Tuesday, December 8, 2015

End of Semester Party

Come join the Medieval Studies Course Union for an End of Semester Party at 7pm on December 10 at Bin 4 Burger Lounge! The link to the Facebook event is below if you want to let us know you're coming!

Thursday, December 3, 2015

Friday, February 21, 2014

Medieval Secrets and Mysteries Conference

Hello everyone! The time is almost upon us for the MSCU's Medieval Secrets and Mysteries Conference. Please join us on Friday, February 28th and Saturday, March 1st, for two wonderful days of presentations. Proceedings begin at 9am both days and end at 5pm and 6pm, respectively. There will be catered breaks throughout the day with lunch on your own.

We are thrilled to announce that we have two esteemed keynote speakers: Dr. Andrew Gow from the University of Alberta, and our very own Dr. Sara Beam from the UVic History department. In addition, we are proud to count twenty undergraduate and graduate students from across North America amongst our presenters. It's going to be a marvellous event - don't miss out!
The conference program may be accessed here: https://drive.google.com/file/d/0BzkeHjNhE0pxaUFsR0lrSW9PckU/edit?usp=sharing

Tuesday, October 15, 2013

Call for Papers - UVic Medieval Student Conference 2014


2014 University of Victoria Student Conference in Medieval Studies

February 28 - March 1, 2014

The Medieval Studies Course Union of the University of Victoria invites submissions for a student conference: Medieval Secrets and Mysteries, to be held at the University of Victoria on February 28 - March 1, 2014. We invite graduate and undergraduate students to submit proposals about medieval mysteries and secrets of any kind: esotericism, symbology, almanacs, bestiaries, revelations, confidences, adulteries, magic, divination, gossip, intrigues, crimes and murders, cryptology, secret orders and cults, conspiracies, witchcraft, hidden identities, impostors, gender and sexual identities, heretics and atheists, censorship, etc.

Topics for presentations include but are not limited to:

·         Religions and Institutions
·         The Many Faces of Magic
·         Double Lives and Identity
·         Courtly Love and Secrecy
·         The Discovery of Privacy
·         Modern Medieval Mysteries
·         Legends about the Middle Ages
·         Conspiracy-Busting
·         Making the Middle Ages Accessible
·         Speaking Medieval
We also invite student performances of medieval crafts, music, and dramatic or martial arts to submit proposals for short performances and shows (up to 30 minutes).

Please submit your abstract of no more than 300 words by November 30, 2013.
Include your name and affiliation. Submissions should be emailed to

Presentations of papers will be 15-20 minutes in length, and performances no more than 30 minutes.

For more information, please contact

Saturday, September 14, 2013

Welcome (back) to the MSCU!

Hello medievalists!
And welcome back to another year of engaging studies, camaraderie, heated arguments, and modern medievalism with UVic Medieval Studies and your MSCU! We're very excited to meet (and catch up with) members new and old. Whether you're a major, minor, or taking even one course, a seasoned scholar or just simply can't help pointing out the errors in medieval films, we're the course union for you!

We already have a great slate of events in mind for this year, but we want to hear what you'd like to see from the MSCU this year! Come on out to our Annual Course Union Conclave (some people might call it an "AGM") at 4:30 on Tuesday 17th Sept. in CLE C115  to meet other students and connect with resources in your department, plan the year, and elect an executive for 2013-2014! We are looking to elect a new Secretary, Treasurer, Director of Communications, and are welcoming any number of Directors-at-Large!
If you cannot make the meeting, and would like to have input or join the exec, please e-mail us at uvicmscu@gmail.com. If you have not already done so, you can follow the MSCU on Facebook and Twitter, where we post frequently about events and medieval humour! You can find a list of upcoming events at the bottom of this post!
Hope to see you all this Tuesday! (Did we mention the free pizza?)
- your MSCU Exec

So, what's coming up for the MSCU?

