Centre for Early Modern and Medieval Studies


The latest news from the Centre for Early Modern and Medieval Studies

2020 News: 

Call for Papers: Edmund Spenser and Animal Life 

A colloquium at the University of Sussex, Centre for Early Modern and Medieval Studies Friday 18th September 2020

Horses, lions, apes, butterflies, sheep, and aqueous creatures of many forms populate Spenser’s landscapes and poetic worlds - from the romance geography of The Faerie Queene to the pastoral realm of The Shepheardes Calender and beyond. Despite its panoply of non-human life, though, Spenser’s oeuvre has so far been neglected by animal studies. Led by scholars such as Erica Fudge, Laurie Shannon, Bruce Boehrer, and Karen Raber, this is a critical and philosophical approach that has lately gained much traction in early modern scholarship. Spenserians have brought posthuman approaches more broadly into dialogue with the poet’s works, namely in the special edition of Spenser Studies entitled Spenser and ‘The Human’ (2015, ed. Ayesha Ramachandran and Melissa E. Sanchez). And some important representative writings exist, Joseph Loewenstein’s 2007 essay ‘Gryll’s Hoggish Mind’, being key. But are we right to think that Spenser has ‘virtually no affective’, but instead a ‘highly theoretical’, engagement with fauna?[1] What might that theoretical engagement look and sound like? What are the affect and the effect of the animal in Spenser’s work? How do we position animal life in Spenser’s thought and his creativity?

Possible topics might include but are not limited to

  • Spenser’s theorisation of animal life
  • The works’ representation of particular species 
  • The connection between animals and genre or form
  • Spenser’s influence on his period’s understanding of animal life
  • The animal and the political
  • Animals and race
  • Empire and animals
  • Spenser's animals and religion (parable, biblical animals)
  • Spenser's speaking animals

Please send 200 word proposals, with a 50 word bio, to Dr Rachel Stenner at the University of Sussex (rachel.stenner@sussex.ac.uk) or Dr Abigail Shinn at Goldsmiths (a.shinn@goldsmiths.ac.uk) by Friday 1st May 2020. 

[1]Joseph Loewenstein, ‘Gryll’s Hoggish Mind’, Spenser Studies, 22 (2007), 243-56 (244–6).

Critical Race Studies workshops

Funded by the CHASE Consortium, the Universities of East Anglia and Sussex are hosting two postgraduate training workshops on critical race studies and the pre-modern. The first of these will be held at the University of East Anglia, 23-24 March 2020, and will focus on teaching and pedagogy; the second will be held at The University of Sussex, 8-9 June 2020, and will focus on research. Both events are designed to develop students’ professional skills. We invite expressions of interest from all postgraduates working in the Humanities (giving papers, designing and chairing sessions, attending). For more information, see here, or feel free to contact W.Rossiter@uea.ac.uk or a.hadfield@sussex.ac.uk

2019 News:

We are incredibly excited to launch our Autumn seminar series, the full details of this are listed below. In collaboration with multiple departments and colloquia, we will be welcoming speakers, both from Sussex, and also from leading institutions across the country. The speakers -- linked below-- will be exploring the early modern and medieval periods from a wide range of disciplines including; History, English, and the History of Art.

Autumn Seminar Series 

- Monday 14th October 2019, 4-6pm, English Social Space, B27, Dr Chloe Porter, University of Sussex: "Tell me who made the world": Diabolical Beginnings in Marlowe's Doctor Faustus'

Thursday 24th October, 4-6pm, Arts A 108, Professor Alison Rowlands, University of Essex, in collaboration with the Department of History Work-in-Progress seminar: ‘The Life and Times of Michael Würth: Writing an Historical Biography of a Man Accused of Witchcraft in Germany in 1663’

 - Monday 18th November, 5-7pm, English Social Space, B274, Professor Catherine Bates, University of Warwick: 'Sidney's Poetry: the Rhetoric of Courtship Revisited'

