Abstracts. Symposium 2017. On the Road Again

Abstracts for papers to be delivered at the May 2017 symposium at the University of Arizona


Sally Abed, The University of Utah: Cultural Collision and the Preservation of Identity in Ibn Fadlan’s Risala

Ibn Fadlan travels northward to the lands of the Bulghars and the Rus from tenth-century Baghdad on a diplomatic mission from the Caliph al-Muqtadir. On the road, he encounters different cultural norms and practices. This paper focuses specifically on his insistence to perform ablutions (washing rituals) amid the unfamiliar and inhospitable snowy weather despite the religious license granted Muslims to forgo the ritual in dire circumstances. The practice leads to an ensuing cultural collision between Ibn Fadlan and the Oghuzz Turks, the tribe he encounters on the road, in terms of the significance of water for each. Ibn Fadlan’s desire to perform ablutions in preparation for prayer is countered by the tribe’s ban on washing for fear of hydromancy. In order not to be charged of casting a spell on the tribe, Ibn Fadlan has to perform the washing ritual at night out of the sight of the Oghuzz. In view of this cultural collision, I argue for Ibn Fadlan’s attempt to preserve his identity as well as lend coherence to his apocalyptic rihla (journey) in terms of time and space through preserving the ritual itself. In the process, as I show, the ritual becomes a rihla within the broader context of Ibn Fadlan’s own.


Maha Baddar, Pima Community College, Tucson, AZ: Traveling Texts in Time and Space: Maintaining an Islamic Identity in the Translation and Commentary Traditions of Medieval Baghdad

The presentation will cover how as texts travelled through time and space in medieval times, crucial changes occurred to their content through the translation and commentary traditions. Using medieval Arabic scholarship as a case in point I will outline how Arabic scholars resolved the issue of conflicting values between Islam and Greek and the Alexandrian Neo-Platonic philosophical works during the time of the Medieval Arabic Translation Movement.  Using theories of audience and hybridity, I will cover how three generations of Arabic scholars strove to maintain an Islamic identity while promoting the concepts covered in Greek and Neo-Platonic philosophical works. I will show how al-Kindi’s philosophical treatises islamicized the works of Plato, Aristotle, and Alexandrian Neo-Platonic philosophers by inserting Qur’anic terms in his commentaries and by eliminating blatantly pagan notions in order to persuade his audience of fellow scholars as well as potential opposing theologians of the compatibility of the works of these scholars with Islam. Similarly, al-Farabi and Ibn Sina have both maintained an Islamic identity in their commentaries on the Aristotelian logical curriculum by using Arabic examples, coining Arabic terms, and appropriating Aristotelian notions to make them compatible with the values of their Muslim audience. The presentation will detail these ideas in order to illuminate the strategies used by these three scholars to make the foreign works they commented on compatible with the identity of their audience of medieval Baghdad.


Chiara Benati, Università degli Studi di Genova: Against the Dangers of Travel: Journey Blessings and Amulets in the Medieval and Early Modern Germanic Tradition

In the Middle Ages travel often implied a great deal of fatigue and danger: whether on horseback, on foot or by sea travellers had to face the challenge represented by uneven and muddy roads, storms and bad weather and risked to be attacked by robbers, wild animals, or pirates. For this reason journey blessings and other rituals aimed at obtaining protection while on the road and at ensuring oneself or a beloved person a safe comeback.

In this paper I will focus on this specific genre of blessings and amulets in the Germanic language area on the basis of a wide – possibly exhaustive – corpus of English, German and Scandinavian texts. In this, particular attention will also be paid to the insertion of these blessings and prayers in literary texts.


Albrecht Classen, University of Arizona: The Exploration of the Scandinavian Worlds by Late Medieval Travelers: With a Focus on Michel Beheim

While much of scholarship dedicated to travelogues focus on travels to the Holy Land, to Santiago de Compostela, or to Rome, we can also identify travelers who made their way to Norway and Sweden. This paper will survey what we know about those travel authors and how they described their experiences going across the sea to reach those Nordic countries. In additon, I will also examine how the country of Lapland (northern Finland) became the subject of a fictional travelogue in the so-called Wagnerbuch from 1593, illuminating thereby the growing literary-historical awareness of the Nordic countries in German literature.


Allison P. Coudert, The University of California at Davis:  Space, Time, and Identity: Giovanni Battista Piranesi’s Le Carceri d’Invenzioni and Dark Romanticism

Printmaker, engraver, and antiquarian Giovanni Battista Piranesi once said: “. . . I believe that if I were commissioned to design a new universe, I would be mad enough to undertake it.” The universe Piranesi depicted in his famous series of fantastical prisons did not, however, portray a new universe so much as reveal profound anxieties about the one in which he lived and worked. With their monumental machines, wheels, levers, pulleys and cables Piranesi’s etchings created a Kafkaesque realm, where space and time were distorted and the small, disoriented figure—presumably Piranesi himself— clambering up the stairways leading nowhere was representative of many of Piranesi’s contemporaries, who were intent upon escaping to an alternate reality. This essay takes Piranesi’s fantastical prisons as an entry point to investigate the dark romanticism of late eighteenth- and nineteenth-century Europe and America. Beginning with Pascal in the seventeenth century and picking up speed in the two subsequent  centuries, a strange disease spread through the upper classes variously called “ennui,” “neurasthenia,” or just plain “nerves.” Its symptoms were boredom, lassitude, and disillusionment with the crass materialism and hypocrisy of religious institutions and society at large. The causes and consequences of these maladies were firmly rooted in the new attitudes toward space, time, and human identity that emerged in the early modern period.


