Just before the start of the Michaelmas term, I went to the Archiving the Soundscape workshop at the Wellcome Institute, London, organised by the Soundscapes in the Early Modern World project.

Day 2 began with a panel which opened with an archaeologist from the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, Catrina Cooper, who worked on the Virtual St Stephens Project.   An add on was created called ‘Hearing the Commons’ because the visualisations were beautiful but missed the full sensory experiences.  You can used digital technology to recapture the soundscapes.  But one of the big questions is how to create an acoustic and visual model of a space that no longer exists?

For the Voice and Vote exhibition as part of Vote 100 project they used architectural plans, because you need to know the size and shape of the space and its surface materials.  Anechoic recordings are then in a dead space with no reverberation, so that they can then be modelled through software which applies the impulse responses of the space. This means you can hear what it sounded like.  It was really interesting to think about how the women would have had to concentrated as they tried to listen to debates in the Commons from an attic space, with the sound travelling through an air vent.  Also Catriona pointed out that it brought to mind how people in the space of the Commons itself used the acoustic features of the space to make it difficult for people who were in the chamber to hear.

Jennifer Richards asked whether there were more interactive ways of presenting these sort of results, as soundscapes tend to be very passive. Catrina acknowledged that there are problems, and you can never completely recreate the past, but she argued that we can get somewhere near.

Next up wash Katherine Butler Schofield on Chasing Eurydice: Music and its Material traces in 17-18C Mughal India.  She’s been trying to work out what Hindustani classical music actually sounded like in Mughal India.  She made the point, initially, that musical instruments sound very different in the hot and dry to the cold and wet, which is something that we rarely consider!  The Mughals were a central Asian dynasty who took Delhi in 1526.  Pictures often depict a small group of friends gathering to enjoy music in an elite aristocratic situation, but the music was mainly improvised and in any case not notated, therefore it has gone. To Hindus, and Jains in particular, sound was auspicious and you could use a bell to cleanse a temple when you entered, or music to greet an infant at the moment of its birth.

She then talked about how sound was very widely used in forts, for festival such as weddings, birthday celebrations and song and dance events.  She showed manuscript images of how Agra fort was used, with awnings, rich fabrics, fireworks and lots of people, including musicians.  The dozens of musicians apparently playing at once might not have been entirely realistic, she suggested, but rather the depiction was there to give a sense of the grandeur and the level of noise taking place overall.  She showed another example of a painting in which there were many musicians performing different functions at the birth of a prince.   Her last point was that there is no way of recapturing what music really sounded like, but it is the exploration which yields interesting results.

The final paper in the panel was given by Simon Smith on Song in the Archive: the case of playhouse music.  Scholars usually work on the melodies of playhouse songs and how they were performed.  But we have no record of how they were experienced and no descriptions of how they were performed on stage.  We have songbooks for non-dramatic recreational performance, but although what we are looking for did once exist, but what survive is something a little different.  What is the dramatic function of a playhouse song, for example, and how does this affect its afterlife as something else? He suggested that song was intended to make the audience take on the inherent viewpoint of the narrator through a process of imaginative identification.

The Workshop closed with a look at some sound-related items from the Wellcome’s early modern collections.

Although there are certain aspects of my job that I am less than happy about, I have to admit that it has brought me opportunities that even a few years ago I would have found difficult to imagine. Many of these revolve around the chance to travel to places I would otherwise not have seen, such as Utrecht or Turku

My recent invitation to the Scripta in Itinere conference gave me a chance to visit Alcala in Spain and to pop into Madrid. In Alcala, I spent some happy times just wandering the streets.

I was also able to visit Cervantes’ birthplace and the local archeaological museum.

In Madrid, I went to the incredibly opulent Palacio Real.

I was privileged to be invited to the XI Congreso Internacional de Historia de la Cultura Escrita, held this June in Alcalá de Henares, which will for me be forever remembered as the city of storks – these enormous birds nest atop many of the old buildings around the Calle de Colegios, clacking their beaks as you walk the streets below.

I will be honest: I was at a bit of a loss when it came to most of the papers, as my Spanish is only rudimentary despite several attempts to learn over the course of about 30 years; my French is worse and my Italian is non-existent. Nevertheless, it was certainly an experience.

The inaugural lecture was given by Beatrice Frankel, on Montaigne, and the conference coincided with the opening of an exhibition of Alcalá’s environmental print over the years.