- Wednesday 27th November, 5-7pm, Jubilee 144, Dr Natalya Din-Kariuki, University of Warwick, in collaboration with the English Colloquium: 'Credit, Creditability, and Corporations in Early Modern Travel Writing'

- Tuesday 3 December, 4:15-6:30, Arts A 108, Dr Flora Dennis, University of Sussex, in collaboration with the Department of Art History: 'Cooking Pots, Tableware and the Changing Sounds of Sociability in Italy, 1300-1700'

- Monday 9th December, 6pm onwards, The Shakespeare's Head Pub, Christmas Quiz!


People of Print: Printers, Stationers & Booksellers, 1500-1830 Conference

12/09/2019 - 14/09/2019

Plenary Speakers: Professor Lisa Maruca, Wayne State University and Professor James Raven, University of Cambridge

Whether we view them as tastemakers, ideological brokers, or entrepreneurial opportunists, the personnel of the book trade undeniably shaped the book cultures of the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries. While capital, technology, and markets are all powerful factors in the trade’s development, its people are its most significant agents. Current research across periods is demonstrating the creative agency of book trade personnel, and the extent of their cultural and political engagement. As recent monographs and essay collections demonstrate, book trade history in this period is now firmly established as a field of study. Much remains to be done, however, to understand and theorise the cultural and social activities, subjectivities, and identities of book trade personnel. This interdisciplinary conference will re-evaluate their roles, and explore directions for future research. We seek to draw together book history, printing history, reading history, and literary studies. For more information and conference registration, please see here.



Polonius: The Polish Man?

 27/06/2019 19.00

Polonius is often portrayed on stage as a bumbling intrusive counsellor to King Claudius. In 1598 a major Polish work, The Counsellor, appeared in English translation for the first time. Is this why Shakespeare gave his counsellor the Latin name for “Polish man”? How much was Shakespeare influenced by this and other political and continental writings? A panel of leading Polish and English scholars, directors and commentators will offer perspectives on Polonius from theatrical and political points of view. For more information, click here.


'Your Cat is watching You': The Fearless Felines Hidden by Their Author


Afira Akhbar's Guardian article on the new stage adaptation of William Baldwin's Beware the Cat is available to read here. For more information of Rachel Stenner's Beware the Cat project, please see here.


The Art of Authority Thomas Wentworth Chief Govenor of Ireland (1632-41) 


One day event held at Bedford Hall, Dublin Castle. For more information, click here.


Thomas Nashe Lenten Stuff Film screening 

17/06/2019 18.00–19.30

Thomas Nashe Lenten Stuff Film screening and discussion of Thomas Nashe Lenten Stuff (2019, dir. Anna Brass (BSR)) with Andrew Hadfield (Sussex), Jennifer Richards (Newcastle) and Kate De Rycker (Newcastle). For more information, click here.


England's Islamic Identity: Writing From the Periphery 1500-1700

07/06/2019 The Museum of the Order of St John.

This CHASE funded, one day symposium, organised by Sussex's Thomas Collins and Tomasz Kowalczyk, examined the rich history of Anglo-Islamic cultural exchange in the Anglophone literature of the early modern period. As increased commerce and exploration widened the scope of English interactions abroad, the body of writing concerned with an increasingly familiar portion of the world grew rapidly. English writers now sought to understand and portray Islamic places and people, from Mughal India to North Africa, in relation to themselves. These writer, often merchants and adventurers in their own right, found themselves at the centre of supremely rich and expansive foreign power structures, prompting the calibration of an English national identity still only in its infancy. This event explored how the increasingly formalised Anglo-Islamic interaction spurred a change in English thinking about national identity in an ever-expanding world, from the period before the conception of the British Empire, to an environment of burgeoning imperialism.