Gavin Fort, Northwestern University: “Proxy Pilgrimage in Late Medieval and Early Modern England”

From the thirteenth through the sixteenth century, English testators routinely asked that pilgrimages be made on their behalf. The purpose of these proxy pilgrimages varied: thanking saints for healing, completing another’s vow, having priests say Mass in a particular place, or gaining an indulgence on the testator’s behalf. The practice favored the major shrines in England, although the evidence as reveals an explosion of concern with smaller, local holy sites by the fifteenth century. In addition to outlining the cultural and evidentiary context for proxy pilgrimage, this
paper makes two contributions. First, a religious explanation for the phenomenon is put forward:
proxy pilgrimage was part of the broader, and much older, practice of proxy penance, where one person would complete penance for another person, who received the spiritual benefit. Indeed, scholastic theologians had already given their theoretical approval for proxy penance in the
thirteenth century. Second, proxy pilgrimage is a good lens through which to notice the changing ideas about space and identity from the Middle Ages into the early modern period. Akin to virtual and mental pilgrimages—like labyrinths or the creation of “little Jerusalems”—which
increased in popularity all over Europe by the end of the fifteenth century, proxy pilgrimages negotiated a fine line between the older and newer paradigms. As medieval understandings of geography and travel began to be upended, the importance of a specific place mattered much less than an individual’s intention. Even so, proxy pilgrimage embraced both the old and the new. It
allowed a proxy to visit a shrine or fulfill a vow, but it also required that a proxy go to a specific place.
Proxy pilgrimage in England all but died out after the 1530s, but the practice endured on the continent—even into the nineteenth century. This paper reveals both a little studied aspect of premodern pilgrimage and offers historical evidence for the religious and cultural connection
between space and identity.


J. Michael Fulton, Oral Roberts University, OK: Personality Type and Coping Mechanisms: Psychological Observations on the Inquisitorial Trial of Fray Luis de León

Fray Luis de León’s Inquisitorial trial (1572-76) is one of the most studied episodes of Spain’s Early Modern Period. However, despite the depth of this scholarly scrutiny, there is ongoing critical  debate on such elemental questions as why he was arrested and how he reacted to nearly five years of solitary confinement. In order to shed light on the latter question, this study draws on psychological research on confinement and social isolation. This literature provides an empirical foundation for considering how extended incarceration would have affected Fray Luis. This paper then highlights key details of the trial, on the basis of primary historical sources: lists of Inquisitorial protocols, and the Holy Office’s transcript of the trial. In addition, Fray Luis’ two major post-trial prose works—De los nombres de Cristo (On the Names of Christ) and Exposición sobre el Libro de Job (Exposition on the Book of Job) are cited in order to document personality traits and coping strategies that enabled the monk to endure his ordeal. The approach described here provides answers to ongoing scholarly debates about one of the most famous trials in the history of the Inquisition, and one of Spain’s most celebrated poets. 

Shannon Francis, University of New Mexico: The Interpolated Voice: History and Local Identity in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

This paper explores the usage of English in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle in relation to history and local identity in post-Conquest England, namely in manuscripts D and E.  Entries in the Peterborough Chronicle (E) place importance on local history that is seen nowhere else in the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle.  This paper focuses on the descriptions of Conquest in D and E in order to compare the treatment of these events in each Chronicle manuscript, as well as it explores how the language and style of the annals detailing these events showcase the more personal interpretation of these events by the composers of D and E.  In these annals about conquest, destruction, and the end of an era, D and E diverge greatly from both each other and all other extant copies of the Chronicle due to these differing interpretations.  In comparing D’s account of Conquest and William with that of E, the focus on the local history of Peterborough and its indisputable link with the history of England becomes much more pronounced and poignant.  In examining the text, it is clear the events that befall Peterborough immediately post-Conquest mirror those that befall England as a whole, entwining local history within the national narrative and elevating the status of Peterborough to equal that of England. That is not to say, however, that the Peterborough Chronicle completely disregards the impact of William’s rule on a national level.  Its annals showcase and connect the rule of William to the fall of both England and Peterborough.


