CARA News – Indiana University Medieval Studies Institute (MEST)

The Medieval Studies Institute (MEST) at Indiana University in Bloomington, an interdisciplinary program offering minors and certificates for both graduate and undergraduate students, saw a productive 2017-2018 academic year.

The Institute’s lecture series opened with our annual alumni lecture, which featured Ellen Muehlberger (University of Michigan) speaking on “Perpetual Adjustment: Untangling Tradition, Cult, and the Passio Perpetuae et Felicitatis,” and Gina Brandolino (University of Michigan), who led a workshop on publishing about pedagogical issues.

In October, MEST and the Department of French and Italian were delighted to have E.R. Truitt (Bryn Mawr) on campus to deliver a lecture entitled: “Making Time: The Codex and the Mechanical Clock in Late Antiquity and the Latin Middle Ages.” Dr. Truitt’s talk was preceded by an interdisciplinary roundtable on “Premodern Technologies” featuring local and regional faculty in medieval and early modern studies: Alison Calhoun (French), Nahyan Fancy (History, Depauw), Patricia Clare Ingham (English), Domenico Bertoloni Meli (History and Philosophy of Science), William Newman (History and Philosophy of Science), and Dr. Truitt.

In November, MEST sponsored a two-day symposium offering a series of perspectives on violence in the global Middle Ages, “Representing Violence in Premodern Cultures,” with visiting speakers, Warren C. Brown (History, Caltech) and Mitchell Merback (Art History, Johns Hopkins) and local participants, Asma Afsaruddin  (Near Eastern Languages and Cultures), Asaad Alsaleh (Near Eastern Languages and Cultures),  Michael Ing (Religious Studies), Morten Oxenboell (East Asian Languages and Cultures), and Nick Vogt (East Asian Languages and Cultures).

Our spring was focused on workshops and symposia, beginning with a roundtable conversation of local faculty on “Medieval Translation: Then and Now.”  In February, this year’s annual manuscript event, “Mediaevalia at the Lilly,” brought John Glasenapp (Columbia), Susan Boynton (Columbia), and Alison Altstatt (Northern Iowa) to campus for a day-long workshop on “Liturgical Manuscripts in Person.” They were joined by IU presenters Diane Reilly (Art History) and Elizabeth Hebbard (French).  The workshop concluded with a performance of some of the chants in the manuscripts discussed by the symposium.

This spring also marked the thirtieth annual MEST symposium. This year’s two-day conference on “Force and Resistance: Medieval Violence and Nonviolence” brought approximately twenty speakers from around the world to IU. Our keynote speaker, Dr. Elizabeth Allen (University of California, Irvine), delivered a stimulating lecture on “Cuthbert’s Stag: Sanctuary, Kingship, and Sacrifice.”  Enjoyed by visiting scholars, graduate students, and faculty alike, the symposium banquet included a Readers’ Circle, during which Indiana University faculty and students read aloud original language excerpts related to the theme of our symposium. Languages read this year included Old Persian, Old Arabic, Old Irish, Old Irish, Old Norse, Old English, Middle Dutch, Middle Welsh, and Middle English. The symposium concluded with a performance of medieval music by one of IU’s early music ensembles, La Luna La Mia.

In addition to these scholarly events, the Institute also focused on outreach during the past academic year. In the fall, we ran a film series on “Heretics, Revolutionaries, and Reformers” at the IU Cinema and we hosted a booth on “How to Make a Medieval Book” at a local arts and humanities festival that offered a hands-on introduction to parchment making, inks, medieval scripts, and bindings. In the spring, we sponsored a roundtable on “How Medieval is Game of Thrones?” that filled a lecture hall with curious undergraduates.

We also continued the tradition of regular reading groups in medieval languages, including groups for Middle English, Medieval Latin, Old English, Old Norse and Old French. Our lively Medieval Studies Graduate Student association, chaired by Emerson Richards (Ph.D. Candidate in Comparative Literature) hosted several workshops for students throughout the year, including a “Transcribathon” in October in which graduate students from a range of disciplines worked together to transcribe portions of a fifteenth-century manuscript including the Disticha catonis and the Historia de preliis in Middle English and Latin.

For more information about MEST, to sign up for our listserv, or to see our recent newsletters, visit us at

Shannon Gayk
Director, Medieval Studies Institute
Associate Professor of English
Indiana University, Bloomington

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