-- We are hoping to have a Mead and Greet social and a Medieval Movie Night in the next few weeks - times TBA.
-- Sept. 24th at 2:30, the department and library are hoping to offer a free hour-long introductory tour of medieval resources, primary sources and research aids available through the libraries and an intro to interacting with medieval databases and special collections artifacts.  This is open to all MEDI and MEDI-related students; please let us know if you would like to take part.
-- Starting Oct. 1, the department will be offering Mardinalia, a free and casual seminar in medievalist research methods, essay writing technique, and academia, and translation sessions in Medieval Latin, open to all levels (no Latin or research experience required!). They are tentatively scheduled for Tuesdays at 2:30, and will build towards our Interdisciplinary Conference in second term!
-- The Medieval Studies department has a work-study position available to work on the Medieval Map project. Some research and technical experience required, but students will be given a chance to add their own interests to the communal project. If you're interested, contact medi@uvic.ca for more information.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Hello, salvete, dia dhuit!

Fellow UVic Medievalists, the time has come again, the hour when we must once more take up our pens and our books and the mighty power of the conjugation dictionary, and do battle with the forces of historical ambiguities, Latin grammar and mild public ignorance of our subject! Or drink tea and watch Game of Thrones condescendingly and with not a small amount of guilty pleasure.

Either way, term has begun again! And so, from the entire UVic Medieval Studies Course Union, a hearty welcome back!

We're looking forward to a great year with lots of great events, the first being Clubs Days on Sept 11-12 from 10am-4pm. Come by and check out our booth, say hi, pick up one of our fancy new flyers, and chat with other UVic students about the Middle Ages and UVic Medieval Studies! We're also always looking for volunteers to help man the table for an hour here or there; we'll also be in your classes with sign-up lists for the e-mail list, so if your e-mail has changed come talk to us.

Our Fall Court/Alþingi/Parliament/Conclave and Knighthood Ceremony ("AGM" and "elections") will be at 4:00 on Tuesday the 17th in Clearihue C115 to knight and swear fealty to elect a new Club Exec, and we are looking for new Directors-at-large, a Treasurer, Secretary and a Director of Events! Come out and get involved in planning exciting events and in shaping the future of your department and course union!


Hope to see you all there!

All the best,

UVic MSCU exec

Suggestions and feedback are always welcome, you can contact us at uvicmscu@gmail.com, at https://www.facebook.com/groups/uvicmscu/ and on Twitter! Events planned for this year include Mead and Greets, Board Game and Movie Nights, Seminariums in Medieval Latin and Research skills, and a Student Conference!

Friday, April 26, 2013

Guys! Guys! Look what I found on the internet. 

This made me laugh today. Star Wars + Latin + Bayeaux Tapestry = Win.

- Sarah

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Sumer is icumen in...

Hello Medieval friends in, about, and (already) beyond Victoria!

It's that time of year again...

Sumer is icumen in
Lhude sing cuccu!
Groweth sed and bloweth med
and springeth the wde nu
sing cuccu!

As we celebrate the end of classes and forget the stress of moving, jobs, and final marks with yet another cold one, we're also looking back on another semester that went by too quickly! From everyone here at the UVic Medieval Studies Course Union, we want to give you all our heartfelt thanks for making this year such a success and a real pleasure; both inside the classroom and out, you helped make Medieval Studies a real gem of the University of Victoria! We hope to continue the proud MSCU tradition next year with movies, discussions, board games, colloquiums, and of course many drinks pub crawls  libations!

If anyone is interested in meeting other Medievalists at UVic over the summer, UVSS funding is available upon application for you! Send us an e-mail anytime at uvicmscu@gmail.com and we can set you up!

And, of course, post on or join our Facebook group anytime for Medieval jokes, camaraderie, puns, feedback, cool facts, and general enthusiasm!

Bunnies are icumen in!