Aaron French, The University of California at Davis: Voyage to India with Sir William Jones: The Asiatick Society Remakes the West. The Travel of Texts and their Transformative Power on Culture

In 1784, British philologist William “Oriental” Jones (1746-1794) founded the Asiatick Society of Bengal in Calcutta for the purposes of enhancing Oriental research. Information consolidated by Jones and his colleagues during that time further eroded the already tottering monolith of institutional Christianity in Europe. Certain of Jones’ translations eventually came to destabilize the very essence of European identity by launching the concept of the Aryan along its troubling career in European history. From the Middle Ages to the end of the 18th Century, most western thought and scholarship had been confined to the Abrahamic “religions of the book”; however, through the growing popularity of textual philology, a fascination with world languages, and a greater overall mobility, the west came into sustained contact with India and its religious traditions and Sanskrit. The result was an academic fascination with all things Indian, which set the stage for what James Turner calls “a post-Christian frame of erudition.” This paper surveys the philology and Indian travels of William “Oriental” Jones, drawing critical attention to his influence as an historical agent upon the cultural consciousness of Europe—an influence that came to fruition in the politics, science, and religion of the 19th c., and later culminated in the tragedy of the Second World War. 


Nurit Golan, Tel Aviv University, Israel: The Tree of Knowledge – A visual journey into the mind and soul: The mosaic floor of Otranto Cathedral, Apulia, Italy (1163-1165).

The mosaic floor of Otranto Cathedral in southern Italy features three huge trees displayed along the nave and side aisles. Entering from the west on the way to the apse, the worshiper steps along the trunk and the branches of the trees, with their fascinating “fruits” hanging from their branches.

The foliage of these trees incorporates depictions of theological as well as secular themes. Side by side with biblical stories from Genesis, we find the zodiac, the works of the months. An abundance of hybrid animals, as if the floor was a huge bestiary, features in the choir in roundels but also scattered elsewhere. Warriors and travelers, protagonists of tales and history, such as King Arthur and Alexander the Great, appear here too, as do King Solomon on his throne, King William 1st, and many other figures and tales, besides.     

In this paper I shall contend that the tree represents the growth of knowledge, and that walking along the tree on the floor metaphorically represents the intellectual and spiritual journeys of life. This spiritual journey has its dangers, as the Original Sin and the Tower of Babylon depicted here indicate. The “road” of the traveler might be physically short, but what innumerable and tremendous worlds, not necessarily of orthodox origin, are to be discovered once the road to wisdom is taken.

The floor was constructed during the reign of King William the 1st of Sicily. Sicily had become one of the most important scientific centers in Europe in the 12th century while under the reign of the Norman dynasty. It is my contention that this conglomerate of ideas depicted on the Otranto Cathedral floor makes it a document attesting to intellectual life at the time in Apulia, which was part of the Kingdom of Sicily.


Jiri Koten, Jan Evangelista Purkyně, Ustí nad Labem, Czech Republic: Time and Space in Narrative Literature of Czech Medieval and Early Modern Periods

The paper will focus on the transformations of the time and space categories in medieval and early modern narrative literature written in Czech. I will use selected narratives to elucidate the gradual changes of the depicted chronotope (spacetime) and the ways in which authors of medieval and early modern literature represented the flowing time and real space. First I will concentrate on the adventure chronotope in The Chronicle of Stilfrid and The Chronicle of Bruncvík. This type of knightly literature (the oldest known manuscript dates back to the second half of the 15th century) is based on a conception of time as a chain of adventures and on the movement of the hero, who does not develop over time, through the fantastical space. The real space is depicted marginally (the heroes’ homeland) and allegorically (getting to know the foreign world, for example, is represented as a sexual relationship of knight Bruncvík with the virgins of Europe and Africa). The paper will also examine the evolution of narrative with a biographical sujet, which links the motif of an adventurous journey with the time of a family (The Chronicle of Melusine) that strives for its preservation in the ritual time, during the reign of the capricious goddess Fortuna. This type of a story is a forerunner of the early modern travel narratives, such as the book on Fortunatus. Early modern entertainment prose suppresses fantastical motifs in its representation of the world and comes close to the emergence of a hero who experiences real time and moves through the depicted space in a verisimilar manner. Undoubtedly, the establishment of real historical chronotope was also supported by the fact that this type of literature (Fortunatus, The History of the Life of Doctor Faustus) introduced a character whose action has social consequences. The paper’s material will be literature written in Czech from the 15th to the 17th centuries. Methodologically, I will draw from Mikhail Bakhtin’s studies in historical poetics (Forms of Time and Chronotope in the Novel) and the analytical methods of diachronic narratology.


María Dolores Morillo, California State University, Fresno: “Like a rolling stone”: Women, Mobility and (Im)Morality in La hija de Celestina.

My current research focuses on Early Modern Spanish literary works whose main character is a female rogue or pícaraPícaras were known as loose or “bad” women, for they couldn’t be contained in or constrained by the roles and places that patriarchal society had designed for women, such as marriage, the home, the convent, or the brothel.  Women who did not comply ran the risk of being considered immoral, which had enormous implications on how women behaved and I believe that exploring the discourse around traveling women, in this case, the pícara, will shed light on the important topic of women’s place in society.  

