Past Events

Past Fall 2023-2024 Events:

THURSDAY, JANUARY 25: Webinar with Professor Wan-Chuan Kao (English, Washington & Lee)

4-5:30 pm CST, ON ZOOM: 6 interdisciplinary scholars respond to Professor Kao’s new book, White Before Whiteness in the Late Middle Ages (Manchester UP, 2024), followed by a moderated q&a.

Register at whiteb4whiteness@gmail.com by January 24, 2024. (Participants will receive limited-time e-access to the Introduction and a discount code towards the purchase of the book).

Co-sponsored by Washington & Lee University Library.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 1: Professor Robert Houghton (School of History and Archaeology, University of Winchester)

12:00 pm CST, ON ZOOM: Public lecture (showing in Helen C. White 7191): Historical Accuracy in Medievalist Games: Impossible and Undesirable?

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Meeting ID: 979 2256 0008

‘Historical Accuracy’ is a major selling point for a vast number of medievalist games. A plethora of games from Kingdom Come: Deliverance to Crusader Kings via Assassin’s Creed explicitly or implicitly emphasise their historical research credentials in their advertising materials and demands for historical fidelity are frequently voiced in the online spaces surrounding these games. Even games with fantasy settings such as Dragon Age, The Witcher and Baldur’s Gate are prone to these claims and demands.

But while these claims to accuracy and historical authority are commonplace, there are substantial limitations to the ability of these games to live up to these claims. The nature of the medium limits their capacity to produce a scholarly account in the manner of an academic article or even an audio-visual documentary. The record of the period denies access to substantial details. The role of the player in constructing history within a game must be necessity influence the veracity of this account. In many respects, absolute historical accuracy is not only impossible, but also undesirable within medievalist games.

This paper considers the motivation behind claims to historical accuracy in medievalist games. It then goes on to argue that these claims can never be fully realised and that the goal of absolute accuracy is antithetical to the demands of gameplay. Finally, it will contend that medievalist games can nevertheless represent an important and innovative approach to the history and study of the Middle Ages.

Robert Houghton is a lecturer in Medieval History at the University of Winchester. His research focuses on the social and political history of Italy in the central medieval period and the representation of the Middle Ages in modern games. He has edited a number of volumes addressing these subjects including most recently Playing the Middle Ages: Pitfalls and Potential in Modern Games. His monograph The Middle Ages in Computer Games is planned for release in 2024.

Co-sponsored by the Anonymous Fund, the Jay and Ruth Halls Visiting Scholar Fund, the Holtz Center for Science and Technology, and the Department of History.

FRIDAY, DECEMBER 1: An Afternoon of Medieval Games (open to all)

1:30 pm-5:30 pm, 7191 Helen C. White Hall. Please contact Chris Herde (cherde@wisc.edu) for more information.

Co-sponsored by the Anonymous Fund, the Jay and Ruth Halls Visiting Scholar Fund, and the Departments of English and History.

 

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 17: Professor Chris Jones (English, University of Utah)

2:00 pm, Hagen Room (Elvehjem 150): Workshop for graduate students and faculty: “Carter Revard and Old English Riddles: an indigenous poet remaking ‘Anglo-Saxon’”

There is no pre-circulated reading for this workshop. Please contact Professor Jordan Zweck (jlzweck@wisc.edu) with any questions.

5:00 pm, Elvehjem L140: Public lecture: Anglo-Saxons, Brexit, the New English Nationalism and White Supremacy

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Anglo-Saxonism (the reception of ‘Anglo-Saxon’ culture in the postmedieval period) and its various attendant ideologies is well understood by scholars in its manifestations from the sixteenth through to the nineteenth centuries. What is less well understood, or even acknowledged, is that ‘Anglo-Saxon’ tropes are currently inhabiting contemporary English nationalism in the twenty-first century with potentially far-reaching cultural and political consequences. Twin parallel discourses of Anglo-Saxonism have emerged and gained currency in the UK in recent decades: one a putatively historical neutral language of political sovereignty and ethnic distinctiveness mobilized by the right-wing British political elite as part of an argument for leaving the EU as ‘natural’; the other the rise in the use of neo-Old English (often grammatically incorrect) by self-taught online groups of radical and exclusionary English nationalists and hate-inspired communities of the alt-right. Jones’s recent research collects and deconstructs examples of the new Anglo-Saxonism from both these sources, demonstrating the often dangerous political work that is still being done by age-old tropes.

Co-sponsored by the Anonymous Fund, the Jay and Ruth Halls Visiting Scholar Fund, and the Departments of English and History.

FRIDAY, NOVEMBER 3: Professor Paolo Squatriti (History, University of Michigan)

2:00 pm, Hagen Room (Elvehjem 150): Workshop for graduate students and faculty. We will discuss Squatriti’s article, “Patrons, Landscape, and Potlatch: Early Medieval Linear Earthworks in Britain and Bulgaria”

Please contact Professor Richard Keyser (rkeyser@wisc.edu) for the reading.

5 pm, Elvehjem L150: public lecture:Wheat as an Invasive Species? The Eucharist and Ecology in Early Medieval Europe”

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The “cerealization” of Europe was pretty much complete by the eleventh century. In the process, a vast reduction in the biodiversity of agrarian landscapes and ecosystems and a simplification of foodways took place, as Europeans came to rely on a handful of staple crops for most of their sustenance. Among these, soft or bread wheat (Triticum aestivum) was particularly popular. This paper investigates why early medieval Europeans were willing to undertake this massive change in their environments and economies. It proposes that there are several reasons why wheat, an exotic plant in most of Europe in 500, by 1000 had outcompeted its rivals, many of them natives with a long history of cultivation in the region. The triumph of Triticum did not occur simply because Christian culture and Christian ritual preferred this cereal to all others.

Co-sponsored by the Center for European Studies (CES), the Center for Culture, History, and the Environment (CHE), the Holtz Center for Science and Technology, the Department of History, the Anonymous Fund, and the Jay and Ruth Halls Visiting Scholar Fund.

FRIDAY, SEPTEMBER 29: Professor Christopher Cannon (English and Classics, Johns Hopkins University)

2 pm, Hagen Room (Elvehjem 150): Workshop for graduate students and faculty.
Please contact Professor Lisa H. Cooper (lhcooper@wisc.edu) for the reading.

5:00 pm, Elvehjem L150: Public lecture: “Chaucer and the Chaumpaigne Affair”

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Scholars have known that Chaucer was connected to a case of “raptus” since the nineteenth century, but, even though many documents have been discovered related to the case in recent years, we’re no closer to knowing what happened, if by “what happened” we care most about the perspective of the woman who made the accusation, Cecily Chaumpaigne. In fact, solutions—which lately come thick and fast—remain obfuscations of a sort, uniformly motivated by the need to rescue the “father of English literature” from calumny. This talk will explore the facts of the case and recent attempts to reframe it, as well as Chaucer’s surprising perspicacity about what is at stake in a rape charge for a woman. This is one reason, in fact, to read some poems of Chaucer’s particularly closely right now, but it also makes it possible to see why we might still read all of his work in the 21st century. We can never really know what Chaucer, the person, did, but, when we read him, it is still possible to be inspired by the humanity of his vision and the originality of his insight.

Co-sponsored by the Anonymous Fund and the Department of English

FRIDAY, OCTOBER 6: IRH/Medieval Studies Mashup: Professors  Chelsea Silva (Solmsen Fellow) and Nancy Wicker (Solmsen Fellow)

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2:00-3:30 pm, University Club Room 212: Research Presentations

Co-sponsored by the Institute for Research in the Humanities.

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