Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Medieval Furness: Texts and Contexts

Dr Fiona Edmonds writes:

I am writing to tell you about the AHRC-funded project ‘Hagiography at the Frontiers: Jocelin of Furness and Insular Politics’ and the associated conference ‘Medieval Furness: Texts and Contexts’, which will take place on 8th July, 2011. I am the Co-investigator on the project; the other participants are Dr Clare Downham, University of Liverpool (Principal Investigator) and Dr Ingrid Sperber (Research Associate). The project will run for two years, from July 2010 until July 2012.

The aims of the project are threefold: to bring forth editions and translations of two texts (Jocelin’s Lives of Patrick and Helena); to conduct research into the cultural context in which Jocelin was working; and to further knowledge of Jocelin’s work amongst the general public, particularly in Cumbria and North Lancashire. The writings of Jocelin of Furness have not attracted a great deal of scholarship, although there has been a resurgence of interest in his work recently, as witnessed by Dr Helen Birkett’s book The Saints’ Lives of Jocelin of Furness (Woodbridge: Boydell and Brewer, 2010). The study of Jocelin’s work has been made more difficult by the absence of satisfactory published editions of certain texts, notably the Life of St Patrick. Jocelin’s writings are, however, of great interest to scholars of twelfth-century Britain and Ireland

Furness Abbey (image from Wikimedia commons)

One of the most interesting features of Jocelin’s work is his interest in the Celtic world: Jocelin not only wrote a Life of Patrick, but also a Life of Kentigern (a North British saint and the patron of Glasgow) and a Life of St Helena, whose Brittonic origins were stressed by Jocelin. Jocelin also composed a Life of St Waltheof (d. 1159), who was abbot of Melrose in the Scottish Borders, a leading monastic reformer in northern England and a stepson of the Scottish king David I. It is interesting to ponder the extent to which the location of Furness Abbey (pictured) facilitated Jocelin’s connections with, and interest in, the Celtic world. The Furness peninsula lay at the outer edge of the Anglo-Norman realm and Furness fell under Scottish rule for a time. The inhabitants of Furness were culturally and linguistically diverse and the location of the peninsula – protruding into the Irish Sea – facilitated contact with Ireland and the Isle of Man. My role in the project is to investigate the cultural and linguistic history of medieval Furness and to study Furness’s network of daughter houses, many of which were located in Ireland and Man.

The project’s main themes will be explored in our day conference ‘Medieval Furness: Texts and Contexts’. The conference will take place at the Abbey House hotel, Barrow-in-Furness; the programme is copied below. The conference is supported by the University of Liverpool and the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse, and Celtic, University of Cambridge. Please contact Dr Fiona Edmonds to obtain further information and a booking form.


9.00 Registration
9.30 Opening remarks: Keith Stringer (Lancaster University)
9.45 Janet Burton (University of Wales, Trinity Saint David)
Furness, Savigny and the Cistercian World
10.15 Hugh Doherty (University of Oxford)
The twelfth-century benefactors and enemies of Furness Abbey
10.45 Tea/Coffee
11.15  John Reuben Davies (University of Glasgow)
The Life of St Waldef, abbot of Melrose
11.45 Marie-Therese Flanagan (Queen’s University, Belfast)
The Life of St Patrick, patron saint of Ireland
12.15 Seán Duffy (Trinity College Dublin)
Ulster, Dublin and the Irish Sea Region in the age of Jocelin
12.45 Lunch
2.00 Helen Birkett (Edinburgh University)
Jocelin and the literary legacy of Furness Abbey
2. 30 Jason Wood (Heritage Consultancy Services)
Furness Abbey: art, literature and tourism
3.00 Closing Remarks: Richard Sharpe (University of Oxford)
3.30 Visit to Furness Abbey
6pm Conference dinner 

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