Spanish literary pícaras usually do not have a man who “governs” them, and if they do, it is not for long; they do not have a family or a home; they do not settle down easily, and choose to be constantly on the move.  They travel alone; some even use private transportation, namely the car, for illegal practices, such as prostitution.  The journey as an incessant and chaotic movement (be it on foot, by car, within city limits or between the countryside and the city) renders these women a threat to the social and moral order established by seventeenth-century Spain’s patriarchal society.   This paper will examine Alonso Jerónimo de Salas Barbadillo’s novel La hija de Celestina (1612), more specifically, Elena, the main character, a pícara who not only dares vacate the sacred spaces of virtuous women, but whose constant traveling and movement makes her a “loose woman,” a “rolling stone,” someone who embodies disorder and chaos, and inhabits a space traditionally associated with men.  I also believe that since it was written by a male author, it undoubtedly influenced the ways in which this and other fictional women were portrayed, and, by extension, how fictional literature contributed to the misogynistic discourse on women’s place in early modern Spain.



Doaa Omran, University of New Mexico: Intentional Anachronism and Spatial Displacement in the French Vulgate Cycle and the Formation of British Identity

Even though The Vulgate Cycle was written during the times of the Crusades and the Muslim presence in al-Andalus, we find no mention of these two significant political events. For example, we never get detailed accounts–by far or by near–of knights of the Round Table taking the road and embarking on a journey to the Holy Lands to combat the Muslim Other. Instead, in a pretty interesting reversal, Josephus (son of Joseph of Aramathea) embarks on a journey crossing the sea from his home country; Jerusalem to England. The Saracens, whose king has wanted to dethrone Josephus, populate England and have even built mosques in Camelot! In a patriotic act of restoring the English Christian identity, Josephus orders these Muslim temples to be knocked down. Thus, the contact zone with the Muslim adversary is spatially transferred to the more familiar space of Britain instead of the much more distant Muslim Jerusalem. Moreover, an intentional anachronism that erroneously outstretches the beginnings of the Islamic rivalry to six centuries earlier than its actual evolvement in the early seventh century etiolates the current impending Islamic threat. Hence, the displacement of both the spatial and the temporal paradigms is a reaction of the fear felt by an unconsciously threatened European identity.

The knights of the Round Table do not hit the road to Jerusalem because the Grail has already been transferred to their native land. Instead, they enjoy the privilege of trekking their native territory. Subsequently, readers get expansive descriptions of an enchanted expansive British landscape. Landscape functions as a trope for identity. The Vulgate Cycle is oblivious to spatial and temporal discrepancies, in favor of constructing a European identity for its readers. This makes me argue that the Vulgate Cycle, can be read as a national epic.


Daniel F. Pigg, The University of Tennessee at Martin: Making the Pilgrimage with Piers and to Piers: The Epistemology of Identity in William Langland’s Piers Plowman

The most illusive “character” in William Langland’s Piers Plowman is Piers Plowman himself. When he first appears, he promises to lead the pilgrims on a highway in a quest for St. Truth, but that is seemingly postponed until the planting and harvesting season on the half acre is complete. Experienced through the prism of the dream vision itself, Piers shakes a tree, seemingly being responsible for the fall of humanity. Piers becomes human nature that seems related to the Good Samaritan and even Christ himself who is preparing for a joust on Palm Sunday. He appears again at Pentecost as one preaching a message by sewing seed which is then harrowed by the four evangelists. At the end of the poem, Conscience leaves the body of the Church which has been significantly undermined by the work of the friars whose need has corrupted sacramental confession to search for Piers again. What seems apparent is that Piers functions on the surface as a voice for a collection of narrative threads and sequences. Langland is on a quest to understand Piers across the continuum of time. That he remains illusive is connected with Langland’s own sense of what it means to be “on the road again” in search of answers, but social and personal. That some contemporary readers of versions of Langland’s poem understood Piers as someone who could correct the ills within the social contract suggests not only how popular the poem was in its own day, but also the tremendous influence it wielded.

This paper will focus on how “on the road again,” a kind of metaphor for pilgrimage is seemingly interrupted, reassigned, or started again with no end in sight. Piers Plowman himself is at the center of this shifting quest for identity. At some point, readers may wonder exactly who is on the road. Is it Piers? Is it Will the Dreamer? Is it Conscience? Is it William Langland, the poet, himself? Actually, each one of these “characters” is on the pilgrim’s road toward something. What seems almost ironic is that the poem itself connects being “on the road” in the sense of the pilgrim’s quest as a nefarious activity most closely connected with falsehood, deception, and storytelling. That the poem problematizes the concept of pilgrimage at the beginning and then assigns that literary mode as the means for finding Truth may strike readers as one of the poem’s central absurdities. From that seeming contradiction, William Langland writes a poem in which the quest of Piers and the quest for Piers become not only the search for identity, but the means through which the world’s problems can be corrected in some nebulous time. The quest for Piers is not pessimistic in any sense. Being “on the road again” makes all the difference.


