CFP: New Chaucer Society

2014 New Chaucer Society Conference
July 16-20, 2014
Reykjavik, Iceland

A co-founder of our society, Laura Miles, is organizing a paper panel titled “Between the Birgittines: Syon Abbey and Vadstena’s Textual Exchanges.”

One paragraph abstracts can be sent to by June 1, 2013.

What began as a political relationship between England and Sweden — the 1406 wedding of King Erik of Pomerania to Philippa, daughter of King Henry IV — soon blossomed into a religious one, when the English were inspired to found a Birgittine monastery like the one they encountered in Vadstena. Syon Abbey, founded in 1415, maintained a close bond with Vadstena, the first house of St. Birgitta’s Order of St. Saviour. Over the next hundred years the two houses enjoyed a frequent exchange of people, letters, and books. Some of these texts were legislative in nature, such as the extensive Responsiones detailing Vadstena’s answers to the Syon brethren’s many logistical and ceremonial questions. They also exchanged works of devotional, catechetical, and visionary literature. For instance, Syon retained one of the earliest versions of St. Birgitta’s Revelations, apparently copied at Vadstena by a visiting English scribe. A more unexpected example: Thomas Fishlake’s Latin translation of Hilton’s Scale of Perfection appears in multiple Vadstena manuscripts, apparently an import from Syon.

The textual transmissions between Syon and Vadstena offer a productive view into the ways monastic allegiances enabled the trans-national dissemination of religious writing in the late medieval period. This session would solicit papers that pursue new avenues of research revealing the exchange of texts between two houses equally renown for their learned members and huge libraries. A myriad of questions regarding translation, adaptation, transmission, and production might drive panelists’ explorations. What can paleographical or codicological approaches reveal about the ways in which texts were exchanged between the Birgittines? A 1453 letter from Vadstena requests that Syon send a scribe to Sweden to copy texts to bring back to England; this appears to have happened in the case of BL Harley 612. What stories do this and other similar manuscripts have to tell? Latin, of course, allowed the Birgittines on both sides of the North Sea to transcend the language barrier of Swedish and English. Did the desire to share texts with international brethren initiate translation? Moreover, how might texts have been adapted for their new cultural milieux? This panel would develop conversation around these questions not only to illuminate the complex relationship between these two prominent houses, but also to advance more generally applicable ways of understanding late medieval monastic culture, its textual communities, and the paradoxically international nature of manuscripts written for enclosed readers.

One paragraph abstracts can be sent to by June 1, 2013.

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