Wednesday, January 22, 2020

"Visionary Women and Female Friendship"
Jennifer Brown
February 7, 2020
7:30 pm
Graduate Center
Room 4406

The medieval women whose lives have come to us in most detail are the exceptional ones, those championed by powerful men, and those who were or remain controversial. In some cases — such as with visionary or mystical women — they are all three of these things at once. And all too often the stories that survive — their hagiographies, most likely — are told by men and primarily are concerned about the men with whom these women had often deep, intimate friendships. Many scholars have written about the close relationships between male writers and their female subjects. But surely for many of these women, particularly those who lived or ended their lives in cloisters surrounded by other women, their friendships with their sisters and female friends were the deepest although often not as clearly recorded. This talk seeks to answer the question that Karma Lochrie raises in her essay “Between women:” “Where [in medieval texts] were the women who formed communities with each other, engaged in deep abiding friendship together, and experienced sexual bonds with other women?” I have chosen to look at visionary women, whose specific burden of care and support is perhaps more urgent than other medieval religious women, due to the physical and emotional toll of their raptures. In choosing a few examples from the twelfth century to the sixteenth, in various European contexts (modern day Low Countries, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, and England), I hope to demonstrate how necessary the female friend was to the medieval visionary women and how, by looking closely at their surviving textual evidence, we can see those friendships in stark relief. 

Tuesday, September 10, 2019

2019-2020 Schedule

Medieval Club of New York
Schedule 2019-2020

Welcome back to yet another academic year. We have a great line-up of talks this year and we have doubled down on coordinating talks with Friends of the Saints to bring a bigger audience together. Please mark your calendars now. I will circulate further details as we get them.

Oct 4: David Perry, Rossell Hope Robbins Speaker, 7:30 pm, 4406 CUNY Graduate Center (365 5th Ave.).

“8Chan Medievalism and Global White Supremacy”

Abstract: Over the last few years, white supremacists bearing medieval symbols have both marched and committed mass murder around the Anglophone world and throughout Europe. These manifestations of hate, though, are just the tip of a very ugly iceberg. David Perry, journalist and medieval historian, has spent the last few years tracking the connections between medievalism and hate on sites like 8chan, 4chan, and the Neo-Nazi website Stormfront. He argues that we need to understand even the most seemingly innocuous medieval chatter in these spaces as part of a new, dangerous, phenomenon to which everyone studying the medieval past must be ready to respond.

Nov 1: Susannah Crowder, Department of Interdisciplinary Studies, John Jay College, CUNY (jointly sponsored by Medieval Club and Friends of the Saints). TBA. 7:30 pm, 4406 CUNY Graduate Center (365 5th Ave.)

Feb 7: Jen Brown, Department of English, Marymount Manhattan College (jointly sponsored by Medieval Club and Friends of the Saints). TBA. 7:30 pm, Location TBA

March 13: Chelsea Shields-Mas, Department of History, SUNY Old Westbury College (jointly sponsored by Medieval Club and Friends of the Saints), TBA. 7:30 pm, Location TBA

April 3: Tom O'Donnell, Department of English, Fordham University, TBA. (jointly sponsored by Medieval Club and Friends of the Saints). 7:30 pm, Location TBA

Finally, dues. We hope that members of the Medieval Club of New York will contribute their annual dues, which defray our expenses for post-talk receptions and the annual honorarium for our Rossell Hope Robbins Speaker.    Become, or continue as a member at our Paypal website,, ($27 regular; $12 graduate students) or address a check to the Medieval Club of New York ($25/$10) and send it to Emily S.Tai, Treasurer, 33-47  14th Street, 5A, Long Island City, New York, 11106.

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.