Carolin Radtke, University of Arizona: Reading the Other through the Lens of the Own: Meaning Making Processes in Travelogues by European and Arabic Travelers

Traveling to other countries will always mean encountering strange and alien customs travelers have to make sense of and contextualize. Throughout the Middle Ages, many European travelers have ventured to the Middle East, but conversely there were also several Arabic travelers exploring Europe. This paper will focus on the meaning making process or Deutungsparadigmen employed by these two groups of travelers. The analysis and comparison of the different meaning making processes and underlying frameworks used by European and Middle Eastern will be based on the account of Arnold von Harff as well as the Niederrheinischer Orientbericht on the one hand, and travelogues by Qazwini and Ibn Fadlan on the other hand.


Lia Ross, University of New Mexico: The Revealing Peregrinations of Margery Kempe


Margery Kempe belongs to a handful of medieval figures renowned expressly for their travels. Not surprisingly, then, her journeys and their possible motivation have received much attention and conflicting interpretations. Some scholars have seen them as pilgrimages to achieve personal enlightenment, others as a way to affirm independence from the confines of domesticity, and still others have suggested that they may have been fictional, the product of vivid imagination stimulated by the abundant literature left behind by actual pilgrims. It may be argued, however, that her travels have the ring of true experience, thanks to some unusual private details that she supplies, and also that not all of her journeys have an ostensibly religious purpose.  Nevertheless they share a consistent and revealing pattern. From the pages of her famous Book the reader comes face to face with a restless person, driven by the compelling need to present to a wide audience the image of itinerant healer and (more stealthily) preacher, and who through a series of very public acts strives—with uneven success—to promote acceptance of this difficult but morally gratifying self-imposed role. 


Romedio Schmitz-Esser, University of Graz, Austria: From East to West: Changing Perspectives on Cultural Exchanges between Asia and Europe in the Middle Ages


Cultural contacts between Europe and Asia have been in the focus of historic research for quite a while. Travelers like Marco Polo always aroused the curiosity of medievalists, asking for the precision and probability of such accounts: Was Marco Polo in China? What did he do there? And are the descriptions he gives of the Far East accurate? Authors like Odorico da Pordenone were praised for their detailed descriptions: The Franciscan friar reported for the first time that the Chinese used cormorants for fishing and bind the feet of their women. Of particular interest to Western scholars was the search for a religious exchange with Asia: In this perspective, the Franciscan mission and the first bishopric in China under Giovanni da Montecorvino needed special attention, and the failures and misunderstandings of William of Rubruck were particularly worthwhile. Along these lines, one could speculate on the degree of tolerance at the court of the Mongols and in Yuan China. Were religious discussions among Nestorians, Buddhists, and Catholics an important marker of philosophical freedom in the Far East, or just a sign of polytheistic approaches by a nomadic elite of the newly found Mongol world empire? This paper wants to challenge all such questions by radically changing perspectives. All these thoughts have one thing in common: They look from the West to the East. Instead of asking when the first European friar preached in India or China, or how exactly Venetian and Genovese trade links with the Mongol Empire were established, I want to look for Asian influences in the medieval West. Since Yuan China was an important cultural and economic center of the world during the 13th and 14th centuries, it seems unlikely that the establishment of direct contact during the Mongol expansion and with such powerful neighbors had no effect on medieval Europe at all. Looking at the impact of travel accounts in the West and asking for material, artistic and textual evidence for especially Buddhist influences in Europe, I want to suggest that it is possible to write medieval history in a new and exciting way, highlighting one of its forgotten chapters and leaving eurocentrism aside.


Anne Scott, Northern Arizona University: “To dyen in prisoun”: Space, Confinement, and Liberation in Chaucer’s Knight’s Tale

It is a commonplace that medieval romances, generally speaking, abide by a sense of time and space that often does not seem realistic or true to life. Objects within space, settings, spaces both natural and artificial or man-made, and a character’s movement in time and space often seem to take on a dream-like quality: things often do not progress linearly according to tick-tock time; landscapes seem to come and go as if by magic; actions that occur within the romance can seem to happen extremely slowly or with great rapidity; and rooms and buildings often seem strangely proportioned. One well-known case in point is Yvain’s mad chase to the castle of his antagonist, the Knight Esclados, in Chretien de Troye’s famous 12th century romance: Yvain’s ill-considered pursuit of the Knight Esclados lands our hero inside a full-sized hall that then shrinks, to our perceptions and his, to the size of a rat-trap, the door of the great hall slamming down upon the tale-tip of Yvain’s horse, cutting it clean off.  