Veronica Sierra Blas, Beatrice Frankel and Antonio Castillo Gómez

I enjoyed Veronica Calsoni Lima’s paper, ‘From official to clandestine presses: the publishing businesses of Giles Calvert and Thomas Brewster in the 1650s’.  She began by describing the rapid circulation of news during the run up to the Civil War, and the breakdown of censorship which led to a flood of printed material. After 1653, there were new attempts to clampdown, and Cromwell’s regime began attempts to find a new official printer. Four men were considered, and between May and August at least 25 official texts were shared between them. Received wisdom is that Brewster and Calvert were the less obvious choices within the four potential printer, as they had associations with radical groups. But Veronica pointed out that this period coincided with the Nominated Assembly, or ‘Barebones Parliament’, which makes their presence fairly reasonable given it was made up of religious radicals itself. The folio-sized official publications they produced were intended to be pinned up in public and had large titles to catch the reader’s attention from a distance, decorated capital letters, the commonwealth’s arms, and shared imprints.

But after August, Brewster and Calvert disappear from official publications. Veronica suggested that this might be due to their radical sympathies and links with separatist congregations. They printed anti-royalist propaganda and pro-commonwealth propaganda, but also radical religious tracts by Quakers, Baptists and Fifth Monarchists. They also started to print anti-Cromwell propaganda, which got them into trouble. She took as her examples Edward Burrough’s ‘A trumpet of the Lord’ (which was a millenarian pamphlet that landed the printer in prison) and Henry Vane’s ‘A Healing Question’. Neither pamphlet has the official information, and although they have large titles, they don’t have complete imprints. Later clandestine works have no names for author, printer, or publisher. She suggested that the controversial texts that they published at the same time they were publishing official material, led to them being dropped as official printers.

She closed her remarks by commenting that other printers printed throughout the commonwealth, restoration, and under James II, which showed them to be canny businessmen, but Brewster and Calvert put their political and religious beliefs before business, risking loss of profit and even imprisonment rather than give up their ideals.

I gave my paper at one of the main panels on Wednesday afternoon.  It is the first time I have ever been on a panel with someone talking about Twitter and someone talking about mobile libraries.  I’m not entirely sure what the link was, but it certainly made for a different experience!


After the panel, we walked across Alcala to the opening of a mural, Alcala: Ciudad Escrita, on the wall of the city’s outdoor swimming pool, and to finish the evening, we went to El Sexto Sensido for the conference dinner, where I was asked to sing again for some of the delegates who had missed my paper.


All in all, it was a very interesting few days, and I enjoyed the opportunity.

At the end of February, I travelled up to Glasgow to speak at the English Folk Dance and Song Society’s Broadside Day at the Unviersity of Strathclyde. This is the first in a short series of posts about the day.

On Cathdral Street, Glasgow

Due to a series of unfortunate cricumstances, I didn’t reach Glasgow until 11am, so I missed papers by Catherine Ann Cullen (Speckled Cats and Gravey Distillers), David Stenton (The Forth Valley Songster) and E. Wyn James (‘The Black Spot’ and ‘The Old Man of the Wood’: Welsh Street Literature During the Long Eighteenth Century

I arrived during the morning tea break (nice pastries and a decent cuppa). The first paper I heard was given by Freyja Cox Jensen on ‘In Good Queen Bess’s Golden Days’: Memories of Elizabethan England in the Seventeenth and Eighteenth Centuries’. Freya talked about the context of English identity, which was very closely bound up with Protestantism and Protestant insularity.  The period was shaped by the notion of England as an island nation.  The idea comes from Elizabeth I, who comes to embody a very English types of Protestantism, with England as God’s chosen land.  Elizabeth continues to play a role in the idea of Englishness in the years after her death, as part of the cultural memory of Elizabethan England.  She’s a model for high politics after James II, especially with William and Mary.  The image of England is partly, therefore, created from the top-down, but it is also celebrated more widely.  Ballads from Queen Anne’s reign make explicit reference to Elizabeth I.  They see parallels between the armada and the Anne intervention in the war of Spanish succession. The most common idea, though, is the one that Elizabethan period was merry and a golden age. It was held up for centuries afterward as a jolly good time.

