The next session of the semester 2 ANZAMEMS ECR/Postgraduate reading group is scheduled for Tuesday, September 26, on the topic “Violence and Behavioural Control.”
The session of the ANZAMEMS Postgrad/ECR reading group on ‘Race in Mughal India’ which was initially scheduled for Tuesday August 29 at 6pm AEST has been postponed to the new date of Tuesday September 5 at 6pm AEST. Please find all further details in the attached schedule.
The next session of the ANZAMEMS ECR/Postgrad reading group for semester 2 is scheduled for Tuesday, August 29, on the topic “Race in Mughal India.”
The second session of the ANZAMEMS ECR/Postgrad reading group for semester 2 is scheduled for Tuesday, August 1, on the topic of “Shells, Bodies, and Materiality.” The session will be led by Alexandra Forsyth (University of Auckland).
The convenors of the ANZAMEMS reading group are pleased to provide the below confirmed schedule for Semester 2 2023.
The first session is scheduled for Tuesday, July 4; please find all further details, including the session topic and hour, in the schedule.
The organisers are still interested to hear from members who may be interested in leading one of the listed sessions, for which readings have already been selected. Please email Emma.Rayner@anu.edu.au / Emily.Chambers@nottingham.ac.uk if you would like to participate in this way.
The ANZAMEMS ECR/Postgraduate Reading Group discusses the latest research in medieval and early modern studies, with the aim of promoting engagement with emerging and established fields of inquiry in MEMS research.
Virtual sessions of the reading group will take place via Zoom monthly between June and October/November 2023. Each session will take one or two recent articles or chapters related to a certain topic/methodological approach/trend in MEMS scholarship, and feature a short presentation from an ANZAMEMS member (whose own research is ideally in the vicinity of their chosen session theme), followed by questions-led discussion.
The reading group will be co-convened by Emma Rayner (PhD candidate, ANU) and Emily Chambers (PhD candidate, University of Nottingham).
We hope to foster a convivial and intellectually productive online space—think advanced graduate seminar!—where we can come together to talk all things MEMS research in a fairly informal manner, while expanding our networks or strengthening existing connections. Everyone is welcome, including more senior members of ANZAMEMS.
ANZAMEMS members who are interested in leading a session based around one of the below themes or a topic of your own selection, AND/OR who are interested in providing a short write-up of a session for a planned ANZAMEMS postgrad blog, please email Emma.Rayner@anu.edu.au / Emily.Chambers@nottingham.ac.uk no later than June 16, 2023.
A finalized schedule and Zoom link will be circulated ahead of our first meeting for the semester on June 27.
Possible session themes include:
- Affect / emotion studies
- Critical race studies
- Cultures of materiality
- Comparative / transnational studies
- Travel and cultural encounter
- Visual culture
- Religion, religious culture
- Borders, borderlands
- Language and translation
- Geography, cartography
- Time and temporality
- Performance studies
- Knowledge production
- Virtue, vertu
- Cultures of collecting
- Book history
- Afterlives, reception studies
- Digital Humanities
- Manuscript studies
- Intellectual networks
- Devotional communities
- Reading, coteries
- Disability studies
- Gender studies
- Class studies
The fourth session of the ANZAMEMS PGR/ECR Reading Group took place on Zoom on Tuesday 2 May. This week’s reading, kindly recommended to the group by Natalie Tomas (Monash), was Tamar Herzig’s article on ‘Slavery and Interethnic Sexual Violence: A Multiple Perpetrator Rape in Seventeenth-Century Livorno’, The American Historical Review, 127/1 (2022): 194–222, which studies the 1610 rape of a group of 14 enslaved Jewish women by Muslim slaves and Catholic forced laborers in the slave prison (Bagno) at Livorno. Using written sources which respond to the rape, Herzig argues that it was orchestrated by the high-ranking physician Dr Bernardetto Buonromei in order to put pressure on the city’s Jewish community to pay high ransoms for the women. Herzig places the rape in the context of the Mediterranean slave trade and of the place of Jews in the Italian city, and skilfully mines limited primary source material to shed light on the event and its consequences.
