Looking back at ISSEME 2023 ‘Environments’ (28-30 June, 2023)

At the end of June 2023, the International Society for the Study of Early Medieval England (ISSEME) organised its twenty-first biennial conference. The conference was held in the Samuel Alexander Building of the University of Manchester. With over 100 participants (75 on-campus; 30 online), 40+ papers, 3 keynotes, 3 project reports, 3 book launches, an ECR workshop and a mentoring scheme, ISSEME 2023 proved to be an engaging and inspiring meeting. The participants hailed from all over the globe; Eearly-career researchers were very well represented, in a healthy mix with mid-career and senior scholars.

The theme of the conference was “Environments”. After double-blind peer review, the conference committee accepted 40+ papers (listed below) from all disciplines that study aspects of early medieval England, ranging from archaeology to linguistics, history, literary studies and manuscript studies. This coming together of different disciplines was a good fit with the location of the conference: the University of Manchester, which, as Professor Gale Owen-Crocker reminded us in her opening address, has a longstanding reputation for the interdisciplinary study of early medieval England. Owen-Crocker also referenced the kind donation of Audrey Meaney to the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies which will support young scholars in this field.

The multi- and interdisciplinary nature of the conference was also present in the three inspiring keynotes, which combined insights from architecture, materiality, art, literature and language. The opening keynote by Katherine Weikert brought to life the surroundings of Eadmer of Canterbury and showed how architecture and materiality were active and integral parts in creating meaning, spirituality and emotion. The second day of the conference began with an address by Harriet Soper who explored how Old English poets and artists played with ideas of intersecting and interacting life courses of human, nonhuman and more-than-human entities. The conference’s closing keynote was delivered by Francesca Tinti who explored the cultural, identitary and linguistic consequences of long-distance travel in the early medieval period.

As a society committed to supporting new voices in the field, ISSEME organized two events that were aimed at supporting our ECR community. The day prior to the conference, James Paz and Eleni Ponirakis organised a workshop for eleven selected ECR participants on the topic of ‘Sharing Your Research: From Publication to Public Engagement’. Workshops were provided by the editorial team of the journal Anglo-Saxon England (Cambridge University Press), Meredith Carroll of Manchester University Press, as well as Megan Cavell and Jennifer Neville (University of Birmingham; Royal Holloway; The Riddle Ages). Through sponsorship by ISSEME, the selected participants each received a stipend of 500 USD and free registration to the conference. A full report of the workshop by Eleni Ponirakis is available here. In addition to the workshop for selected ECR participants, all ISSEME members could sign up for a mentoring scheme, which established connections between junior and senior researchers.

In addition to regular papers, keynotes and ECR activites, ISSEME 2023 also welcomed members to present project reports and newly-published book (series). Lastly, the event also celebrated outstanding publications in the field through its award scheme. As per tradition, prizes were attributed to the best book, best first monograph, best article, best article by an early-career researcher, best teaching aid and best edition and/or translation published in the last two years (the winners are already listed in our overview of award winners; there will be a separate news item with the jury’s short motivations for each winner soon!).

Intellectually inspiring and socially engaging and supportive, ISSEME 2023 highlighted and celebrated a rich and flowering field of study.

ISSEME 2023 would not have been possible without a great number of people being willing to spend time and energy into organizing this event, both in the spotlight and behind the scenes. Above all, ISSEME is thankful to local organisers James Paz and Charles Insley, as well as the University of Manchester, for hosting us. Special thanks are also due to conference assistants Abigail Bleach and Fatima al Moufridji for the administrative and technical support both before and during the conference.

Of course, the final debt of gratitude is owed to all speakers and participants of ISSEME 2023 for their contributions to this event and the field in general; in the words of our Executive Director Elise Louviot (without whom none of this would have been possible), ‘you are the society’ and, so, the success of this conference is very much your own.

~ Thijs Porck, President of ISSEME

Conference organizing committee

  • Charles Insley (University of Manchester)
  • Élise Louviot (Université de Reims Champagne-Ardenne)
  • James Paz (University of Manchester)
  • Eleni Ponirakis (UCL)
  • Thijs Porck (Leiden University)

Keynote lectures

  1. Harriet Soper (University of Oxford) – Twists, Turns, and Jumping the Riverbed: The Life Course in Old English Poetry
  2. Francesca Tinti (Universidad del País Vasco) – Long-Distance Travel in Early Medieval England: Encountering Foreign Environments and Developing New Identities
  3. Katherine Weikert (University of Winchester) – Meaning, Memory, History and Time: Eadmer’s Writings and Canterbury Cathedral

Papers (selected after double-blind peer review)

