Thursday, November 29, 2012

Lists, Numeracy, and the Culture of Reckoning in Late Medieval England

Martha Rust, New York University

Friday, December 7
7:30 p.m.
CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue
ROOM 9204 (*note change from our usual room)

Lists, Numeracy, and the Culture of Reckoning in Late-Medieval England

Typifying late-medieval interest in minute details of the Passion, a Middle English poem advises readers that if they would worship “syngerly” every drop of blood Christ shed during the crucifixion, they should say one hundred Pater Nosters every day for fifteen years. The devotional practice recommended in this and many other short works in Middle English would seem also to exemplify a phenomenon Thomas Lentes has labeled “counting piety” since they entail accounting for great quantities of all manner of things--from Pater Nosters, to drops of blood, to wounds, and more. However, when we stop and ask ourselves what techniques such accounting might have entailed, it quickly becomes clear that a facility with counting as we customarily think of it--a matter of assigning in ordinal sequence one number to each object in a collection in order to determine how many objects are present--would not have been necessary for carrying out these devotions. The words ninety-eight, ninety-nine, one hundred would not have been uttered as a practitioner finished her daily quota of a hundred Pater Nosters, for instance; instead, by using a rosary, she would have drawn upon an alternative mathematical competency, one that measures quantities by referencing the size of a set rather than the sequence of ordinal numbers. Since finding equivalence by means of establishing a one-to-one correspondence between two sets is its fundamental operation, I call this alternative method of counting “reckoning,” drawing upon two of the many senses of “reckoning” in Middle English: “settling accounts” and “enumerating”--or “listing.” As I show in this paper, a close look at written lists reveals that they present the basic materials for this method of counting and thus call upon not only literacy but a kind of numeracy as well--that is, a facility with “reckoning” a quantity of items rather than counting them. A recognition of the verbal and pseudo-numerical aspects of written lists makes way for the identification of works that activate both: a mode of composition I term a poetics of reckoning.

Thursday, November 15, 2012

Rescheduling "Late Medieval Spirituality and..."

I am pleased to announce that the event canceled due to Hurricane Sandy has been rescheduled for Friday, May 3. Please mark your calendars!!

"Late Medieval Spirituality and...", a panel with Andrew Cole, Princeton University; Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski, University of Pittsburgh; and Kathryn Smith, New York University

Wednesday, October 31, 2012

Due to the storm and its aftermath, we will be canceling the panel on Late Medieval Devotion scheduled for this Friday, November 2. I am trying to reschedule the event for Friday, May 3. I will keep everyone posted! The next talk is Martha Rust on Friday, December 7, at 7:30 at the Graduate Center.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I hope all the MCNY community is ok. We will keep you updated about Friday's event, but it largely depends on whether subways are running, power is restored to the Grad Center, and whether our speakers can get in... If it needs to be canceled, I will let you know!

Friday, October 26, 2012

Late Medieval Devotion And...
A Panel Discussion
Friday November 2
7:30 p.m.
CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue
English Department Lounge, Room 4406

Please join us for this marvelous panel discussion, followed by a wine and cheese reception:

Andrew Cole, Princeton University, "The Spirit of Substance: On Julian of Norwich’s Shewings"

Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski, University of Pittsburgh, "Shape-shifting demons: what do they mean for holy women"

Kathryn Ann Smith, New York University, “The Book within the Book:  Allegorical and Metaphorical Books in Illuminated Religious Manuscripts Made for the Laity.”

Monday, October 15, 2012

Guided Tour of Arms and Armor Exhibit
6:00 pm
Metropolitan Museum of Art
So sorry this took a while to organize, but I am pleased to announce that we will have our first meeting of the 2012-2013 session of the Medieval Club of New York at the Metropolitan Museum of Art on Friday, October 26 at 6:00 p.m. The NY Times article describing the exhibit can be accessed here. You may pay your dues to us that Friday if it is convenient for you.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

2012-2013 Schedule

MCNY 2012-2013 Lecture and Event Series

All Lectures, unless otherwise noted, will take place at the CUNY Graduate Center, 365 Fifth Avenue, 
in the English Department Lounge, RM 4406 at 7:30 p.m.

