13 Sep 2022 - 15 Sep 2022 All day G-R06/07, Faculty of English, Cambridge/Online



  • Miranda Griffin (MMLL, University of Cambridge)
  • Máire Ní Mhaonaigh (ASNC, University of Cambridge)

Keynote Speakers


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 and follow-on conference 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.


Our conference focuses on reading medieval landscapes in their multiple manifestations. We will explore themes emerging in the series of preceding seminars, as well as broadening the discussion to include aspects of other dimensions, spatial, temporal and theoretical.

Broad-ranging conceptually focussed papers, as well as explorations of specific case studies are welcomed, addressing the multifarious ways in which landscapes in the Middle Ages were read then and now. Issues addressed will include (but not be limited to):

  • the importance of shared cultural concerns in understanding landscapes;
  • the continual reconfiguration of landscapes through time and space;
  • the centrality of land in their conceptualisation;
  • the local and the cosmos;
  • the rural and urban;
  • the sacred and profane.

Methodologies will be informed by history and archaeology, texts and theory, languages and literatures, ecocriticism and ecologies, disability studies and onomastics (to name but some approaches).

One aim will be to illuminate the relationship between humans of the past and their environment in complementary ways. Another will be an interrogation of the affordances of different kinds of landscapes. The importance of various perspectives, simultaneous and continuous, will also be to the fore, included those occluded, deliberately erased and obscured. In discussing these and other subjects critically and in an open, nuanced manner, we seek to open up new ways of thinking about the shifting landscapes of the medieval world.

For information on topics discussed in the seminar series, see the blog posts on the various sessions.


Supported by:

CRASSH grey logo               Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics Colour

ASNC logo, images of artifacts

If you have specific accessibility needs for this event please get in touch. We will do our best to accommodate any requests.


All times are in BST

Tuesday 13 September

12.45 - 13.15


13.15 - 13.30
Opening Remarks

Miranda Griffin and Máire Ní Mhaonaigh (University of Cambridge)
13:30 - 15:00

Knowing landscapes

Chair: Miranda Griffin (University of Cambridge)

Luke Sunderland (School of Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Durham)
‘Islands, mountains and encyclopaedic geographies’

Laura Fumagalli (Philosophy and Aesthetics, Universities of Augsburg and Munich)
‘An aesthetics of landscape for the Middle Ages’

Elizabeth Tyler (English and Related Literature, University of York)
‘Reading imperial geographies with the Old English Orosius’

15:00 - 15:30


15:30 - 17:00

The politics of landscapes

Chair: Jane Gilbert (University College London)

Marilynn Desmond (English and Medieval Studies, Binghamton University)
‘The Pillars of Hercules and the shifting Sicilian landscape in the Historia destructionis Troiae of Guido delle Colonne’

Daniel Reeve (English, University of California, Santa Barbara)
‘Love in the marches: the political landscape of Robert Grosseteste’s Chasteau d’amour

Stanislaw Banach (Faculty of History, University of Cambridge)
‘Landscapes of missionary war: Polish chronicle accounts of medieval Prussia’

17:00 - 17:15


17:15 - 18:00

Guest speaker

Chair: Máire Ní Mhaonaigh (University of Cambridge)

Dale Kedwards (The Árni Magnússon Institute for Icelandic Studies)
‘The cosmic Dark Ages: Saturn’s moon Iapetus and a case for cosmic rewilding’

18.00 - 19.30

Conference opening reception
Faculty of English Social Space

Wednesday 14 September

9:30 - 10:30

Keynote lecture

Chair: Máire Ní Mhaonaigh (University of Cambridge)

Hanna Vorholt (Department of History of Art, University of York)
‘Earthquakes, hail, and fire: twelfth-century visions of the future’
10:30 - 11:00


11:00 - 12:30

Changing landscapes

Chair: Elizabeth Tyler (University of York)

Fiona Edmonds (Director of the Regional Heritage Centre, Lancaster University) | Online
‘Place-names and climatic shifts in central Britain, c. 900­–1300’

Debby Banham (Department of Anglo-Saxon, Norse and Celtic, University of Cambridge)
‘You are where you eat? Consumption, production and landscape change in Early Medieval England’

Alex Hibberts (Faculty of History, University of Durham)
”Tempests and sea flood’: marine transgression and landscape transition at Hastings Priory, c.1350-1417′

