Showing posts with label University of Manchester. Show all posts
Showing posts with label University of Manchester. Show all posts

Wednesday, 19 February 2014

Events at the University of Manchester

Some upcoming events at the University of Manchester that may be of interest to medievalists...

Wednesday 26th February 2014
5.15pm, 4.05 Mansfield Cooper

Art History Visual Studies Seminar Series 2013/4
Pilkington Visiting Lecturer

Horst Bredekamp, Professor of Art History (Humboldt University, Berlin): Charlemagne and the Image Politics of the Body

Monday 3rd March 2014
6pm, Historic Reading Room, John Rylands Library Deansgate

The Toller Lecture
Professor John Hines (University of Cardiff): A New Chronology and New Agenda: The Problematic Sixth Century

Followed by a free wine reception, and then dinner (at own expense). If you wish to attend the post-lecture dinner, please book by Monday 24th February with Gale Owen-Crocker.

Tuesday 15th - Thursday 17th April 2014
Hulme Hall

Registrations are now being taken for the MANCASS Easter Conference 2014 on Womanhood in Anglo-Saxon England. Programme and enrolment information is available from Brian Schneider.

Sunday, 16 February 2014

Manchester Medieval Society Meeting

Merchants and Makers: an Analysis of the Suppliers Named in Great Wardrobe Accounts of Henry VII and Henry VIII

Maria Hayward, Professor of History at Southampton University

Thursday 20th February 2014 at 6 p.m
Venue: Samuel Alexander A112, University of Manchester

For more information, please visit the Manchester Medieval Society website.

Miri Rubin Lectures at the University of Manchester (May 2014)

The Sherman Lectures in Jewish Studies 2014

Centre for Jewish Studies
University of Manchester

Thinking about Jews in Medieval Europe: Explorations with Text, Images and Sounds
Miri Rubin

Prof. Miri Rubin is professor of Medieval and Early Modern History at Queen Mary University of London. The dates of the University Lectures are 12-15 May 2014. Time: 5:15pm. Venue: Kanaris Lecture Theatre, Manchester Museum (located centrally on the University campus). There will also be a community lecture at 8pm on 11 May 2014 at a venue tbc.

Community Lecture: Jews in Medieval English Culture (Sunday 11 May)

Jews were embedded in the ideas and practices of every community of which they formed a part. Yet the experience of living as a Jew or with Jews varied greatly between European regions and over time. This lecture will consider the circumstances surrounding the settlement of Jews, and the intera_ctions and attitudes that developed towards them. It will point out, in particular, the diverse attitudes and interactions experienced in different milieus: monastic, urban, scholastic, courtly, as well as in Latin, English and French.

Thinking about Jews in Medieval Europe: People and Places (Monday 12 May)

Who created ideas about Jews in medieval Europe, and how were these transmitted and recorded? Why did some periods display an intensity of interest in Jews compared to others? This lecture will consider the challenge posed by the presence of Jews to those who managed, taxed, led and educated medieval communities. It will probe the directions of change over time, as well as regional variation across Europe.

The Jewish Body (Tuesday 13 May)

Difference between social groups is always marked by external signs and often by the attribution of physical difference. The Middle Ages saw the development of some powerful ideas about the Jewish – usually male – body. This lecture will explore these ideas and their relation to prevailing concepts of well-being and virtue. It will probe how the Jewish body came to be seen as threatening and indeed predatory, and an enduring obstacle to true conversion.

Jews and Children (Wednesday 14 May)

One of the most horrific accusations born in medieval Europe was that of child murder. This lecture will explore the conditions that made the birth of such slander in twelfth-century Norwich possible. It will also consider how Christians viewed childhood and attempted making sense of Jewish kinship and family life.

Jews and Material Christianity (Thursday 15 May)

Everywhere they turned Jews saw and heard the signs of Christian religious culture: cathedrals, statues at street corners, shrines, processions, and bells. The final lecture explores the ideas Jews developed towards these pervasive images and sounds, and explores the rejection – as well as attractions – experienced towards what Caroline Bynum has called Material Christianity.

For more information, see the Centre for Jewish Studies website or email.

Sunday, 9 February 2014

Dress and Textile Discussion Group Meeting

Below are details of the next Dress and Textile Discussion Group meeting at the University of Manchester.

