Tuesday 12 November 2013

Cambridge University Festival of Ideas

Myriah Williams writes:

On Saturday, the 26th of October the Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic participated in the University of Cambridge's Festival of Ideas, an event held annually since 2008 designed to encourage the community and anyone with an interest in Cambridge’s work and research in the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences, to come over, check us out and meet the faculty and students.

Several events were held within our department on the Saturday, with two well-attended lectures by faculty members Dr Richard Dance and Prof Simon Keynes, speaking on ‘Frontiers in Anglo-Saxon England’, on the Tuesday following.  The majority of Saturday's events, organized under the theme ‘Beyond Borders: Exploring the Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic Worlds’, were run by graduate students, led by Christine Voth.  Upstairs in the department itself, attendees could enjoy a re-enactment of Groenlendinga saga, have a look at the work being carried out by the Orkney Project, or, for the young (and young at heart), there was a colouring session where future ASNCs were invited to hone their artistic skills with a variety of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic art, or to try their hand at the runic and Ogham scripts.

Downstairs we were happy to present two brief lectures.  The first was a discussion of the Otherworld in Celtic mythology and literature, including a dramatic retelling, in English and Welsh, of a tale from the Mabinogion, a celebrated collection of Medieval Welsh prose texts.  The second lecture was an exploration and appreciation of the importance of borders and marginalia in a selection of medieval manuscripts originating from each of the cultures covered by our research.

Running concurrently with the lectures was a poster session, encompassing a wide variety of topics within the fields covered by ASNC, where attendees of the Festival were welcome to browse at their leisure.  Use of the English Faculty Library’s iPad, generously loaned for the occasion, to explore high-resolution digital images of manuscripts was a popular feature of this session, and was helpful in demonstrating the increasing value of new technology in the study of medieval artifacts.

It’s not every day that we get to share our enthusiasm in our research with the general public, so we hope to see the Festival of Ideas continue to celebrate the Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences for many years to come!

Wednesday 6 November 2013

October Computus Workshop

 ASNC doctoral student Tony Harris writes:

On Monday 28th October ASNaC was treated to a visit by Immo Warntjes, Lecturer in Irish Medieval History at Queen’s University, Belfast. Immo originally worked as a postgraduate researcher in the Foundations of Irish Culture Project at the National University of Ireland, Galway, where he also completed his Ph.D. under Professor Dáibhí Ó Cróinín in 2007.  Immo’s primary field of interest is early medieval scientific thought but he is probably best known for his work in the field of computus (medieval time-reckoning). His PhD thesis later became his monograph and is published as The Munich Computus: Text & Translation. Irish computistics between Isidore of Seville and the Venerable Bede and its reception in Carolingian times (Stuttgart: Steiner 2010). In addition to this work, Immo has also been extensively involved with the International Conference on the Science of Computus which happens every two years in Galway (next one in 2014)

Immo kindly spent last Monday in the department where he met with members of staff and graduate students and his day culminated in a paper for the ASNC graduate seminar entitled 'Willibrord the computist: harbinger of the Carolingian renaissance?'. The paper provided significant food for thought and argued quite convincingly that the 7th century missionary saint Willibrord had a much more far reaching influence on the study and application of medieval European computistics than had previously been thought.

There are a number of ASNC post-graduate students who are either working directly in the field of medieval computus or in fields that are allied to it. Computus is an area that is under-researched and there is a general dearth of workshops, courses and scholarly material outside of original manuscript sources. It was therefore very kind of Immo to run a two hour computus workshop on the Monday morning (thoughtfully arranged by Dr Rosalind Love) and this was well attended by some twenty students from the faculty. During the workshop Immo discussed the ‘Easter Controversy’ which had occupied the thoughts and minds of the early church fathers and is something that, even today, gives rise to disagreement. Immo also discussed the basis for the calculation of the date of Easter and the differences between Roman and Celtic computistical methods. Latin terminology and manuscript evidence was presented along with relevant historical background. The workshop was extremely enjoyable and highly interactive with lots of opportunities for students to participate. Immo introduced the various types of Easter tables (Celtic and Roman) focusing on differences with interpretation and calculation in a session which was highly informative and provided a significant  amount of useful information. Immo came to medieval studies with a background in mathematics and he has an impressive amount of experience in the area of computistics. His delivery and content was both clear and concise as well as engaging, incisive, and directly relevant to graduate study.

After the workshop a number of ASNC graduates agreed together that a ‘self-help’ workshop focused on working through and interpreting computistical tables would be an extremely useful extension to Immo’s session and something along these lines will be arranged separately. If you would be interested in attending and/or contributing to such a workshop please ask to be added to Tony Harris’s Facebook group on Medieval Computus.