New book – A Cultural History of Bathing in Late Antiquity and Early Byzantium by Michal Zytka, ed. Routledge

This book discusses social, religious and medical attitudes towards bathing in Late Antiquity. It examines the place of bathing in late Roman and early Byzantine society as seen in the literary, historical, and documentary sources from the late antique period. 

The author argues that bathing became one of the most important elements in defining what it meant to be a Roman; indeed, the social and cultural value of bathing in the context of late Roman society more than justified the efforts and expense put into preserving bathing establishments and the associated culture. 

The book contributes a unique perspective to understanding the changes and transformations undergone by the bathing culture of the day, and illustrates the important role played by this culture in contributing to the transitional character of the late antique period. In his examination of the attitudes of medical professionals and laymen alike, and the focus on its recuperative utility, Zytka provides an innovative and detailed approach to bathing.

Table of Contents

  • List of Figures
  • Abbreviations
  • Introduction
  • 1: Baths and Roman society
  • 2: Baths, bathing and religion
  • 3: Bathing in medicine
  • 4: Final conclusions
  • Appendix
  • Bibliography
  • Index

Michal Zytka, having obtained his MA at Lódz University, Poland, continued his research career at Cardiff University where he completed his doctoral thesis. Following a period of freelance editorial and translation work, he is now also pursuing a career in the Civil Service. He is a co-translator and the English language editor of Cereals of Antiquity and early Byzantine times: Wheat and Barley in medical sources (second to seventh century AD), published in the Byzantine Lodziensia series, Lódz 2014, and of the forthcoming The Bulgarian State in 927–969: The Epoch of Tsar Peter I.

More infos on the editor’s website

New book – Old Age in Early Medieval England A Cultural History by Thijs Porck ed. by Boydell and Brewer

First full-length study of the notion and concept of old age in early medieval England.

How did Anglo-Saxons reflect on the experience of growing old? Was it really a golden age for the elderly, as has been suggested? This first full survey of the Anglo-Saxon cultural conceptualisation of old age, as manifested and reflected in the texts and artwork of the inhabitants of early medieval England, presents a more nuanced and complicated picture. The author argues that although senescence was associated with the potential for wisdom and pious living, the Anglo-Saxons also anticipated various social, psychological and physical repercussions of growing old. Their attitude towards elderly men and women – whether they were saints, warriors or kings – was equally ambivalent.
Multidisciplinary in approach, this book makes use of a wide variety of sources, ranging from the visual arts to hagiography, homiletic literature and heroic poetry. Individual chapters deal with early medieval definitions of the life cycle; the merits and drawbacks of old age as represented in Anglo-Saxon homilies and wisdom poetry; the hagiographic topos of elderly saints; the portrayal of grey-haired warriors in heroic literature; Beowulf as a mirror for elderly kings; and the cultural roles attributed to old women.

Table of contents:

Definitions of old age
Merits of old age
Drawbacks of old age
frode fyrnwitan: Old saints in Anglo-Saxon hagiography
hare hilderincas: Old warriors in Anglo-Saxon England
ealde eðelweardas: Beowulf as a mirror of elderly kings
gamole geomeowlan: Old women in Anglo-Saxon England

THIJS PORCK is Assistant Professor of Medieval English, Leiden University Centre for the Arts in Society, Leiden University. 

An e-book version of this title is available (9781787444690), to libraries through a number of trusted suppliers. See here for a full list of our partners.

Keywords: Anglo-Saxon StudiesMedieval HistoryMedieval Literature

More info on the editor’s website

Meeting – conference – Deviance: Aspects & Approaches The Fifteenth Oxford Medieval Graduate Conference Friday 5th – Saturday 6th April 2019, Kellogg College, Oxford

5 April

9.30-9.50am Registration

9.50-10am Welcome

10-11am Immorality – Chair: Sarah Bridge (St Hilda’s College, Oxford)

  • Henry Ravenhall (King’s College London), ‘[T]u ne sivis mie la voie du commencement’: deviant politics and deviant textuality around the figure of Pierre de La Broce’
  • James Strawbridge (Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford), ‘Trial by Comparison: Icelandic Insular Romance and Reflections on Right and Wrong’