Beware the Cat


An adaptation of William Baldwin's Beware the Cat - arguably the first English novel! - was staged at the Attenborough Centre for the Creative Arts, as part of the Brighton Fringe. For more information, see the project's Blog here. You will also be able to hear Sussex's Dr Rachel Stenner speak about the context of Baldwin's work here.

NB. There is an additional perdormance of Beware the Cat at the Royal Shakespeare Company on Saturday, 6th July. The event is free, but ticketed. For more info, please see here.


Spectacular Imaginings Undergraduate Research Symposium


Undergraduate students who are enrolled in the Spectacular Imaginings Module, which runs in collaboration with the Globe Theatre, presented their original research in front of members of the CEMMS faculty and PhD cohort.


Spring 2019 Seminar Series


6 February: Katherine Ibbett (Oxford), ‘Surface Writing: On the SeventeenthCentury Saint Lawrence River’. 5pm, Silverstone 309

13 February: Emma Whipday (Newcastle), ‘“You see my sister’s yet at my dispose”: Brothers and Sisters on the Early Modern Stage’. 5pm, Silverstone 309

25 February: Work in progress: Flora Dennis, Nicole Mennell, Joanne Paul. 12.30pm, Arts B B217

13 March: Staged reading of The Politician. 5pm, Attenborough Centre

1 April: Tom Kowalczyk (Sussex), ‘‘‘In Sight of the World”? Writing Diplomatic Authority in 1590s Istanbul’. 5pm, Arts B B274

29 April: Matthew Champion (Birkbeck), Dove-Medcalflecture, ‘The Shifting Sounds of Time: Europe, 1321–1600’. 6pm, Arts B B274

7 June: 'England's Islamic Identity: Writing from the Periphery 1500-1700’. Museum of the Order of St. John.


Autumn 2018 Seminar Series


 8 Oct: Rachel Stenner, ‘Upsetting the Applecart: William Baldwin’sCanticles or Balades of Salomon, phraselyke declared in Englysh metres (1547)'.

15 October: Martin Ingram (Oxford), ‘Regulating Sex in Shakespearean London’.

5 November: lunchtime work-in-progress: Duncan Fraser, Zeyneb Maksudoglu, Katie Walter.

15 November: Charles Nicholl: Q. & A. about Sir Walter Ralegh’s voyage to discover El Dorado (to mark the 400th anniversary of Ralegh’s execution).

3 December: Christmas Quiz!


2018 News Stories:


15/05/2018: Upcoming event - The Renaissance China Cabinet, Tuesday 22nd May. A Staged Reading of a New Play by Red Dragonfly Theatre Company with the University of Sussex. Followed by an informal Q&A with directors and actors. This is a project that has grown within CEMMS, and will culminate in a series of performances at Southwark Cathedral in December. 4pm-5pm in The ACCA Creativity Zone, Pevensey III, Room C7

03/05/2018: We have just announced an additional CEMMS speaker - Miranda Thomas (University College Dublin) will give a talk on ''Let shame say what it will: Shakespeare's shaming gestures' in the School of English Social Space on Monday 21st May at 5pm. All welcome, please come along. 

04/03/2018: A recent publication from CEMMS PhD candidate Nicole Mennell - ""The Dignity of Mankind": Edward Tyson's Anatomie of a Pygmy and the Ape-Man Boundary" appears in Seeing Animals After Derrida in the Ecocritical Theory and Practice series (Lexington Books, 2017). The chapter places Derrida's discussion of the autopsic gaze alongside that of the work undertaken by Edward Tyson, a physician, fellow of the Royal Society of London, and a pioneer of early modern compariative anatomy, who took a particular interest in rare animals. The focus of this chapter will be on perhaps his most signficant text, Orang-Outang, sive Homo Sylvestris: Or, the Anatomy of a Pygmie Compared with that of a Monkey, an Ape, and a Man (1699)

19/02/18: Find out about a new conference focusing on Widening Participation co-organised by CEMMS PhD candidate Nicole Mennell. Click here for more information. 