Finally, a very fond farewell and congratulations to all of those getting hit on the head and leaving us for higher pastures this year: MSCU President Carleigh Nicholls, Vice-President Sarah White, Publicity Director Benet Davis and all of our recent graduates - we wish you the best of luck and you will be missed! As well, a massive thank-you to Dr. Marcus Milwright, who ends his term as director of the program this year and has been an invaluable help, inspiration and support to all of us!

To the rest of you; have a wonderful summer, whether it is filled with work or studies, and keep your eyes peeled for e-mails, sign-up sheets, and our AGM in the fall semester! Events will be planned, pizza shall be eaten, positions shall be opened, people shall be voted, an essay day, a red-ink day, 'ER THE PUB CLOSES!

Hope to see you all there. Until then, valete!

- the MSCU exec

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Hello Medieval friends; and a happy reading week to you all.

As you can tell, I'm not currently reading. I should be, but letting you all in the reading situation chez Josef seemed just that much more appealing. As it stands, I have ten articles open on my computer, 3 books on my desk, and two former essays brimming with notes and corrections. And an abstract that's been rewritten four times already over-top of itself. As you may have guessed already, I'm writing a paper for a conference. Consider this post a motivation; for myself, and for anyone else out there who can't seem to get started, or, once started, can't seem to keep going.

I have used every trick I know to avoid facing this paper head on, but oddly enough even procrastination catches up with you over time, because eventually, it IS tomorrow - and the self-set deadline is still staring you in the face, leering gleefully. It is with no small amount of frustration at myself that I recall the long hours in which I lead my happy virtual men to bloody virtual victories, which sadly enough don't really have much to add to my research into inter-religious relations in Medieval Iberia.

Or do they? If I've discovered anything over my university career, it's that ideas come to you at surprising times and at unexpected place. Often, it feels to me like essays are just lying somewhere, waiting patiently to be written when, and only when, their time comes. I'm the impatient one, trying to drag it out from some hole deep in the recesses of my mind out into the open, kicking and screaming. Call me a wordsmith, beating and hammering reluctant ideas and pouting paragraphs into their proper format, clapping it shut with the locks of introduction and conclusion, adding the finishing touches... and then, if the customer doesn't like it, it's goes back into the fire to be hammered out again. Sometimes, writing a paper feels less like art and more like an equation, a structure, a scientific review. I worry that I might cage ideas in iron sentences too early in my haste to finish.

In those moments of doubt, or dread of the long, hard hours ahead, it's temptingly easy to turn away and put down the hammer, caught in indecision. Why be bold and swift and dedicated when one might make a mistake, or introduce a flaw, or forge some unholy union of ideas that looks good at four in the morning, but like Frankenstein stumbles off into the horrifying pages of academic legend? Or worse, in the damning pages of a professor's "funny student papers" collection! Most of all, why write a paper if most of it feels like drudgery or iron-work than art? Amidst this mess of anxiety, a virtual war, however bloody, seem vastly preferable.

But I found something, halfway through my third war of the day, leading the valiant forces of the Netherlands in their quest for politically incorrect Imperialism. I started thinking about what a war was, and what made a people a nation. I thought about religion, and how it both unified and divided communities; even those which espoused the same creed! And then... horror of horrors, I was back to thinking about my essay. That night I quickly penned out the structure to a paper, and it felt, well, natural. An idea had found its time, like Turgon of Gondolin, unexpected and unasked for, but welcome nonetheless.

So this is my academic resolution, in four parts:

that I shall fear not the long all-nighter, nor the ink of the red pen, nor the professor's wrath, and that I shall place all of these behind me in scorn;

that I shall write strong and clear words that ring true now, though they must change in the future, be that weeks or only two sentences away;

that I shall open myself to new ideas and make spaces for them to arrive in my life, no matter where or when they arise;

and finally, that I shall forgive myself for work undone and time misspent, and focus instead on the task ahead, though it be long and arduous.

Work nimbly, you smiths, and may you all see art and beauty in your sentences, and banish forever the thought of dull iron. Look for the ideas that seem to spring naturally - in them lies the spark of genius!