This paper aims to understand the vanishing, contracting, and expanding spaces in Geoffrey Chaucer’s romances – the Knight’s Tale, Wife of Bath’s Tale, Franklin’s Tale, Squire’s Tale, and the Tale of Sir Thopas – with the goal of creating a literary physics, as it were, of how space behaves in these romances. Several rules can be discerned: (1) spaces in these romances, whether natural or man-made, whether rooms, prisons, gardens, rocky coasts, or streets, seem to either enhance theme and characterization or become imbued with the characters’ psychological states. (2) These spaces, especially as they take on the role of settings, often serve to set up expectations for what should happen within them, only for readers to discover that the expectations have been false or misleading. (3) The spaces themselves, while paving the way for expectations and specific actions, often fall by the wayside as the scenes get underway. In other words, what happens inside these spaces seems far more important than the spaces themselves; and what happens within them is, as often as not, conflict, intense dialogue, reprisals, and the kind of sorting out of emotions and thoughts that characterize the human condition. The effect is that these specific spaces disappear or vanish, contract to a point, or expand to infinity for the sake of our concentration on something more crucial to our interpretation of the stories. (4) A character’s movement through these spaces needs to be purposeful; a character’s actions, in time and space, become curtailed and thwarted in instances that require a character to think more deeply about his or her actions, thoughts, words, or behavior.

In this way, spaces within Chaucer’s romances shed light on character growth, right-mindedness, and relationships; become vehicles for thematic development; and become flexible containers in which Chaucer explores, upends, or adapts the conventions of the medieval romance genre itself. Indeed, in Chaucer’s romances, dialogues and heart-felt speeches, themselves, take on the characteristics of containers, creating, as they do, the spaces in which characters shape themselves and their worldviews and tool, or re-tool, their relationships to others.

(This conference paper will be expanded in a number of ways to make it publishable: I will need to examine Chaucer’s sources for his tales to see how they depict time and space; I will need to revisit several other romances, such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, King Horn, Havelok the Dane, Sir Isumbras, Malory’s Tale of Sir Gareth, and Marie de France’s Lais in order to shore up my understanding of time and space in a wide variety of romance sub-species (the episodic romance, the Breton Lai, romances concerning the matter of England, tail-rhyme romances, and alliterative romances, etc.).  And I’ll need to acquire information about the actual physics of time and space in the Middle Ages, though I don’t think I have to  master this specific scientific issue to write the publication. The conference paper will get me moving in the right direction.)


Na’ama Shulman, Shenkar College of Engineering, Design and Art, Ramat Gan, Israel: The Chronotope of Law in the Sachsenspiegel Illustrations

Narrative and journey are conceptually comparable, as both are defined by the notion of development or by the specific course they outline for the traveler, the reader, or the viewer. Portrayed visually or textually, they become a sort of actual or mental landscape, in which or through which there is a trajectory of progression. What form do these ‘landscapes’ take, however, when the artwork displays numerous possible paths? Such a challenge faced Eike von Repgow when writing his Sachsenspiegel (The Saxon Mirror) during the 1220s. The Mirror is a judicial manual, placing legal responsibility for the first time into the hands of trained jurists rather than in those of God. The Mirror recounts numerous hypothetical cases, each of which may have   different possible endings, hence displaying split narratives. The four surviving illustrated manuscripts, dated to 1300-1370, reveal a unique visualization of this textual pattern: the possible juristic paths were fashioned as miniature compositions, with the hypothetical cases and legal “flashbacks” being forced into frameworks of fictive time and space, while enabling any one part of the overall manuscript to be read independently of the others.

In this talk I shall contend that that the Sachsenspiegel was illustrated as a Mappamundi of the Saxon law: such articulation of historicized images, enclosed within pictorial emblems, is prominent in late medieval cartography. One fascinating example of this is to be found in the highly detailed Saxon Ebstorf Mappamundi, discovered in lower Saxony and dated to 1280-1300. Both the cartographers and the illustrators of the Sachsenspiegel created (originally) functional, informative objects, whose content is a-historical. I will demonstrate that, in both media, the images reflect historical schemes in order to legitimize disputed knowledge from within a fictive and idealized historical narrative.   

Peter Stabel (Centre for Urban History, University of Antwerp): The Exotic or the Familiar? Travel Experiences and Dealings with Food and Food Manners in the Eyes of Medieval Pilgrims on their Way to and from the Holy Land (15th and 16th c.).

The many travel descriptions by late medieval pilgrims to the Holy Land from the 15th and 16th centuries are constantly paying attention to the daily preoccupations of travelers, using often very personal descriptions of their experiences. Finding a place to sleep, having trustworthy sources of information or guides around, sharing experiences with fellow travelers, finding food etc. are always center stage in the narratives. Pilgrims from Northwestern Europe were, once they arrived in the Mediterranean, confronted with often very different ways of dealing with food. As much as they were sticking to familiar food staples (bread, lard, wine and beer etc.), they often had no other choice than also adapting to local diets or food habits. Sometimes their experiences were decided by the straightjacket of organized travel (on board of Venetian ships or under the guidance of friars in the Holy Land), while at other occasions they were forced to encounter the other (brokered by their Arab, Mamluk or Ottoman guides), or they were left to their own resourcefulness (when travelling in Europe or in the Near East outside the beaten tracks of a normal pilgrimage to Jerusalem). This paper wants to analyse the food encounters of pilgrims from the Low Countries in the 15th and early 16th centuries. It wants to demonstrate how pilgrims from often very different social background (both wealthy and poor people undertook the pilgrimage to Jerusalem) coped with the sometimes very familiar but at times also very unfamiliar food and dining cultures they experienced. Three variables will be scrutinized. 1° Food was usually provided by the ship’s captains who brought them from Venice to the coasts of the Holy Land. But, although there was class difference on board in separate eating shifts and different qualities, in order to break the monotony of biscuit and potage, most if not all pilgrims also purchased food for their long sea travel from Venice. The food they bought is a good indicator of how people of different wealth and social class reconciled or were not able to reconcile their own food habits with the food and drink they were able to purchase in Venice and along the way. 2° Once in the Middle East, pilgrims experienced the encounter with the often very different food and food habits in the Holy Land or Egypt and Anatolia, and they navigated in this respect between genuine amazement and interest and a nostalgic longing to their own world, now far away. 3° As a result pilgrims had “agency” in making choices in their food encounters in Europe and beyond Europe and the differences and similarities of enjoying food and food rituals between travelers seem to be influenced by their social identities. Recent investigations into the material culture of food in the 15th and 16th-century Low Countries have pointed at a common platform of food identities across different layers in urban society (declining importance of spiced foods, diversified role of kitchens and specialist dining rooms), while at the same time social distinction seems to increase by using more refined table manners or specialist reception rooms. Can such differences also be noticed once “on the road”? 


