Fall news to get the semester started

Bookmark Us !
Collect our eight different bookmarks. They will appear in various places on campus throughout the year, and you may find them at one of our events. Three of them are shown here.

The bookmark designs are suggestive of the way the MedRen program engages
contemporary study of the past.

This bookmark is based on a memorial brass that was gifted to the Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies by George and Kate Martin of Hilton Head, SC.

Click the Calendar

The CMRS events calendar includes events and activities at Duke, UNC Chapel Hill, and elsewhere in the area. You are just a click away from seeing in one place what is happening in Medieval & Renaissance Studies in the Triangle!

Duke Chapel


Fall 2016 Newsletter

Look for the Medieval & Renaissance Studies Newsletter twice annually, in September and January. Our news will highlight upcoming events and activities and glance at past accomplishments.

David Aers, Director
Michael Cornett, Program Coordinator

Continuing Conversions

Programming continues this year for the CMRS Conversions project, funded by a major six-year-long grant from Canada's Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council and administered by McGill University's Institute for the Public Life of Arts and Ideas. Sarah Beckwith (English) is the PI of the grant. Duke is one of eighteen participating institutions from Canada, the US, Australia, and England working together toward a rethinking of early modern Europe as an "age of conversion." Our contribution to the project expands upon the vital medieval era and draws on the deep expertise on religious cultures at Duke. The Conversions project aims to develop a historical understanding that will enlighten modern debates about corporeal, sexual, psychological, political, and spiritual kinds of transformation. Read more about this multi-university project at the McGill grant site, where you can find a large bibliography of books, articles, lectures, conference presentations, and other activities related to "conversion."

This year will feature a public lecture by Ryan McDermott (Univ. of Pittsburgh) in the fall on the recusant saint Margaret Clitherow.

The Conversions Working Group will meet four times each semester, facilitated this year by graduate students Joanna Murdoch (English) and Rob Tate (English). Last year we made research awards to graduate students Samantha Arten (Music) and Jessica Hines (English) to pursue their work in England and Wales; they will present papers to the working group this year. We hope several new students and faculty from Duke and beyond will join the group. We will award more research funding this year and expect applicants to be actively involved with the working group.

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Boccaccio Conference       Sept. 30-Oct. 2

The American Boccaccio Association Third Triennial Conference will be held at Duke on Friday, September 30th through Sunday, October 2nd. Organized by Martin Eisner (Romance Studies) and supported by the Center for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, the Franklin Humanities Institute, and the Department of Romance Studies, the conference features fourteen sessions, three keynote addresses, and some fifty speakers. The keynote speakers include David Wallace (Univ. of Pennsylvania), Corrado Bologna (Scuola Normale Superiore di Pisa), and Janet Smarr (Univ. of California, San Diego). A graduate student workshop on futures of the field in pedagogy and scholarship opens the conference on Friday. The conference is free and open to anyone. Visit the wonderful exhibit on Boccaccio in the gallery area as you enter Perkins Library.

Friday and Saturday's sessions will take place in the Rubenstein Library, and Sunday's sessions will take place in the Franklin Humanities Institute, first floor of bays 4 and 5 in the Smith Warehouse, 114 S. Buchanan (near the corner of Buchanan and Main). For complete details on the program, see the conference website.

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Ramie Targoff Lecture Nov. 10

The English Dept. and CMRS will present a lecture by Ramie Targoff, Professor of English at Brandeis University, "Marriage and Sacrifice: The Poetics of the Epithalamia in Spenser and Donne." The lecture will bring the myths of Maia and Alcmene into conversation with Spenser's and Donne's epithalamia (poems in praise of marraige) in order to reconsider the fate of this genre in Renaissance poetry. Central to the exploration is the way the poets deemphasize the erotics of love in favor of the exigency of procreation.

The lecture takes place on Nov. 10, 5:30 pm in 314 Allen Building, west campus. Read more about Ramie Targoff.

