Finding the Perfect Blend? Alfred the Great, Cnut the Great and Anglo-Scandinavian Neighbours and Strangers and from the Ninth to the Eleventh Centuries
Ryan Lavelle, University of Winchester
Could bad neighbours become good friends? The political and social developments which took place in ninth and early tenth-century Wessex and England saw a situation in which the Othering of Scandinavian invaders and settlers was paralleled by the Scandinavianisation of the ‘Jutish’ identity used as part of the English ethnogenesis during this period – in effect, bringing Scandinavian ‘Strangers’ into a West Saxon court as ‘Neighbours’. This paper, which builds on reflections on this topic in my contribution to Danes in Wessex (Oxbow, 2016), is an attempt to address the significance of this history of Anglo-Scandinavian identity in the context of the place of England, particularly Wessex, in the empire of Cnut the Great in the eleventh century. The representation of Scandinavian identity in the heart of Wessex is important here but the paper also reflects on the bringing together for an English audience in 1027 of groups of people hitherto seen in the late ninth-/ early tenth-century report of northern regions in the Old English Orosius.
Neighbours and Invaders in ‘Of Arthour and of Merlin’
Aisling Byrne, University of Reading
This paper will focus on ‘Of Arthour and of Merlin’, the earliest copy of which survives in the Auchinleck manuscript. The poem is a very free adaptation of French source material and depicts a range of peoples, including the Irish, invading England. The paper will examine the distinctive ways in which the English adaptor reworks the depiction of insular peoples in his French source. It will suggest that the poet adopts imagery and rhetoric more usually associated with chanson de geste, to produce a text that translates that mode of writing into Middle English and applies it to the Matter of Britain rather than the Matter of France.
England’s Immigrants, 1330-1550
Mark Ormrod, University of York / Bart Lambert, University of York
This paper will provide an overview of the recent University of York project, ‘England’s Immigrants, 1330-1550’ (funded by AHRC) and the additional projects that have stemmed from it. It will survey the new sources available to study the lives of immigrants to England in the later Middle Ages, some of the issues about evidence and interpretation that this material raises, and the broader cultural questions that it provokes about regimes of integration and exclusion in a period previously little studies with regards to debates on multiculturalism and (in)tolerance.
The Politics of a Frontier Town: Writing Calais during the Hundred Years War
Helen Fulton, University of Bristol
During the late fourteenth and early fifteenth centuries, as the wars with France took their uneven course, the port town of Calais played a continuously significant role as a site of military conflict and control. Held primarily by the English until relatively late in the fifteenth century, Calais operated as a frontier town embracing friends and enemies, neighbours and strangers.
This paper looks at literary engagements with the city of Calais by English, Welsh, and French writers. The focus is on political poetry and lifewriting, with key texts including political poetry in Welsh and English, the Paston letters, and the chronicle of Jean Froissart.
The aim of the paper is to examine contemporary attitudes to Calais from both sides of the Hundred Years War and to consider the extent to which writers in the three languages considered Calais to be part of the English nation or part of France. The status of Calais raises significant questions about concepts of nationhood at this time, an issue currently much debated by cultural historians at a time when Calais is again a frontier port for modern refugees.
An assessment of Calais as a frontier town also raises issues about loyalty and allegiances between the men who fought there. With Welsh soldiers fighting under the leadership of English lords, many of them neighbours along the March of Wales, factions were formed that crossed cultural divides and laid the groundwork for the later Wars of the Roses.
Finally, the paper will consider ways in which literary production itself was affected by the military campaigns of the Hundred Years War, and how the discourses of political poetry and history responded to the social and economic demands of war.
‘Stranger denisons’: neighbouring languages and the metaphors of migration in late medieval and early modern writing
Joanna Bellis, University of Oxford
In his Elementarie which Entreateth Chefelie of the Right Writing of our English Tung (1582), Richard Mulcaster discussed the hot potato of the linguistic controversies of his time, the issue of borrowed words: ‘I call enfranchisment, by which verie name the words that ar so enfranchised, become bond to the rules of our writing… as the stranger denisons be to the lawes of our cuntrie’. Like many writers in the Inkhorn Controversy, Mulcaster likened foreign words to foreign citizens, employing the rhetoric of migration and naturalisation as an extended metaphor for the relationships between languages. This paper explores the longevity of that metaphor, from the medieval legal concept of denization through to the sixteenth century.
Slandering the Neighbours: Does Mankind Participate in a Culture of Defamation?
Clare Egan, University of Lancaster
Lines 490-524 of the morality play Mankind name several prominent men and their locations of residence around the Cambridge area as the targets of the three vice characters, New Gyse, Nowadays and Nought, when they are sent by Titivillus in search of spoils. These lines have received attention from scholars for the information they provide about potential audiences and performance locations for the play. However, in light of recent critical attention paid to the development throughout the medieval and early modern periods of the nature of slander and libel, this paper explores the possibility that these lines were participating in a culture of libel by allusion. The paper will consider some earlier examples of fifteenth century verse libel and the 1450 proclamation against the publishing of libels, as well as considering some later practices in performed verse libel to shed new light on how these lines from Mankind may have functioned in performance, both alienating and endearing different portions of the audience.