Centre for Medieval & Early Modern Studies

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In Medieval & Early Modern Europe

was an Interdisciplinary postgraduate colloquium funded by the AHRC Beyond Text Student-Led Initiatives Programme

Centre for Medieval & Early Modern Studies, University of Kent, Canterbury held on Thursday 3rd December, 2009

To view the powerpoint presentation of the Canterbury Cathedral spoken performance of Mad Matilda please click here

Cartoon Exhibition Gallery of pictures click here



For this highly successful Colloquium, our definition of bad behaviour was chosen to cover the widest parameters of the transgressive: all the aspects of the bad,  not evil, from ludic, mischievous or disruptive to the violently anti-social, sexual, tabooed and/or criminal.  The twin aims for this Colloquium were:

    • to explore how text and 'beyond text' - i.e. other facets of visual and material culture - may be deployed
      and problematized as evidence for boundary breaking; an aim brilliantly supported by our keynote speaker's address and the excellent papers presented by our postgraduate researchers.
  • and to support the provision of essential research skills for postgraduates - an aim which Professor Evelyn Welch, Head of the AHRC Beyond Text Initiative succinctly and deftly demonstrated to us during her Closing Address.


Beyond these aims, we explored transgression through transmission and memory, as both memory and perceptions are brought to bear on any recollection of bad behaviour.  We asked how and why bad behaviour is remembered and fore-grounded. Does it have its own appealing structures to witness, behold and remember? How do the senses interact with memories of bad behaviour? Should bad behaviour be treated on its own and in relation to pre-existing social, historical and literary codes of conduct? These were some of the questions addressed by our postgraduate speakers.
Tensions and ambiguous interactions between those 'acting' or 'being bad' with those who denounced such behaviour were addressed, as our comprehension of bad behaviour in the past shapes our understanding of crime now, and new perspectives of understanding were created. Contextualizing different perspectives and approaches on transgressive behaviours, and engaging them in a dialogue, permitted a fruitful questioning and challenging of our preconceptions.  This allowed us to achieve our goal of contributing high-quality research, both theoretical and empirical, to this chosen thematic area, utilising the Colloquium and its collaborative ventures with organisations outside academia, to form an arena for shared debate. Thus these aims tied in with the AHRC Beyond Text programme and specifically, the transmission and memory theme, http://www.beyondtext.ac.uk/index.shtml

The Colloquium’s ambitious and focused set of events and activities facilitated exploration into the conceptual and practical issues concerning the broad spectrum of transgression  They will emphasise connections to images, objects, performance and orality and so enhance transfers of knowledge beyond the normative disciplinary divides. This cross-fertilisation of ideas and research-related skills took place within an open, rigorous, academic and supportive interdisciplinary framework, where we sharpened our research skills and techniques.


For more details of the Colloquium and its linked events, please see the programme description details below.  
Papers were 20 minutes long with 10 minute question panels, and were given in chaired plenary and parallel panel sessions of three speakers, lasting 90 minutes.
As part of our Beyond Text events, our speakers were invited also to select a cartoon, which they considered relevant to their work, from the British Cartoon Archive website: http://www.cartoons.ac.uk/. For more details on this joint exhibition please see below. We shall put the chosen cartoons and the key-worded reasons for their choice on our linked website.
We shall also put speakers’ abstract posters on our Bad Behaviour jisc-list forum.  All registered participants of the Colloquium will be invited to contribute to this e-mail forum, which we hope will build into a vibrant research network, both before and after 3rd December, 2009.
Besides the keynote address, some panel sessions were filmed and recorded, and also will be placed on the Bad Behaviour jisc-list forum.  A copy of the DVD will be supplied to you after the Colloquium. Many participants have indicated that they wish to take part in subsequent local outreach events.

Keynote Speaker

Dr Malcolm Jones knows the Middle Ages like no other.  Using folklore as his framework, he has made serious all previously maligned subjects of interest to do with anything but the Christian church.
That is he gives credibility to the fool, to fighting couples, drunken brawls, the dildo, the devil and his doodles, to the scatological and the nonsensical.  He is an expert on themes in medieval legend such as shoeing the goose and illustrates his lectures with a wonderful array of images that are usually hidden to the lay and the scholarly public: lead badges, misericords, the quirky marginal illustration, biscuit moulds, miniatures of bums in the oven and more!

On a very worthy front, he is author of The Secret Middle Ages, a book that looks at the medieval world afresh and has just retired from lecturing on folklore at the University of Sheffield.  He has also contributed to the encyclopedia of Medieval Folklore. His keynote address was described by Professor Kenneth Fincham as a 'tour de force'.


Colloquium – Programme Description

This was an excitingly different one day Colloquium which provided for the acquisition of knowledge,transferable skills, self-promotion and knowledge transfer. For example, we not only used the usual setting of seminar rooms in plenary and parallel sessions, but also performed in the brand-new 470 seat, tiered Woolf Lecture Theatre which has its own film facilities.  We filmed some speakers' presentations to present a record of their performances to allow critical assessment of their communication skills at levels appropriate for international academic symposia.