Our speaker is Dr John-Peter Wild who will be talking about: 'Cotton - the New Wool. A Developing Tale from Roman Egypt'. The meeting will take place on Thursday 13th February between 5-6 pm. The room is Seminar Room 1 in the Graduate Suite, Ellen Willkinson Building, University of Manchester.

To find the room you will need to enter the building via the north entrance. The Graduate Suite is on the left of the foyer. You will need to swipe your university card to gain access. If you do not have a card, the person on duty will know about the meeting and will let you in. They will also be able to guide you to the room which is on the ground floor.

John Rylands Medieval Research Seminar

(including information on Manchester Medieval Society lectures)

Semester 2, 2013-2014

February 6th 2014 – John Rylands Medieval Research Seminar (5.30pm) Professor Gale Owen-Crocker, English, University of Manchester, ‘The significance of the Bayeux Tapestry’ (Venue: John Rylands Library Deansgate, Christie Seminar Room)

February 20th 2014 - Manchester Medieval Society Lecture (6.00pm) Professor Maria Hayward, Southampton University, ‘Merchants and Makers: An analysis of the suppliers named in Great Wardrobe accounts of Henry VII and Henry VIII’ (Venue: Samuel Alexander A112, University of Manchester)

March 6th 2014 – John Rylands Medieval Research Seminar (5.30pm) Dr Charles Insley, History, University of Manchester, ‘Ottonians with Pipe Rolls? Kingship and symbolic action in the kingdom of the English’ (Venue: John Rylands Library Deansgate, Christie Seminar Room)

March 20th 2014 – John Rylands Medieval Research Seminar (5.30pm) Dr Georg Christ, History, University of Manchester, ‘Age of Empire: Information and knowledge management in the Venetian and Mamluk empires during the fifteenth century’ (Venue: Samuel Alexander A112, University of Manchester)

April 3rd 2014 - Manchester Medieval Society/MANCASS Lecture (6.00pm) Kevin Leahy, University of Leicester, ‘New Finds of the Staffordshire Hoard’ (Venue: TBC)

May 1st 2014 - John Rylands Medieval Research Seminar/Brook Lecture (5.30pm) Professor Andrew James Johnston, Freie Universitaet Berlin, ‘Chaucer's Postcolonial Renaissance’ (Venue: John Rylands Library Deansgate, Christie Seminar Room)

Supported by the John Rylands Research Institute

Sunday, 15 September 2013

Dress and Textile Discussion Group (University of Manchester)

Programme for 2013-14

Where: TBC – please see reminders

Time: 5pm

Thursday 10th October 2013
Dr Brenda King: Stitch and Stone. The Leek Embroidery Society and its collaboration with Gothic Revival Architects

Thursday 21st November 2013
Alexandra Lester-Makin: The Kempston Embroidery Revisited

Thursday 13th February 2013
Dr John Peter Wild: Cotton - the New Wool. A Developing Tale from Roman Egypt

Thursday 20th March 2014
Dr Chris Monk: Divine Clothing: Adorning God and the Patriarchs in the Rylands Bible Historiée

Thursday 1st May 2014
Dr Elizabeth Coatsworth: Mrs Christie and English Medieval Embroidery

For more information, please contact Alexandra Lester-Makin.

Wednesday, 13 February 2013

Queer Utopias - Public Events

Manchester Queer Cultures Research Network and University of Manchester Centre for the Study of Sexuality and Culture

Queer Utopias

Public Events - All Welcome

Thursday 21 February
Professor Ulrike Dahl (Södertörn, Sweden): Femmembodiment: Notes on Queer Feminine Shapes of Vulnerability.
Venue: Room A112, Samuel Alexander Building, 5-7pm.

Tuesday 19 March
Professor Clare Hemmings (LSE)
'The Voice of Love is Calling, Wildly Beating Against their Breasts': Emma Goldman, Sexual Freedom and the Homosexual Archive.
Venue: Room A101, Samuel Alexander Building, 5-7pm.

Tuesday 7 May
Dr Kaye Mitchell (Manchester)
Queer Metamorphoses: Girl Meets Boy and the Futures of Queer Fiction.
Venue: Room A113, Samuel Alexander Building, 5-7pm.

Tuesday 11 June
Dr David Alderson (Manchester)
Is Capitalism Progressive (for Queers)?
Venue: Room A112, Samuel Alexander Building, 5-7pm.