The group praised Herzig’s research and writing throughout the session, noting that the article offers an example par excellence of how historians can work with and not against archival silences. The main sources taken up by Herzig were the petitions of the Jewish leaders (massari) to Grand Duke Cosimo II. These supplications do not describe the rapes themselves, but instead underline their graphic results of sexual violence for the women, with one attempting to kill her daughters and then herself in response. The group also appreciated Herzig’s attentiveness to the strategies of rhetoric silencing deployed in Buonromei’s response to the allegations, which essentially served to erase the traces of the violence done to the female slaves. For instance, Buonromei uses the plural masculine form, ebrei (Jews), to refer to the slaves, and makes reference only to forms of punishment administered to men (e.g. head-shaving). Our members found this example of the contemporary historical erasure of the Jewish female slaves in real-time particularly fascinating, as the process is usually understood as something which is enacted retrospectively.
Herzig described the Jewish population in the free city of Livorno at the time as “thriving” and segregated into a semi-autonomous community, but as nonetheless lacking in power or status in important ways. Whereas Muslim slaves could expect decent treatment, or else the Maghrebi authorities would in turn retaliate against Catholic slaves, enslaved Jews had no sovereign Jewish power to call down in the event of maltreatment, and were also unable to gain their freedom via exchange with their Christian counterparts. The reading group mused that the existence of a Jewish nation or government in the seventeenth-century may have ensured a better treatment of Jewish slaves in Italy. We also acknowledged that the treatment of Mediterranean slaves was really based on financial or business reasoning, rather than human motivations. Both Cosimo and Herzig honed into the financial element of securing ransoms from the Jews of Livorno for these Jewish female slaves. However, it was pointed out that the Jewish community had only a small fund and a firm cap on ransoms, while the slaves had been captured with their families and so had no kin to pay ransoms, meaning that Livorno could not expect profitable ransoms for the women. The rapes could also have had a wider motivation of leveraging fear amongst the city’s minorities. However, Buonromei was probably unaware of the financial state of the Jewish community and expected them to be able to pay up.
We also considered the complete lack of censure or prosecution which Bounromei faced; following the supplications, he remained in his role in the slave prison and continued to enjoy Cosimo’s favour. This is unsurprising, as the Grand Duke was unlikely to side with the enslaved women (and by extension, with the Jewish massari) against a state official. As the women were slaves, it was unlikely that the rape would be prosecuted. We also noted that, as slaves, they were assumed to lack honour, so (theoretically) could not be “dishonoured” by the rape. This led to a discussion about the nature of honour, during the course of which the following questions were posed: Was the honour at stake in this multi-perpetrator rape a communal honour wherein the Jewish men were shamed by the attack on their women? Was ransoming a restoration of personal honour, meaning that slavery’s loss of honour was only temporary, but was rape a permanent alienation of honour? Was honour attached to agency, or to a lack of it, in women?
The group also questioned what the women’s value as slaves would have been at the time – Herzig gives no sense of their monetary worth or the market value of slaves in seventeenth-century Livorno. We understood it was more profitable to ransom slaves than sell them to buyers. Herzig did note that those who converted to Catholicism could not be sold, and that the babies of slaves were baptised, leading mothers to either accept conversion too or else be separated from their children. This led to a discussion on the practice of appropriating children into religion at birth, which was very widespread, and of using socio-economic incentives to seek Jewish conversions to Catholicism. On this subject (but through a nineteenth-century lens), Natalie Tomas recommended the following book: The Kidnapping of Edgardo Mortara, by David I. Kertzer.
Emily Chambers (University of Nottingham)
The next session of the reading group will be on Tuesday 23 May, 4:00pm (AEST), on the theme of Language and Translation. All ANZAMEMS members are welcome.
If you’ve missed any of the past sessions, summaries are published on the ANZAMEMS newsletter: https://www.anzamems.org/?cat=408
The recent cyclone and floods that devastated parts of New Zealand prompted Emma Rayner (ANU), convener of the third meeting of the ANZAMEMS Postgrad/ECR Reading Group, to consider how medieval and early modern writers represent crisis and catastrophe. This field of inquiry has recently been enhanced and expanded by a special issue of the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies entitled ‘Forms of Catastrophe’ (2022). As editors Shannon Gayk and Evelyn Reynolds argue in their introduction, “[c]risis, disaster, and catastrophe were perhaps no more common in the Middle Ages and Renaissance than they are today, but premodern writers often engaged with the world’s precarity in strikingly different ways than we might now” (1). Expanding this claim, the essays in the special issue address a wide range of premodern texts, showing how catastrophes both “shape and are shaped by literary form” (1). The introduction to this special issue served as the selected reading, and two optional readings catered to both medievalists and early modernists in the ANZAMEMS reading group, namely Evelyn Reynolds’ ‘“They Saw Mute Creation Trembling”: Forms of Catastrophe in the Old English Christ III’ (pp. 41–67) and Ryan Netzley’s ‘Managed Catastrophe: Problem-Solving and Rhyming Couplets in the Seventeenth-Century Country House Poem’ (pp. 147–73). Although slightly fewer in number than in previous sessions, the reading group participants held a substantive, critically-engaged and enjoyable discussion on Tuesday April 11.
