International Pearl-poet Society ICMS 2019 Sessions

This promises to be an excellent year for the Society at the International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University. We have five very exciting panels scheduled for Kalamazoo next May. Please do keep in mind that the IPpS Business Meeting is held at 12.00 PM on the Saturday (May 11). We will elect a new Vice-President and plan our proposed sessions for the 55th ICMS in 2020.


Is there a class in this text? Teaching the Gawain-poet (Roundtable)

Chair: B.S.W. Barootes (Pontifical Institute of Mediæval Studies)


“The Pearl-poet and Non-Conformist Religious Ideas in the First Year Seminar”

Felisa Baynes-Ross (Yale University)


“Playing the Manuscript: Teaching the Games of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Julie Nelson Couch (Texas Tech University) & Kimberly Bell (Sam Houston State University)


“An Intertextual Approach to Courtliness and the Divine in Pearl

Amber Dunai (Texas A&M University—Central Texas)


“Defamiliarizing the Pearl-poet: Rejecting Translation and Broadening the Course”

Stephen D. Powell (University of Guelph)


“Teaching Sir Gawain and the Green Knight in the Context of Rhetorical and Linguistic Traditions of the Middle Ages”

Scott Troyan (University of Wisconsin—Madison)


Gender and Engendering in the Works of the Pearl-poet

Chair: Kimberly Jack (Athens State University)


“Nurturing Fathers and Supportive Authorities: Reconsidering Paternal Affection in the Pearl-poet’s Works”

Ashley E. Bartelt (Northern Illinois University)


“Untying and Re-tying the ‘Endles Knot’: Retroactively Reading Sir Gawain and the Green Knight as a Woman’s Narrative”

Jonathan Juilfs (Redeemer University College)


“‘He Said, She Said,’ He Said: Gendered Dialogue in Pearl and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight”

Florence Newman (Towson University)


“The Emotional Intelligence of Pearl: Purging the Jeweler of his Gendered Irrationality?”

William M. Storm (Eastern University)


Visual Rhetoric in the Works of the Pearl-poet I: New Frontiers

Chair: Denise A. Stodola (Kettering University)


“The Green Knight Without the Green: Re-Investigating the Multispectral Illustrations of MS Cotton Nero A.x art. 3”

Matthew R. Higgins (Georgia State University)


“Visible Thoughts: The Spontaneous Gesture and Imaging Identity in the Pearl-Poems”

Misho Ishikawa (UCLA)


“Peripheral Vision: Choreographing Description through Dance in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Clint Morrison, Jr. (Ohio State University)


“Crashing by Dasein: Neurorhetoric Supplying the Vision for “Being There” at the Green Chapel”

Scott Troyan (University of Wisconsin—Madison)


Visual Rhetoric II: Looking Closer

Chair: Julie Nelson Couch (Texas Tech University)


“Spaces for Seeing: Sight as a Function of Moral Space in the Works of the Pearl-Poet”

Andrew Bell (University of Connecticut)


“Inside the Whale and Outside the Ark: Reconsidering Enclosure in Patience and Cleanness

David K. Coley (Simon Fraser University)


“Visual Rhetoric and Argumentation in Pearl

Denise A. Stodola (Kettering University)


Of schyr goulez: Red as Complement to Green in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Witt Womack (Independent scholar; University of Leeds)


Fifty Shades of Green: Hagiography and Demonology in the Pearl-poet Corpus

Chair: Ashley E. Bartelt (Northern Illinois University)


“Confessing to Fairies”

Richard Firth Green (Ohio State University)


“Romance in St. Erkenwald: Blending the Pagan Past and Christian Present”

Jenna Schoen (Columbia University)

Cleanness Cotton Nero A.x fol 56

London, British Library, MS Cotton Nero A.x (art. 3), fol. 56r

ICMS 2019: Pearl-poet Society CfP

The International Pearl-Poet Society is sponsoring five sessions at the 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies (May 9–12, 2019) at Western Michigan University, Kalamazoo, MI.