Tuesday, 15 November 2011

Gender and Medieval Studies Conference 2012: Gender and Punishment

Martin Harris Centre, University of Manchester
11-13 January 2012

Registration is now open for GMS 2012: Gender and Punishment. Click here to register or here to visit the conference website.


Wednesday 11 January

12:45-1:45pm: Registration (Foyer)

1:45pm: Welcome and Opening Remarks by Dr. Anke Bernau (University of Manchester) (John Thaw Studio Theatre)

2-3:30pm: Keynote Lecture (John Thaw Studio Theatre)
Chair: Professor Gale Owen-Crocker (University of Manchester)
Professor Dawn Hadley (University of Sheffield): Masculinity and Mass Graves in Anglo-Saxon England

3:30-4pm: Coffee (Foyer)

4-5:30pm: Parallel Sessions

Panel 1a: Torture and Spectacle (John Thaw Studio Theatre)
Chair: TBC
(i) David Matthews (University of Manchester): “Take example, and thereof beware”: The Medieval Execution Ritual
(ii) Megan Welton (University of Notre Dame): Diversis angustiata cruciatibus: Adelheid of Italy and Tenth-Century Capture, Torture, and Gender
(iii) Iain MacInnes (UHI Centre for History): “A somewhat too cruel vengeance was taken for the blood of the slain”: punishment of rebels and traitors in medieval Scotland, c.1100-c.1400

Panel 1b: Holy Women and Punishment (G16)
Chair: TBC
(i) Jessica Cheetham (University of Bristol): Mechthild of Magdeburg and Vicarious Punishment
(ii) Clare Monagle (Monash University): Authority and Punishment in the Letters of Hildegard of Bingen and Catherine of Siena
(iii) Kate E. Bush (The Catholic University of America): Cani Giudei: Anti-Semitism in the Sermons of Saint Catherine of Bologna

5:30pm: Close

6pm: Wine reception at International Anthony Burgess Foundation (Engine House, Cambridge Street)


Thursday 12 January

9:30-11am: Parallel Sessions

Panel 2a: Space and Punishment (John Thaw Studio Theatre)
Chair: TBC
(i) Sergi Sancho Fibla (Universitat Pompeu Fabra): Marguerite d’Oingt’s Pagina Meditationum. The female hell for the “brothers of flies”
(ii) Polly Stevens Fields (University of Nevada, Reno): Reconsideration of Hrothwissa’s Convent Dramas: Source and Site of Female Punishment in Paphnutius
(iii) Kristin Distel (Ashland University): Holy Fear as Incentive for Enclosure

Panel 2b: Presence and Absence in Punishment (G16)
Chair: TBC
(i) Drew Maxwell (University of Edinburgh): “Traytur untrew and trowthles”: Women's roles as punishers and teachers in the concept of trowth within Ywain and Gawain and Sir Launfal
(ii) Hannah Priest (University of Manchester): “De l’altre part la dame a prise”: Hiding Punitive Violence Against Women in Insular Romance
(iii) Carl G. Martin (Norwich University): “Par destresce e par poür”: Bisclavret’s Constrained Bodies

11-11:30am: Coffee (Foyer)

11:30-1pm: Parallel Sessions

Panel 3a: Law and Punishment (John Thaw Studio Theatre)
Chair: TBC
(i) Daniela Fruscione (University of Frankfurt): Adultery, gender and punishment in the 7th century: Legal and social frames
(ii) Charlene M. Eska (Virginia Tech): Castration in Early Irish Law
(iii) Gillian R. Overing (Wake Forest University): Within Striking Distance: Gender, Insult and Injury in Some Anglo-Saxon Laws

Panel 3b: Virgins and Punishment (G16)
Chair: TBC
(i) Christine Williamson (University of York): The Moment of Death in the Passiones of the Virgin Martyrs: Exploring Gendered Forms of Execution in Medieval Hagiography
(ii) Sarah Schäfer (University of Paderborn): “Letting Satan in…” On teeth, tongues, throats and symbolic defloration in Female Saints’ Legends
(iii) Stavroula Constantinou (University of Cyprus): Holy Violence: Crime and Punishment in the Miracles of Saint Thecla

1-2pm: Lunch (Foyer)