Reynolds’ article on Christ III, an Old English poem that narrates Christ’s Passion through the catastrophes of Judgement Day and the Crucifixion, illustrates the interplay between catastrophe and literary form. Offering an ecopoetic reading of suffering in the poem, Reynolds suggests that “Christ III leads the reader to experience the impossibility of fully understanding catastrophe, forcing the reader to question the individual’s role in catastrophe” (43-4). Recognising that current preoccupations shape our response to the past, participants reflected on Reynolds’ tentative connection to present climate concerns, questioning whether her reading was sufficiently political. However, participants also observed that Reynolds’ reading of catastrophe in Christ III as a mix of human responsibility and the unknowability of God’s will, (partially) decentres the human and foregrounds the ambiguity and uncertainty that inheres in catastrophe. This itself is a striking response to the contemporary impulse to reject the uncomfortable ‘grey area’ in favour of (often more polarising) black and white responses to catastrophe.
On the other hand, Netzley’s article on seventeenth-century country house poems and catastrophe, provoked considerable scepticism among reading group participants. Netzley reads the manor house as an “emblem of not just largesse, but moderation and well-managed husbandry” (147), asking whether management is a productive response to catastrophe or in fact part of the problem. In discussing Netzley’s article, reading group participants identified the need for more structural and argumentative clarity and were generally unconvinced by his reading of Ben Jonson’s “To Penshurst” as a catastrophe.
Nonetheless, recognising that catastrophe can be repurposed and interpreted in different ways, both by writers and readers, part of the discussion focused on the range of formal techniques deployed by premodern writers as they grapple with the difficulty of describing catastrophic events. Drawing examples from the two articles, some formal techniques that generated discussion included list-making, linguistic excess, and the inexpressibility topos. Some participants expressed doubt as to whether these techniques were explicitly indicative of crisis, noting for example, that the Book of Revelation uses the narrative accumulation of events rather than listing to depict the ultimate catastrophe and that Chaucer deploys the idea of having nothing further to say (i.e. the inexpressibility topos) as a mere turn of phrase to signal a change of topic. Other respondents emphasised that list-making, linguistic excess and inexpressibility were part of a broad spectrum of premodern literary devices that could be mobilised to represent and respond to catastrophe.
One of the crucial take-aways from the articles and corresponding discussion was a sense of the multi-faceted relationship between catastrophe and time. Drawing on the selected readings, participants discussed the deictic present or ‘nowness’ associated with representing catastrophe, the idea that catastrophic events may be located in memory even as the writer tries to conjure a sense of immediacy, and the affective, lived experience of catastrophe, including the potential for temporal rupture or distortion. Participants also drew attention to the difference between historical reporting and literary representation. While future crises and catastrophes are unfortunately inevitable, this lively discussion evidenced that attending to historical literature offers a dynamic means by which to critically examine the structural forms and affective responses that shape our understanding of precarity.
By Anna-Rose Shack (University of Amsterdam), 11/04/2023
The next session of the ANZAMEMS Postgrad/ECR Reading Group will take place on Tuesday 2 May (10:00am Perth, 12:00pm Melbourne, 2:00pm NZ). The theme is “Slavery and Sexual Violence,” and we will be reading this article:
Tamar Herzig, ‘Slavery and Interethnic Sexual Violence: A Multiple Perpetrator Rape in Seventeenth-Century Livorno’, The American Historical Review, 127.1 (2022), pp. 194–222
A PDF copy of the above article as well as all other information (including an updated Zoom link) can be found on the group’s Google Drive folder. A reminder about this session will also be circulated via the ANZAMEMS mailing list along with the updated schedule a few days prior.
The second session of the ANZAMEMS Postgrad/ECR Reading Group took place on Tuesday March 21, and was dedicated to the topic of “Household Accounts as Primary Sources.” Reading group co-convener Emily Chambers (PhD candidate, University of Nottingham) led a lively discussion based around an article by Charlie Taverner and Susan Flavin: ‘Food and Power in Sixteenth-Century Ireland: Studying Household Accounts from Dublin Castle‘, The Historical Journal 66.1 (2022), 1-26.
