The Medieval Studies Institute (MEST) at Indiana University, an interdisciplinary program offering minors and certificates on the graduate and undergraduate levels, saw a productive 2016-2017 academic year. Professor Rosemarie McGerr (Professor of Comparative Literature) completed six years of service as the Director of the Institute in the summer of 2016, and Shannon Gayk (Associate Professor of English) was elected as the new director.
The Institute’s 2016-2017 event schedule was focused on the local and the global Middle Ages. Our fall events highlighted the Institute’s local resources and encouraged cross-disciplinary conversations among IU faculty and students and those at regional institutions. Over the course of the semester we held monthly coffee hour conversations in which a faculty member and a graduate student offered informal presentations about their current research. Our annual alumni lecture featured Dr. Jelena Todorović (University of Wisconsin-Madison), who presented on “Dante’s Vita Nova and Its Editors.” The fall also included a two-day symposium on “Affairs of the Heart: Medieval Cardiologies,” organized and run by Dr. Lucas Wood (Department of French & Italian), which brought faculty from around the Midwest to discuss representations of the heart in medieval manuscripts, literature, and art. And finally, in December, Renée Trilling (University of Illinois) led a stimulating workshop on Ælfric’s De Temporibus Anni and its reception.
In the spring of 2017, the Institute sought to highlight the global dimensions of our program. To this end, we opened the semester with a roundtable discussion focused on the question “Can we speak of a Global Middle Ages?” that showcased faculty from six departments at IU. In February, Dr. Thomas Burman (Director of the Medieval Institute, University of Notre Dame) delivered a lecture, titled “Arguing—and Not Arguing—about the Trinity in Southern Europe: Judaism, Islam, and Scholastic Thought.” Also in February, Medievalia, MEST’s annual workshop on medieval manuscripts at the Lilly Library, brought Dr. Soren Edgren (Princeton University) to speak about Buddhist illuminated manuscripts in China and East Asia.
This spring also marked the twenty-ninth annual MEST symposium. This year’s two-day conference on “Uses of the Past: Cultural Memory in and of the Middle Ages” brought approximately twenty speakers from around the world to IU. Our keynote speaker, Dr. Wendy Swartz (Rutgers University), delivered a talk titled “A Nourishing Past: Literary Taste and Writing Habits in Early Medieval China.” Enjoyed by visiting scholars, graduate students, and faculty alike, the banquet of our symposium included a Readers’ Circle, during which Indiana University faculty and students read aloud original language excerpts that relate 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 pilgrimage music by one of IU’s early music ensembles.
In addition to these lectures and symposia, the Institute co-sponsored several events, including a fascinating roundtable on premodern ideas of utopia with our Renaissance Studies Program as well as a two-day symposium, organized by Dr. Patricia Ingham, on medieval curiosity. We also continued the tradition of regular reading groups in medieval languages, including groups for Middle English, Late and Medieval Greek, Medieval Latin, Old English, Old Norse and Old French. MEST hosted several workshops for students throughout the year, including a “Transcribathon” and a workshop on “Raiders of the Lost Archive: How to Prepare for Your Archival Research Trip,” which provided information about working with and in archives. Finally, MEST sponsored three sessions at this year’s International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo: one session on “The Idea of the Garden in Medieval Literature,” and two sessions on “Female Friendship in Medieval Literature.”
For more information about the Institute, see our Spring 2017 newsletter at http://www.indiana.edu/~medieval/ .