Centre for Early Modern and Medieval Studies

Middle English Literary Theory Workshop

Middle English Literary Theory: Keywords and Methodologies

A One-Day Workshop at the University of Sussex

Thursday 16th June 2016

The 1999 anthology The Idea of the Vernacular aimed to be ground-breaking, setting up a new foundation for work on Middle English literary theory. This anthology’s call to consider Middle English literature as a site for theoretical thought has been taken up by a number of scholars in relation to particular texts and topics (e.g. Minnis and Johnson (2005), I. Johnson (2013), and E. Johnson (2013)). Yet fundamental questions about both the limits and the possibilities of vernacular literary theory in medieval England remain unanswered. This one-day workshop seeks to establish current attitudes and approaches to Middle English literary theory, and to revisit and re-imagine the methodologies for scholarly inquiry into it. The workshop aims broadly to reflect on questions such as: Do Middle English writings evidence a specific and developed vernacular literary theory? If so in what ways is this theory distinctive from Latinate and French traditions? Is there a Middle English lexicon for describing and doing literary theory? And if so, can the description and analysis of this lexicon provide one way of taking forward the study of Middle English literary theory?

Places are limited, but if you are interested in attending the workshop, please contact the workshop organisers by 27 May 2016: James Wade (jpw49@cam.ac.uk) or Katie Walter (K.L.Walter@sussex.ac.uk)


Draft Workshop Programme

Donatus writing his grammarBritish Library MS Arundel 43 f.80v Donatus writing his grammar

Jubilee Room 117

10.30   Arrival and coffee

11.00    Introduction (James Wade, Girton College, Cambridge)

11.15     Session 1

Jenni Nuttall (St Edmund Hall, Oxford)         ‘Poesie and Poetrie’

Conor Leahy (Cambridge)                            'Theory and Practice'

Jane Griffiths (Wadham College, Oxford)       ‘Untranslatability’

12.45    Lunch

13.45    Session 2

Nicolette Zeeman (King’s College, Cambridge) ‘A figure with
a name and no name: Vernacular personification'

Katie Walter (Sussex University)                   ‘Boistous’

Jocelyn Wogan-Browne (Fordham University) ‘French’ (a discussion led by JWB)

15.15    Coffee

15.45    Session 3 Keynote and Roundtable discussion


Ian Johnson (University of St Andrews)          ‘The Miscellaneity and Coherence of Middle English Literary Theory’

Roundtable discussion

17.30 Close and drinks