Freya Cox-Jensen

  Ballads are often set to Tudor tunes, and pick out martial characters from the period, such as the earl of Essex,  or Thomas Stukely who was a rather more complicated character than most – the ballad suggests he repents of going abroad as a recusant even though there is no evidence of this.  Many of these are long lived songs. They represent England as the underdog, the small and feisty man fighting for good.

But Freya noted that none of this is true – it’s a constructed myth that’s been going on for centuries.  And it’s not just about nation building, it’s also the belief in the ancient constitution which we see raised against Charles I before his execution. Custom is also a legitimising framework in court. Appealing to time out of mind trumps anything more recent especially relating to parish boundaries and common land. Traditionally scholars say the creation of the Elizabethan myth happens in the 18th and 19th centuries but Freya argued that the ideas were alive and well even before Elizabeth died.

Next up was me, talking about ‘Liege Ladies: Sixteenth-Century Broadside Ballads and Reigning Queens’, in a significant reworking of a paper I gave a few years ago at the Mary I Quincentenary conference. Then it was time for lunch.

This is the first in a short series of posts about my trip to the Medieval and Renaissance Music Conference in Maynooth during July 2018.

The Medieval and Renaissance Music Conference, known as MedRen, was a slightly scary undertaking for me. I’ve only been to one music conference before, where I presented a paper on ballads and the public sphere in Tudor England during the final year of my PhD. I only lasted half a day before I was poached by the Voices and Books Network! So 3 and a half days of wall to wall musicology was a bit intimidating, not least because there was so much on the schedule that I knew almost nothing about.

I left Liverpool early in the morning, and arrived in Maynooth about 11am. The first paper that I caught was given by Ascensión Mazuela-Anguita on ‘Women, oral tradition, and morality: the iconography of the sixteenth-century Spanish dance’. She described how women appear in foreground of pictures by Hoefnagel for an atlas by Georg Braun, even though they don’t appear in other sources.  The musical scenes are concentrated in  Andalucia, and focus on women dancing and playing instruments, especially percussion instruments.  The text, however, does not refer to the musical illustrations.   There has been speculation that they are perhaps playing music in the Muslim fashion, as this was the last Muslim community in Spain.  Morisco music was banned in 1556, and furthermore, music was seen as unladylike by Vives. The women in the images hold the rosary, as if they have to demonstrate their faith.  She noted that dance and music was part of an oral tradition so difficult to establish what it was like in the 16the century, but she suggested that the Spanish dance referred to by travelers might have been done in the Morisco fashion, not least because on some of the copies (which were all hand coloured) the skin of the musicians is darker.  

The next paper was given by Lynsey Callaghan: ‘How was music theory read in fifteenth century England? The evidence of ‘‘þe Proporcions“’.  Lynsey provided evidence from 3 different, mainly mathematical, manuscripts which included the same musical treatise. The treatise was not directly connected to sound, but had implications for it, because the mathematical ratios it included were used to to decide what was a consonant interval.  It includes a passing reference to sonorous music and the voice.  She noted the treatise’s pedagogical tone meant that it assumed a teaching role, especially through it use of Latin to name the ratios.  This was necessary because there was no vernacular equivalent for these Latin terms, but they were thoroughly explained.  Finally, she pointed out that the three manuscripts offer evidence of three different ways in which the text was consumed.

2018-07-05 12.12.35

The final paper in this first session was given by Katie Bank on ‘Voices in Dialogue in Martin Peerson’s Private Musicke (1620)’.  She described dialogue function as cultural predication, an inherent part of early modern thought processes.  Sometimes the dialogue itself is fiction – an ambiguity between fact and drama – but at the time this was seen as part of its effectiveness.   Katie described four different ways in which a song could be dialogic, but she acknowledged that dialogic songs were usually written for two accompanied human voices, in textual and musical conversation.  Peerson, however, was not clear on whether he meant ‘dialogue’  figuratively or the songs for more than one voice.  She also pointed out that even though the singers did not have costume for characterisation like drama, decisions made by performers at the point of performance affected the way the songs were heard.  This was something that I wholeheartedly agree with, as it chimes in with my work on the ballads in circulation during the Pilgrimage of Grace.  Songs are so much more than just the words and music!