 A happy and productive reading week to you all!

- Josef

(...and seriously, stop procrastinating - tomorrow is now! ... so, another round of Facebook, then?)

Monday, February 11, 2013

Games Night Tomorrow

Greetings everyone,

We hope that you've recovered from your excellent, "Medieval," themed weekend! The pub crawl was a ton of fun and the conference was very informative.

We will be hosting a Games Night, tomorrow, February 12th at 5:30 in Clearihue C108.

Bring along you favourite "Medieval" themed games like Munchkin, and Carcassonne etc., or feel free to bring any fun group game like Apples to Apples.
Snacks and beverages will be provided!

Additionally, the Conference's keynote speaker, Dr. Rosser-Owen, will be holding a lecture tomorrow at 4:30 in DSB C128 entitled, "An Historical Museum of Ornament: Architectural Plaster Casts from Granada and Cairo in the South Kensington Museum."

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pub Crawl Tonight!

Greetings everyone,

Thank you for buying your pub crawl tickets!

We will see you tonight at 8!

Also, if you haven't registered for tomorrow's 26th Annual Medieval Studies Conference, "Stories of Gold," there is still time. Registration is only $11 for current Uvic students! 
Here is more info:

The journey begins tonight!

Monday, January 28, 2013

MSCU Movie Night: Brave

Come join the MSCU as we watched the animated film, "Brave," tomorrow (January 29th)!

Clearihue A207 at 5:30 pm.

Pizza and Pop will be provided!

More details can be found here:

Additionally, we will be doing a Pub Crawl with THUGS on February 8th.
Tickets are only $10, which includes cover, a T-shirt, and a drink! 
We will be selling tickets tomorrow!

Monday, January 14, 2013

Informal, Informative and Very Amusing

Cracked.com had a recent article on Medieval misconceptions

(The bit about the shoes was particularly awesome and unexpected)
-Erik F

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Happy New Year and Why Medievalists Drink

Salvete fellow Medievalists in Victoria - and a hearty welcome-back to the Winter term from your exec at the UVic Medieval Studies Course Union! As well, a welcome to everyone who might be taking Medieval courses for the first time at UVic; you've already entered a world radically and sometimes creepily different and yet strangely (and sometimes creepily too!) similar to life in 21st century Victoria! We all look forward to meeting, discussing, arguing, memorizing, conjugating and drinking our way through the Middle Ages with you all!

...drinking? If you look to the side, right about.... --->

there, you will see our favourite monk taking some quite unauthourized libations from the monastery cellar. Likewise, we Medievalists take drink deeply from the fountains of wisdom that spring from the metaphorical cask of knowledge, and sate our thirst for understanding on the foam of... um, beer. As it turns out, Medievalists have a reputation for drinking at academic conferences in quantity unmatched by any except engineering graduate students; only with a slightly smaller alcohol tolerance, as this post attests to.

In related news, the ever-almost-victorious UVic MSCU Felicita's Quiz Team is thinking of reuniting for another Tuesday night of mead-ing and greeting, champion quizzing, and drinking! We'll keep you posted;  in the meantime, hit up our Facebook page for conversation, updates, and casual get-togethers with people who will be very, very interested in both drinking and your essay on ploughmen in 13th century French texts. (really! We love ploughmen, and ploughing!)

...(We also love alcohol, especially when it looks like this:)
...not quite yet...
...or not.

Also, The MSCU may have neglected to inform you of an important date in the past, and shall write this wrong now: March 31 is International Hug a Medievalist day - and planning for this landmark date in our academic calendar has already begun. Currently, plans consist of hugging, eating, and... resisting drinking due to exams. Or drinking because of them!

Besides the obvious attraction of the holy waters, we have many events planned this semester from potlucks to movie nights; and a pub crawl tentatively planned for 8th in conjunction with our thuggish friends from History! Watch this space for more info.