18/02/18: Our CEMMS visiting speaker series continues in the Spring term. 

PLEASE NOTE! Most of these talks will take place in the Social Space on Mondays at 5pm, except the first. Wine and snacks provided, as usual. 

Wednesday 21st February (Jubilee 144): Sonia Massai (Kings London), 'Standard Accents and Acoustic Diversity in (Radio) Shakespeare' Annual Shakespeare Lecture

Monday 12 March, Emma Whipday (UCL), '"I rest your pore troublesome sister": Sibling Bonds and Familial Roles on the Early Modern Stage'

Monday 16 April, Alice Equestri (Sussex), ‘Shakespeare's licensed fools and early modern 'idiocy'?’


2017 News Stories:


21/09/17: Our programme of talks for 2016/17 has been announced! Join us on October 2nd to hear Kirsty Rolfe (QMUL/Sussex) speaking on "Fatal and memorable: plague and war in 1625".

PLEASE NOTE! Most of these talks will take place in the Social Space on Mondays at 5pm. Wine and snacks provided, as usual. 

Oct. 2 – Kirsty Rolfe (QMUL/Sussex), 'Fatal and memorable: plague and war in 1625'. 

Oct. 23 - Mary Flannery (Geneva), Dove/Medcalf lecture, "Nat worth a toord"?: The Reception of Chaucerian Obscenity'.

Nov. 8 – Alan Stewart (Columbia), ‘Richard Rogers and the rise of the early modern diary’.

Nov. 20 – Joe Moshenska (St. John’s College, Oxford), ‘‘Iconoclasm as Child’s Play’

Dec. 4 – Charles Nichol (Sussex) / Pascal Briost (Tours)


06/03/17: February saw the inaugural issue of the Brief Encounters journal, co-founded and co-edited by Nicole Mennell, a CEMMS PhD student studying the connections made between figures of sovereignty and animals in early modern drama. Brief Encounters was founded in April 2016 by postgraduate researchers from across the Consortium for the Humanities and Arts in South-East England (CHASE), and showcases research undertaken by CHASE-funded and affiliated individuals as well as non-HEI partner members. As an open access journal, Brief Encounters supports the dissemination of knowledge to a global readership, with the intent that the research it publishes encourages the exchange of ideas outside of traditional academic circles. All articles published by Brief Encounters are free to read and accessible to all with no registration required. Taking inspiration from CHASE’s biannual conference ‘Encounters’, and the 1945 film, Brief Encounter, the journal hopes to inspire intellectual relationships between individuals separated by geographical distances. In these brief, but still meaningful, academic encounters, the journal aims to start conversations which will lead to unexpected journeys.


2016 News Stories:


21/12/16: Building on the success of 2014's one day symposium on "Modified Bodies and Prosthesis in Medieval and Early Modern England" organised by CEMMS, Chloe Porter, Katie Walter and Margaret Healy have edited a special issue of Textual Practice on the same subject entitled Prosthesis in Medieval and Early Modern Culture. The collection of essays is the first such dedicated to prosthesis in medieval and early modern English culture and demonstrates the importance of the 'pre' or 'early' modern to histories and theories of prosthesis. Emerging first as a grammatical term in the English language in the sixteenth century and as a term for medical or bodily supplementation in the eighteenth century, contemporary explorations of prosthesis have often excluded or overlooked the medieval and early modern. Contributions to this issue, however, demonstrate both the longer histories of prosthesis (in medical, religious and dramatic contexts), and the ways in which medieval and early modern literary forms and genres (poetic, dramatic, exemplary, revelatory) can speak to our present-day discourse on this subject. 