Charlotte A. Stanford, Brigham Young University, Utah: The Traveling Carpenter: John Russell as Visiting Expert at Henry VIII’s Palaces


This paper analyzes the career of one of the Westminster abbey workmen who was ‘headhunted’ for the royal works in the early sixteenth century and became a scaffold-building expert, traveling from site to site to oversee proper construction. Russell’s family was a prominent one and his father Thomas was also frequently employed in both the abbey and in royal works. The specialization of the Russells as scaffold builders is slightly unusual as scaffold workers have seldom been considered prominent craftsmen, and many of the workmen who executed the structure were merely low-paid day wage laborers. Nevertheless, but the necessity for sound scaffolding was important, and Russell was employed to oversee its construction for a number of Henry VIII’s structures. Russell was so much in demand that he was paid to travel frequently from site to site and also given mileage expenses for his trouble. Tracing the movements of John Russell in the surviving royal payrolls reveals not only how a single craftsman’s career can be reconstructed from close study of the king’s work’s records, but also sheds light on the increasingly professionalized and subcontracted world of late medieval English building work.

David Tomíček, John Evangelista Purkyne University, Czech Republic: Remedies and Other Natural Substances in the Lands of the Middle East in the Mirror of the 16th Century Czech-Written Printed Literature

The expansion of letter-print in the course of the 16th century resulted in widening the intellectual horizon of the educated strata of the Bohemian society. The printed publications included translations of foreign works devoted to geography, botany and other natural sciences, as well as original local writings. Information from cosmographic literature was thus mainly accompanied by printed books of travels portraying the experiences of the Bohemian adventurers who would set out to the lands of the Middle East. Although the motivation of their travels was not primarily that of natural history, the accounts also provided testimonies about marvelous natural substances known for their medical use. The aim of the presented essay is to show how printed literature (from the fields of geography, medicine and botany, and books of travels) helped form the traditional discourse on the natural Marvels of the East in the Bohemian environment during the early modern times.


Warren Tormey, English Department, Middle Tennessee State University, Murfreesboro TN “The Journey within the Journey: Catabasis and Travel Narrative in Late Medieval and Early Modern Epic.”

The motif of catabasis (or katabaesis) emerges from the domains of classical epic, representing an underworld journey embedded within a larger travel narrative. In Odysseus’s homeward journey, where he gains wise council from Tiresias in his visit to the realms of the dead. Conjoining the Homeric themes of journey and battle, Virgil portrays Aeneas’s catabaesis centrally in the Aeneid’s Book VI, where his deceased father Anchises translate his vision of the future Roman Empire (VI. 756-886). Early Christian writers appropriate the motif of catabasis within varied narrative structures—in works as diverse as the Harrowing of Hell in the New Testament, Bede’s Ecclesiastical History, Beowulf, the Latin Visio Tnugdali (Tundale the Knight), and in the various Medieval versions of the Orpheus tale.

This recognition of the narrative purposes served by catabasis within of classical and early Christian epic narratives foregrounds my first effort: to explore the nature of the underworld journey within late Medieval and Early Modern epic in Dante’s Inferno and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. In this main section of my essay I will argue that as the high medieval economy and political climate of the late-thirteenth and fourteenth-century evolves into the early modern age of Spenser and Milton, the detail of the underworld journey assumes the form of travel narrative and shows deliberate topographical detail. In response to volatile political conditions, the Early Modern epics of Spenser and Milton likewise feature deliberate motifs of catabasis within larger travel narratives. Ultimately, I will interpret these texts to argue that epic poets adapt the imagery of the underworld journey in response sophisticated political and economic relationships, ventures, and transformations.


