Notre Dame Press Celebrates its Conway Lecture Series and the 75th Anniversary of the Medieval Institute

This year, Notre Dame’s Medieval Institute is celebrating its 75th anniversary! Started in 1946 by Fr. Philip Moore, C.S.C, the Medieval Institute has been the leading institution in the United States for the study of medieval Catholic culture and history. Beyond that, it has grown as well into a pre-eminent center for research and education on Greek Byzantium, Arab Islam, and the Jewish diaspora — and especially on a millennium of interactions among them. 

In 2002, the Medieval Institute inaugurated a lecture series in honor of Robert M. Conway, a 1966 graduate of Notre Dame, trustee of the University, and long-time friend and supporter of the Medieval Institute. This year’s Robert M. and Ricki Conway Lectures celebrated two important anniversaries: the 700th anniversary of the death of Dante Alighieri and the 75th anniversary of the Medieval Institute. The annual Conway Lectures brings senior scholars of international distinction to Notre Dame each fall to speak on topics across a variety of disciplines. The University of Notre Dame Press is proud to publish these lectures in the Conway Lectures in Medieval Studies series.

Browse this page to learn more about the recent and upcoming books in the series. For a 40% discount on all books in the series, use code 14MED75 at checkout. This code expires December 31, 2021.

In The Etiquette of Early Northern Verse, Roberta Frank peers into the northern poet’s workshop, eavesdropping as Old English and Old Norse verse reveal their craft secrets. This book places two vernacular poetries of the long Viking Age into conversation, revealing their membership in a single community of taste, a traditional stylistic ecology that did serious political and historical work. By decluttering and stripping away excess, by drawing words through a tight mesh of meter, alliteration, and rhyme, the early northern poet filtered out dross and stitched together a poetics of stark contrasts and forebodings.

“Roberta Frank’s scholarship is exemplary. She is the leading light in the field and wherever she goes, others willingly follow, persuaded both by the force of her arguments and the weight of her evidence.”

—Antonette diPaolo Healey, former editor of Dictionary of Old English

Visual Translation: Illuminated Manuscripts and the First French Humanists breaks new ground in the study of French manuscripts, contributing to the fields of French humanism, textual translation, and the reception of the classical tradition in the first half of the fifteenth century. While the prominence and quality of illustrations in French manuscripts have attracted attention, their images have rarely been studied systematically as components of humanist translation. Anne D. Hedeman fills this gap by studying the humanist book production closely supervised by Laurent de Premierfait and Jean Lebègue for courtly Parisian audiences in the early fifteenth century. With over 180 color images, this major reference book will appeal to students and scholars of French, comparative literature, art history, history of the book, and translation studies.

Visual Translation will give scholars across the board not only a new understanding of the place of French humanists in the shaping and accessibility of manuscripts whose creation they oversaw but also insight into the complex and integral role that they played in formulating the programs of illumination that would go on to define these texts for generations.”

—Elizabeth Morrison, editor of Book of Beasts

In this unprecedented introduction to Byzantine monasticism, Alice-Mary Talbot surveys the various forms of monastic life in the Byzantine Empire between the ninth and fifteenth centuries. Varieties of Monastic Experience in Byzantium, 800-1453 does not attempt to be a history of Byzantine monasticism but rather emphasizes the multiplicity of ways in which Byzantine men and women could devote their lives to service to God, with an emphasis on the tension between the two basic modes of monastic life, cenobitic and eremitic.

Varieties of Monastic Experience brings together the author’s remarkable work as an editor, translator, and deeply learned commentator of Byzantine monastic texts. This volume will not only be recognized as essential reading in the field but will also deservedly attain the status of a true classic”

—Fr. Maximos Constas, Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology

In his fascinating new book, Rituals for the Dead: Religion and Community in the Medieval University of Paris, William Courtenay examines aspects of the religious life of one medieval institution, the University of Paris, in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries. In place of the traditional account of teaching programs and curriculum, however, the focus here is on religious observances and the important role that prayers for the dead played in the daily life of masters and students.

“In this slim, enticing volume, America’s greatest living scholar of the medieval University of Paris offers new perspectives on neglected ‘religious elements in the daily life of Parisian scholars.’”


In Outsiders: The Humanity and Inhumanity of Giants in Medieval French Prose Romance, Sylvia Huot argues that the presence of giants allows for fantasies of ethnic and cultural conflict and conquest, and for the presentation—and suppression—of alternative narrative and historical trajectories that might have made Arthurian Britain a very different place. Focusing on medieval French prose romance and drawing on aspects of postcolonial theory, Huot examines the role of giants in constructions of race, class, gender, and human subjectivity. By asking to what extent views of giants in Arthurian romance respond to questions that concern twenty-first-century readers, Huot demonstrates the usefulness of current theoretical concepts and the issues they raise for rethinking medieval literature from a modern perspective.

