Monthly Archives: April 2023

Registration now open: Medieval Matters: A symposium on the future of medieval studies in honour of Prof. Miri Rubi

Medieval Matters

A symposium on the future of medieval studies in honour of Prof. Miri Rubin

June 29–30 (in person)

Arts Two Lecture Theatre

Queen Mary University of London

335 Mile End Rd, London

For a full programme and to register:

ASAH Online Talk: Cassocks Make the Men: Dress, Emotions, and Masculinities in the Sixteenth-century Mission to Japan

Cassocks Make the Men: Dress, Emotions, and Masculinities in the Sixteenth-century Mission to Japan

This paper considers the models of European and Japanese affective masculinities that emerge from the correspondence written in the Catholic mission in Japan, taking as a case study the crisis related to garments that marked the Jesuit enterprise in the country during the 1570s. Understanding garments such as cotton cassocks and silk kimono as symbolising gendered emotions, the Jesuits strove to identify elements of Japanese masculinities that could facilitate intercultural communication and support their own proposed models of missionary manhood.

About the speaker:
Linda Zampol D’Ortia is Marie Skłodowska-Curie Global Fellow at Ca’ Foscari University of Venice and at the Australian Catholic University, where she is developing a project on the role of emotional practices in the early modern Jesuit missions in Asia.

ANZAMEMS Reading Group Summary: Session 3 ‘Representations of Crisis and Catastrophe’

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.

Please contact the convenors with any queries: Emma Rayner (ANU),, and Emily Chambers (University of Nottingham),

2023 Annual University of Melbourne Kathleen Fitzpatrick Lecture: Prof Jennifer L. Morgan (NYU)

‘On Race and Reinscription: Writing Enslaved Women Back into the Early Modern Archive’

In this lecture, Jennifer L. Morgan uses the history of three black women from the sixteenth and seventeenth century to explore questions of methodology and evidence in the early history of the black Atlantic. Through evidence from visual art, law, and commerce Morgan considers the challenges and possibilities of crafting a social historical study of women whose voices are so often absent from the archival record but whose lives and perspectives have proven to be essential for comprehending the origins of racial capitalism.

Jennifer L. Morgan is Professor of History at New York University. She is the author of the Reckoning with Slavery: Gender, Kinship and Capitalism in the Early Black Atlantic (Duke University Press, 2021) awarded the Mary Nickliss Prize in Women’s and/or Gender History from the Organization of American Historians and the Frederick Douglass Prize from the Gilder Lehrman Center for the Study of Slavery, Resistance, and Abolition. Morgan is the Council Chair for the Omohundro Institute for Early American History and Culture. She is the past-Vice President of the Berkshire Conference of Women Historians and a member of the Association of Black Women Historians.

Date: Thursday 4 May 2023

Time: 6:15pm – 7:30pm

Location: University of Melbourne Parkville Campus: Forum Theatre (153), Arts West – North Wing (148A)

To register:

ANZAMEMS Reading Group: Session 2 ‘Household Accounts as Primary Sources’ Summary

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.”

Please contact the convenors with any queries: Emma Rayner (ANU),, and Emily Chambers (University of Nottingham),

Emma Rayner, 29/03/2023

IHSS Research Seminar: “Emotion and Experience. Dependent children in early modern societies”

Public lecture delivered in association with the Australia-Germany Joint Research Cooperation Scheme-funded project, “Child slaveries in the early modern world: Gender, trauma, and trafficking in transcultural perspective (1500-1800)”, supported by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) and Universities Australia

“Emotion and Experience. Dependent children in early modern societies”
Professor Claudia Jarzebowski (University of Bonn)
Thursday 13 April 2023, 4-5pm AEST
To be held in room 460.4.28, Level 4, 250 Victoria Parade and online via Teams.
For joining details, email:

Abstract: At all times children have lived in emotional and social dependencies. In early modern history, too, children of all classes were exposed to experiences of disruption, separation, death of kin, to violence (i.e. executions, wars), to torture (as subjects and bystanders), children experienced community and exclusion at the same time. And they were hardly ever in charge of their destinies. The question of how children perceived their often hostile or at least hard to anticipate environment has hardly ever been investigated. This presentation focusses upon such children, using rare sources and reading known sources against the grain. On a descriptive level I present a few case studies while on a more theoretical level my presentation will discuss how Trauma Studies could help historians to understand early modern life worlds of children a bit more.

Bio: Claudia Jarzebowski is a professor of Early Modern History at the Center for the Slavery and Dependency Studies at the University of Bonn, Germany. Her research interests include Gender History, the history of children and childhood, the history of emotions and the history of violence. She has published two monographs, numerous articles and co-edited numerous books, mostrecently two chapters in Cultural History
of Youth (Bloomsbury 2023). She has served as a Partner Investigator at the ARC Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions.