On Tuesday, December 6, I attended and performed in my first Festival of Medieval Readings, sponsored by the Medieval Studies Program. This event takes place annually at the Big Red Barn, and all interested Cornellians are welcome to come and listen to their peers recite pieces in a variety of languages! Languages represented this year included Arabic, Greek, Latin, Middle English, Old Dutch, Old English, and Old Norse. Indeed, you don’t have to be a medievalist to enjoy the Festival. Maddie Pettine, a second-year Ph.D. student in Astronomy, decided to attend this year and had a blast. For my part, I joined the Medieval Latin Reading Group in reciting a rhythmic poem by Stephen of Tournai, an eleventh-century French bishop. As someone interested in classical reception during the Middle Ages, I appreciate Stephen’s poem on account of its treatment of the Olympian pantheon. Tyler Wolford, a Ph.D. candidate in Medieval Studies, was the host of the Festival for the second year in a row—and he fulfilled his role with verve! Tyler reflects on the event, saying, “As long as I’ve been at Cornell, I’ve loved the Festival of Medieval Readings. If I’m honest, I love the festival because it’s a joyful and creative event during a usually very stressful time of the semester. It’s the Medieval Studies version of singing Christmas carols when the days are so short, dark, and cold. I’m humbled to be able to help continue a tradition that’s meant so much to me.” Tyler not only engaged everyone with his stellar hosting skills, but also performed “A Speech against the Imperial Takeover of Episcopal Land” from the Life of Saint Nikephoros of Miletus in its original Greek.
This year’s Festival was particularly special, as it was held in honor of Tom Hill, Professor of English and Medieval Studies, who is retiring after decades of teaching at Cornell. I had the pleasure of taking Old English with Tom this semester, and was overjoyed to hear that we would be honoring him at the Festival. On his extensive career at Cornell, Tom says, “I have been incredibly lucky to teach at Cornell. That I postponed retirement until my sixth decade of teaching speaks for itself. I have been supported over the years by brilliant and generous colleagues, and have had the pleasure of teaching extraordinarily good graduate and undergraduate students. Olin library is one of the great libraries of North America, and Cornell is one of the most beautiful campuses in the world. Cornell has been and is a very congenial and good place to do research and to work with various colleagues in medieval studies – it could hardly be bettered in that respect. When I started teaching at Cornell in 1967, Cornell was one of the best places in the world to study medieval literature. I am, of course, biased, but I think this is still true. To repeat myself, I have been very lucky to work and teach here and I am grateful.” Tom has been a true inspiration to me this semester; the passion and good humor with which he always approached both his research and teaching continue to motivate me as I continue my graduate studies. It was apparent at the Festival that everyone else who has worked with Tom feels the same way. This year’s Festival of Medieval Readings might have been my first, but it certainly won’t be my last!