After lunch, I attended two paired papers on music in Reformation Germany.  The first paper, ‘Canonisation in Lutheran Repertoire in public and private education: the case of Lüneburg‘, was given by Christine Roth.  She described Lutheran culture as based on a common canon of music. Musical education was designed to bolster this, choosing a canon of important or exemplary music that was considered suitable for teaching.  This canon aimed at acquainting children with the exemplary works whether they were Lutheran works or pre-Reformation.  It was linked to Lutheran notion of history and what should be remembered – the memory of portent events which were divine acts.

Hein Sauer then gave a paper on ’16th Century Music Manuscripts in Neustadt an der Orla’. The Reformation in Neustadt was influenced by Augustinian monks, but the town became Lutheran in 1528.  Neustadt needed a lot of music, as music for every Sunday was obligatory.  This led to the purchase of more than 200 prints and the creation of nine manuscripts.   Having examined two, it appeared that most of the repertoire in them could be found elsewhere.  In many case the prints were available first, but Hein argued that most of the manuscript versions are closer to performance practice in Neustadt.  They give evidence of social practice, for example, a psalm which was altered for the wedding of one of the scribes.  The manuscripts included a good mix of older canonised examples and newer music for festivals.

The next pair of papers, which had no direct relationship to each other, nevertheless both looked at otherness, one from the perspective of Lutheran hymnody, and the other from Catholic dance.  Antonio Chemotti’ s paper was entitled ‘Hymn culture and enemies of the church in sixteenth-century Silesia’.  He suggested that hymns were used to strengthen identity and that we can use the lyrics to identify who the hymns were ‘attacking’ through the beliefs they express.  One of the church’s enemies was the expanding Ottoman Empire, generally referred to in polemic as ‘the Turk’.  Collections of hymns against the Turks were printed in 1566, the year of Sulieman the Magnificent’s campaign against the Habsburg Empire in Hungary.  Antonio gave an example of a psalm paraphrase which asked God for help, being given new meaning as if that help were specifically needed against the Turk.  This occurred because, as I have argued in Singing the News, contrafacta carried the original meaning of the songs with them.  The way Triller choses his melodies carried many meanings, creating links between old secular texts and new sacred meanings.  Triller also wanted the new texts to be used at the same liturgical time as the old one was – thus creating an even stronger link than the Lutherans had.  Antonio also argued that Triller’s was a compromise hymn book, demonstrating that the Catholics and Lutherans got along well against the Salesians. the Silesian hymn book doesn’t attack the pope like Lutheran ones do – attempt not to offend the Catholics as they are trying to disassociate themselves from the religious dissidents.

Moritz Kelber’s paper on ‘(De-)constructing the enemy in early modern music and dance’ looked at music and the war against the Turks.  This war was one of the most important political issues in German speaking lands in the 15th and 16th centuries, even in areas where there was no direct military threat.  This was especially true of the siege of Vienna, an event which shocked public discourse.  German music was part of the construction of an omnipresent anti-Turkish literature, although most 16th century sources use the word Turk for a variety of ethnic groups.  Churches were made to ring their largest bells at noon to remind their people to pray against the Turks.  Similarly, in the 16th century, the black legend against the Spanish began to infect the German-speaking lands, and they used similar polemic to demonise the Catholic Spaniards. There were many pamphlets against the Turks, many containing songs.  Some of these have music so seem to be aimed a musically-literate audience.  Dance used exotic costumes and instruments to assimilate foreign cultures in a very special way.   For example, Maximilian’s court was fascinated with foreign dances and masquerades, where courtiers mixed with professional Morris dancers, both encountering and interacting with the ‘other’.


In the evening after dinner, we were treated to a concert of 5 voice polyphonic motets by the Boston group, Sourcework, who sing not from printed editions, but from original notation. It was very impressive, and I have to say that conferences with inbuilt concerts rather than keynotes might just be the way forward!

Over the weekend of 25-26 February 2017, I attended a conference in Lancaster which looked at new materialist approaches to the pre-modern  period: ‘Embodiment and New Materialism in Premodern Literature and Culture 1350-1700’.  Having already blogged about the first day of the conference, I thought it was time to share my recollections of the second.

The first speaker on day 2 was Dr. Robert Stagg (St Anne’s College, Oxford), who talked about ‘Shakespeare’s “Stuff”’.  The word ‘nothing’ appears 32 time in King Lear, but its range of opposites also appear a lot, and more often towards the end of the play. The monosyllabic irreducibility of Shakespeare’s language is part of the atomic sound scape of King Lear.