All lectures will be followed by a wine and cheese reception.

Friday, October 26: We are visiting the Arms and Armor Exhibition at the Metropolitan Museum of Art as that department celebrates its centennial. *We will meet at the jousting figure at 6:30

Friday, November 2 - "Late Medieval Spirituality and...", a panel with Andrew Cole, Princeton University; Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski, University of Pittsburgh; and Kathryn Smith, New York University  ** CANCELED DUE TO HURRICANE SANDY, MOVED TO Friday, MAY 3.

Friday, December 7 - We have rescheduled Martha Rust, whose talk fell through last year because of bad scheduling on our part. We are delighted she will be speaking in December! The title of her talk is "Lists, Numeracy, and the Culture of Reckoning in Late-Medieval England" ** Please note, this talk will be in room 9204.

Friday, February 1 - Leah DeVun, Rutgers University, "Infidels, Hermaphrodites, and Other Animals: On the Boundaries of the Human in the Middle Ages."

Friday, March 1 - Sarah McNamer, Georgetown University -- The Rossell Hope Robbins Lecture, "Doubt."

Friday, April 5 - Nina Rowe, Fordham University, "Images of Rulership and Idolatry in a 1402 Weltchronik"

Friday, May 3 - "Late Medieval Spirituality and...", a panel with Andrew Cole, Princeton University; Renate Blumenfeld-Kosinski, University of Pittsburgh; and Kathryn Smith, New York University

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

Sunday, July 29, 2012


The Medieval Club of New York is sponsoring two sessions in Kalamazoo in 2013 on "Lateran IV: Before and After."  Abstracts from a variety of disciplines are welcome.

Lateran IV: Before and After

As the 800th anniversary of the Fourth Lateran Council (1215) fast approaches, it is important to consider both the forces that led Innocent III to convene the council and the wide-ranging consequences of its canons. From transubstantiation to confession, from the Albigensian Crusades to the founding of the Dominican Order, from distinctions between Christians and Jews, Saracens, and others to condemnations of heresy, the canons of the council were far-reaching, with enormous impact on (to name just a few areas) ecclesiastical organization, clerical behavior, the sacraments, the relations of Christians to non-Christians, inquisitions, crusades, etc.  The aim of these two interdisciplinary sessions, therefore, is to bring together scholars who approach Lateran IV from a variety of perspectives, including history, theology, art and architecture, literature, etc., with the aim of developing a more complete understanding of this historic assembly.

For more information on the conference and the general call for papers, see:
Deadline for submission of abstracts to these two sessions is September 15, 2012.  Please send them directly to me, at the email address below.

Sylvia Tomasch
Department of English
Hunter College (CUNY)
695 Park Avenue
New York, NY 10065
(212) 772-4052
fax: (212) 772-5411

Tuesday, April 24, 2012

The Pagan, the Medieval, and Us
Sarah Salih, King's College London

The Twenty-Second Annual Rossell Hope Robbins Lecture

Friday, May 4
The Graduate Center of City University of New York
365 Fifth AvenueEnglish Department Lounge, Room 4406


Late medieval writers were fascinated by the idea of the pagan; both ancestor and stranger, the pagan was an infinitely flexible figure and the subject of various thought-experiments. Imagining paganity enabled examination of questions of history, memory and time. Paganity in Lydgate’s Troy Book is analysed as a flawed system of memorialising, centred on the live and dead, glorious and horrible preserved body of the hero Hector. Hagiography, meanwhile, tells the story of how the world that pagans built came to be appropriated for Christian use by the deployment of the live yet dead bodies of the saints. Yet paganity is never quite over; traces of the pagan persist in the Christian world. The pagan is to be found in the future as well as the past; indeed, the pagan may even be identified with our own post-Christian present-day.