1. Is there a class in this text? Teaching the Pearl-poet (Roundtable)

Sir Gawain and the Green Knight has long been a mainstay of Brit Lit surveys and introductions to medieval literature. However, the recent anthologising of Pearl, both in the Middle English and in translation, and the rise of pedagogical interest in vernacular religious traditions such as those exemplified by Cleanness and Patience, calls for a fresh appraisal of classroom strategies for approaching these texts.

2. Visual Rhetoric in the Works of the Gawain-poet

From the description of shining, jewelled New Jerusalem to the blazons of Sir Gawain and the Pearl-maiden to the Pearl-dreamer’s inability to ‘see’ clearly, the Gawain-poet reveals himself to be a writer who depends on visual metaphors, imagery, and motifs. Seeking to renovate earlier work by Sarah Stanbury (1991, 2007), Maidie Hilmo (2001), and Tony Davenport (2008), this session will explore the ways that the poet deploys motifs of sight and seeing to shape the meaning of his texts.

3. Gender and Engendering in the Works of the Pearl-poet

Morgan le Fay, Hagar and Sarah, Lady Bertilak, the Pearl-maiden, Lot’s unnamed wife and daughters, Queen Guinevere. Shrinking Gawain, wayward Jonah, ‘beardless’ Arthur, the gentle Jeweller, the Green Knight with his half-giant chest and shoulders to match. Households hoping for heirs; kingdoms that shall never know one. The Pearl-poet presents a broad spectrum of gendered characters. This session invites participants to consider how the poet plays with tropes of gender in the Cotton Nero A.x poems and St. Erkenwald.

4. Beyond the Codex: Extraliterary Influences on the Texts of the Pearl Manuscript

The Pearl-poet was, without a doubt, widely read. But what other cultural ‘texts’ and contexts influenced his poetry? How did architecture, the liturgy, political upheaval, religious debates, economic anxiety, international affairs, and epidemic outbreak weigh on mind of the poet as he composed his works?

5. Fifty Shades of Green: Hagiography and Demonology in the Pearl-poet Corpus

Between the celestial city and the shady Green Chapel, the miracles of a London bishop and the Leviathan-underworld in the belly of a sea beast, the works of the Pearl-poet explore the full range of the divine and the infernal. The papers in this session will interrogate the poet’s use of hagiographic tropes as well as material from folk traditions as he crafts his supernatural narratives.

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We invite abstracts from scholars of all levels. Papers may deal with one or all of the poems by the Pearl-poet. Paper sessions will consist of either three twenty-minute or four fifteen-minute presentations; all paper sessions will afford at least thirty minutes for discussion. As lively conversation and collaboration are key goals, the pedagogical roundtable can accommodate up to six participants presenting for seven or eight minutes, with approximately half the session reserved for discussion.

Please send your abstract (max. 300 words) and the completed Participant Information Form by

15 September 2018 to

Benjamin Barootes

Pontifical Institute of Mediæval Studies

59 Queen’s Park Crescent East

Toronto, Ontario

Canada    M5S 2C4

SGGK illustration and first page

(BL, Cotton Nero A.x fols. 94v-95r)

ICMS 2019 CfP: Provincial Aristocratic Households redux

The Provincial Aristocratic Household in Late-Medieval England

Based on the wonderful turn-out at the 2018 ICMS panel (over 20 people at a Sunday-morning session!), I have organised another iteration of the session at the 54th Congress at Kalamazoo (May 9 to 12, 2019).

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This interdisciplinary panel explores the rich world of the provincial household in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries. Although often mocked in the cosmopolitan capital, provincial courts were sites of important social, cultural, and historical innovation and advancement: Yorkshire and the North witnessed early interest in eremitic and vernacular piety; the West Midlands and the Marches fostered the alliterative revival; and in rural Gloucestershire, Lord Berkeley’s Cornish clerk John Trevisa translated one of the great scientific texts of the age. Far from the dark and draughty halls imagined by urbane detractors, the provincial household was frequently a shining example of the wealth, learning, and worldliness found in the furthest reaches of the kingdom. This session invites papers from scholars concerned with any aspect of a particular noble household outside the metropolitan centres. Possible topics include:

  • courtly and hall entertainments
  • provincial literature and literary representations
  • devotion and prayer; the household chapel
  • book production, circulation, and collecting
  • local (gentry) affinities
  • hosting and hospitality
  • art and decoration
  • food and feasting
  • supply, management, and procurement of goods
  • building, architecture, and renovation

To offer the breadth that this expansive topic warrants, this paper session will consist of four, 15-minute papers, with 30 minutes reserved for questions and discussion.