11-11.30am Break with Hot & Cold Drink

11.30am-1pm Different Bodies – Chair: Anna Branford (St Anne’s College, Oxford)

  • Alyssa Steiner (St Edmund’s Hall, Oxford), ‘Birdmen: Bodily Deviance and the Establishment of Narrative Dominion in the Early Courtly Verse Narrative Herzog Ernst (B)’
  • Jade Godsall (University of Bristol), ‘Deviant Bodies and Motherhood: Reimagining the ‘Opened’ Female Body’
  • Roan Runge (University of Glasgow), ‘Does Áed Sláne’s mother dream of unnatural sheep?: ‘species panic’ and unhuman offspring in medieval Irish literature’

1-2.30pm Lunch

2:30-4pm Political Resistance– Chair: Alexander Peplow (Merton College, Oxford)

  • Jose Maria Andres Porras (St Hugh’s College, Oxford), ‘Deviance, Social Cohesion, and the Centralizing Power of the State in Florence Analysed through the Lens of Political Exclusion, c. 1239-1315’
  • Maximilian Nix (Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen), ‘Keep Faith and Kill the Tyrant: Knowledge and Resistance via Knowledge in John of Salisbury’s Policraticus’
  • Richard Winkler (Eberhard Karls University, Tübingen), ‘Loyal Rebels: King and Peerage in the Conceptions of Ideal Rulership in 15th Century England’

4-430pm Break with Hot & Cold Drinks

4.30-6pm Keynote Addresses

Dr Alicia Spencer Hall (University College London), ‘Defiantly Deviant: Disability, Temporality, and Medievalist Methodologies’

Tim Wingard (University of York), ‘“What cow is wont to seek another cow?”: Animality, Sexual Deviance, and the Construction of Heteronormativity’ 6pm Drinks Reception 7pm Conference Dinner

6 April

8.30-9.30am Tea and Coffee

9.30-11am Disability and Disease – Chair: Rebecca Menmuir (Jesus College, Oxford)

  • Anne Jeavons (University of Reading), ‘Deviancies of behaviour, cognition, perception and mood in Constantine of Africa’s De Melancholia’
  • Jude Seal (Royal Holloway), ‘Disability, Difference, and Deviance: An Alternative Approach to examining disability in the Middle Ages’
  • Ninon Dubourg (University of Paris Diderot), ‘Sicut Domino placuit ortus fuisti, disabled children’s births according to the Papal Chancery during the 13th century’

11-11.30am Break with Hot & Cold Drink

11.30am-1pm Texts and Traditions– Chair: William Brockbank (Jesus College, Oxford)

  • Berber Bossenbroek (Leiden University), ‘Hliste se þe Wille: The Didactic Additions of the Old English Metres of Boethius’
  • Hannah Piercy (Durham University), ‘Rejecting Love in Medieval Romance: The Deviance of Malory and Ettarde’
  • Jorn Hubo (Ghent University), ‘The opening stanzas of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight; An ouverture of generic duplicity?’

1-2.30pm Lunch

2.30 – 4pm Anti-Social Behaviour– Chair: Susanna Markert (Jesus College, Oxford)

  • Jennifer Weeks (Royal Holloway), ‘Beastly beani: examples of the written culture of deviant university scholars’
  • Huw Jones (Jesus College, Oxford), ‘Barbarism as Deviance in Northern Europe, c1100-1250’
  • Kimon Velitzandis (Royal Holloway), ‘Latinisation as Deviance in Late Byzantine Society: the Case of Theodore Palaeologus’

4-4.30pm Break with Hot & Cold Drinks

4.30-5.30pm Keynote Address

Professor Almut Suerbaum (Somerville College, Oxford) ‘Between abegescheidenheit and wegelos: Historical Semantics of Deviance’

CFP – “Mental Health in the Medieval and Early Modern World” – The Annual Conference of the Perth Medieval and Renaissance Group and the UWA Centre for Medieval and Early Modern Studies

SATURDAY 19 OCTOBER 2019 – The University of Western Australia

Keynote: Yasmin Haskell (UWA)

Modern stereotypes abound regarding how mental health was perceived during the medieval and early modern period ranging from mental illness being caused by sin to the idea that the attainment of mental wellbeing could only be achieved through the balancing of the bodily humours. But mental health was a more complex and expansive subject of discourse throughout the period that was widely explored in medical treatises, religious tracts and sermons, and prominent in art and literature, which speaks to a more subtle understanding of the human mental state.