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New Director

Clare Woods (Classical Studies) finished serving a one-year interim term as CMRS director and now assumes the directorship of the Thompson Writing Program. We greatly appreciate her help this past year and wish her the best as she takes over a key program in Duke's Trinity College curriculum. 

We welcome our new director David Aers, James B. Duke Professor of English and Historical Theology, with appointments in the English Department and the Divinity School. This is really a welcome back, as he served as CMRS director (1997-2003) when the program was reconstructed and Michael Cornett joined as program coordinator. As is well known, Professor Aers works especially on medieval and early modern literature, theology, ecclesiology, and politics in England. His most recent book, Beyond Reformation? An Essay on William Langland's "Piers Plowman" and the End of Constantinian Christianity, was published by Univ. of Notre Dame Press in late 2015. His current work continues to explore transformations of Christian traditions from Langland to Milton. Professor Aers is also one of the editors of the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies.

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Ryan McDermott Conversions Lecture Oct. 21

The final lecture in the CMRS Conversions Lecture Series will be given by Ryan McDermott, Associate Professor in the Department of English Literature Program at the University of Pittsburgh, "St. Margaret Clitherow's Hand: A Case Study in the Incorruptibility of Modernity." One odd thing about incorruptible flesh is that it is clearly undergoing some kind of decay. "In the twinkling of an eye," Paul told the Corinthians, "the dead shall be raised incorruptible, and we shall be changed." But you might not want to shake St. Margaret Clitherow's incorrupt hand. Her flesh is still moist—preserved, we are told, by her sanctity—yet "diminished," precisely the word to capture the hand's wizened defiance of death. McDermott's lecture will explore decay as conversion and conversion as sanctification in this early modern Catholic recusant. He has recently published a book on the tropological or moral sense of scripture, Tropologies: Ethics and Invention in England, c. 1350-1600 (Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2016).

The lecture will take place on Friday, October 21 at 4:30 pm in the Carpenter Room, 249 Rubenstein Library. Read more about Ryan McDermott.

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Surekha Davies Lecture Sept. 22

The Department of Romance Studies is bringing Surekha Davies, a cultural historian and historian of science at West Connecticut State University, to campus for a lecture co-sponsored by CMRS. The lecture, "Thinking with Maps: Ethnography, Visual Culture, and Knowledge," addresses why naked people and monsters stroll the margins of early modern maps, the role maps played in shaping attitudes toward peoples imagined by Europeans, and how ethnographic images on maps help us understand how early ethnography and cartography define humanity. Davies has recently published Renaissance Ethnography and the Invention of the Human: New Worlds, Maps, and Monsters (Cambridge Univ. Press, 2016).

The lecture will take place on Thursday, September 22, at 6:00 pm in the Holsti-Anderson Family Assembly Room, 153 Rubenstein Library. Read more about Surekha Davies.

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Choice Words . . . On the mission of the humanities

I respect no study, and deem no study good, which results in money-making. Such studies are profit-bringing occupations, useful only insofar as they give the mind a preparation and do not engage it permanently. One should linger upon them only so long as the mind can occupy itself with nothing greater. . . . There is only one really liberal studythat which gives a man his liberty. It is the study of wisdom, and that is lofty, brave, and great-souled.

Seneca, Letter to Lucilius, 88, trans. R. M. Gummere, quoted at Humanites Watch

New Visiting Scholar

Jack Bell has been named a CMRS Visiting Scholar for the 2016-17 year. Dr. Bell defended his dissertation last spring and graduated in May. His dissertation, "Chaucer and the Disconsolations of Philosophy: Boethius, Agency, and Literary Form in Late Medieval Literature," was directed by David Aers.

Jack will be working on two different projects this year. The first is a study of medieval versions of the tragic, with special focus on Chaucer. This fall he will continue work on the Monk's Tale, a compilation of short "tragedies" that recount the fall of great kings and queens. The second project is an edition of lectures from the English Dominican scholastic philosopher Robert Holcot's commentary on the Book of Wisdom. He will present on his work at a spring colloquium.