12:30 - 14:00


14:00 - 15:30

The wild and unconquerable

Chair: Roan Runge (University of Cambridge)

Máire Ní Mhaonaigh (ASNC, University of Cambridge)
‘Taming landscape and ordering space in medieval Irish dindshenchas, a literature of place’

Laura Bailey (Faculty of History, University of Cambridge)
‘Wild landscapes: geographical realities, the monastic community, and the medieval literary imagination’

Sam Lasman (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge)
‘Unruly landscapes: imagining unconquerable space in Eiríks saga rauða and Risālat ibn Faḍlān


15.30 - 16.00


16:00 - 17:30

Active landscapes

Chair: Luke Sunderland (Durham University)

Neha Krishana Kumar (Faculty of Architecture, CEPT University)  I Online
‘The continuum of self into landscape: an analysis of Sanskrit poet Kalidasa’s Meghdootam

Marilu Bosoms (Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge)
‘John Scotus Eriugena and the agency of medieval landscapes’

Tom Hinton (Modern Languages and Cultures, University of Exeter)
and desire path: textual journeys through the landscape of a trilingual miscellany’


Optional conference dinner:
Sala Thong, 35 Newnham Road, Cambridge (advance registration required)

Thursday 15 September

9:30 - 10:30

Keynote Lecture

Chair: Miranda Griffin (University of Cambridge)

Emanuele Lugli (Department of Art and Art History, Stanford University)
‘Territorial folds: landscapes and fashion in medieval Italy’
10:30 - 11:30


11:00 - 12:30

Landscapes of saints and pilgrims

Chair: Sarah Bowden (Kings College London)

Olha Romanova (Shevchenko Institute of Literature of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine) I Online
‘Features of the landscape of Ukrainian pilgrimage literature’

Martha Bayless (English and Folklore, University of Oregon)
‘The storied landscape of early England’

Angus Warren (Yale University)
‘Monstrous seascapes in Felix’s life of St Guthlac and its early English analogues’


12:30 - 14:00


14:00 - 15:30

Mapping textual landscapes

Chair: Henry Ravenhall (University of Cambridge)

Fella Benabed (Department of English, Annaba University)  I Online
‘The idyllic landscape in Andalusian poetry’

Beth Harper (Department of Comparative Literature, University of Hong Kong) I Online
‘Medieval mountains in cross-cultural perspective: Francesco Petrarca’s ‘Ascent to Mount Ventoux’ (1336) and the ecological imagination of early Chinese poetry’

Giulia Boitani (Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics, University of Cambridge)‘Godly landscapes and quantum perspectives. Dante and the experiment of Paradiso 33

15.30 - 16.00


16:00 - 17:30

Otherworlds and cosmologies

Chair: Matthew Lampitt (University of Cambridge)

Rebecca Courtier (Faculty of Modern and Medieval Languages and Linguistics, University of Cambridge)
‘Heterotopian bodies and spaces of the Chanson de Guillaume

Frey Kalus (St Catharine’s College, Cambridge)
‘Dante in Onkalo: reading the Inferno as a post-nuclear landscape’

Sarah Kay (French Literature, Thought and Culture, New York University)
‘Landscapes and skyscapes: women becoming bears and bears becoming stars’

(followed by short closing discussion)

Call for papers

Hybrid conference: call for papers

From maps to chronicles, from sagas and songs to emerging cities, landscape plays an active part in shaping the medieval world. 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 a vital force in narrative, power, and knowledge. For this conference, which follows the seminar series of the same name, we invite contributions from researchers at all career stages working on medieval culture in any language.

Questions to be addressed include, but are not limited to:

  • How are boundaries between countries and cultures defined in the Middle Ages?
  • What role does landscape play in medieval narrative and memory?
  • How is landscape represented in medieval visual art?
  • How do medieval representations of landscape resonate with modern ecocriticism?
  • What can medieval landscape tell us about the interactions between the natural and the supernatural?
  • What are the ethics of landscape management, naming, and ownership in the Middle Ages?
  • How can we speak of the agency of landscape in the Middle Ages and now?
  • Who is visible in the medieval landscape – and who isn’t?

We welcome proposals for 20-minute papers; or a panel of shorter interventions.

Please submit an abstract of up to 250 words to shiftinglandscapes@crassh.cam.ac.uk by 9 June 2022.

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