This conference aims to look at both the changing and continuing perceptions of mental health throughout the medieval and early modern period.

We welcome papers from the fields of book culture and manuscript studies, history, material culture, medicine, art, and literature, but not limited to, the following broad headings:

  • Suicide Marginal lives Melancholy
  • Depression Insanity
  • Mental disorder Rapture
  • Ecstasy Bodily humours Addiction Anguish Therapies Meditation
  • Mindfulness
  • Well-being Imagination Dreams
  • Visions
  • Memory Criminality Self-harm Solitude Natural
  • Kind
  • Unnatural

The conference organisers invite proposals for 20-minute papers. Please send a paper title, 250-word abstract, and a short (no more than 100-word) biography to: by 31 May 2019.

CFC – Dis/ability in the medieval Nordic world – A special issue of Mirator Editors: Anna Katharina Heiniger and Christopher Crocker

The special issue emerges from the interdisciplinary research project Disability before disability (Icel. Fötlun fyrir tíma fötlunar) situated at the Centre for Disability Studies at the University of Iceland, initiated in 2017, and supported by the Icelandic Research fund (Icel. Rannsóknasjóður) Grant of Excellence No 173655-05.

Recent years have seen growing interest in the exploration of disability in premodern societies and cultures. In line with the now commonly accepted (working) premise that disability is a multi-factorial phenomenon, scholars have come to realise that there can be no fixed, atemporal or acultural definition of disability. Thus, in order to consider whether and how premodern societies may have conceptualized disability, scholars must shed presentist preconceptions, cast a wide net, and be prepared to read between the lines. Equipped with an understanding of disability as a tool of sociocultural analysis, scholars today commonly make use of the concepts of ‘embodied difference’ and ‘marked or unusual bodies’ to yield more fruitful results as they do not imply pre-defined notions of disability. Although the body becomes a central platform on whose basis disability is negotiated, scholars are in no way limited to speaking only of the physicality of bodies. Rather the body is understood as a medium which materialises and translates physical, psychic, and intellectual differences in a way that societies can identify them as deviations from what is considered ‘normal’ in specific historical and socio-cultural contexts. Indeed, the phenomenon of disability cannot be studied without the contrast of what a culture or society conceptualizes as ‘ability’ and identifies as ‘normal’. The term ‘dis/ability’ can be used to express this inherent relationship and to remind us that it is not possible to understand one without recognizing the other.

Within this theoretical context, we invite proposals for essays (c. 7000 words) for a special issue of the journal Mirator that seeks to expand upon growing interest of dis/ability in the context of the medieval Nordic world. Contributors to the special issue will explore dis/ability within the context of different social arrangements and cultural conventions in the medieval Nordic world. We will especially welcome contributions that focus on close reading of specific texts (historical, legal, literary, etc.) as well as suggestions for broad, methodological approaches towards the study of dis/ability in the medieval Nordic world. Contributors will be encouraged, where possible, to expand the scope of their research to include related aspects from the fields of cultural studies, social theory, history, art, etc. In the context of the medieval Nordic world, possible topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Approaches to the experience of dis/ability (i.e. sources, methodology)
  • Dis/ability and society
  • Religion and dis/ability
  • Dis/ability and medical knowledge
  • Intersections of dis/ability with age, gender, social status, etc.
  • Dis/ability and the law
  • Narrating experiences and perceptions of dis/ability
  • Dis/ability, assistive technology, and care
  • Terminology or language of dis/ability

Contributions dealing with geographic regions in the medieval Nordic world, including Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, and/or Sweden, are welcome. We hope to represent all of these regions in the special issue and are particularly eager to field proposals dealing with Danish and Finnish material.

Please send one-page essay proposals accompanied by brief author bio (c. 100 words) to by June 1, 2019. In order to achieve an expeditious production timeline, essay drafts will be due in January 2020. Please feel free to contact us with any questions or concerns you might have in the meantime.