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Focus Program

The CMRS Focus program last fall was wildly successful, attracting 22 students, and some of them plan on taking more MEDREN courses. The program was reframed for students as Lawyers, Scientists, and Merchants in Medieval and Renaissance Europe, which included three courses.

Valeria Finucci, who once again served wonderfully as director of the program, taught "Venice in the Renaissance: Commercial Base, Cultural Center, Artistic Hub," "Trials, Ordeals, and Arbitrations of the Middle Ages" was taught by Jehangir Malegam, on legal proceedings including jousting, cursing rituals, penances, Inquisitions, and canonization procedures for prospective saints. And Tom Robisheaux taught "Scientists, Magicians, and Engineers in the Renaissance," on the making of modern science and medicine at the time of the "Scientific Revolution." The group enjoyed weekly dinners together and activities that included Renaissance dancing with the Witts and a visit by Wade Allen, a collector of Renaissance armor, who brought a veritable museum to class and allowed students to try on pieces.

Trying on a morion helmet, popularly identified with Spanish conquistadors!
The class went to the NCMA to see the exhibit of the Codex Leicester, a notebook of Da Vinci's scientific musings and observations. The class also took a trip to Washington, DC and had an extensive private tour of the Folger Shakespeare Library, and visited the National Gallery as well as the Freer Gallery for an exhibit on Venice. The group enjoyed a great deal of camaraderie, which is reflected in photos taken by Focus library consultant Heidi Madden: view them on this Flickr site.

You can read about the current MEDREN fall 2016 program on the Focus website.

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JMEMS Issues

The Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies is co-edited by David Aers and Sarah Beckwith, with Michael Cornett, managing editor. JMEMS published an open-topic issue and two special issues in 2016: Medical Discourse in Premodern Europe guest edited by Marion Turner (Jesus College, Oxford); and Unintended Reformations, edited by David Aers and Russ Leo (Princeton), which will appear in September. The journal also now has a completely redesigned website that, if we may boast, is one of the most attractive and easy to navigate journal websites you will find. See current calls for submissions and a searchable archive of past issues at the JMEMS website.

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Holiday Social Nov. 17

Faculty, students, and colleagues from Duke and the neighboring Triangle area are invited to this annual, catered fall social, held this year on Thursday, Nov. 17 in a location TBA  from 5:00 to 7:00. Come enjoy this time of conviviality as we near the holidays. No RSVP is required. 

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A medieval mollusk

Humanities Watch

Who watches the watchmen, who guards the guardians? If the humanities are central to the history of our schools, and thus our way of life, do they stand watch over our leading concerns, for example in business, science, and technology? Do these concerns have a role in fostering the humanities? How do the humanities survey themselves? Humanities Watch, a major new project, addresses these questions, supporting a conversation among fields of diverse experience in order to understand their shared responsibilities. The website is hosted and edited by Timothy Kircher, Professor of History and Chair of Humanities at Guilford College and a well-known colleague to many of us in the Triangle area. We all must be concerned these days about the flourishing of the humanities. Humanities Watch provides timely news articles and commentary on the place of the humanities in the modern world; observations and conversations on ways the humanities serve, or fail to serve, the greater good; quotes from thinkers, old and new, about how the humanities relate to our lives; video clips of interviews and talks by major proponents of the humanities; and recommendations of other valuable resources. This is an outstanding resource for finding what you need to promote the humanities in your own milieu! Sign up for the biweekly newsletter.

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Medieval Studies Seminar
Nov. 5

The Triangle Medieval Studies Seminar, co-sponsored by CMRS, meets this term on Saturday, November 5th in the Carpenter Room, 249 Rubenstein Library, from 9:00 to 1:30. Breakfast and lunch will be catered. TMSS is a collaborative effort between Duke University, North Carolina State University, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill to offer a humanities-based, interdisciplinary forum for the study of history, art history, religious studies, literature, music, women's studies and more ca. 500-1500, focusing on Europe, Byzantium, and the Islamic world along with other regions. The seminar invites local and visiting scholars to present their written work as the basis for rigorous discussion of current trends, topics, and problems in the field of medieval studies. The presenters for the fall meeting include Jessica Hines (Duke), Jessica Boon (UNC), and one other person to be named. Papers will be made available in advance. 

