Welcome to Shifting Landscapes of the Medieval World

Welcome! Shifting Landscapes of the Medieval World is a seminar series at the University of Cambridge run by Prof Máire Ní Mhaonaigh and Dr Miranda Griffin. In our research, we are both interested in the role and representation of landscape in the European Middle Ages.

Although the word ‘landscape’ entered English in the sixteenth century, the concept of the land as it shapes and is shaped by human activity is much, much older. Much more than a backdrop to narrative, much more than a passive object of knowledge, much more than patches of space to be allocated and appropriated, landscape is revealed as playing an active part in narrative, power, and knowledge. A focus on landscape allows us to ask questions about the division between culture and nature; the boundaries between countries and cultures; the agency of the nonhuman and more than human; the role of the supernatural and the imagination in shaping history; and the ethics of landscape management, naming, and ownership. This seminar series comes at a time in which we are all, individually and collectively, rethinking our relationship to the spaces we live in and with, and our responsibility to them: we therefore anticipate a dynamic and stimulating series of conversations.

This seminar series brings together scholars from the Faculties of MMLL, English, and Classics; and from universities in the UK, Europe, and the US – we hope to elicit further interest and engagement from colleagues in other disciplines and in other locations. Although our focus is on medieval landscape (Máire Ní Mhaonaigh’s research concentrates on the history of Ireland’s literary landscapes; Miranda Griffin works on literary representations of landscape in medieval French), we aim to open out this perspective to engage colleagues working on periods both before and after the Middle Ages; and in areas beyond Northern Europe.

Our seminars will take place in hybrid form (online and in person) in 2022 on 19 January, 9 February, 2 March, 27 April, 18 May and 8 June. Our two-day conference is planned for 14-15 September 2022.

We look forward to hearing from researchers and other interested parties as our conversations evolve over the next few months. Please feel free to leave comments or contact the organisers.

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