2018 Seminars

January 17th at 5.15pm

A struggle on behalf of freedom”: William Gaskell, The Unitarian Herald and the Victorian Politics of Print“.

Dr Maeve Adams

Abstract: The Unitarian Herald is a masterful example of nineteenth-century periodical journalism, of which a rare, complete physical copy forms a centerpiece of the Dr. Williams’s Library. Largely overlooked by literary historians, the newspaper was the brainchild of William Gaskell, husband of famed novelist Elizabeth Gaskell, and other dissenting ministers of the era. This seminar locates the newspaper in three key contexts to examine its wider significance to Victorian art, culture and politics. It situates the Unitarian Herald alongside the popular genres of periodical writing, and especially newspapers, that saturated the print marketplace in nineteenth-century Britain. It explores the newspaper’s efforts to reconceive principles of social justice, civil rights and civic responsibility in relation to the ongoing development of the British nation-state and the dissenting traditions that shaped it. Finally, the seminar will examine William Gaskell’s contributions to the newspaper as a writer and editor in the context of his and Elizabeth Gaskell’s larger, if distinctive, bodies of writing.

Dr Maeve Adams

Manhattan College, Riverdale, New York.

February 14th at 5.15pm.

Queen Philippa of Hainault and her Psalter

Dr Laura Slater

Dr Williams’s Library MS Ancient 6 is an extremely small (102 x 70 mm) psalter first owned by Queen Philippa of Hainault, wife of Edward III of England. It may have been made as a wedding gift to mark Philippa’s marriage to Edward in 1328. Such ‘marital manuscripts’ were common aristocratic gifts to new husbands and wives in medieval Europe. They were designed to introduce young couples to their new social roles and act as spiritual primer for married life.

Yet MS Ancient 6 would have been required to support and guide Philippa in particularly difficult circumstances. Aged anywhere between ten and fifteen, Philippa landed in England in December 1327, barely a week after the funeral of her deposed and murdered father-in-law, Edward II. She found her new husband to be the increasingly unwilling puppet of a regency government dominated by his mother, Queen Isabella of France, and her paramour, Roger Mortimer. Philippa spent her first three years in England completely overshadowed by her mother-in-law. She was not crowned until February 1330, when the advanced stage of her first pregnancy made the ceremony unavailable, did not have a separate household until April 1330 and did not receive any dower lands. Kept perennially short of money, by spring 1330, rumours of Isabella’s pregnancy by Mortimer, and his desire to usurp the English throne, turned a tense political situation into an openly dangerous one. The execution in March 1330 of Edward III’s uncle, the earl of Kent, proved the regents’ desire to hold onto power at any cost.

This talk will examine the contents and imagery of MS Ancient 6 in this context, highlighting the traces it bears of contemporary political upheavals in England, and discussing the devotional practices it may be prescribing for the new queen.

Dr Laura Slater is the Fulford Junior Research Fellow at Somerville College, Oxford and a researcher on the European Research Council-funded ‘Music and Late Medieval European Courtly Cultures’ project. She has held teaching or research positions at Cambridge, Trinity College Dublin, University College London and York. Her first book, Art and Political Thought in Medieval England c.1150-1350, is forthcoming with Boydell & Brewer.

March 21 at 5.15

Professor Erick Goldstein

University of Boston.