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New Spring 2017 Courses

Elvira Vilches is teaching Spanish 590, Don Quixote: A Novel for Modern Times. Almost any given character in Cervantes's great fiction becomes a storyteller, through recitation, writing, dialogue, monologue, or digression.

In fact, to read Don Quixote is to engage deeply in the art of storytelling in many forms, from chivalric romance, folktales, and satire, to the pastoral and the picaresque
. The course will explore the intricacies of the novel's storytelling and its concerns with justice, law, freedom, empire, and the rise of capitalism. David Aers is teaching a new graduate seminar, Beyond Reformation? Beyond Irony? An Exploration of Langland and Chaucer in Late Medieval Culture. The course involves close readings of two of the greatest poets in English literary history, who held, and hold, very different positions in this history.

Christianity is constituted by a restless pursuit of reformation in different modes and an extraordinary range of traditions striving for the authority of "orthodoxy"; this course will investigate how Chaucer and Langland contribute to such processes in their historical moment and how they were read during the Reformation. 

A complete course listing for spring 2017 with all the details will be put up on the CMRS website in later October and can also be seen in
ACES. It will also be circulated by e-mail.

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Publishing Workshop      Nov. 16

Michael Cornett, long-time managing editor of JMEMS, will give a workshop on publishing in academic journals on Nov. 16, 11:30-1:15 in the Carpenter Room, 249 Rubenstein Library. It will focus on turning dissertation chapters and conference papers into scholarly articles, looking at issues of audience, structure, and style. The talk will be interactive, allowing for much question and discussion. A second workshop on the "trials of submission" is planned for spring term. 

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Graduated Students

Five of our undergraduate minors and majors graduated in May. Minors Jared Schwartz (Computer Science major) was a member of the CMRS Focus program and is interviewing with software companies in the San Francisco area; and Taylor Trentadue (Evolutionary Anthropology and Global Health majors) was also a Focus student, and she is working with the Orthopedic and Arthritis Center for Outcomes Research at Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. She then plans to apply to MD/PhD programs for fall 2018. 

Graduation luncheon: Becki Reibman, Elizabeth Djinis, Jared Schwartz, Taylor Trentadue.
Elizabeth Kieffer graduated with majors in History and Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Lizzie was another member of the CMRS Focus program and has a new job working in sales for the Oracle company in Washington, DC.  Elizabeth Djinis graduated with majors in Classical Studies and Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Yet another member of the Focus program, Elizabeth was one of the very few Duke students who worked on a dual honors project for both of her majors. Her thesis, titled "Depictions of Odysseus's Death in Literature: A Study in Myth Reception," was directed by Martin Eisner (Romance Studies), and she was awarded High Distinction in Classical Studies and Highest Distinction in Medieval and Renaissance Studies. Elizabeth worked for the Duke Chronicle and is aiming for a career in journalism. Her dream job is to be the Rome Bureau Chief for the New York Times, but she began that career this summer as an intern in the New York Times Summer Student Journalism Institute, and now is starting an internship as a breaking news reporter for the Dallas Morning News. Rebecca Reibman graduated with majors in History and Medieval and Renaissance Studies, with a German minor. Becki was awarded Distinction for her honors thesis in History titled "Dialogue and Disputation in Medieval Anti-Jewish Polemic: Converts to Christianity and the Assault on Rabbinic Traditions," which was directed by Tom Robisheaux (History). Becki worked with Michael Cornett for two years as an assistant on JMEMS and had internships at Yale University Press and UNC Press. Becki got a job in books acquisitions at UNC Press and even began her job two months before she graduated! 

