Cornell Medieval Studies Celebrates Its 50th Anniversary

Please join us in celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Medieval Studies Program at Cornell University. Our celebration will include a roundtable discussion of the program’s history, honors for the charter members of the program, and a keynote address by Don Randel (Chairman of the Board of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences).

Details are available at this page.

Brown Bag Lunch: Cynthia Robinson, “Nasrid Visual Culture: Metaphor, Symbol, and Illumination”

MadrasaYusufiyya1Cynthia Robinson [History of Art] will discuss Nasrid visual culture at noon this Wednesday, April 13, in White Hall room B04.

In scholarship of the past few decades, symbol and metaphor, as couched in poetry, rhymed prose and sacred texts, have been shown to provide productive lenses through which to reconstruct the phenomenology of viewers’ experiences of numerous medieval Islamic built environments. Her own previous work includes deep exploration of these themes in both fitna/Taifa (11th-century) and Almoravid (late 11th-early 12th century) contexts. Her present project brings these concerns into the Naṣrid and post-Naṣrid contexts of Granada, where metaphor’s task might be said to have morphed from one of transformation to one of embodiment, of assisting audiences in comprehending the “true” nature and essence of what they see. This paper will focus on two key case studies: the first, a lighting display confected from the (only, and quite lavish) celebration of the mawlid orchestrated by Muḥammad V in December of 1362, within the precincts of the Alhambra; the second, an inscription containing the famous “Light Verse” known to have formed part of the program of ornament commissioned for Granada’s Madrasa Yūsufiyya in the 1340s. Neither object of investigation survives physically—texts provide our only windows onto them, and will serve as our point of departure for their reconstruction and interpretation.

Michel Zink, “Women’s Songs / Men’s Songs in Medieval Europe”

On Apmichel zinkril 13 (Wednesday) at 4:30PM, Prof. MICHEL ZINK will deliver a lecture at the A.D. White House (Guerlac Room) titled, “Women’s Songs/Men’s Songs in Medieval Europe”

Michel Zink holds the chair in “Littératures de la France médiévale” at the Collège de France, which goes back to the illustrious tradition of the chair of “Langue et littérature françaises du Moyen Âge” founded in 1853 for Paulin Paris. Before 1994 he was a professor of medieval French literature at the Sorbonne (1968-70, 1972-76, and 1987-94), at the University of Tunis (1970-72), and at the University of Toulouse (1976-87). He has also been a Visiting Professor at the University of Constance, the Johns Hopkins University, Berkeley, and Yale. In 2007 he received the International Balzan Prize “for his fundamental contributions to the understanding of French and Occitan literature in the Middle Ages, a decisive chapter in the development of modern European literature; for his new interpretation of the relation between medieval and modern literature; and for his seminal initiatives that have brought the literature of the Middle Ages back into the cultural tradition of France and Europe.”

More about him:

This event is co-organized by the French Studies Program  co-sponsored by and the Medieval Studies Program, the Department of Romance Studies, and the Society for the Humanities.

Simon Doubleday, “The Wise King’s Nightmare” [April 7]

Hispanic Studies invites you to “The Wise King’s Nightmare,” a lecture by Simon Doubleday (Hofstra University), Thursday, April 7, 4:30 p.m., Klarman Hall room KG42. Reception to follow.

Doubleday is Professor and Chair of the Department of History at Hofstra University, founder and editor-in-chief of the Journal of Medieval Iberian Studies, president of the American Academy of Research Historians of Medieval Spain, and author of The Wise King: A Christian Prince, Muslim Spain and the Birth of the Renaissance (Basic Books, 2015).

For more information contact Simone Pinet at

This event is co-sponsored by the Department of Romance Studies and the Medieval Studies Program.

Quodlibet Lecture, March 21, featuring David Freidenreich [Colby College]

Quodlibet will sponsor the visit of David Freidenreich [Colby College], who will deliver a lecture on Monday, March 21 at 4:30pm in White Hall room 110: “”Food and Identity in Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.”

Refusing to share a meal or accept food prepared by others does more than just express the notion that ‘We’ want nothing to do with ‘Them.’ This kind of anti-social behavior also reinforces ideas about who They are and, perhaps more importantly, who We are. Join us to explore the evolution of Jewish food laws and the ideas they convey about Jewishness. We’ll also examine the role food restrictions play in shaping Christian and Islamic identity, and we’ll consider the ways in which traditional ideas about Us and Them continue to shape interfaith relations today.”

David M. Freidenreich is the Pulver Family Associate Professor of Jewish Studies at Colby College, where he serves as director of the Jewish studies program and associate director of the Center for Small Town Jewish Life.  As a member of the religious studies department, he teaches a wide range of courses on Judaism, Jewish history, and comparative religion.  After receiving a B.A. from Brandeis University, he earned his Ph.D. at Columbia University and rabbinic ordination from the Jewish Theological Seminary. His award-winning first book, Foreigners and Their Food: Constructing Otherness in Jewish, Christian, and Islamic Law, explores attitudes toward adherents of foreign religions expressed in ancient and medieval laws about sharing food. He is currently studying the ways Christians have used ideas about Jews to think about Muslims.

