Devotion to the Holy Name Lecture

After a wonderful summer living on a couple of boats at the Toronto Island Marina, I’ve jetted off to Regina, Saskatchewan, where I’m giving a lecture at the University of Regina’s Campion College on Friday, September 8th. The lecture is at 3.30 PM in the Campion auditorium.

This talk, titled “‘in the ston a newe nam writen’: Devotion to the Holy Name in Late-Medieval England”, presents some of the work that’s come out of the first year of my postdoctoral fellowship at U of T’s Centre for Medieval Studies. In particular, the second half of the lecture features a discussion of materials I examined during a research trip to the Bodleian in June. (The week of research in Oxford was supported by a bursary from the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literatures, aka Medium Ævum.)  This discussion is the first airing of an important discovery I made in the course of my research, which I will be exploring in more detail in my paper at the Atlantic Medieval Association conference, Material Matters, at the end of the month.

Campion Lecture Title Slide

Here is the blurb from the lecture poster:

When is a name more than a name? Can the utterance of a name settle the mind, heal wounds, and combat evil? For devout English people in the Late Middle Ages, the Holy Name of Jesus could do all this—and more. Often touted as a means of personal connexion to the Lord, the cult of the Holy Name developed in the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries into a wide-ranging social phenomenon that, by the Reformation, would occupy high strata of society. This talk explores the rise of the devotion in late-medieval England, with a particular focus on the earliest known copy of the votive mass for the Holy Name, the so-called Beauchamp missal. The lecture also explores the artistic, textual, and literary manifestations of the Holy Name devotion, including works by the Gawain-poet and Chaucer.

CfP: ICMS at Kalamazoo – Charles d’Orleans

Charles d’Orléans: Forms and Genres:

Although he is one of the chief poetic innovators of the mid-fifteenth century in both English and French, Charles d’Orléans is too often a neglected figure: articles on his work remain few and far between; his poems are rarely anthologized; and most students, including many in graduate school, have never heard of him. An inheritor of Machaut, Froissart, and Christine de Pizan on one side of the Channel and of Chaucer, Gower, and Lydgate on the other, Charles spent twenty-five years in Lancastrian captivity cultivating a rich literary voice that incorporates and transforms the traditions of his homeland and those of English hosts. This session asks participants to consider the many genres and forms with which Charles engaged—how he perpetuated, altered, or synthesized them. Papers could address, for instance, his use of the French ballade or roundel structures, or how he deployed a narrato-lyric fusion in his English Forunes Stabilnes. Others might investigate his inheritance of the Boethian imagery of imprisonment, his manipulations of fin ‘amors tropes, or his adoption of continental and insular dream-vision traditions.

This papers session will consist of three 20-minute papers or four 15-minute papers (depending on submissions), with 30 minutes reserved for questions and discussion.

Please send 300-word abstracts and the ICMS Participant Information Form to Boyda Johnstone ( by 15 September 2017.

Kalamazoo ICMS CfP

I’m pleased to report that my special session, “The Provincial Aristocratic Household in Late-Medieval England,” was approved for the 53rd International Congress on Medieval Studies at Western Michigan University (May 10-13, 2018). Here is the Call for Papers.

The Provincial Aristocratic Household in Late-Medieval England

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 proposals (max. 300 words) to by 15 September 2017.

Decorated Initials in Pearl (BL, Cotton Nero A.x)

I’ve been working on my Kalamazoo-ICMS paper on Pearl and Holy Name devotion. Part of my discussion has involved the decorated capital at the top of fol 49r (line 721; opening of Section XIII), where the name Jesus–Ihs in the manuscript–replaces the refrain word from Section XII, Ryght. My interest in the Ihs in Section XIII led me to look for scholarly treatments of the decorated capitals in Pearl (and the Cotton Nero MS more generally), of which there are few. The best treatment that I have come across is A.S.G. Edwards’ essay in the Companion, which deals with the capitals in about a page. Thanks to the University of Calgary’s wonderful Cotton Nero A.x Project , anyone can explore this small-but-so-important and fascinating manuscript at their leisure (or under deadline duress), but I have compiled my own notes and observations about each of the decorated capitals–21 in all–for you here.

Each entry includes a link to the folio on which the capital appears. I’ve tried to be systematic and consistent throughout, but I also confess this started as a haphazard collection of jotted notes. This document is a work-in-progess, so please let me know if you spot any errors or have further insights to add. Comment below or email me at bsw [dot] barootes [at] utoronto [dot] ca.

