Category Archives: Research Seminars

Research Seminar: Professor Lorna Hutson (University of St Andrews)

‘Circumstantial Shakespeare’

Wednesday 3 June, 2.00 – 3.30 pm
Watson Seminar Room, Kennedy Hall, School of English 

For a joint event between the Centre for Mediaeval and Early Modern Law and Literature and The Early Modern Society, Lorna Hutson, Berry Professor of English at the University of St Andrews, will lead a seminar on her most recent book Circumstantial Shakespeare.


Shakespeare’s characters are thought to be his greatest achievement – imaginatively autonomous, possessed of depth and individuality. This view has survived the deconstruction of ‘Shakespeare as Author’ and has been revitalized by the recent emphasis on the collaborative nature of early modern theatre. But belief in the autonomous imaginative life of Shakespeare’s characters depends on another unexamined myth: the myth that Shakespeare rejected neoclassicism, playing freely with theatrical time and place.  Circumstantial Shakespeare dismantles these myths. Drawing on classical and sixteenth-century rhetorical pedagogy, it reveals the importance of topics of circumstance (Time, Place and Motive, etc.) in the conjuring of compelling narratives and vivid mental images (enargeia). ‘Circumstances’ – which we now think of as incalculable contingencies – were originally topics of forensic inquiry into human intention or passion. Shakespeare used these topics to imply offstage actions, times and places in terms of the motives and desires we attribute to the characters.


‘Introduction’ and chapter 2, ‘Imaginary Work’: Opportunity in Lucrece and in King Lear.

Photocopies of these materials will be available for collection from the School of English Office in Castle House, The Scores from Wednesday 27 May.

Lorna’s interests are in the rhetorical bases of Renaissance literature, and in the relationship between literary form and the formal aspects of non-literary culture. Recent work includes the delivery of the Oxford Wells Shakespeare Lectures, 2012, on ‘Circumstantial Shakespeare’, the editing of Ben Jonson’s Discoveries (1641) for the Cambridge Complete Works of Ben Jonson (2012) and The Invention of Suspicion: Law and Mimesis in Shakespeare and Renaissance Drama (OUP, 2007, pbk 2011), which won the Roland Bainton Prize for Literature in 2008. She is currently working, with Bradin Cormack, on the Oxford Handbook of English Law and Literature, 1500-1700, and directs CMEMLL, the Centre for Mediaeval and Early Modern Law and Literature.


Research Seminar: Professor Rosalind Brown-Grant (University of Leeds)

‘Lessons in Law, Lessons in Chivalry: The Roman de Gérard de Nevers Illuminated by the Wavrin Master and Loyset Liédet’

Thursday 5 March, 5.15 pm
Room B216, Buchanan Building, Union Street

Rosalind Brown-Grant, Professor of Late Mediaeval French Literature at the University of Leeds, will give a paper entitled ‘Lessons in Law, Lessons in Chivalry: The Roman de Gérard de Nevers Illuminated by the Wavrin Master and Loyset Liédet.’


Art historians specialising in works produced in the European Middle Ages have recently begun to draw our attention to the important part played by illustrated manuscripts of Roman, canon and customary law texts in the dissemination and teaching of legal precepts among scholars and law practitioners of the period. What has received far less attention from modern commentators is the way in which illumination cycles accompanying works of courtly literature also contributed to the familiarisation with the law of aristocratic lay readers who, as kings, dukes, counts and lords would have been responsible for the exercise of justice in their own lands. This paper will focus on the visualisation of the law and the respective positions of men and women in the legal processes of the day in medieval romance narratives whose plots are dominated by themes of crime and punishment. In particular, it will examine the interaction of text and image in two manuscripts of the mid-fifteenth-century Roman de Gérard de Nevers, a text belonging to the ‘wager cycle’ where judicial proceedings are placed centre-stage, which were illustrated by the artist known as the Wavrin Master and Loyset Liédet, respectively. Whilst Liédet is concerned with evoking a sense of the splendour and ceremony of the chivalric spectacles that the tale recounts, the Wavrin Master both borrows from the iconographical conventions of works of canon and customary law and devises his own means of visual expressions in order to bring out the moral, political and legal implications of the narrative for his courtly audience.

Professor Brown-Grant’s work to date has focused on four main areas: Christine de Pizan’s defence of women, late medieval French romances, historical writing at the court of Valois Burgundy, and text/image relations in medieval manuscripts. She is currently working on a monograph on French romances preserved in manuscripts illuminated by the Burgundian artist known as the “Maître de Wavrin” (fl. 1450s-60s).


Research Seminar: Professor William I. Miller (University of Michigan)

‘De minimis and de maximis non curate lex: Law’s self-imposed limitations’

Monday 2 March, 2015, 5.15 pm
Old Class Library, St John’s House, 65 South Street 

Professor Bill Miller (University of Michigan) will give a paper entitled ‘De minimis and de maximis non curate lex: Law’s self-imposed limitations.’

Professor Miller has written influentially and provocatively on blood feud and on the involvement of the emotions in law, relationship and self-assessment. His most recent publications are Losing It (New Haven, CT: Yale University Press, 2011), Auden and the Polar Bear: Luck, Law and Largesse in a Medieval Tale of Risky Business (Leiden: Brill, 2008) and An Eye for an Eye (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2006).


Research Seminar: Professor Phillip Schofield (University of Aberystwyth)

‘Litigation and the Nature of Proof in English Manorial Courts in the Later Thirteenth and Early Fourteenth Centuries’

Monday 13 October, 2014, 5.15 pm
Old Class Library, St John’s House, School of History

Phillipp Schofield, Professor of Mediaeval History at Aberystwyth University, will give a paper entitled ‘Litigation and the nature of proof in English manorial courts in the later thirteenth and early fourteenth centuries.’

Professor Schofield is presently undertaking a Leverhulme Major Research Fellowship on the Great Famine in early fourteenth-century England.  He is also engaged in writing up AHRC-funded research on litigation on manorial courts and seals in medieval Wales, and is completing a volume for Manchester University Press on Peasants and Historians: the historiography of the medieval English peasantry. He is also co-editor of the Economic History Review.

His publications include: With R.A. Griffiths, eds., Wales and the Welsh in the Middle Ages (Cardiff: University of Wales Press, 2011); with Thijs Lambrecht, Credit and the rural economy in North-western Europe, c. 1200-c.1800 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009); and Peasant and community in medieval England (Basingstoke: Palgrave, 2003).


Research Seminar: Professor David M. Rabban (University of Texas at Austin)

‘Making Law Scientific: The Founding Generation of American Legal Scholars on Mediaeval English Law’

Monday 28 April, 2014, 5.15 pm
Old Class Library, St John’s House, 65 South Street, School of History

David M. Rabban, the Dahr Jamail, Randall Hage Jamail and Robert Lee Jamail Regents Chair and Professor of Law at the University of Texas at Austin, author of Law’s History: American Legal Thought and the Transatlantic Turn to History (on American legal historians and medievalism), will give a paper entitled ‘Making Law Scientific: The Founding Generation of American Legal Scholars on Mediaeval English Law.’

Professor Rabban’s research focuses on labor law, higher education and the law, and American legal history. He is best known for his path-breaking work on free speech in American history. He is the author of Free Speech in Its Forgotten Years, 1870-1920 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,1997), which received the Forkosch Prize from the Journal of the History of Ideas for “the best book in intellectual history published in 1997”. His many articles have appeared in Yale Law JournalStanford Law ReviewUniversity of Chicago Law Review, and elsewhere.