Symposium Report by Linda Ehrsam Voigts
It would seem as though an avowry for this Symposium on medieval saints had arranged for it to take place in suitably gorgeous weather in the happy setting of Harlaxton Manor and its environs.
Sue Powell had carefully arranged twenty-eight complementary papers, together with two learned introductions to Thorney and Crowland Abbeys. Papers addressed the subject of saints, mostly English, from a variety of approaches: in written word in liturgical, narrative, and documentary texts; in art forms—architecture, wall paintings, glass, wood carving, books of hours; and in relationship to monarchs, to London, and to monumental commemoration.
This variety of diverse approaches provided by the papers enriched our understanding of the how and where and why saints were so important in the daily life of medieval people. As is so often the case with the Harlaxton Symposium, rich conversation followed the delivery of papers during the coffee and tea breaks and at meals.
Special events also carried on the focus of the Symposium. They included a paper on Saint Francis sent by the founder of the Symposium, Pamela Tudor-Craig, and tours to Thorney and Crowland Abbeys. A well-acted play, ‘The History of St John of Beverley’ organized by Meg Twycross and directed by Elisabeth Dutton provided the experience of a popular saint’s life in performance.
The Symposium was efficiently organized by Sue Powell and administered by the skillful and often behind-the scenes efforts of Secretaries David Harry and Christian Steer, aided by David Green of Harlaxton College. Those attending the Symposium were pleased to have the participation in sessions of the Principal of Harlaxton College, Gerald Seamon, himself a medievalist. A number of younger scholars were also welcomed, including this year’s winners of the Barrie Dobson Scholarships Daisy Gibbs (University of Newcastle) and Katie Harrison (University of York).
A new volume in the Harlaxton Medieval Series, Language in Medieval Britain: Networks and Exchanges (the proceedings of the 2013 Symposium), edited by Mary Carruthers, was launched and celebrated at the Symposium, and attendees expressed gratitude for the continuity of the Symposium which results from the work of the governing Committee, chaired by Caroline Barron. Caroline’s retirement as chair was marked, with sadness, at the Conference dinner.
These summer days provided much food for thought, good companionship, and pleasure, especially for long-time attendees, at the restoration that has taken place at Harlaxton Manor. The Manor and grounds have never looked better for this congenial gathering of scholars. Many climbed to the folly, a newly restored Italianate venue, with its extraordinary view and fragrance garden of roses, chamomile lawn, and chocolate cosmos. Where else could one find such pleasures interspersed with the stimulating scholarship of friends old and new?
Linda Ehrsam Voigts
University of Missouri-Kansas City
Conference Photographss Forthcoming