2-3:30pm: Parallel Sessions

Panel 4a: Punitive Scripts of Selfhood (John Thaw Studio Theatre)
Chair: TBC
(i) Emily Rhodes (University of Bristol): Punishment & Imitatio Christi: Medieval Holy Women Creating Purgatory
(ii) Sarah Macmillan (University of Birmingham): Punishment, Pain and the Invisible Injuries of Christina Mirabilis
(iii) Michelle M. Sauer (University of North Dakota): Devotional Violence and Sacred Sacrifice: Asceticism, Flagellation, and Penetration in A Talkyng of the Loue of Gode

Panel 4b: Gendered Punishment (G16)
Chair: TBC
(i) Rachel Jones (Cardiff University): Punishing the Unruly Female Saint: The Anomalous Case of Mary Magdalene
(ii) Inna Matyushina (University of Exeter): Punishments in Chastity Tests
(iii) Anastasija Ropa and Edgar Rops (University of Wales, Bangor): Gender specific punishment in the ‘Queste del Saint Graal’ and contemporary legal practice

3:30-4pm: Coffee (Foyer)

4-5:30pm: Keynote Lecture (John Thaw Studio Theatre)
Chair: Dr. Anke Bernau (University of Manchester)
Professor Karen Pratt (King’s College, London): Does the punishment fit the crime, or only the person? The intersection of gender, class and punishment in Old French

5:30pm: Close

7pm: Conference Dinner at Felicini (Oxford Road)


Friday 13 January

9:30-11am: Parallel Sessions

Panel 5a: Uncanny Bodies and Punishment (John Thaw Studio Theatre)
Chair: TBC
(i) Stephen Gordon (University of Manchester): Post-Mortem Punishment and the Fear of the Errant Corpse in Writings of William of Newburgh
(ii) Patricia Skinner (University of Swansea): The Gendered Nose and its Lack – some thoughts on medieval rhinectomy
(iii) Katja Fält (University of Jyväskylä, Finland): Men, Women and Devils - Representations of Gender and the Diabolic in the Late-Medieval Wall Paintings of the Diocese of Turku (Finland)

Panel 5b: Discipline and Punish (G16)
Chair: TBC
(i) Kathy Frances (University of Manchester): Penance and Punishment: The Male Body and Masculine Bonds in John Audelay the Blind’s Counsel of Conscience
(ii) Frank Battaglia (College of Staten Island/CUNY): Boys Should Be Heroes: Beowulf’s disciplinary discourse
(iii) Rachel Friedensen (Western Michigan University): Si invita passa est: Consent and Gender in Anglo-Saxon and Frankish Penitentials
11-11:30am Coffee (Foyer)

11:30-12:30pm: Panel 6: Timely Punishment (John Thaw Studio Theatre)
Chair: TBC
(i) Beverly R. Sherringham (Farmingdale State College, New York): The Graceful Fall: Medieval Misogyny as a Redemptive Precursor to an Egalitarian Society
(ii) Daisy Black (University of Manchester): Troublesome Flotsam: Verbal Resurrections of a Drowned Past

12:30-1:30pm: Lunch (Foyer)

1:30-2:30pm: GMS Business Meeting (G16)

3-4:15pm: Optional Workshops

(i) John Rylands Library Manuscript Collections (John Rylands Library, Deansgate)
(ii) The Heronbridge Skeletons (led by Dr. Bryan Sitch) (Manchester Museum, Oxford Road)

4:15pm Conference Close


Registration is now open. Click here to register. For more information, visit the conference website or the University of Manchester website, or email the conference convenors.

Thursday, 31 March 2011

CFP: Gender and Medieval Studies Conference 2012

Gender and Medieval Studies Conference 2012
The University of Manchester

Gender and Punishment

With keynote speakers Professor Karen Pratt (King’s College London) and Professor Dawn Hadley (University of Sheffield)
11th—13th January 2012

Proposals are now being accepted for 20-minute papers

Punishment is intrinsically related to the way in which authorities (such as the church, monarchy and state) seek to control, enforce and legislate the behaviour of individuals, communities and nations, and accordingly it plays an integral role in regulating bodies, spaces, spirituality and rela-tionships. Representations of punishment - whether threatened, enacted, depicted or performed - are regularly encountered by medievalists working across the disciplines of literature, history, art and archaeology. This conference seeks to explore functions and manifestations of punishment in the Middle Ages and to consider to what extent these are determined by, or aim to determine, gender identity. How is punishment gendered? How does gender intersect with punishment? Topics to consider may include but are not limited to:

  • Punishment in the beginning; the medieval understanding of the Fall.