  1. Isabela Albuquerque (University of Pernambuco) – Early Medieval English Queens from Southern Humber (8th-10th Centuries) and the Exercise of Power in Court
  2. Debby Banham (University of Cambridge) – Fields of Change? Consumption, Production and Agricultural Landscape Organisation in Early Medieval England
  3. Tiffany Beechy (University of Colorado Boulder) – Hisperic Cosmographies in Context: Adamnán’s De locis sanctis and the Cosmographia of Aethicus Ister
  4. Rafal Borysławski (University of Silesia) – Fear as an Emotional Environment in Old English Wisdom Poetry
  5. William Brockbank (University of Bern) – ‘Sensing Pain in Old English Medical Writings’
  6. Julian Calcagno (Flinders University) – Honour and Feuding Ethics: Continuity and Change in Anglo-Norman Legal Environments
  7. David Callander (Cardiff University) – ‘On Brytene’: The Old English Menologium and Nation
  8. Samuel Cardwell (University of Toronto) – Scribal Environments: an Unrecognised Fragment of Wearmouth-Jarrow Uncial and its Implications
  9. Stephanie Clark (University of Oregon) – ‘Cyning sceal cwene gebicgan’: An Economic Environment for Purchase, Ownership, and Personhood in Maxims I
  10. Maren Clegg Hyer (Snow College) – The Cultural, Intellectual, and Linguistic Environment for Peaceweaving: Multilingual Textile Metaphors
  11. Jill Clements (University of Alabama at Birmingham) – Dead Space: Votive Environments and the Northumbrian Name-Stones
  12. Lauren Colwell (Ohio  State University) – Food, Saintly Natures, and Environmental Consequences in Ælfric’s Life of St. Cuthbert
  13. Victoria Condie (University of Cambridge) – ‘No wall so solid’: Permeable Surfaces in Old English Poetry
  14. Jacqueline Fay (The University of Texas at Arlington) – Sinuous Histories: What is a Wyrm?
  15. Shannon Godlove (Columbus State University) –  Correspondence Course: Teaching and Learning in the Letters of Saint Boniface
  16. Joseph Grossi (University of Victoria) – Botwulf: The Monsters and the Clerics
  17. Mar Gutiérrez-Ortiz (Universidad de Sevilla) – The Version of Isidore’s Etymologiae Used for the Caesurae uersuum
  18. Catrin Haberfield (Stanford University) – Superimposing Landscapes: Negotiating National Identity through Mist in the Mabinogion
  19. Emma Horne (University of Oxford) – Multilingualism in the North?: A Case Study on the Mutual Intelligibility of Old English and Old Norse and Its Onomastic Impact in Lancashire
  20. Millie Horton-Insch (University College London) – An Embroidered Environment: Textiles in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries
  21. Colin A Ireland (Arcadia University) – The Gaelic Environment of Northumbrian Learning: King Oswiu’s Contribution (642-670)
  22. Ingrid Ivarsen (University of Cambridge)- Who and What Did Law-Writers in the Seventh Century Know?
  23. Jasmine Jones (Oxford University) – The Action of God and the Answer of Man: The Spiritual Environment of Christ and Satan
  24. Emily Kesling (Oxford University) – The Early Insular Prayerbooks and the Dream of the Rood Tradition
  25. Avantika Kumar (Harvard University) – Form and Reform: Cultural, Textual and Material Environments in the Boulogne Gospels and Riddle 60
  26. Christina Lee & Holly Miller (University of Nottingham) – From Farm to Pharmacy: Human-Animal Environments in Early Medieval England
  27. Alessandra Molinari (Università degli Studi “Carlo Bo”) & Marco Ius (University of Trieste) – We Can Be Heroes – Just for this Pandemic. Igniting Students’ Resilience During Covid with Beowulf’s Help
  28. James H. Morey (Emory University) –  The Bibliographic Legacy of Kemp Malone
  29. Patrick Naeve (Cornell University) – Monsters New and Old: AI-Generated Art and Medieval Representation
  30. Kauê J. Neckel (Federal University of Rio Grande do Sul (UFRGS)) – Glocal Perspectives on Early Medieval England? Scales and Networks between the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle and the Chronicle of Ireland
  31. Theodora Paraskevopoulou (Universidad del País Vasco) –  “It’s not all Greek to me”: The Role of Different Varieties of Greek in the Multilingual Environment of Seventh-Century Canterbury
  32. Megan Renz Perry (Yale University) – Helpful Gnomes in the Old English Corpus, or sculan, a Gnomic Auxiliary
  33. Claire Poynton-Smith (Trinity College Dublin) – The Linguistic Landscape of Lust: Examining Occurrence Patterns for Language of Sexual Desire and Moral Impurity in OId English Texts
  34. Stuart Pracy (University of Exeter) – The Politics of Leasing Land in Early Medieval England
  35. Jacob W. Runner (Kanazawa University) – Charting an Ideological Topography: A Comparison of Linguistic and Spiritual Perspectives Performed across the Vercelli Book
  36. Annina Seiler (University of Zurich) – Mæw or meg (‘seagull’)? Mercian Dialect Features in an Old English Glossary from the Continent
  37. Emily Sun (Harvard University) – The Flood Cast Up the Fish: Sea Crossings and Sea Changes in the Old English Apollonius of Tyre
  38. Michael Treschow (The University of British Columbia, Okanagan Campus) – Building, Dwelling, Readying; Or How the Woodsman’s Idyll Does Not Preface the Old English Soliloquies
  39. Paul Vinhage (Cornell University) – The Paleographical Environment of Ælfric’s Latin-Old English Grammar
  40. Johanna Vogelsanger (University of Zurich) – The Environments of Disappearing Old English Vocabulary in the Early Middle English Period
  41. Erica Weaver (University of California) – A Canterbury School of Literary Theory
  42. Jonathan Wilcox (University of Iowa) – The Homilist and the Giant: Ælfric’s Response to the Cerne Abbas Chalk Figure
  43. Alexandra Zhirnova (University of Cambridge) – Mediterranean Plants in the English Environment

Project reports

  1. Colleen Curran & Mark Faulkner (Trinity College, Dublin), ‘Searobend: Linked Metadata for English-Language Texts, 1000-1300’
  2. Karen Jolly (University of Hawaiʻi at Mānoa), ‘Medieval Worlds: Muddling through the Middle Ages’
  3. Winfried Rudolf & Grant Simpson (University of Göttingen, Germany), ‘ECHOE – Electronic Corpus of Anonymous Homilies in Old English’