10/10/16: Andrew Hadfield and Mat Dimmock are both speaking at the upcoming AHRC funded event "Thomas Nashe: Prose, Drama, and the Oral Culture of Early Modern London", a symposium jointly organsed by The Thomas Nashe Project and Shakespeare's Globe. The event takes place on Saturday 20th May 2017 at the Nancy Knowles Lecture Theatre, Shakespeare's Globe, and will explore the work of Thomas Nashe (1567-c.1600), a major polemicist, prose stylist, dramatist and early novelist, whose writing shaped the culture of early modern literature in the age of Shakespeare. 

The symposium and drinks reception (10am – 6pm) are free and open to the general public (but please sign up since places are limited). In the evening the Globe is hosting a ‘Read Not Dead’ reading of The Terrors of the Night in The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse (tickets: £20 and £10). This event will be a staged reading of Thomas Nashe’s unsettling and disturbing exploration of night terrors by candlelight in The Sam Wanamaker Playhouse. Nashe speaks in a variety of voices as his speaker tries to understand whether humans are surrounded by demons, witches and ghosts, or whether these are real terrors unleashed by the devil in his futile struggle with God. It will be the first time that Nashe’s extraordinary text, which had a major influence on the development of prose and drama in the age of Shakespeare, has been read aloud by candlelight.

The symposium is free and open to the public, but registration is necessary. Please contact Prof. Andrew Hadfield, University of Sussex (a.hadfield@sussex.ac.uk) for further details. Tickets for the ‘Read Not Dead’ event will be available on the Globe website from Jan. 2017.

For more details, including a list of speakers, download this PDF: [PDF 707.72KB]


21/09/16: Listen to a podcast of Professor Andrew Hadfield's plenery address at the 6th Annual Tudor & Stuart Ireland Interdisciplinary Conference which took place at NUI Galway in August, 2016. His paper was entitled 'Edmund Spencer the Less among the Jacobites': https://soundcloud.com/history-hub/andrew-hadfield-edmund-spencer-the-less-among-the-jacobites 


20/06/16: Our programme of talks for 2016/17 has been announced! Join us on the 4th October to hear Will Tosh (Shakespeare’s Globe) speak on ‘That Unhappy Family': Coping with the Earl of Essex, 1595-1600’. Starts at 6pm in B264. All welcome. Details of further talks below:

All events in B264 (English Social Space), at 6pm unless stated otherwise.

First Semester

18 October, Angela Andreani (Sussex), ‘'In and out of archives: The life and adventures of Meredith Hanmer, Anglican divine'.

1 November, Jo Paul (Sussex), ‘Utopia in the Context of More's Thought’. - POSTPONED until 15th November

8 November, Laura Kounine (Sussex), ‘Emotions and Selfhood in German Lutheran Witch-Trials'.

23 November, Richard Wilson (Kingston) ‘Wheel of Fire: memory, mourning and the Shakespeare Memorial Theatre’ [part of the English Colloquium series].

29 November, (with Art History), Mick O'Malley and Francesco Ventrella, ‘Botticelli: Life and Afterlife’ (N. B. A108).

6 December, An event celebrating 25 years since the publication of Charles Nicholl’s The Reckoning.


Second Semester

2 Feb., Eva Johanna Holmberg (Helsinki), ‘Perceiving Levantines: British Cultural Descriptions of the Ottoman Empire and its Non-Muslim Peoples, 1580-1640’.

14 Feb., Art History event (A108), to be confirmed.

1 March, Helen Moore (Oxford) ‘‘Rich tissue: the materials of death in Webster’ [part of the English Colloquium series].

14 March, Ben Fowler (Sussex), ‘Shakespeare Schaubühne Style: Disinterring Dukes, Danes, and Bunchback’d Toads’

23 March, Emma Smith (Oxford), Annual Shakespeare Lecture, ‘‘Exit pursued by a bear’ (again): reading Shakespeare’s stage direction’.

4 April, Per Sivefors (Linmnaeus), ‘Representing Manhood in Tudor and Stuart Verse Satire’.

15 July: Symposium at St. Paul’s Cathedral (details to be advertised later).