Emily Rowe (University of York) continued the focus on language with ‘Words and things: Francis Bacon, Lingua, and New Materialism’.  She explained how Francis Bacon criticised the construction of knowledge based on rhetoric as based on words rather than things. He acknowledged that language was necessary to explain, but it was often overcome by what Erasmus described as a ‘wild and wanton flow of words’.  In Thomas Tomkis’s play Lingua, the only female character is Lingua, who  fights and tricks others in her attempt to become the 6th sense. Appetitus, Gustus’s servant, presents a long list of Lingua’s failings. One of these is her power of translation, because vulgar language and mixed tongues were a concern of the 17th century.  Her biggest problem, however, is that she is a woman. During the early modern period the unruly tongue is particularly associated with women, because it is associated with the destructive power of female speech.  Bacon challenges the need for affected, metaphoric speech to explain, so while he wouldn’t describe language as a vulgar whore as Lingua does, he would not support her claim to be a sense.

I opened the second panel on ephemerality with my paper on ‘The (im)material sixteenth-century ballad’.  I talked about ballads and the Pilgrimage of Grace, focussing on the way ballads were sung and experienced rather than their material, printed form.  As usual, I got the audience to sing.

Following me was Catherine Evans (University of Sheffield) who spoke on ‘Pleating time in early modern almanacs’. Almanacs were the most popular early modern cheap print, containing astrological and medical information and guidance for every aspect of life at a low price. Almanac annotations show a great variety of readership. The flexible function of almanacs shown by the fact that they often contain all three of Heidi Brayman Hackel’s categories of annotation.  Chronologies at the beginning of almanacs give potted national histories, often with transparent political agendas. Nevertheless, people personalised these timelines by annotating these calendars with personally important information. Also people made changes to the printed dates. Therefore almanacs had another role as diaries. People interleaved blank pages, so printers started introducing blank leaves.  These changes create books that are long lasting records of the self rather than a plan of the year.  Furthermore, users did not stick to the linear notion of time indicated by the almanac because they were creating their own topographical understanding of time by using almanacs in ways that they weren’t intended.

The final paper in our panel was given by Beth Cortese (Lancaster University) on ‘Exchanging places: witty transformations’, much of which concentrated on the play of the weekend, Albumazar.  Betha argued that thieves and tricksters in early modern plays are the place of subversive wit, revealing anxieties about identity. Their plots are to do with material wit – inequality made animate in performance. Wit is therefore a performative and transformative form of subversion. The trickster often overturns rank.

Next came ‘An Embryo of rare contemplation’: a special panel chaired by Dr. Rachel White (Newcastle University). Dr. Lucy Munro (King’s College London) raised the question ‘how does one fall in love on stage’ in her paper ‘The Insatiate Countess: Body, Text and Stage’.   Her paper concentrated on The Insatiate Countess, written by John Marston even though he seems to have objected to his name being added to the published script. There are several textual difficulties with the play. She pointed out that it can be hard to tell stage directions from speech and vice versa in early modern plays. Different editions of the play have different names for the same characters. Also there were problems with the printing of different editions, with a lovely mondegreen where ‘the boxe unto Pandora given’ appeared in the text as ‘the poxe is unto Panders given’.

The play exploits the rampant sexuality of women and might have had a particular resonance at the time. It opens with the scene of the countess in mourning, before any speech, so the first line ‘what should we do in this countess’s dark hole’ is deeply shocking, especially with the men being described as ‘unruly members’. At the end she is executed, ostensibly for ordering the murder of her lover, but as much for the fact that her rampant sexuality subverts the patriarchy. The social hierarchy in the play is desperate for her to make a good death by admitting that she was at fault.

The next paper was given by Dr. Rachel Reid (Queen’s University Belfast) on ‘(Re)reading John Dee: Exploring Polytemporal Identities in his Collection of “Rarities”’.  Rachel showed that the placement and context of the object was what informed its meaning and focussed on polytemporalities as reaching across time rather than periodisation. John Dee had many roles and assembled the largest library in Elizabethan England. Although the Glindoni painting of ‘John Dee Performing an Experiment before Elizabeth I’ contains lots of things related to Dee, but it is not the image of a necromancer. However, in a fantastic animated slide that switched between the two images, she reminded us that the original painting had Dee surrounded by skulls.

