Thursday 4 June 2015

COLSONOEL conference report

From ASNC doctoral students Rebecca Merkelbach and Caitlin Ellis:

This year, it was Cambridge’s turn to host the annual Cambridge Oxford London Symposium in Old Norse, Old English and Latin on Friday, 29th May. This postgraduate conference seeks to provide a friendly forum for doctoral and masters’ students at the Universities of Cambridge, Oxford and University College London in the fields of medieval Germanic and Latin studies to present their research. This year, in addition to lecturers from the three institutions, Prof Margaret Clunies Ross (Sydney) and Prof Heide Estes (Monmouth) also attended the symposium and contributed to the discussions.

The first session, chaired by Pete Sandberg (UCL), began with Jonathan Hui (Cambridge) discussing killer’s regret in Gautreks saga and Ásmundar saga kappabana. Next, Caroline Batten (Oxford) explored different types of shape-shifting across Old Norse literary texts. Finally, Simon Thomson (UCL) examined the creative interactions between words and images in the Old English Wonders of the East.

Following refreshments, Rebecca Merkelbach (Cambridge) chaired the second session, in which David Callander (Cambridge) convincingly argued for the Englishness of Laȝamon’s Brut based on the poem’s narrative style. Afterwards, Harriet Soper (Cambridge) investigated the depiction of birth (or the absence thereof) and infancy in the Old English Exeter Book Riddles.

After an excellent lunch, the third session – chaired by Timothy Bourns (Oxford) – featured papers both on Old English and Old Norse literature. Nicholas Hoffman (Cambridge) noted the poetic as well as pragmatic qualities of the Old English charms in comparison to heroic poetry. Turning to Old Norse eddic material, Katherine Olley (Cambridge) considered different versions of the Hildr legend and their exploration of marital and familial ties as well as the social realities underlying them. Brian McMahon (Oxford) closed the literary section of the day with a discussion of tense and person in Vǫluspá with regards to its performative potential.

The final session, chaired by Caitlin Ellis (Cambridge), turned towards more historical matters. Samuel Cardwell (Cambridge) analysed the advice offered to kings by Aldhelm, Bede and Boniface and their underlying practical concerns for edification. Next, Benjamin Allport (Cambridge) effectively challenged the historiographical consensus regarding the formation of Norwegian national identity. Last but not least, Louisa Taylor (UCL) evaluated the evidence for the participation of bishops and religious men in warfare in medieval Norway.

The day was closed by drinks at a local pub and a convivial dinner at La Margherita. We would like to thank all speakers, respondents and chairs for their contributions as well as the Scandinavian Studies Fund for its generous support. We look forward to seeing everyone in London next year.

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