In history today: 49 BC Caesar crosses the Rubicon, thus igniting civil war in the Roman Empire. May your week be as exciting, divisive, challenging, and slightly less bloody!

All the best,


Wednesday, November 28, 2012

End of the Semester Get Together

Greetings everyone,

As celebration of the end of semester, the MSCU will be meeting up at the Grad Lounge this Friday, November 30th, at 4:00 pm for drinks and appetizers.

Join us to take a break from essay writing and studying!

See you all Friday!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Pumpkin Carving and Game of Thrones!

The MSCU will be hosting a free pumpkin carving event to get into the Halloween spirit.
Join us this Tuesday, October 30th at 3:30 pm in David Strong Building C108.
We will provide the pumpkins but please bring your own carving tools!!!
Feel free to invite your friends, but IF possible, please RSVP to our Facebook event so we can make sure to buy enough pumpkins.
RSVP here:  https://www.facebook.com/events/337327823032569/

Additionally, we will be finishing Season 1 of "Game of Thrones" by watching episodes 9 and 10.
If you prefer to just come for the show, we will begin screening the episodes around 5:00 in the same room as above.
Likewise, if you just want to come for pumpkin carving, leave whenever!

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Today in the Middle Ages...

Via the British Museum:

Today is Saint Crispin’s Day, date of the battle of Agincourt in 1415.
‘And gentlemen in England now a-bed
Shall think themselves accursed they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.’
Henry V, Act 4, Scene 3

Here is Henry V's funerary armour on display at the Shakespeare Exhibition:

This major exhibition will run until 25 November, don’t miss out:

Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Viking sword fighting!

Thought you all might find this as interesting as I did.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Seeing the Middle Ages Everywhere Part 1

Salvete, fellow medievalists and people who appreciate the value of buttresses that fly,

"Hey, Frank, I'm flying!" "No, Bob, we've been over this, it's a metaphor. You can't just let go of the..." CRASH. Moral of the story: only penguins truly fly.

Today's post is a going to start out somewhere quite different in subject than the Middle Ages, at first glance: the website for Humans of New York. For those of you who are not familiar with it, as I was before today, Brandon, the photographer-blogger of the site, has committed to taking the photos and recording the stories of complete strangers he meets on the streets of New York. It's been getting a lot of traffic recently, especially because of a post made regarding positive body images. There's no summarizing the brilliance of it, so I'll simply provide a link. Go. Look and think.

And if you haven't already, cast your net a little wider on that website, and think about what it says about humanity, kindness, cruelty, and the society we live in. I found I was convinced, as the photographer was, that streets of New York are a window onto exclusion, marginalization, loneliness, and poverty even in plain sight, in the midst of crowds, of North America's most important city. I found the portraits almost painful to read sometimes, but there was also a happiness, joy, wit, wisdom, and courage to be found in surprising places. It left me with a renewed appreciation for the paradoxical nature of our lives today, that such happiness and sadness can exist right next to one another, at the same time.

What struck me the most was the sense of loneliness in many of the stories; not only the homeless, or the buskers, but wealthier businessmen, working people, young and old. It's a loneliness that isn't momentary; and often, it isn't visible from a casual glance. Which got me thinking: how many of the people around us, here in Victoria, feel the same way? And that, as many things often do, ended in me thinking about Medieval society, which inspired me to write this post.

"Fyrkat. A mid-20th century reconstruction of a Danish great hall and long houses in Hobro, Denmark." - source

Were people lonely in the Middle Ages? I suppose we can assume they were; but until the 11th century, even cities of over ten thousand people in Latin Christendom could be counted easily on your hands. The popular image is of halls of full of feasting, boasting warriors, welcomed by the generous king and courageous in their loyalty. When reading a text such as Beowulf, however, it's clear that this was not always the case. Even in a story which exemplifies this ideal relationship and community we can also see a response to suffering, especially loneliness. Just one example, from Liuzza's standard-at-UVic-until-last-year 2000 translation, page 86, lines 1071-1076:

"Hildeburgh, indeed, had no need to praise
the goof faith of the Jutes. Guiltless, she was
deprived of her dear ones in that shieldplay,
her sons and brothers -- sent forth to their fate,
dispatched by spears; she was a sad lady!"