  • Papers were chosen to fit our theme of Bad Behaviour in Medieval and Early Modern Europe and the Beyond Text core challenges and to forge new, relevant research findings.  We also designed our programme framework to fulfill all the Joint Research Councils' skills training requirements for postgraduates including:
  • A specially designed conference pack was given out: a 'Manuel des Pechiez' or Handbook of Bad Behaviour which builds on sessions to become a research ideas and training skills log;
  • A linked exhibition with Canterbury Cathedral Archives http://www.canterbury-cathedral.org/history/archives.aspx where the Colloquium postgraduate participants were able to examine priceless and historically important documents such as a charter signed by Lanfranc and marked by William the Conqueror in 1072;
  • The Canterbury Cathedral Chapter also kindly arranged for us to tour the Cathedral crypt at night by candlenight and we used spoken performances of a suitable texts at the apt location of the first Becket shrine to re-enact the account of Mad Matilda from the miracle collection of Brothers William and Benedict, communicating research ideas using orality and performance. This performance will form a powerpoint presentation for our outreach events.
  • We shall use these techniques to sustain our Bad Behaviour Beyond Text initiative by outreach presentations to local sixth forms and the Canterbury Historical Association in a further dynamic fostering of Knowledge Transfer.  
  • We arranged an important collaborative exhibition to link our theme of medieval and early modern transgression to 20th-21st century images to make our cultural heritage more accessible to a wider audience, using a vibrantly immediate medium and our socially and economically relevant research. We did this by linking with the British Cartoon Archive, matching sins and vices from medieval and early modern images (e.g. BL Harley 3244, f.27v) to cartoons depicting,e.g., inebriation and adultery.  We arranged for the Lord Mayor of Canterbury to open and tour the exhibition after our media lunch in the Gulbenkian restaurant, and a local Labour MP Stephen Ladyman also attended, before our keynote and parallel sessions. By inviting media, University and political high profile people to discuss how the work of researchers, we fostered understandings of cultural transmission. Chosen in advance, the cartoons and images arranged as A1 illustrated abstracts reflected the concerns, parallels and conflicts addressed in our papers.  This was an important venture which made a great impact; we hope to set up and run a linked website to sustain this challenging of preconceptions on pre-modern and modern bad behaviour and to question the recording, control and dissemination of these aspects of transgression.


See our programme for the schedule of this exciting AHRC funded project.




Thursday 3rd December, 2009

Unless otherwise specified, all events took place in Woolf College Lecture Theatre and Seminar Rooms,
The University of Kent, Giles Lane, Canterbury, Kent, CT2 7NP. Here is the link to the campus map, Woolf College is D6, next to the visitors’ car park:  http:/www.kent.ac.uk/maps/canterbury/02maps.pdf
Here are travel details for Canterbury, http://www.kent.ac.uk/studying/openday/pdf/2008/canterbury.pdf



  • 09.15 - 09.45            Registration and Card Wall
  • 09.45  - 10.00           Welcome
  • 10.00  - 11.10           Plenary Session; Seminar Room 5
  • 11.10 - 12.00            Plenary Session in Woolf Lecture Theatre
  • 12.00 - 12.50            Lunch at the Gulbenkian Restaurant
  • 12.50 - 13.25            British Cartoon Archive ‘Bad Behaviour’ Exhibition Opening in the Templeman Library
  • 13.30 - 14.45           Keynote Address by Dr. Malcolm Jones
  • 14.45 - 15.00           Tea Break
  • 15.00 - 16.15            Parallel Panel Sessions
  • 16.15 - 16.35            Tea Break
  • 16.35 - 17.40            Plenary Session with closing address by Professor Evelyn Welch of Queen Mary, University of London abd Head of the AHRC Beyond Text Initiative
  • 17.40 - 18.15            Wine Reception
  • 18.15 - 18.30            Coach
  • 18.30 - 19.00            Archives Opening Exhibition in Canterbury Cathedral
    • 19.00 - 19.30Canterbury Cathedral Crypt Tour with Spoken Performances
    • 19.30 - 21.00 Colloquium Dinner




Our organizing team comprised Krista Bonello, Emma Rose Barber and Diane Heath: “We are all postgraduates at University of Kent Faculty of Humanities, three of us from MEMS and one of us from Arts so we’re an interdisciplinary bunch ourselves, and as a team We are really excited about the theme of this Colloquium precisely because it is intrinsically boundary-breaking. Everyone from every discipline knows some aspect of their research which confirms, contests or involves aspects of bad behaviour. Edina Eszenyi (MEMS) contributed to our work between April-August 2009. 

We sought for papers with impact and relevance and speakers who, following on from this Colloquium, will want to join a vibrant research network which has already forged links with the AHRC. We hope to continue to prompt challenging and innovative research that is interdisciplinary and boundary-breaking, ranging from mischief to mayhem.

From medieval hedge-breaking to the 11th century Norman, Thomas de Marle, who was banned from the Order of Chivalry for forcing prisoners to pay ransom by hanging them up by their testicles. Or if that is too gruesome, how about 13th century financial shenanigans at Canterbury Cathedral or modern perceptions of pre-modern bad behaviour such as the Knight of the Flaming Pestle? Or this bad behaviour on our poster, where a 16th century Flemish woman is pulling up her skirts to reveal an unusual fondness for thistles! Then there are the bawdy plays and songs, rude artefacts, jokes and smutty stories, artistic license, not just in misericords, the quacks and the cheats, and themes of criminality, heresy, persecution and injustice; in short all life is here, brilliantly demonstrated by our Keynote speaker, Dr. Malcolm Jones.”



All enquiries should be addressed to the Colloquium secretary, Claire Taylor.



Centre for Medieval & Early Modern Studies, Rutherford College, University of Kent, Canterbury, CT2 7NX

Telephone +44 1227 823140. Fax +44 1227 827060. contact us

Last Updated: 18/02/2013