Please send your abstract (max. 300 words) and the completed Participant Information Form by

15 September 2018 to

Benjamin Barootes

A New Boss

After two years at the Centre for Medieval Studies (U Toronto), my SSHRC postdoctoral fellowship is coming to an end. I’ve had a great time at the Centre, made some excellent new friends and colleagues, and managed to get a considerable amount of work done. (Since autumn 2016: four articles and a book chapter published, plus an encyclopedia entry.) As it happens, I also managed to make some good headway on the project that brought me to CMS, “In nomine meo: The Texts and Contexts of Oxford, Trinity College MS 8.” My research trip to the Bodleian last June (funded in part by the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature, aka Medium Ævum) opened up considerable new avenues for this investigation.

Which brings me to some news. Starting in September, I will be one of the four Mellon postdoctoral fellows at the Pontifical Institute of Mediæval Studies. My PIMS project is titled, “Devotion to the Holy Name in the West Midlands, 1375-1425: The Material Evidence.” Working with Dr. Ann Hutchison, I’ll continue my study of the Beauchamp missal (the Trinity 8 manuscript), focusing on its links to West Midlands book production and the spread of Holy Name devotion. For instance, in one part of the project, I’ll be looking at William Beauchamp’s links to his brother-in-law, Hugh, 2nd Earl Stafford, and the Lichfield region of Staffordshire, the point of origin for several prominent devotional texts from the period.

Pims door

I’m very excited to start my work at PIMS alongside my fellow Mellon, er, fellows: Andrew Dunning, Anna Peterson, and Simona Vucu. Plus I’ve got one of the easiest office moves possible–two blocks due south. (The hardest part so far has been learning a new postal code.) Another bonus of working for the Pope is that PIMS is located next to my favourite  tree in Toronto.

Pims tree

Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess: Contexts and Interpretations

The news is about two months old, I’m afraid, but I’m nevertheless very happy to announce here that the volume Chaucer’s Book of the Duchess: Contexts and Interpretations (ed. Jamie Fumo) was published in April by Boydell. This is the first collection of essays devoted to Chaucer’s first sustained narrative poem, and I’m honoured to have my work on BoD, the Cursor Mundi, and the social value of fables included among the excellent contributions in the book.

BoD Collection Cover.jpg

The essays represents a cross-section of approaches, from source studies (Machaut is of course well-represented) to the Duchess‘s later influence (do check out Jeff Espie’s phenomenal piece on Ovid, Chaucer, and Spenser–knocked my socks off), and also brings together a mix of Chaucerian stalwarts and new voices in the field. You can read the publisher’s write-up and view the full Table of Contents here.

My thanks to Jamie Fumo for her excellent work as an editor: this has been an amazingly smooth and efficient experience. Thanks, too, to Caroline Palmer at Boydell, who captained the volume through a very speedy production process, ensuring it was ready for, and available at, Kalamazoo this year. (I sent my comments on page proofs back in early January; the book was published April 20! Absolutely phenomenal.)


A new year and a new article to go with it

The fantastic editors of The Chaucer Review do not mess around: when they say a January issue is coming out, they mean it. The new issue (53.1) came out within the first few days of the new year—I noticed it yesterday afternoon—and contains my article “‘In fourme of speche is chaunge’: Final –e in Troilus and Criseyde II.22–28.” (A PDF is available on the Publications page of this site.) Here’s the abstract:

This article posits that the fourth stanza of the proem to Book Two of Troilus and Criseyde, a passage that reflects on linguistic change, calls attention to such change by deploying the already-antiquated but still-recognized final -e. The discussion considers first how Chaucer positions language change in Troilus, including the envoy (V, 1793–98), before addressing the careful construction of II, 22–28. Chaucer thus highlights discrepancies between written and oral forms of language as well as geographic and temporal differences. A consideration of the extant manuscripts of the poem demonstrates the attention Chaucer’s early copyists paid to his deliberate use of written, but silent, final -e.