  • Punishment, pedagogy and gender: the use of punishment in teaching.

  • Christianity, gender and punishment; treatment of the sinful body.

  • Punishment of Jewish, Saracen and heretical men and women.

  • Personal identity and self-inflicted acts of punishment.

  • The (gendered) use of space as punishment.

  • Regal punishments; punishments enacted upon or by medieval rulers.

  • Punishment and the regulation of perceived sexual deviance.

  • Punishment and spectacle; performance of punishment on and off the stage.

  • Gender relations in specific acts of punishment.

  • Confession and penance (as punishment): gendered role of confessor; issues relating to differences between female and male confession and penance.

  • Hell, the diabolic, and representations of gender.

We welcome scholars from a range of disciplines, including history, literature, art history and archaeology. A travel fund is available for postgraduate students who would otherwise be unable to attend.

Please e-mail proposals of no more than 300 words to organiser Daisy Black by 1 September 2011. All queries should also be directed to this address. Please also include biographical information, detailing your name, research area, institution and level of study if applicable.

Further details are available on the conference website.

Monday, 7 February 2011

CFP: The University of Manchester Medieval Postgraduate Conference

Education and Ignorance:
The Use of Knowledge in the Medieval World c.550-1550

John Rylands Library, Deansgate

Monday 6th-Tuesday 7th June 2011


Modern historiography has often depicted the Middle Ages as a period of ignorance, dogma and superstition - a period in which knowledge stagnated and education was both restricted to a privileged minority and dominated by the institutional and ideological authority of the Church. From the Carolingian Renaissance and the rise of the medieval universities to the condemnation of heretical teachings and the intellectual and spiritual ferment of the Reformation, the reality about education and knowledge in the medieval world is undoubtedly far more complex and contested than this picture suggests. This two day conference seeks to explore that reality through a diverse range of disciplines and across the full historical span of the period. We aim to address the questions - How was education theorised, institutionalised and practiced throughout the Middle Ages? How was knowledge controlled, transmitted and transformed? and To what uses were they put both by established ecclesiastical and feudal powers and the social and religious formations that opposed them?

With these questions in mind, we invite proposals for twenty minute papers from postgraduates and early career researchers on a variety of topics including, but not limited to:

  • the losses and restoration of Classical knowledge in the early Middle Ages
  • the development of the medieval universities
  • the educational role of the monasteries and the mendicant orders
  • scholasticism, scepticism and humanism
  • heresy, censorship and reformation ideas about education
  • didacticism in medieval literature, drama, art and architecture
  • material culture and education: manuscripts, libraries, printing etc.
  • theories and methods of learning - memory and scriptural exegesis
  • unconventional and popular learning - alchemy, folk and occult practice

Please email abstracts of 250-300 words to the Manchester Medieval Postgraduate Conference along with your name, affiliation and title of paper. All queries should also be directed to this address. The deadline for submission is 31st March 2011. Selection of papers will be made by 15th April.

For more information concerning the conference, see our website.

Monday, 10 January 2011

CFP: Before Man and God: Sin, Confession, Forgiveness and Redemption in the Anglo-Saxon World

Sixth Annual Postgraduate Conference
March 7-8, 2011
John Rylands Library, Deansgate
University of Manchester

Before Man and God
Sin, Confession, Forgiveness and Redemption in the Anglo-Saxon World

In Anglo-Saxon England, the priest was expected to teach both from the Bible and his Scriftboc (handbook of penance). He was to educate his flock in matters of sin, make judgements on the size of tariffs for penance, and show the sinner how to atone for his misdeeds. Sinners were urged to confess with humility all their sins, whatever their nature. Better to feel shame before a man now than to do so before God on Judgement Day!

This conference aims to draw together evidence for the practice of private confession throughout the Anglo-Saxon period and to situate it within the history of confession up to and including the Fourth Lateran Council in 1215, when the Church stipulated an annual requirement for confession. In doing this, it also aims to explore the Anglo-Saxon world through its understanding of sin, confession, penance, forgiveness and redemption. It will ask questions such as: How did the theology of confession influence Anglo-Saxon society more broadly? What was the impact on law? How are sin and confession represented in literature, art and architecture? Can the evidence from penitential literature be understood as social commentary?

