The Medieval Academy of America's response to Charlottesville

The Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies endorses the statement by the Medieval Academy of America: "In light of the recent events in the United States, most recently the racist violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, the undersigned community of medievalists condemns the appropriation of any item or idea or material in the service of white supremacy."

Click here to read the entire statement.


Medieval Fair / CMRS Lecture Series, 2017-18

All talks are at Norman Public Library West (the former Borders Bookstore), 300 Norman Center Ct.

Friday, August 25, 6:15-7:30 pm
John McWilliams, “Science, Sheep Gut, and Souls: A Brief History of Medieval and Renaissance Strings”
Professor, Natural Science, Oklahoma Baptist University
     “Is it not strange that sheeps' guts should hale souls out of men's bodies?” says Shakespeare’s Benedict. The sound from a vibrating string has enamored us for millennia. Modern stringed instruments are standardized and mass produced, and except for folk and ethnic music the diversity of string sounds from Medieval and Renaissance times are strangely silent.
     Dr. McWilliams has been reconstructing early stringed instruments for over twenty years. Based on historical documents, psalters, art, and the physics of sound, his collection includes citoles, gitterns, vielles, rebecs, lutes and many other plucked, strummed, bowed, and hammered instruments. In this presentation, he will examine the early beginnings of several string families. Participants will have the opportunity to view and play a variety of historical replicas.

Friday, October 6, 6:15-7:30 pm
Andreea Marculescu, "The Wicked Witch of the West: Brooms, Black Cats, and Stolen Babies"
Lecturer, Women’s and Gender Studies, University of Oklahoma
     The stereotypical representation of a witch is that of an old, often physically impaired, childless female who is accompanied by a black cat, carries a broom, and plots to inflict “evil” in the world. This talk will explore the historical origins of this portrayal, tracing it back to medieval theological discourse about demons, women, and heretics.

Friday, November 3, 6:15-7:30 pm
Gershon Lewental, “Minorities in the Medieval Islamic World”
Israel Institute Visiting Assistant Professor and Teaching Fellow, Department of International & Area Studies, University of Oklahoma

Friday, December 1, 6:15-7:30 pm
Roberta Magnusson, “Water, Power, and Beauty: Aqueducts and Fountains in Medieval Italy”
Associate Professor, History Dept., University of Oklahoma
     Underlying Italy’s ancient aqueducts and Baroque fountains lies a complex system of hydraulic engineering shaped by barbarian invasions, the rise of the medieval papacy, the emergence of independent city-states, the advent of the Renaissance, and the arrival of the Counter-Reformation. The history of medieval Italy’s hydraulic engineering is a mix of continuity and discontinuity, rediscovery, and re-purposing, as new patrons adapted an ancient technology to serve new religious and political agendas.

Thursday (NOT Friday), February 8, 6:15-7:30 pm 
Yael Lavender-Smith, Conversion to Judaism in 17th Century Amsterdam: The Tragic Story of Uriel da Costa”
Professor, Hebrew Studies, Modern Languages Department, University of Oklahoma
      Uriel da Costa’s autobiography is a fascinating example of an early modern conversion narrative to Judaism. But unlike St. Augustine’s Confessions, da Costa’s narrative describes the author’s disbeliefs, doubts, and reservations. This talk examines da Costa’s enigmatic—and ultimately tragic—confrontations with himself and with the Jewish community of 17th-century Amsterdam.

Friday, March 2, 6:15-7:30 pm
Rienk Vermij, "Aristotelian Meteorology: Fire Dragons, Blood Rains, and Comets"
Professor, History of Science, University of Oklahoma
      One of the standard texts at medieval universities was Aristotle's Meteorology, which provided explanations for phenomena such as rain, dew, comets, and earthquakes. Medieval philosophers applied these theories to phenomena such as blood rains, will-o'-the-wisps, and fire dragons as well (none of them mentioned by Aristotle), taking away the ominous meaning of such phenomena and explaining them in a purely natural way.

Friday, April 13, 6:15-7:30 pm
John Cole, "Medieval Jewelry" 
      Order of the Laurel, Society for Creative Anachronism


The Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies, a division of the College of Arts & Sciences at the University of Oklahoma, promotes the study of the period in Western history that saw the development of such major components of modern life as parliamentary democracy, the nation-state, English and other modern languages, printing, Islam, global exploration, heliocentric astronomy, romantic love--and the universities in which we research and teach all these subjects.Some thirty-five faculty at OU contribute to the study of these and many other facets of the Middle Ages and Renaissance.
     Our newly revived Medieval & Renaissance Studies minor allows students to pursue an interdisciplinary study of literature, language, history, history of science, art, architecture, and religion, supported by visits to OU's Special Collections.
     By supporting our faculty and students, sponsoring brown-bag talks, and cosponsoring a free public lecture series with the Medieval Fair of Norman, OU’s Center for Medieval & Renaissance Studies seeks to enrich the intellectual environment for medievalists and early modernists on campus and across the region. Other opportunities are in the works. Come join us!
     OU's CMRS was founded by Keith Busby, then of the university's Modern Languages, Literatures, and Linguistics Department. Prof. Busby was succeeded by Luis Cortest, of the same department. Since 2013 the director has been Joyce Coleman (, Bambas Professor of Medieval English Literature & Culture, English Department.