I’m very happy to see this work in print: it’s been developing for quite some time. The idea first came to me over six years ago, in the autumn of 2011, while I was the TA for Jamie Fumo’s class on Chaucer’s courtly literature. At the top of Professor Fumo’s handout on Middle English pronunciation, she included this stanza as an epigraph—a very appropriate quotation when introducing so many undergraduates to this wonderfully strange language. As we moved through vowel pronunciation and the familiar-but-tricky issue of final -e, I flipped back to this passage. Something caught my eye, something seemed off. For the rest, you’ll have to read the article.

My thanks to Susanna Fein, David Raybin, and Christopher Michael Roman at The Chaucer Review for the opportunity. And all best to everyone for 2018.


(Cambridge, Corpus Christi College MS 61 frontispiece)

Gollancz and Tennyson

Readers of my fortnight-old post on Gollancz’s Pearl will recall a brief discussion of the inclusion of an epigraphic quatrain from then Poet Laureate, Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Appearing on the page just after the Holman Hunt frontispiece, it reads:





As I noted before, this quatrain is printed in ALLCAPS in all the editions, and I suspect that the consequent epitaphic effect is no doubt intended. There is certainly a tension between the polished stone gleaming in the “lyric coronet”, now safe from that moul that marreȝ a myry iuele, and the graven quality of the words. But there’s more at work here.

Before I saw the light and became a medievalist, I spent part of my wayward youth as a would-be Romanticist. I worked most of the time on mid-nineteenth-century print culture, especially the phenomenon known as the literary annuals or gift-books, those luxury tomes largely intended as seasonal presents for marriageable young ladies of acute sensibility. (If you’ve read Middlemarch, Ned Plymdale gives Rosamund Vincy a copy of The Keepsake.) The books were popular for their pairing of high-quality reproductions of fine art (new steel-plate engraving and steam press technology aiding mass print runs) with poems and short stories commissioned from famous writers including Scott, Wordsworth, Mary Shelley, and others. While the literary annuals have their share of small-R romance, they are also heavily informed by the aesthetic that a Victorian character on That Mitchell and Webb Look summed up as “portraits of ill children praying.” Or, for the more visually-inclined, the 1824 Forget-Me-Not opened with this funereal frontispiece:

1824 FMN Frontispiece

Gollancz was born a little late to have experienced even the tail-end of the annuals craze: many of the most prominent titles ended their runs in the mid-1840s and nearly all were gone by 1860. He would likely have encountered them nonetheless, for they were very well-made, included a lot of artistic reproductions from Turner, Reynolds, and the like, and literature from great poets and authors of the age. On top of this, owners were unlikely to part with them, given their expense: many annuals retailed for about £1 or so—quite a sum at the time. Many were kept in families and handed down from one generation to the next. Tennyson was certainly familiar with literary annuals, having written for a number of them in the 1830s, including The Golden Treasury and The Gem.

According to a little bit of research I did in connexion with the Tennyson quatrain, Tennyson’s library, now housed at the Lincolnshire County Council’s Tennyson Research Centre (see the Catalogue here, items AT/1764 and AT/1765 on p. 17), contains two copies of the Gollancz first edition. One is a thank-you copy, numbered 49 of 50 printed; the fly-leaf is inscribed to the poet from the editor: “To Lord Tennyson with most grateful regards. I. Gollancz.” This is rather graceful, compared to the public thanks he offers in the Preface to the first edition:

“Finally, it is my privilege to express my profound thanks to the Laureate for having guerdoned my labour with the most coveted of distinctions; graced with the imprimatur of his honoured name, ‘Pearl’ will, I feel sure, find kindly welcome in many an English home.”

Gollancz may have missed his true calling: he would have made an excellent editor of the literary annuals.