Friday, April 20, 2012

Women and Gender in Medieval Studies
Pearl Kibre Medieval Study, Fifth Annual Spring Roundtable

Friday, April 27th, 2:30 p.m.
CUNY Graduate Center, room 6421

Moderator: Sara McDougall, Assistant Professor of History at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, CUNY

*Fiona J Griffiths, Associate Professor of History at New York University The Garden of Delights: Reform and Renaissance for Women in the Twelfth Century (2007)

* Mary Erler, Professor of English at Fordham University Records of Early English Drama: Ecclesiastical London (2008) Women Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England (2002)

* Rebecca Lynn Winer, Associate Professor of History at Villanova University Women, Wealth, and Community in Perpignan c.1250-1300: Christians, Jews, and Enslaved Muslims in a Medieval Mediterranean Town

Monday, February 27, 2012

THIS WEEK! Friday, 3/2: Anglo-Norman Historiography with Paul Antony Hayward

The Golden Age of Anglo-Norman Historiography—or What Connects the Works of William of Malmesbury, Henry of Huntingdon and Geoffrey of Monmouth?
Paul Antony Hayward, Lancaster University

Friday, March 2, 2012

CUNY Graduate Center • 365 Fifth Avenue
English Department Lounge • Room 4409

Wine and cheese reception following the talk

Between 1125 and 1139, in quick succession, within a space of less than fifteen years, and after a period of almost four centuries in which nothing of equivalent substance had appeared—a period stretching back to the time of Bede—four quasi-classical histories of Britain and its peoples were published in England: that is, William of Malmesbury’s Gesta regum and Gesta pontificum Anglorum, Henry of Huntingdon’s Historia Anglorum, and Geoffrey of Monmouth’s Gesta Britonum. Historians have long been aware of this remarkable outburst of history-writing and that these historians were alert to each other’s work, but we have still to arrive at a common explanation for the genesis of their histories that can account for all of their salient features and themes, especially their religious and philosophical positions. This paper will venture a new solution to this problem, one that focuses on a neglected element of the context in which the three historians were working—an element that can explain what all three men were trying to do.


Please join us!

Saturday, January 28, 2012

UPCOMING TALK with Karen Overbey, Friday, 2/3!

Post Anglo-Saxon: St Kenelm in Pictures and Performance
Karen Overbey, Tufts University

Friday, February 2, 2011

CUNY Graduate Center • 365 Fifth Avenue
English Department Lounge • Room 4409

Wine and cheese reception following the talk

St Kenelm, a ninth-century boy king murdered by his scheming sister, enjoyed a lively cult in post-Conquest England and into the later Middle Ages. He appears in liturgical calendars and genealogies alongside Edward, Oswald, Edmund, and Aethelbert, representing Mercia in the map of royal martyrs. His vita was written in the eleventh-century by Goscelin for Winchcombe Abbey in Gloucestershire, where Kenelm was buried and where his shrine drew pilgrims seeking miracles. The child-saint remained popular into the late fourteenth-century: the ‘life of St Kenelm’ read by Chaucer’s Nun’s Priest could have been the version in the South English Legendary, or perhaps in the Golden Legend.

The visual culture of St Kenelm, however, is much less familiar -- and in fact, very little remains. The only known narrative representations are fourteenth-century wall paintings at a small chapel in Worcestershire, which were destroyed in the nineteenth century, and survive only in partial drawings and a few textual descriptions.

It is impossible to reconstruct the entire painting cycle, but the traces suggest that the cult in Worcestershire -- where there were neither relics nor shrine, and no record of healing miracles -- was grounded in the local landscape, in holy wells and sacred trees and pastures; although Winchcombe held the saint’s relics, the chapel stood on the site of his martyrdom. The relationship between the “lost” wall paintings and the textual hagiography of Kenelm is not straightforwardly iconographic, and understanding the function of the pictures requires us to consider not only what we see, but also what we don’t see.


Please join us--we hope to see you there!

Monday, January 23, 2012

Schedule Change...

Please Amend Your Calendars!

Friday April 6

Martha Rust, New York University
"Writing, Numeracy, and the Poetics of Reckoning in Late-Medieval England"

Due to terrible scheduling on our part, Dr. Rust's talk was scheduled for both Good Friday and the first day of Passover. Unfortunately, we were not able to reschedule her for this year. We encourage all of our members to attend the "Digital Middle Ages and the Renaissance" conference that will be held at NYU on the following Friday, April 13. We will be sure to get Dr. Rust's lecture on our fall schedule! Our February, March, and May talks will all proceed as scheduled!