A report on the ‘Medieval Anchorites in their Communities’ conference, May 2014

Medieval Anchorites in their Communities’, an international conference hosted by MEMO at Swansea University and the International Anchoritic Society (IAS), constituted the Society’s fifth biennial conference and was organized by Dr Liz Herbert McAvoy between 22-24 April 2014.

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The three-day conference was initiated by a manuscripts workshop run by Professor Bella Millett (Southampton) and Dr Eddie Jones (Exeter), the two of the most acclaimed anchoritic scholars in the international arena. This was followed by a session for promising postgraduate students, sponsored by the journal Medium Aevum, and a wine-reception and book-launch for Dr Jones’ new parallel-text edition of the anchoritic guidance text, Speculum Inclusorum, published by the University of Liverpool Press (who kindly sponsored the launch and reception).  In the evening of April 22, teacher, playwright, actor and anchorite enthusiast, Sue Bevan, performed her award-winning one-person show, An Audience with Shurl, in the cellar bar – and to much acclaim.

Over the course of the three days, there were 35 people in attendance, many of whom are primary researchers in the field, with 23 papers delivered, including one plenary (Professor Eddie Jones [Exeter], Professor Diane Watt [Surrey] and Dr Tom Licence [UEA]. It was wholeheartedly agreed that the standard of papers was very high, and that the discussions they generated were both interesting and fruitful. Most importantly, being the only group in Gregynog for the duration of the conference, there was ample room and opportunity for the interaction between postgraduates new to the field and many of the most senior anchoritic scholars from around the world. Indeed, the 35 people in attendance came from 10 different countries. The generous RIF grant (sponsored by the Research Institute for Arts and Humanitites) of £500 awarded for this conference allowed for postgraduate subsidy, allowing those students who attended to be able to do so for minimal expenditure.

The general editors of UWP’s Religion and Culture in the Middle Ages series (Professor Denis Renevey [Lausanne] and Professor Diane Watt [Surrey]) were amongst the delegates. At least five books on anchoritic topics have been published in this series (2 edited by McAvoy) and both editors were so impressed by the standard of papers that they are keen to publish an edited collection based on conference papers. McAvoy is currently working with Dr Cate Gunn on the initial stages of a book proposal, therefore.

Additionally, initial discussions have taken place amongst a group of scholars in attendance (led by McAvoy) to reinvigorate and rework a previously unsuccessful grant application to look at anchoritic sites in and around the Welsh Marches – from a multi-disciplinary perspective. McAvoy has recently been in discussion with St Mary’s church, Shrewsbury, with a view to centering such a project on this documented anchoritic site, and will be developing a new grant application with this in mind in the autumn.

18 May 2014

Read more:

MEMO:  http://www.swansea.ac.uk/memo/