Six affiliated graduate students finished their doctoral degrees last year. Alexandra Dodson (Art, Art History & Visual Studies) graduated in May; her dissertation, "
Mount Carmel in the Commune Promoting the Holy Land in Central Italy in the 13th and 14th Centuries," was directed by Caroline Bruzelius; she is currently an adjunct instructor of art history at UNC Greensboro. Janice Hansen (Duke/UNC German Studies) graduated in May, and her dissertation, "Redeeming Faustus: Tracing the Pacts of Mariken and Faust from the 1500s to the Present," was directed by Ruth von Bernuth with Ann Marie Rasmussen and Tom Robisheaux. She is now pursuing an MA in Library Science at UNC with a fellowship as a Carolina Academic Library Associate and appointment in Special Collections Technical Services, which consists mainly of rare book cataloging. Annegret Oehme (Duke/UNC program in German Studies) graduated in May; her dissertation, "Adapting Arthur: The Transformations and Adaptations of Wirnt von Grafenberg's Wigalois," was directed by Ruth von Bernuth; she is now an assistant professor in the Dept. of Germanics at the Univ. of Washington. Sean Parrish (History) graduated in December; his dissertation, "Marketing Nature: Apothecaries, Medicinal Retailing, and Scientific Culture in Early Modern Venice, 1565-1730," was directed by John Martin. He is currently working on arts exhibits in south Florida and may begin teaching in high school. Christian Straubhaar (Duke/UNC German Studies) graduated in December; his dissertation, "Understanding the Visuality of Medieval Visionaries: Fourteenth-Century Dominican Henry Suso's Interwoven Concepts of Image, Theology, Identity, Gender, and Epistemology," was directed by Ann Marie Rasmussen. Christian has decided to pursue a career as a software developer. Keneth Woo (Divinity) graduated in December; his dissertation, "'Newter'-ing the Nicodemite: The Reception of John Calvin's Quatre sermons  (1552) in Sixteenth-Century England," was directed by Sujin Pak. He has become the Divinity School's Historian and Archivist and will also teach as an adjunct professor.

Will Revere, a recent Duke graduate and CMRS postdoctoral fellow, has become an assistant professor in the English Department at UNC Asheville. 

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Highlights Spring 2016

In addition to the events and activities mentioned already, CMRS directly sponsored or co-sponsored other lectures, seminars, and conferences this past spring term and a bit beyond.

A Focus student presentation at the National Gallery.
16th North Carolina Colloquium in Medieval and Early Modern Studies, joint Duke/UNC graduate conference held at Duke, "Representations of the Ordinary," with Jean Campbell (Emory) as plenary speaker (Feb.)

CMRS Conversions Lecture Series, Luke Bretherton (Duke Divinity School), "
Neither Metamorphosis, nor Evolution, nor Emergence: On the Temporal, Moral, and Political Significance of Conversion" (Feb.)

Focus class Renaissance dancing with the Witts.
Triangle Medieval Studies Seminar, with work in progress presented by Kristen Neuschel (Duke), Clare Woods (Duke), and Alexandra Locking (UNC) (Mar.)

Jewish Studies conference, co-sponsored by CMRS, "Individuals and Legal Institutions: Jews, Christians, and Muslims and the Consumption of Justice around the Medieval Mediterranean" (Mar.)

CMRS Conversions Lecture Series, David Como (Stanford Univ.), "Occult Mysticism and Religious Transformation in Seventeenth-Century England" (Apr.)

David Como giving a "Conversions" lecture in April.
Music/CMRS lecture, Margot Fassler (Univ. of Notre Dame), "Hildegard of Bingen's Sounding Model of the Cosmos in the Digital Age" (Apr.)

UNC English and Comparative Literature lecture, co-sponsored by CMRS, Anne Lake Prescott (Barnard College), "Refiguring Nowhere: Some Early Modern Spin-offs from More's Utopia"  (Apr.)

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