[Also, from the Department of Near Eastern Studies:]

“Freidenreich will also be giving a lecture entitled ‘Christian Portrayals of Muhammad’s Jewish Associates’ on March 21st from 12:10-1:10pm in 410 White Hall. Lunch will be provided. If there is significant interest in this lecture, it may be necessary to change the room location to 110 White Hall. 410 is our lounge and we’ve got somewhat limited seating, perhaps enough for 25 people.”

If interested in this noontime lecture, please contact Ayla Cline at

Ilya Dines visits Cornell

On Friday, March 11th, the Medieval Cosmologies Working Group will host a visit by Ilya Dines, Kluge Fellow at the Library of Congress, and a scholar of medieval Latin manuscripts who specializes in natural-scientific traditions, with a particular focus on bestiaries and cartography ( His critical edition of the bestiaries of the “third family” is forthcoming from the University of Toronto Press, and his edition of and commentary on the Westminster Bestiary is forthcoming from Siloé. The visit will consist of a workshop and a seminar, both of which are open to all interested members of the community.

From 1:30-3:00, Kroch Library will host a workshop with relevant manuscripts and early printed works in Cornell’s collections.

From 4:30-6:30 in Goldwin Smith 156, Ilya Dines will lead a seminar on Huntington HM 38, a volume on geography, astronomy, medicine, and the apocalypse produced in the fifteenth-century in Lübeck. The manuscript contains a unique sequence of maps that illustrate “what will happen to the earth during the Last Days,” which are the topic of a new monograph by Chet van Duzer and Ilya Dines: Apocalyptic Cartography: Thematic Maps and the End of the World in a Fifteenth-Century Manuscript (Brill, 2016). Attendees may access an electronic copy of the monograph at this link – – please focus on chapters 1 and 5.

Ilya Dines’s visit has been supported by the Program in Medieval Studies and the Departments of English and the History of Art.

Brown Bag Lunch: Marilyn Migiel, “Reading Misogyny: Boccaccio ‘Against’ Women?”

Marilyn Migiel [Romance Studies] will discuss Giovanni Boccaccio (1313-1375) at noon next Wednesday, March 9, in Uris G24.

Migiel’s focus will be on work she has done and is currently doing on Boccaccio and the question of woman. She recently published published “Boccaccio and Women” in The Cambridge Companion to Boccaccio [2015]). At the lunchtime discussion, she will present some of the current work that she is doing on Boccaccio’s De casibus virorum illustrium (On the Fates of Illustrious Men [1360-73]).

Refreshments will be served. All are welcome!

Brown Bag Lunch: Andrew Hicks, “Listening to Fragments: Editing a ‘New’ Fourteenth-Century Motet”

Andrew Hicks [Music] will discuss Beatius/Cum humanum at noon next Wednesday, February 10, in Uris G88.

Beatius/Cum humanum is an imperfect motet, and it performs its imperfections in myriad ways. On the most basic material level it survives imperfectly, lacking its tenor (or more) in all three surviving sources. These sources, moreover, are philologically imperfect, witnessing substantial but not insoluble textual corruptions in several key verses. Such (accidental) material and philological imperfections, however, almost ruefully befit a motet that intentionally centers upon the fraught relationship between the apparent perfection of rule-bound discipline and the realities of musical and theological imperfection.

Refreshments will be served. All are welcome!

The Medieval Brown Bag Lunch Series: Spring 2016

Announcing the return of the Brown Bag Lunch series, a monthly gathering where faculty in the Medieval Studies field discuss work in progress and current research topics. Talks will be held at noon on the second Wednesday of each month, beginning next Wednesday, February 10. All are welcome!

Feb 10 | noon, Uris G88
Andrew Hicks [Music]
, “Listening to Fragments: Editing a ‘New’ Fourteenth-Century Motet”

Mar 9 | noon, room t.b.a.
Marilyn Migiel [Romance Studies], “Reading Misogyny: Boccaccio ‘Against’ Women?”  

Apr 13 | noon, room t.b.a.
Cynthia Robinson [History of Art], “Nasrid Visual Culture: Metaphor, Symbol, and Illumination”  

Ali Houissa presents “Islamic Manuscripts,” November 19

Join us for a presentation by Ali Houissa, Middle East and Islamic Studies Librarian / Bibliographer at Cornell University Library.  The presentation takes place on Thursday, November 19, from 4:30 to 6:00 p.m. in the Carl A. Kroch Library, room 2B48.

Between the 6th and the 17th centuries, Muslims developed a rich manuscript tradition that is reflected not only in Islamic calligraphy, illuminations and painting, but also in the artisanal crafts of penmanship and calligraphy, illumination, miniature painting and papermaking. In addition to the history of the Islamic manuscript, the talk will address topics of current interest such as aniconism versus figural representation, and the preservation of manuscript collections in conflict zones. Illuminated and illustrated rare manuscripts from Cornell’s collection of sacred, devotional and non-religious texts will be on display.

This event is cosponsored by Medieval Studies and Cornell University Library.

For more information, contact or call (607) 255-3530.