Amidst the bloodshed and destruction of the conflict, it is Hildeburgh who bears the horror and loss after treachery, revenge, anger, and loyalty drive most of those close to her to their deaths. Even in its idealized heroism, Beowulf leaves behind a sense of melancholy, a doom whose only end is empty halls, greedy kings, and weeping mothers and wives. While terrible, this is not quite the loneliness that I perceive from HONY. Perhaps a closer example would that of Grendel, the creature excluded, ignored, feared, despised... cast out from society, but still linked in ancient and twisted ways with humanity. Grendel responds with jealousy and hatred; something true to all human experience, but especially among many marginalized communities throughout the world. Yet he is fundamentally an outsider to the community; many argue Beowulf's message is of unity against the dangers inside and outside the hall!

Check out this excellent painting of Beowulf's struggle by Lynd Ward, and many others like it at this website. Amazing collection of art centering on Beowulf. It's like all the awesome paintings you ever needed, all in one place.

And then all of a sudden things... change. It's shifts like this that give most of the weight of historical periodization. Agriculture changes, expands, literally makes farmland out of nothing - changes the landscape. Entire villages grow out of nowhere. In the words of Dr. Iain Higgins, we're looking at changes in 'scale'. Eventually we begin to see structures that look a little like this:

Identity changes. Community changes, social structures become more specialized. On the fringes, of course, the scale of villages, the complexity of communities and technologies remained often relatively limited. Even to the present day, communities in the Outer Hebrides of Scotland remained deeply isolated, such as that in St. Kilda:     (more info here)

And you can imagine that community was important HERE.

The Church, kingdoms, universities, towns, and guilds all begin to centralize power and undergo fundamental (or continue to undergo!) reforms. By the 13th century, the Middle Ages that we looked at in Monday's post, that of Beowulf and Anglo-Saxon Europe, have lost some features, altered some others, and gained a host of new institutions. We're in the "high" Middle Ages, the time of knights, and roses, and ladies; landholders and feudal relationships (if you're living in the Loire river valley in the 13th century, you might even be experiencing "Classical feudalism", though if Dr. Haskett ever caught me using that word outside of a jest, I'm certain he would follow through on his threat of anathema).

And even though one could argue that society is even more greatly socially stratified in the High Middle Ages than in the Early, at least some people seem to have so many more "options"; in trades, in universities, in guilds... after all, is the Renaissance not based in a flourishing of artisan culture and prestige, and Venice's early success on a highly socially mobile society? Well, more recent scholarly work paints a more complex vision of these societies; ones that on the surface seem to display social mobility and meritocracy, but that are bound by visible and invisible signs of class and place that seem alien to the smaller-scale relationships of Beowulf.

Next time this topic comes around, we'll continue to think about inclusion and exclusion in high Medieval society, but for the moment, here's a thought: if, even in the relatively larger scale, complex, and increasingly specialized society of the high Middle Ages, we discover the same senses of exclusion, isolation, and alienation inside or on the outskirts of very tight-knit and local communities, what does that imply for a city on the scale of, say, New York?

Victoria has crime rates and a homeless population well above the national average. What does that say about our communities here in B.C. in the year 2012, a thousand years after urbanization begins to gain ground again in Europe? What do works such as Beowulf or Le Morte d'Arthur tell us about how far we are today from the world they describe -- if at all?

- Josef

** Remember to come out to the MOVIE NIGHT on Tuesday from 5-7, for more game of Thrones madness! Also, if anyone is game for reviving the 2nd place CHAMPION MSCU Felicita's Trivia Night team, make your voices heard on our Facebook page!