I was particularly interested in the paper by Dr. Clare Egan (Lancaster University), ‘”By the singular operations of your excellent preparations”: Material Bodies and Medicinal Words in the Libel Case of Edwards v. Woolton (Exeter, 1604)’.  She pointed out that the difference between libel and slander was not so clear cut in the early modern period. One reason for the concern about libels might be that their epidemic nature made them more dangerous. This is illustrated by the move of libel trials from ecclesiastical to criminal courts, because disorder is the problem and can cause more scandal if it IS true than if not. The truth of the matter is not the issue – it’s not the content that matters, it is the manner in which they are spread.  Clare placed the emphasis on performance suggesting that  hearer is implicated in the performance by consenting to listen.

Matthew Blaiden (University of Leeds) talked about ‘Shakespeare’s Masks’, showing that masks in plays were structural devices which provided material splendour. Masking is mentioned in Shakespeare’s plays from very early on. First accepted appearance of masking within a play is in Love’s Labours Lost. Examples mentioning or including masks run the gamut of Shakespearean genres. The classic Elizabethan mask consisted of an entrance and a dance, but there are other types during the period. Much of the evidence Matthew uses for revels comes from revels accounts, but they were not exclusive to court, also taking place at the Inns of Court and also in towns where Queen Elizabeth went on progress.

The final event of the conference was a roundtable discussion, which developed the idea that the metaphor and the material occur simultaneously.

All in all, it was a very interesting weekend and much credit is due to the organisers of the conference for bringing everyone together.

Over the weekend of 25-26 February 2017, I attended a conference in Lancaster which looked at new materialist approaches to the pre-modern  period: ‘Embodiment and New Materialism in Premodern Literature and Culture 1350-1700’.  The first day of the conference was held in the lovely city of Lancaster itself, at Lancaster Castle and the Storey Institute.

Dr Rachel White introduced the conference with a brief description of how Thomas Tomkis’s play Albumazar had inspired the organisers to bring people together who might take a New Materialist approach to their work. She pointed out that, despite the emphasis on transformation in Albumazar, the physical world itself doesn’t change – just our perception of it. It therefore raises questions of agency and liminality.

Claire McGann (Lancaster University) presented the first conference paper on ‘Prophetic text, and prophetic body: divine constraint and seventeenth-century religious prophecy’. She described how the seventeenth-century saw a considerable increase in the production of newsbooks and revelatory texts. Both men and women turned to producing prophecy.   She commented that women’s part in such publications was interesting, because (as Smith and Purkiss have pointed out)) religious prophecy was divinely inspired, produced by God through human agency and therefore a role associated with men.  The  prophet is in fact dehumanised. Prophecy was an unseen cerebral process but also a physical process in which the body  suffered physical consequences.

Claire talked about the case of Francis Wilde, who petitioned Charles II because he’d printed a work prophesying that Charles woud return to his rightful throne. But Wilde began his petition by saying that he was bound by God to make his prophecy, thus undermining his claim of loyalty to the king. He also claimed to have suffered physically, through  deafness and unemploymen, as a result of his obedience to God and king.

She suggested that the frequent images of pressing in prophetic texts suggested that prophets were forced to obey the need to publish.   They provided authorial liberation from physical constraint. But it is wrong to assume the physical was just an image. The real body suffered the consequences of public prophecy.  This embodied materiality appeared similarly in the texts of men and women.

The second paper was given by Imogen Felstead (Lancaster University) on ‘“[W]e are gripped by God, and his grip upholds us”: the hand of God in premodern literature and culture’.  Imogen explored the ways in which hands communicate –silently.  Her work examines the iconography of the divine hand, including visceral experiences as well as the physical, following Bruce Smith’s work on phenomenology.  Early modern people believed that God’s hand was the creator and upholder of the self and that all people weregripped by God. God’s touch transcended the physical so mankind must put their trust and bodies in God’s hand. Chirologia contains many images of hand gestures and their meanings – pre-Modern face palm! Holding the hands to heaven allows the person to transcend the earthly to the spiritual.  Imogen reminded us that there was believed to be a direct link between hand and heart.  She pointed out that hands play a central role in pre-modern selfhood. It is only the hand that can translate thought into deed and action.

