By Harriet Mahood
For the past two years, post-graduate researchers in the GCMS (Graduate Centre for Medieval Studies) have organised conferences based on a central theme connected to their doctoral work.
This year, I decided to take on the role and on Saturday 21st March, around 30 people attended “On the Edge” on the London Road campus. There were 12 papers in total arranged under four topics and the event was live-tweeted throughout the day by myself and other attendees.
Beginning the day, Marco Prost (Université de Lausanne) spoke on “Female cunning on the edges of chivalry in Gerbert de Montreuil’s Continuation to the Conte du Graal” before being followed Katherine Sedovic (Trinity College Dublin) “Seeking the Sacred within the Secular: A Study of the Aspremont-Kievraing Psalter’s Marginalia” and Laura Wood (Royal Holloway, University of London) “Sisters Doing it for Themselves: Vowesses, c. 1450-1540”.
The three papers meshed together beautifully under the session’s topic of The Edges of Gender and raised some interesting questions regarding the perceptions of gender boundaries and what happened when these boundaries were overstepped or manipulated.
The second session was focused upon Boundaries of Religion and the Religious with papers from Tamsin Gardner (University of Exeter) “’Room Available – Flexible Space with all mod cons’: The adaptability of the spaces of the medieval Cistercian monastic infirmary”, Bridget Riley (University of Reading) “On the edge of orthodoxy; Richard FitzRalph, Archbishop of Armagh” and William Thompson (University of California, Santa Barbara ) “Churchwardens in early Tudor England: On the Edge of Sacred and Secular”. I also spoke in this session on “Prayer at the Gate of the monastery” as it was the creation of this paper (and the thesis chapter it springs from) which formed the seed of the conference.
Lunch followed the morning sessions which gave me time to update twitter and read what others were posting as well.
The afternoon’s sessions began with Political and Geographical Borders. Julia Watson (University of Reading) led the way with “Fulbert of Chartres – a bishop with too many borders” before being followed by Katie Phillips (University of Reading) “Taking Up Alms: Royal Charity in New Borders in Thirteenth-Century France” and Mark Whelan (Royal Holloway, University of London) “On the Edge of their Empire? The German Kings and the Reich in the fifteenth century”.
The final session was A Medieval Miscellany and consisted of two very different papers chosen to demonstrate the variety of disciplines and ideas that can be discussed under a single theme.
Margarita Vázquez Corbal (Universidade de Santiago de Compostela) spoke on “The southwestern border between Galicia and Portugal during the 12th and 13th centuries: A space for experimentation and artistic transmission” and Jessica Monteith-Chachuat (University of Reading) rounded the day off with her paper “’The Description of a Monstrous Pig’ & other weird and wonderful cases of human hybridity”
Amongst other thoughts and questions, the last paper inspired the following tweet from Tamsin Gardner as it took us on a whistle-stop tour of monsters from classical to medieval:
A wine reception concluded the day before the conference dinner and inevitable drinks afterwards.
It was both a challenge and a pleasure to organise and host such an event and I found it hugely enjoyable, as well as useful, to meet so many people from far and wide and from a variety of disciplines all working on topics related to my own.
The next job is organising the publication of volume III of the peer-reviewed online journal The Reading Medievalist which will feature selected papers from this year’s conference.