Postgraduate and early-career researchers are invited to submit abstracts of no more than 250 words for 20-minute papers that engage with the conference's themes. The following list of topics for consideration is not exhaustive:

  • Anglo-Saxon penitential literature: the relationship of vernacular texts to Latin sources; the relationship between penitentials and law codes; penance tariffs
  • Anglo-Saxon confessional literature within the history of private and/or public confession: comparative analysis of Irish and continental penitentials; comparative analysis of later confessional literature (twelfth- and thirteenth-century)
  • Sin as (theological) discourse: e.g. the meaning of sin, including guilt and shame
  • The priest and his scriftboc: pastoral care and education
  • Confession/penance and types of sin: e.g. sexual sins, theft, manslaughter
  • Fasting, almsgiving and singing psalms
  • Penitential/confessional dialogue
  • Confession and gender; confession and status
  • Anglo-Saxon readings of original sin
  • Confession as poetic motif
  • The confessional 'self'
  • Sin/the sinner/confession/penance in Anglo-Sexon art and sculpture
  • Judgement Day: the sinner before God in literature and/or art

A keynote address and masterclass will be delivered by Dr. Catherine Cubitt (York)

Submissions by January 28th, 2011 and registration enquiries to Christopher Monk.

Conference supported by SAGE, SAHC and John Rylands Library, Deansgate

Tuesday, 4 January 2011

The Lexis of Cloth and Clothing Project at the University of Manchester

Although this blog began life as a home for female werewolf-related news, I'd like to post about something slightly different - but equally interesting - today.

The Lexis of Cloth and Clothing Project at the University of Manchester is a major AHRC-funded project, headed up by Professor Gale Owen-Crocker and a dedicated team of academics and researchers, which will provide interdisciplinary research into the terminology of medieval dress and textiles in Britain (c.700-1450). Their website offers the following introduction to the project:

In the Middle Ages dress was an identifier of occupation, status, gender and ethnicity; textiles ranged through opulent, symbolic, utilitarian and recycled. Cloth production and international trade constituted a major sector of the economy of medieval Britain.

While the importance of cloth and textiles to medieval culture cannot be denied, researchers must currently look to a diverse range of disciplines, specialist dictionaries, artefacts and texts in order to explore the meanings and significances of a particular term or object. The Lexis Project is intended to offer an analytic corpus of the lexis of clothing and textile, and to offer a significant exploration of the development of this vocabulary. The project continues to assemble and examine citations and terminology in all the early languages of Britain and to provide a database of definitions, artefacts, images and technical processes.

I've been fortunate enough to already benefit from this project - despite the fact that my research is not primarily focused on medieval textiles. Last year, while working on the fourteenth-century werewolf poem William of Palerne, I gave a paper about a knight who has sex with a pillow. (ed. - How strange my life is sometimes!) I have become quite fixated on this knight and his relationship with his soft furnishings, and Professor Owen-Crocker was kind enough to encourage me to consult the Lexis database. In hardly any time at all, I was able to access a bank of information about medieval pillows, their uses and their connotations. The detail was fascinating - and certainly helped me to understand exactly what that poor knight was doing to the upholstery!

In addition to the database, The Lexis Project will also be producing The Encyclopaedia of Medieval Dress and Textiles, which will be published by Brill. The encyclopedia will comprise of essays and short pieces from research scholars from all over the world. The contents cover a vast array of subjects. I've co-written a piece on 'Cross-Dressing' with Professor Owen-Crocker, and other entries include armour, the wool trade, various literary texts and religious dress.

I'd strongly encourage anyone interested in medieval culture to check out the project website. The Word of the Month is a great feature, and is guaranteed to give you some insight into the significance of medieval cloth and clothing, as well as the continuation of these ideas beyond the Middle Ages.

For more information, click here.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Charity Milton Marathon at the University of Manchester

On Friday December 10th 2010, students and staff in English and American Studies at the University of Manchester will be reading Milton's Paradise Lost to raise money for the RNIB. The event is being organized by PhD student Liam Haydon, along with Dr. Jerome de Groot, a University of Manchester lecturer and Liam's PhD supervisor.

This week, I caught up with Liam to find out a bit more about the event.

Alpha Female: So, tell me more about the Milton reading...