The final paper of the first panel was given by Jonah Coman (University of St Andrews) on ‘No strings attached: emotional interaction with animated sculptures of crucified Christ’.  He started by telling the story of the nun who wanted to go out to meet her lover and was struck by the crucified Christ. Jonah’s research concerns animated sculptures which are capable of movement. They are usually seen as multi-purpose props for processions but  because they are large they place demands on the spatial environment. The crucifixion images are bodies in motion. Any crucifix can be ‘mobile’ in personal encounters with a true believer.  Jonah commented that acutely embodied experiences such as terror and arousal help to remind the Christian of Christ and drive home the main Christian truth – the incarnation.

The second panel opened with my colleague from the English department at Liverpool Hope University,  Dr. Louise Wilson, talking about ‘“Keeping his bodies close and still after supper, setteth his mind a walking”: Reading, eating, and health in early modern England’. Louise explained that Plutarch describes suitable recreations for mealtimes: discourse was not suitable because in effect it causes indigestion.  It was better to read pleasurable tales, make light conversation and listen to music. Usually pleasurable tales are seen as bad for people, so Plutarch’s attitude is quite different. Plutarch suggests that it’s good to set the mind walking,  demonstrating the symbiotic relationship between mind and body. This was a common 16th century notion.  Louise pointed out that in the absence of records of reading light material, we might reconstruct them from the accounts of after-dinner reading in the very stories we are considering.

We rarely concentrate on mealtimes to show how people ate and read recreationally. Recreation is a type of action, a pause from more vigorous mental and physical activity. Rather than being seen just as reading for pleasure, it ds a utility in mental, physical and spiritual activity.   Puritans attacked light reading, but there was also an explosion of this sort of print. Short popular prose fiction itself suggests that it was an important leisure activity – aiming to legitimise its use.

Next came Erin Thompson (Lancaster University) whose paper was entitled ‘“The Bellye of the Land”: Utopia and the Formation of a Nation’.  In the early modern, the stomach was a primary organ for understanding the self. The disposition of body and mind was a product of the surroundings. Unlike their southern neighbours, the northerners’ thick humours were believed to cloud their minds.  Northerners therefore felt the need to rehabilitate their image and recuperate an English identity. More’s text uses the stomach as a national signifier for military ability. English superiority rested on their strong stomachs which provided the soldiers with a physical and mental upper hand.

Kibrina Davey (Sheffield Hallam University) gave the final paper in the set: ‘“Thou Didst Eat My Lips”: Swallowing Passion in William Davenant’s The Tragedy of Albovine.  I must admit that I have never read the play, but at least I knew about the court of James I and Charles I.  Kibrina described how Davenant was criticised for the shocking violence in his plays. Albovine is a play concerned with passions and influenced by Galenic doctrine.

Passions in the play are infectious, transmitted not only from person to person but the nature of the court, with Verona mirroring the court of James I. When the play was published, James had just died. He had been criticised for his relationship with his favourite Buckingham. Praise of the Elizabethan state in the play in fact can be read as criticism of the Jacobean court, which was too passionate a place. The passions of the king and his favourite are breathed out through hot air and infect the rest of the court.  Passions are also represented by eating. Parasites and earwigs represent the court favourite as a disease eating away at the king’s brain, but there is also a lot of sexual cannibalism representing the relationship between passion and eating.

The final panel was opened by Bethany Jones (Lancaster University), whose paper was entitled ‘Tracing the premodern textual waive: introducing Long Meg of Westminster’.  She suggested that the outlawed man is inside a text in order to be outlawed. Outlaws are embedded in popular culture over centuries and adapted for a variety of genres. The woman’s terminological equivalent is the waive, but there is little evidence of them in popular culture. More flexible terms such as ‘unruly’ mean they are usually included under the umbrella term ‘transgressive’ women.

Bethany explained that a woman could not be outlawed because she was not under the law. She was only a person as part of her husband. But there was a paradox: the existence of a text means that women  were recognised as being able to break a law that they were not actually under! The waived woman can be considered one abandoned – claimed by no-one, she was abandoned property. John Cowell, however, described a waive as a woman who ‘contemptuously refuseth to appear’. So she was not one left behind, but one who had taken a decision to flee from the consequences of her actions in court.

Lancashire’s Long Meg of Westminster is portrayed in many competing ways. She is a female of Robin Hood (the definitive textual outlaw) who takes from the rich to give to the poor and is willing to violate law to implement her own brand of justice, often using domestic objects. Household objects, in fact, often appear in accounts of female violence. Long Meg also provides patriotic services, attacking with her women soldiers some French men. Again the women are described as using household or simple objects, not traditional weapons. Nevertheless, he is also a commodity, someone who can be impregnated to produce a generation of soldiers. Bethany finished by comparing Long Meg to a twenty-first century super hero, figuring Long Meg as an Elizabethan Wonder Woman.

