Medieval Round Table

Winchester King Arthur's Round Table cake By Hannah Vanyai
Winchester King Arthur's Round Table Cake
by Hannah Vanyai

The Medieval Round Table is an informal discussion group open to interested students, academics and independent scholars. The Round Table meets monthly, usually on the first Monday of the month for presentations of papers, discussions of participants' work in progress, discussions of readings etc.


Professor Stephanie Trigg
School of Culture and Communication

Andrew Stephenson
School of Historical and Philosophical Studies

To be added to the mailing list please email Andrew Stephenson


6:15 pm except where noted otherwise below.


North Theatre, first floor, Old Arts, unless noted otherwise below.

Programme for 2017

13 February (2nd Monday)

Anne McKendry, School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne

Poet or P.I.? Historical Figures in Medieval Crime Fiction

There is a relatively recent trend in historical crime fiction that casts famous authors or other historical figures as detectives.  For example, Stephanie Barron writes a series of mysteries solved by Jane Austen (including Jane Austen and the Canterbury Tale [2011]); several authors depict Arthur Conan Doyle as their detective; there are crime novels featuring Charles Dickens, Benjamin Franklin, Elizabeth I, Oscar Wilde and many others.  However, historical figures from the Middle Ages appear over-represented as sleuths within this subgenre: Geoffrey Chaucer, for instance, appears as a detective in at least half a dozen examples.  While every medieval crime novel portrays some historical figures, creating a revisionist biography for an author as canonical as Chaucer brings with it significant cultural baggage.  Readers of medieval crime fiction — like readers of historical fiction generally — are an astute and canny group that derives pleasure from identifying the inconsistencies and anachronisms contained in the narratives.  Casting a historical figure in the main role greatly increases the chance of inaccuracies and thereby threatens the authenticity of the medieval landscape that the author carefully constructs.  This paper examines medieval crime fiction novels that attempt to navigate the fraught space between fiction and historical fact in an effort to understand the appeal and consequences of creating a crime novel with a well-known person from history as its detective.  In addition to Chaucer, John Gower, Leonardo da Vinci, Dante Alighieri, Lucrezia Borgia and Hildegard of Bingen all boast investigative skills that are showcased by this delightful subgenre of medievalist popular fiction.

6 March

Carol Williams - Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies, Monash University

From the Ears to the Soul: Music and Emotion in Thirteenth-century Paris

There was a discussion about the expression of emotion in music going on in the scholarly halls of Paris in the second half of the thirteenth century as a result of the new translations from Greek of several key works of Aristotle.  Foremost among the scholars was Aquinas with his passions of the soul which were later refined and specifically directed to musical expression by Peter of Auvergne.  Johannes de Grocheio was involved in the discussion too with his application of Neo-Platonic and Aristotelian understandings about the power of music to the music of the people of Paris.  There was also Guy of Saint-Denis who, with a cantor’s understanding of the inner working of mode and an encyclopedic grasp of chant in the performance of liturgy, constructed a theory which explained the mechanics of music expressivity.  The influx of Aristotelian ideas into music theory, long the preserve of Neo-Platonic and Pythagorean thinking, was revolutionary and opened up a thirty-year period of vigorous debate on the fundamentals of music such as: What is music?  What are the parts of music?  How does it work?  How do we hear it?  Is there a difference between sound and music?  How does music travel to our hearing?  How does music affect us?  Can music alter our behaviours?  Such vigour in debate on philosophical music theory was not to be seen again until the opening years of the seventeenth century with the emergence of dramma per musica - the opera.

3 April

Karen Green - School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne

The Miroir des Dames and Christine de Pizan’s Sources

This paper marshals evidence that the Miroir des Dames of Durand de Champagne was a source for Christine de Pizan, particularly for her early work, the Epistre Othea, but also for her late, Livre de Paix.  Since the Miroir was widely available in the libraries of royal women with whom Christine was acquainted, this evidence is important for understanding the genesis of her political interventions and the nature of her access to texts.

1 May

Stephanie Trigg - School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne

5 June

3 July

7 August

4 September

Helen Dell - School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne

2 October

13 November (2nd Monday)

Stephen Knight - School of Culture and Communication, University of Melbourne

4 December

Véronique Duché - School of Languages and Linguistics, University of Melbourne

Previous Papers