The materiality of the Cotton Nero manuscript, too often passed off as nothing to write home (or on the internet, or in the journals) about, is worth exploring further. Often laughed off for its seeming shoddiness–one early commentator shat on the illustrations’ coarse execution while many other critics point to the 400-odd scribal errors–its contents, quality (or qualities), and size–it’s the same size as the postcard my sister sent from Portugal, the same size as the framed picture of your kids on your desk–speak to an interest in reading and rereading, an interest in frequently engaging with important topics that have local and universal resonances.

ICMS (Kalamazoo) Session

I’ve organised the session “Ihesu dulcis: Devotion to the Holy Name in Medieval Europe” at the 52nd annual International Congress on Medieval Studies (May 11-14, Western Michigan University). The session offers three papers that examine Holy Name devotion in vernacular texts and practices in the late-medieval period (with a focus on England in particular). Stephen Moore’s paper, “Chivalry, Piety, and Devotion to the Name of Christ in Marie de France’s Saint Patrick’s Purgatory,” addresses Owein’s dedication to, and reliance on, the Holy Name, with a special emphasis on Marie’s use of the imagery of sound. My own paper, “‘et in calculo nomen novum scriptum‘: Pearl and the Holy Name of Jesus,” considers some intriguing parallels between the fourteenth-century elegiac dream vision and the votive mass of the Holy Name of Jesus as found in the Beauchamp Missal (Oxford, Trinity College MS 8). Finally, Rob Lutton’s “Action and Interpretation in the Late Medieval English Cult of the Holy Name of Jesus” draws on religious miscellanies, luturgical texts, and material artefacts to interrogate how the Christocentric turn to the human name of Jesus affected the practices of ordinary Christians.

This promises to be an exciting and interesting session. We hope to see many of you there.

Session 30 Bernhard 158 – Thursday at 10.00 AM (May 11)

Chair: Laura Godfrey, Univ. of Connecticut

“Chivalry, Piety, and Devotion to the Name of Christ in Marie de France’s Saint Patrick’s Purgatory
Stephen G. Moore, Univ. of Regina

“‘et in calculo nomen novum scriptum‘: Pearl and the Holy Name of Jesus”
B.S.W. Barootes, Univ. of Toronto

“Action and Interpretation in the Late Medieval English Cult of the Holy Name of Jesus”
Rob Lutton, Univ. of Nottingham

A new article: Apostrophe in Pearl

I’m happy to announce that my article, “‘O perle’: Apostrophe in Pearl“, has been published in the most recent issue of Studies in Philology (113.4). You can find a link to the article on my Publications page. My thanks to Reid Barbour and Caitlin Watt at SiP and to the anonymous readers.

Here’s the abstract:

This article addresses the Pearl-poet’s use of apostrophe in his elegiac dream vision.
Drawing on classical and medieval discussions of this rhetorical device, as well as contemporary poetic criticism, it argues that the trajectory of apostrophe in the poem traces the development of the Mourner-Dreamer as he gains insight from the Pearl-maiden’s lesson and moves toward consolation. The Mourner’s calls to his lost pearl in the proem demonstrate the unproductive cycle of his sorrow. His apostrophes to the Maiden in the early part of his dream similarly threaten to undo the solace he gains in the earthly paradise. By contrast, the Maiden’s three short apostrophes serve an exemplary function and show the Dreamer how to deploy apostrophe without getting caught up in the diversionary aspects of the device. In the closing frame of the poem, the now-awakened Dreamer uses apostrophe in a controlled manner that permits him to turn away from the isolation of grief.

Off to Making Early Middle English

This week I’m jetting out to Victoria, BC, for the Making Early Middle English conference (, which promises to be an excellent gathering. I’ll be presenting “Chess and Fablis: Cursor Mundi and the Book of the Duchess”, a paper that looks at how idleness is presented in both texts and its relationship with gaming and tale-telling. This conference paper is the first airing of the work I’ve been doing for a chapter-length study on the same subject. I’m very much looking forward to talking about these two texts, both of which are understudied (the former more than the latter, of course), and I’m sure I’ll leave with plenty of insights, suggestions, and improvements courtesy of the excellent colleagues gathering in Victoria.