The theme of martial women continued in the next paper, ‘Behold the Warrior Women: The Gendering and Embodiment of War through Martial Objects in Three Restoration Plays’,  given by Josje Siemensma (Radboud University Nijmegen).  The warrior woman was ubiquitous in Elizabethan literature. Nevertheless, how to portray these women on stage was a problem, because they were played by men. For women, chastity was a shield in itself, and a weapon. But by the Restoration, their social worth was valued in their ability to reproduce, and their fragility was also important. Women were fragile and delicate and therefore not suited to join the army.

The warrior women in the 3 plays that Josje studied show that women had the physical ability to use weapons and be a soldier. They need to be trained to use them and how to behave, but the weapon itself does not discriminate the wielder on the basis of gender. Although the women win, the fighting isn’t seen on stage and the victory is relayed by men.

Emily Soon (King’s College London) talked on ‘“by the influence of her beauty”: Transforming Eastern bodies in Davenant’s The Temple of Love’.  The play was intended to show how much Henrietta Maria could do to improve Britain and clearly aimed to speak on many levels. The fact that she brings the Temple of Chaste Love shows her household was not loose, as had been wracked by scandal. Emily argued that  it also shows her as submissive to her husband in the face of rumours that she didn’t support Charles I’s policy towards France. But Henrietta Maria played her role as an Indian in a time of particular xenophobia. Indians were bestial. Narsingar was presented as a place where girls were brought up to be concubines of the king. It was also a place where something like elephantiasis was rife, and the disease was portrayed in England as a divine curse on the Indians for their poor behaviour and lack of Christianity. It was  therefore odd to portray Henrietta Maria as queen of this place. Why then did they do it?

Emily suggested that it was unlikely that Henriettta Maria didn’t know about the  reputation of Indians and Narsingar in particular.  Davenant’s play acknowledges and subverts common tropes. The queen has the power miraculously to  transform anything with which she is involved.

The plenary was  given by Professor Lisa Hopkins (Sheffield Hallam University) on the play that inspired the conference: ‘“Run slow, run slow, ye lobsters of the night”: literary and material transformation in Thomas Tomkis’ Albumazar’..

The nature of transformation and how it is effected is one of the central themes of the play. Costume can only change the outward apparel because they are inanimate and therefore true transformation is much more than this. She suggested that early modern plays raise 4 questions:

• By whom is the transformation effected?

• For how long?

• To what end?

• What is transformed?

Usually transformations are from human to animal, but in Albumazar it’s human to human, and what’s more, it’s not just what they are going to get from transformation that interests the characters – they are really interested in the process itself. They assume it will involve some form of cooking, and Trincolo is worried that he will be so transformed that his drinking and lechery will be affected. He also doesn’t want his immaterial emotional attributes such as his love for Armellina messed with. Other descriptions of the transformation include sculpting, or moulding like wax. Like acting, or self-fashioning, he believes in himself – he is told that he is changed and looks exactly like Antonio and he. believes, even though if he just looked down he would realise that he hasn’t changed at all. All the audience (real and in the play) sees is new clothes and self-confidence but everyone believes it including the real Antonio himself. It depends on confident acting, just as any play acting does in the first place –the ultimate transformation is theatre itself.

But questions remain. The play raises dangerous ideas about the soul. If there is a soul, where does it come from and how can you be changed without affecting it? Is it possible that things (without soul) can be transformed into men?

The day finished with a very amusing Albumazar Performance Workshop with The Rose Company, held in the beautiful surroundings of the Shire Hall at Lancaster Castle.   Each group experimented with performing a short section of the text.  I was involved in the section where Trincalo is robbed by Ronca. We decided to have two delegagates read the text while I mimed the part of Trincalo and Claire Egan played Ronca, because the section hinged on physical comedy  that would have been difficult if not impossible while holding a script.   It was great fun to try out different interpretations and possibilities then perform before the other delegates.  Sadly,  I have no photographs of this part of the conference because the Shire Hall is still a working court room, but it was an unusual and particularly interesting way to end the first day.