especially since the Ottonians were the successors and emulators of the Carolingians, who recorded the laws of the Germanic kingdoms they incorporated into their empire as well as legislated themselves. How can we account for this disparity not only between the Anglo-Saxons and the Ottonians, but also between the Ottonians and their predecessors? Comparing royal engagement with feuding behaviors in Anglo-Saxon England and Ottonian Germany suggests that the explanation can be found in the link between feud and written law. It will also suggest new ways of understanding medieval kingship and power structures.