The second copy is the more interesting for it demonstrates the tactical branding (cf. “imprimatur”) that Gollancz had in mind as he prepared his first edition. Read: he knew what he was doing. The TRC’s Catalogue provides the title to the volume in brackets, for, while the Holman Hunt frontispiece is present, the title page is not, which leads the catalogue to wonder parenthetically if this was a proof copy, which the dates certainly do suggest. The rough dating of the copy is determined by a letter tucked into it that is dated 18 November 1890 from Gollancz to Hallam Tennyson. It asks Tennyson the Younger, who lived with his father as his personal secretary, to interest Lord Alfred in the poem. The lines that were to become the poetical guerdon are written in pencil on the back of this copy’s Holman Hunt frontispiece in Hallam Tennyson’s hand. While I’m reluctant to speculate cynically, it may be that the aging Tennyson saw something in the enterprising scholar’s request that reminded him of Charles Heath’s and the other gift-book editors’ annual solicitations and rattled off a few lines very much in that spirit.

Elsewhere in the edition, Gollancz forges links with Tennyson’s oeuvre, whether out of genuine feeling, canny marketing to guarantee a “kindly welcome in many an English home”, or—quite likely—a mix of both. On the first page of his Introduction, he positions Pearl as anticipating or presaging Tennyson’s great elegy: “its artistic form indicates the peculiar position this old ‘In Memoriam’ occupies in the evolution of modern English poetry.” (The 1921 edition substitutes early for old and gets a little less Darwinian: “in the progress of English poetry.”) In his explanatory notes, he twice draws parallels between passages in Pearl and the lament for Clough. For instance, Gollancz highlights the parallel between the commonplace of new growth from the corpse in Pearl 25–36 and In Memoriam XVIII (“And from his ashes may be made / The violets of his native land.”). The more interesting—and certainly more complicated—weaving with Tennyson’s work appears in the first edition only. In space between the title page the preface, just after the Tennysonian quatrain, Gollancz includes a dedication page. It reads:

Gollancz 1891 Dedication Page

The quotation is from the fifth stanza of Tennyson’s Maud, a tale of lost love and an angelic apparition that restores purpose to the mourner’s life. The complication of course comes from the fact that, in Maud, the deceased heroine and her apparition are aged sixteen years and thus the lost love is of a decidedly romantic nature—no ambiguity about the luf-daungere there. (Also the Pearl-dreamer has no Crimean War to head to after waking from his dream on the cold huyl-side.)

We might assume that Gollancz has chosen this epigraph to complement the quatrain even as it compliments the author of the lines, but perhaps some generosity of interpretation is in order here. The rather careerist entry for Sir Israel in the DNB concludes by commenting on his well-known affection for children that endeared him to many friends and acquaintances. He came from a large family and had many nieces and nephews. My cursory glances over ancestry websites show a numbers of relatives born right around the time of the preparation and publication of the first edition of Pearl. Mabel Gollancz, the daughter of his brother, Alexander, was born in 1890, for example. However, I was unable to discover how long she lived or the fate of her sister Winifried (b. 1891). (Of their brother Victor we have much more information. He was, among many other things, Orwell’s first publisher.) I’m terribly curious—with no hint of the nefarious—about the particular personal goings-on, if any, that would prompt the scholar to include this dedication. But, then, in so doing I may be guilty of precisely the same sort of biographical projection that Gollancz undertakes when he insists that the poet elegizes his own daughter in Pearl. (Israel Gollancz himself would not marry until 1910, at the age of 37; he had two children with his wife Alide [née Goldschmidt], Marguerite [!!!] and Oliver. Both, it is happily noted, lived long lives.)

I hope, too, that this sentimental note supplies a counter to the some of the cynicism above. It is obvious from every sentence in both editions that Gollancz loved Pearl deeply. His express purpose in publishing his edition—and including a modern English translation—was to make the poem more accessible and to get it to more readers, beyond those with connexions to the British Academy or subscribers to Furnivall ventures or the Early English Text Society. If he considered playing upon the tastes of consumers—tastes conditioned by decades of anthologies that paired steel-plate engravings with “poetical illustrations” to reflect and exemplify the sensibilities of the readers and owners as much as to educate, entertain, and inform them—then so be it. What matters most is that more and more readers did, in the end, encounter and come to love Pearl, some maybe loved it even as much as Gollancz.