Et in Acadia ego

As those who’ve traipsed over to the About page may already know, this year I hold a Harrison McCain Foundation Visiting Professor Fellowship at Acadia University (Wolfville, Nova Scotia). The fellowship was established by the foundation set up in honour of the late Harrison McCain—yes, of Superfries® fame!—to foster academic and pedagogical collaboration between Acadia professors and colleagues at other institutions. As an Acadia alumnus (MA ’07), I am particularly excited to return to my former home at the Department of English & Theatre Studies to work with Professor K.S. Whetter and his students.

Our project, “Teaching Boethius via Chaucer: Exploring the Chivalric Ethos through The Knight’s Tale,” focuses on Chaucer’s attitude to Boethius as well as approaches to teaching Chaucer and Boethius in an undergraduate classroom. We use the imprisonment of the two Theban knights, Palamon and Arcite, Arcite’s mortal wound, and the concluding speeches by Theseus and Egeus as sites for interrogating how Chaucer interwove Boethian philosophical themes into chivalric romance. Chaucer, who famously translated Boethius’ Latin De consolatio philosophiae into his native Middle English, introduced these weighty topics into the Knight’s Tale, producing a much more philosophical and tragic narrative than was usual for medieval romance—romance being the literary genre most commonly associated with chivalry. Chaucer, however, takes the usual action-adventure tropes of romance and significantly modifies the genre by incorporating substantial Boethian themes into the knighthood-adventure-love formula typical of romance. This Boethian framework of the Knight’s Tale is well accepted by scholars, but more needs to be done with it, especially the ways in which Chaucer—as is his wont—mixes contradictory emotions and tropes, creating a tale which is simultaneously a tragic and philosophic love story and also a story with a happy ending. What has not thus far been acknowledged is the extent to which these contradictions themselves endorse and ignore Boethian philosophy.

I spent a little under two weeks at Acadia in mid-October and joined Prof. Whetter’s English 2163: Arthurian Literature course for a series of sessions on Chrétien de Troyes’ Knight of the Cart (Lancelot). The students had already read Yvain and so were familiar with some of Chrétien’s tropes and concerns. My first day with them consisted of a lecture on Boethius and a brief overview of the Consolation of Philosophy, including its major points such as the transience of this world, the pursuit of higher truths, and, most important for our reading that week, Fortune’s Wheel. The students had received a short excerpt of the Consolation (Book I, poem 1 to prose 4)—sort of a teaser for the whole text. I was delighted with the students’ engagement with Boethius, particularly when two of them told me after class that they felt they absolutely must read the whole thing now! (We agreed that they probably shouldn’t start until after the semester was over.) In the next three sessions Prof. Whetter and I took a team-teaching approach to discussing Chrétien’s Lancelot, and the class offered many thoughtful comments about and insights into the love of Lancelot and Guinevere, the complexities of chivalric identity and codes, and the Boethian echoes in the text. I’m looking forward to incorporating much of this discussion in my “Reading the Middle Ages: the Heroic and the Chivalric” course next semester at Brock’s Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.

Visiting Nova Scotia is always a treat, but visiting during the autumn is especially lovely. Last year when I stopped by Wolfville after the excellent Atlantic Medieval Association conference, the leaves hadn’t yet started to change. This year, only a few weeks later, I was met with splendour. Wolfville is a very lovely town—great shops, cafes, restaurants, and very friendly peoples at every turn. I can’t wait until next semester when I return for another bout of teaching (Tolkien this time) and then next summer when I spend several weeks with Prof. Whetter working on the written component of our project.

Morning Fireworks

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)