A contribution to the “history of feeding Dublin Castle,” this article focuses on the exceptionally detailed household accounts of William Fitzwilliam, Lord Deputy of Ireland. The article demonstrates how Fitzwilliam presided (albeit begrudgingly) over a vast and prominent household at Dublin Castle from 1572-5 and 1588-94, seeking to strike a delicate balance between the “conspicuous consumption” and courtly hospitality befitting his political station, and maintaining economical expenditure amid a period of financial weakness for the English state. Taking this viceroy’s household as an apt test case, Taverner and Flavin show how historians can make use of household accounts to shed light on consumption practices and food trends in early modern Europe, including—in Fitzwilliam’s example—a marked preference for beef in imitation of the English, and the continuing influence of humoral theory in determining which foodstuffs were purchased and consumed.
Our conversation kicked off by questioning an implicit assumption on the part of the article authors: that is, that the quantities and types of food recorded in Fitzwilliam’s household accounts (or indeed any household accounts from this period) can be interpreted straightforwardly as evidence of consumption on the part of the household’s bodies. We were somewhat shocked, for example, at the sheer amount of beef and mutton each member of the household was calculated to have consumed each day (some 1.4 kilograms), and wondered if some information regarding the passage from purchasing or receiving such goods, through to actual consumption, might escape these kinds of accounting records. However, one of our members pointed out that early modern people’s diets were indeed extraordinarily meat-heavy and not necessarily padded out with what our meals are today in the way of starches and the like. Several attendees pointed to The Supersizers Go…Elizabethan (2008), an episode of the BBC programme presented by Sue Perkins and Giles Coren in which the hosts dress, eat, and live as sixteenth-century folk—and consume a staggering amount of meat. Our attendees recall being shocked by just how much animal protein Perkins and Coren consumed as part of their voyage to the Elizabethan table, informed by recipe books and other historical sources. Some members then shared the favourite early modern recipes they had come across in their own research, and even tried themselves (one being a delicious-sounding primrose dessert!).
Another talking point for our group discussion was the slightly disjunctive framing of the article, which worked to present Dublin Castle’s “exceptionally” detailed and tidy household accounts—and the food trends or preferences demonstrated within them—as exemplary of wider European food trends. Taverner and Flood write, for example, that “More than an Irish story, this article offers evidence of Europe-wide changes” (p.1), and argue that “Scratching the surface of these accounts reveals a nuanced and meaningful story about food, social status, and power in early modern Europe” (p.3). We agreed that the article authors’ impulse to break the household account out of its established use toward micro-histories of individual families, or as a source of anecdotal evidence to illustrate the stuff of diets or the early modern culture of hospitality, potentially led them to make too sweeping of a claim in the other direction. We agreed that there was a lack of evidence in the article’s exegesis to substantiate the argument that Dublin Castle could be considered representative of sixteenth-century courtly households more broadly.
Nevertheless, our members did think there may be a compelling case for courtly households like Fitzwilliam’s resembling each other closely in their consumption practices (and so, in that, transcending culture and geography), since all were held to similar standards of hospitality and grandeur. One next possible avenue for building on the authors’ insights, we thought, as well as for better evidencing the argument for Dublin Castle as an exemplary European household from a food history perspective, would be to compare its accounts more rigorously within the British context to those of a similarly large and important viceroy’s household—for example, to Ludlow Castle, the seat of the Earl of Bridgewater, Lord President of Wales. Interestingly, a closer read of the article shows that some of this comparative data is included in Table 1, “Consumption of major meats in the households of Irish lords deputy” (p. 12), but it is not adequately mined or highlighted in the actual body of the piece apart from to make a broad point about bovine predominance. Still, we appreciated the authors’ acknowledgement that household accounts are best married with other disciplinary approaches in order to identify broader patterns in consumption (p.1, p. 26).
