Announcing our keynote speaker: Dr Emily Butterworth (KCL)

Our second keynote speaker, addressing the second strand of the conference, the materiality of the book, is Dr Emily Butterworth. She is a Senior Lecturer in French at King’s College London and a specialist in early modern French literature and culture. Her research to date has focused on literary representations of deviant speech in the early modern period, with an interest in visual and material culture and its inscription in literature. Emily Butterworth is the author of Poisoned Words: Slander and Satire in Early Modern France (2006) and The Unbridled Tongue: Babble and Gossip in Renaissance France (OUP, 2016).

Her keynote lecture will be entitled: ‘Wrappings and Worse: Early Modern Fantasies of Books’ Afterlives’

‘This paper will explore the material destinies of printed books, as imagined by early modern writers. Michel de Montaigne, the French essayist, imagined his book wrapping butter in the market; Thomas Nashe, the English satirist, claimed to be able to stand anything but being the stopper for a mustard pot. The French writer Guillaume Bouchet threatened lasting and painful physical damage for all readers who used his book in less dignified ways. These concerns with what happens to the physical text once it was printed and circulated echoed medieval and early-modern dedicatory missives to the book, but with an added anxiety of ending up a waste product of a consumer culture. Early modern printed texts could indeed find themselves performing a variety of functions besides sitting in a library: as well as food wrappings in a market, they were used for binding and end papers, recycled into the new products of the book trade. What do these fantasies – some playful, some self-deprecating, some wrathful – tell us about the early modern recycling of printed matter and its impact on the conception of the writer and their relationship to their text? Did the advent of printing and the profusion of printed paper produce heightened anxieties about the future of the book? This paper will start from a series of case studies in order to speculate on some of the broader issues at stake. Taking a literary perspective on these questions of material culture, I will aim to explore the fantasies surrounding the projected future of the book as material object.’

Announcing our keynote speaker: Prof. Richard Oram (Univ. of Stirling)

We are delighted to announce our first keynote speaker, Dr Richard Oram from University of Stirling. Richard Oram is Professor of Medieval and Environmental History and Head of the School of Arts and Humanities at the University of Stirling.  He graduated MA (Hons) in Mediæval History with Archaeology in 1983 and PhD in Mediæval History in 1988 from the University of St Andrews and joined the University of Stirling in 2002.  A former Director of the Centre for Environmental History, he has published extensively on environment and society in the medieval and early post-medieval periods in the North Atlantic.

He will be speaking about one of the conference’s major strands, the medieval town. His keynote is entitled: From Riches to Rubbish: Changing Perceptions of Domestic Waste in Late Medieval and Early Modern Scottish Towns

‘Down to the late 16th century, human and household waste was regarded by Scottish townsfolk as a source of wealth to be garnered and guarded by its producers.  Used as fertiliser on gardens and fields, its disposal to non-townsmen was viewed as a diminution of the town’s riches that bordered on the criminal.  As the direct involvement of burgess elites in production of their primary foodstuffs declined, this material declined from a position of high value to that of an inconvenient nuisance.  This paper explores that transition, examining the switch from resource to nuisance and from private property to public commodity which occurred in the 16th and 17thcenturies.  It traces the perceptual change that occurred and the accompanying development of legislative and physical measures to manage, collect and dispose of the waste, and concludes with an appraisal of waste-management in Scotland’s towns at the dawn of the age of the ‘polite’.’

End of the call for papers

What a great January did we have here in Saint Andrews! Proposals from all over the world reached us as late as this morning, on topics ranging from antique tombs to reuse of medieval stone in modern buildings. The submission stage is over now, and we are looking forward to reviewing the proposals and deciding on panels.

We will be in contact with everybody who submitted a proposal by the end of the month. Keep an eye on the website for more information in the weeks to come, as well as for abstracts from the successful applicants and the reveal of the keynote speakers! As always, if there are any questions, suggestions or worries, you can reach us on

All the best, and good luck!

Conference organizers,

Ioana Coman and Emily Savage.