Liam Haydon: We'll be attempting to read the entirety of Paradise Lost aloud over a single day. We've currently got somewhere around 25 volunteers, which is a great response, and the reading will go on continuously for around 10 hours. Location is still to be finally confirmed, but it's looking like the Poetry Centre [in the Samuel Alexander building, University of Manchester].

AF: And when will it all be taking place?

LH: The event will take place on the 10th December, which is the day after Milton's 402nd birthday. It's the day after so we could do it on a Friday.

AF: This is a charity event - so which charity are you supporting?

LH: We'll be supporting the RNIB. Milton composed almost the entire poem after he went blind at around the age of 44 (and there are a number of references to that within the text itself), so as well as being a very worthy cause, it seemed especially appropriate.

AF: How much money are you hoping to raise?

LH: We've set an initial target of £500, though we're already a good way towards that, so we'd hope to raise even more.

AF: How did you come up with the idea for a continuous reading?

LH: Er... actually it originated in a drunken conversation I had with a friend of mine in a karaoke bar over the summer!

AF: A karaoke bar?!

LH: We were joking around that we could offer some poetry instead of singing, and he mentioned that he'd been reading Milton out loud when trying to get a handle on the poem. From that, I started a reading group, in which we read a book a week aloud and then discuss it - the fun people seemed to be having with the poetry prompted Jerome to suggest the whole day reading.

AF: So what made you made you decide on Paradise Lost?

LH: My PhD thesis actually focuses on Milton (and epic poetry as a genre, really) - a choice made slightly on impulse, having discovered him in my third year as an undergrad and just falling in love with the music of his poetry. For the reading group, it quickly became apparent that people either felt the same way, but weren't as familiar with the critical background as they would like, or he was one of those poets that people feel they ought to be more familiar with, but it seems like a lot of effort. Paradise Lost is an ideal place to start on both those counts - it's naturally broken into manageable pieces, has plenty of controversy and debate to get your teeth into, and, of course, can be enjoyed immensely just as a piece of literature.

AF: Paradise Lost is certainly a well-loved and well-studied piece of work. How would you account for our continuing fascination with this text?

LH: Well, I'm biased here, naturally, but I'd argue that it's the finest work of literature in English (possibly any language).

AF: A bold claim! Go on...

LH: Certainly Milton has a technical command of syntax and rhythm that few other writers possess (maybe Keats?), and the sense is drawn out so brilliantly that you can hardly help reading on - and, in fact, that presents a constant challenge, demanding much more engagement from the reader than other texts do, and making unpicking the double meanings, puns and contradictions a fantastically rewarding experience. So the poetry itself is attractive before you delve in and get to the issues that the poem raises.

AF: So how do you feel about the issues Paradise Lost raises? Do you think these have any relevance for a modern audience?

LH: Plenty of those issues, and the debates the poem has generated, are still relevant and pressing today: tyranny and liberty; obedience and free will; language and multiculturalism; the nature, follies, and redemptive power of love; humanity's quest for knowledge, and the limits we should place on that quest. And that's not even to bring in the issues like a free press, or terrorism, raised elsewhere in Milton's work, or the religious controversies Paradise Lost raises, both within orthodox Christianity and the long dissenting tradition - hence Blake's famous quote about Milton being 'of the devil's party' (an obligatory mention in any Milton discussion!).

AF: I've got to say, you're making a pretty convincing argument! But then, I've been a huge fan of Milton's poetry since I studied Comus at A-Level and then Paradise Lost as an undergrad. The reading sounds like it's going to be a fantastic event - can anyone attend?

LH: Yes, of course, we'd be delighted to have as much of an audience as possible, both to enjoy Milton and to raise money for an excellent charity. There'll be some further publicity nearer the event confirming the start and end times, and the venue, but people are welcome to come and listen, whether it's just to one book or to the whole poem.

AF: So are there any other ways people can support this event?

LH: Well, if you're around Manchester in December, it'd be great to have people either in the audience or, even better, to volunteer to read some of the poem. Alternatively, people can show support through our JustGiving webpage.

AF: Thanks Liam! It's going to be a great day - and I'll see you there!

The Charity Milton Marathon (in aid of the RNIB) will take place at the University of Manchester on Friday December 10th 2010. To donate, please visit the event's JustGiving webpage. Further information on the reading will be posted on the University of Manchester EAS blog, and on this site. Alternatively, contact Liam Haydon or me (Alpha Female) for more info.