Our attendees noted at the very beginning of the session that this article is strikingly male-dominated in its focus on Fitzwilliam’s patriarchally structured political household. This came as somewhat of a surprise to several of our members, whose primary contact with household accounts has attested to the heavy involvement of women in the overseeing of household accounts and administration. In the case of Dublin Castle, moreover, we were curious about the whereabouts of Fitzwilliam’s wife Anne Sidney (Aunt by marriage to Sir Philip Sidney and Mary Sidney) and their children during his unwilling séjour in Ireland. These actors were a bit like phantoms in the text, and suggested that “impersonal” records like household accounts—records which typically rely for their sign-off on male hands—do not tell the full human story of the early modern household. The same is true for how exactly household workers like servants were remunerated for their labour, apart from the payment they received in the form of food and accommodation. These are the figures and complex transactional material relationships which—we agreed—escape even the most meticulous household account-keeping.
In an interesting digression, members also distinguished between noblewomen’s overseeing of household accounts (i.e. how much was spent and on what), and the actual procurement of those goods in the marketplace. This latter task would almost certainly have been delegated to the household’s workers, as the marketplace—with its mixed classes and bartering culture—was viewed as a potentially besmirching public locale for elite women to be seen in. This got us on to a charming anecdote from Susannah Lyon-Whaley regarding the Duchesses of Richmond and Buckingham, who one day in 1670 allegedly decided to dress up as peasants so that they might attend a country fair in Sussex. Having overdone their disguises somewhat, they drew the attention of the crowds, who recognized them and chased them fanatically away. The perils of early modern shopping!
The next session of the ANZAMEMS Postgrad/ECR Reading Group will take place on Tuesday 11 April (10:00am Perth, 12:00pm Melbourne, 2:00pm NZ). The theme is “Representations of Crisis and Catastrophe.”
Emma Rayner, 29/03/2023
The first session of the ANZAMEMS PGR/ECR Reading Group took place on Zoom on Tuesday 28 February. The topic was ‘compassion’, and the readings were Diana Barnes’s introductory article on ‘Cultures of Compassion’ from the latest (39/2, 2022) issue of Parergon, and Katherine Ibbett’s chapter on ‘The Compassion Machine’ in her 2017 Compassion’s Edge: Fellow-Feeling and its Limits in Early Modern France. There were twelve attendees, and we enjoyed a great discussion on the two readings.
There was discussion over whether understanding and reason must precede feelings of compassion, or whether compassion was a pre-rational response to others’ pain. The readings brought in the idea that compassion was fellow-feeling for those suffering undeservedly, implying that a judgement must be made as to whether a sufferer was deserving or not. This linked to whether there was a boundary between the self and object of compassion. Selfishness was a common theme which kept appearing in our discussion. Wrath and despair were noted as opposites of compassion.
A major theme in the readings was the rational or self-managing versus the excessive or spontaneous. Barnes quoted Milton, showing unmediated compassion as divine rather than human, while humanity’s compassion was deemed rational. Our discussion teased beyond the Christian roots of the concept of compassion, noting the links to Stoicism in the Barnes reading, and Aristotelian links in Ibbett. Comparison was also drawn to the Buddhist notion of the selfishness of suffering which will benefit the self.
We then turned to the Reformation and differences in compassion in Catholicism and Protestant thought. There was particular discussion on how suffering can be seen as good or as bad. It could signal a lack of predestination, or a purging to bring the sufferer closer to God (such as in purgatory or the Crusades). This led to the question of whether others can feel joy for another’s suffering. Does joy arise from the sufferer or observer? Does a sufferer need an observer to gain compassion (a performance of suffering)? Good points were made about viewers of drama and readers of texts being communal audiences rather than sole observers. This idea of the ‘collective’ linked to notions of the ‘contagion’ of compassion, spreading from person to person.
Finally, there was consideration of the gendered aspect of compassion. Ibbett devoted a small section of her chapter to compassion as a female trait. We then linked this back to the idea of those ‘deserving’ of compassion (by being undeserving of their suffering), showing that female characters are often judged less favourably. This was attributed in part to their reactions or revenge for their suffering being deemed unacceptable for women.
Two interesting texts were suggested in the discussion:
Charles Zika’s chapter ‘Compassion in Punishment: The Visual Evidence in Sixteenth-Century Depictions of Calvary’, in Cultural Shifts and Ritual Transformations in Reformation Europe, ed. by Victoria Christman and Marjorie Elizabeth Plummer (Brill, 2020), doi:10.1163/9789004436022_013
Anne McCullough’s dissertation ‘Coerced witness: Suffering and resistance in medieval literature’ (Emory University, 2005), https://www.proquest.com/docview/305387287
The next session of the reading group will be on Tuesday 21 March, 2pm AEDT, on the subject of Household Accounts as Primary Sources.