Lisa M. C. Weston, Department of English, California State University, Fresno: A Vicarious Voyage in Queer Time: Hygeburg’s Hodoeporicon:

Hygeburg—or, alternatively Hygeburc, Hugeberc or Huneberc—of Heidenheim was one of the educated women who followed Saint Boniface across the Channel from England to Germany. In 761 or so she joined her kinswoman Walburga at Heidenheim, and, most likely under that abbess’s patronage, took on the job of writing a vita of Walburga’s brother Willibald. Though the text embraces Willibald’s life from his birth circa 700 and ends with his career as Bishop (after 742), it focuses particularly on his experiences as a pilgrim first to Rome (in 722) and then on to the Holy Land and is generally referred to as the Hodoeporicon, or Narrative of a Voyage.

The Hodoeporicon represents an interesting incursion of the feminine into masculine experience. The Aldhelmian style of Hygeburg’s prologue—her skills as a writer have been debated, and her proficiency in the elaborate prose she attempts has been both lauded and criticized—suggests significant literary intervention on her part, even as she offers the narrative in simpler and more conversational prose than the oral testimony of Willibald himself. The vicarious nature of the narrative—and its fascination, even obsession, with the difficulties and sufferings of travel—is one of the most marked aspects of the text. Since Hygeburg herself made one long and no doubt occasionally uncomfortable journey, Willibald’s travails may have struck a chord with her own memories. Her occasional invocation of a travelling “we” as narrator may represent a verbatim repetition of Willibald’s words; but it may, alternatively, mark the hagiographer’s more active imaginative intervention in the developing narrative. Ostensibly presenting Willibald and his group of companions as its narrator, the text’s inclusive “we” may also enfold Hygeburg herself into the narrative as more than an otherwise anonymously passive audience member.

Such an intervention is revealed in other thematically and artistically significant ways as well. The act of narration is, for one thing, foregrounded throughout the text. When, having returned to Rome from the Holy Land, Willibald tells his story to the Pope (and is consequently sent as a missionary assistant to Boniface), this is but one of numerous retellings that become the catalyst for a new stage in his journey and his life. In the text journey recursively becomes narrative, even as narrative becomes part of journey—and thus of the developing narrative of the journey the next time it is told.

More significantly, perhaps, the text is marked by a queer overlapping and enfolding of time. The narrative mixes present and past tenses in its re-imagination of places, scenes, and adventures. Willibald and his companions travel in a narrative past, but the geographical sites they view are described in a textual present. What exactly is meant when the text invokes “present” time is often unclear. Is the “present” that of Willibald’s visit, that of Hygeburg’s writing, or that of the reader?

Consequently places such as Jerusalem and Bethlehem exist between and beyond temporality: their textual presentation mediates between contemporary pilgrims and the still resonant past of Scripture, making eternally present events in the Life of Christ and the history of salvation. (This is a feature also of other descriptions of Holy Land sites such as Adomnán’s De locis sanctis, a possible analogue and model for Hygeburg’s text.) Indeed, the actions of the pilgrims often recreate as they recall the events they have studied in Scripture and celebrated liturgically: Willibald bathes in the Jordan, for instance, at the very spot of Christ’s baptism; when he falls sick in Jerusalem he goes to the healing pool where Christ healed the paralytic in John 5:8 Textual description of the places thus mediates between the pilgrim saint’s more recent past and the present(s) of the hagiographer and of her readers. Individual memory becomes the property, that is, of the community: by re-envisioning the memories and testimony of Willibald, Hygeburg appropriates and shares it—vicariously, imaginatively—as a communal experience.


Thomas Willard, University of Arizona: On the Road with Johann Reuchlin, Linguist, Lawyer, and Lay Theologian

The greatest Christian Hebraist of his time, Johann Reuchlin (1455-1522) traveled extensively in courtly, scholarly, and religious circles. Born in Pforzheim, in the Black Forest of Germany, he entered the University of Freiburg at the age of 15, but dropped out when given the opportunity to attend the University of Paris as the tutor and companion of a young noble. While there he started to study Greek under the scribe George Hermonymous of Sparta. He moved to Basel in 1474 to be a Latin tutor at the university, where he was awarded a master’s degree in 1477, but he returned to Paris for further study with Hermonymous. When the matter of a “real” job presented itself, he studied law in Orléans and Poitiers, where he earned a degree in 1481. He then took up residence at the new university in Tübingen, but left at once to travel in Italy as the translator for its founder, the monolingual Eberhard I, Duke of Würtemberg.

Reuchlin made three diplomatic visits to Italy between 1482 and 1498. On each trip he made friends with whom he later corresponded and from whom he gained knowledge that filled his best known book, De Arte Cabalistica (1517). One of these was Marsilio Ficino at the Medici Academy in Florence, where he experienced the ideal of free intellectual exchange, preserved in the written dialogue. Another was Rabbi Obadiah ben Jacob Sforno, whom he met in Rome and who introduced him to the sounds of Hebrew poetry as well as the mystical interpretation of the Hebrew Scriptures. Reuchlin’s correspondence while traveling and, later, with those he met on his travels has been published recently (4 vols., 1999) and shows the importance of travel in the formation of his ideas about languages and cultures.