“In her beautifully written Outsiders, Sylvia Huot organizes a wealth of material into a taxonomy of giants and their complex role in medieval French literature.”

—Peggy McCracken, University of Michigan

Abelard in Four Dimensions: A Twelfth-Century Philosopher in His Context and Ours by John Marenbon, one of the leading scholars of medieval philosophy and a specialist on Abelard’s thought, provides new interpretations of central areas of Peter Abelard’s philosophy and its influence. For readers new to Abelard, this book provides an introduction to his life and works along with discussion of his central ideas in semantics, ethics, metaphysics, and philosophy of religion. For specialists, the book contains new arguments about the authenticity and chronology of Abelard’s logical work, fresh evidence about his relations with Anselm and Hugh of St. Victor, a new understanding of how he combines the necessity of divine action with human freedom, and reinterpretations of important passages in which he discusses semantics and metaphysics.

“John Marenbon offers the best enquiry yet made into the sequence of Abelard’s writings and their chronology, followed by an incisive and highly illuminating account of the various, successive formulations of his ‘unpopular argument’ to the effect that God cannot do otherwise than as he does. This is an accomplished work which will be eagerly read and hugely appreciated by students and their teachers on courses of philosophy, theology, and history.”

—David Luscombe, University of Sheffield

In Medieval Crossover: Reading the Secular against the Sacred, Barbara Newman offers a new approach to the many ways that sacred and secular interact in medieval literature, arguing that the sacred was the normative, unmarked default category against which the secular always had to define itself and establish its niche. Newman refers to this dialectical relationship as “crossover”—which is not a genre in itself, but a mode of interaction, an openness to the meeting or even merger of sacred and secular in a wide variety of forms.  Newman convincingly and with great clarity demonstrates the widespread applicability of the crossover concept as an analytical tool, examining some very disparate works.

“Beyond the field of late medieval literary studies, Medieval Crossover is a must-read for scholars in any discipline concerned with secularization and passage to modernity. Medieval Crossover is the most powerful book about the interaction of pre-modern sacred and secular literary cultures since D.W. Robertson’s A Preface to Chaucer.”

Modern Philology

In Medieval Autographies: The “I” of the Text, A. C. Spearing develops a new engagement of narrative theory with medieval English first-person writing, focusing on the roles and functions of the “I” as a shifting textual phenomenon, not to be defined either as autobiographical or as the label of a fictional speaker or narrator. Spearing identifies and explores a previously unrecognized category of medieval English poetry, calling it “autography.”  He argues that autography arose as a means of liberation from the requirement to tell stories with preordained conclusions and as a way of achieving a closer relation to lived experience, with all its unpredictability and inconsistencies.

“A deeply challenging and engaging book, Medieval Autographies: The ‘I’ of the Text should be required reading in every graduate course in medieval English literature. In wonderfully nuanced close readings of various late medieval texts, A. C. Spearing extends and further theorizes his earlier groundbreaking work in Textual Subjectivity.”

—Peter W. Travis, Dartmouth College

In Templars and Hospitallers as Professed Religious in the Holy Land, Jonathan Riley-Smith attends to the Templars’ and Hospitallers’ primary role as religious orders, not as military phenomena or economic powerhouses. In a prologue, four chapters, and an epilogue, Riley-Smith discusses the origins of the orders in dedication to the protection of pilgrims to the Holy Land (Templars) and to the care of the poor and the sick among them (Hospitallers). He examines their traditions and early history, the organization of their communities, modes of governance, and, in the fourth chapter, important differences between the orders and a brief account of their respective fates in the wake of the Crusades. 

“In this book, Jonathan Riley-Smith provides an approachable and expert introduction to the two most famous and most active military orders, the Knights Templar and Knights Hospitaller, and their activities in the Levant. It is a first-rate study, energetically and engagingly written by the world’s most accomplished historian of the crusades.”

—Thomas Madden, St. Louis University

In The Dominicans and the Pope: Papal Teaching Authority in the Medieval and Early Modern Thomist Tradition, Ulrich Horst reviews the long tradition within the Dominican order of commenting on the teaching authority of the pope and the role of conciliar authority. Horst succinctly shows the differences within the order on the topic and makes clear how Dominicans tended to differ on the matter from theologians of other orders such as the Franciscans and, later, the Jesuits, whose views would eventually lead to the proclamation on infallibility at Vatican I. Despite his distinguished career as a medievalist and authority on ecclesiology, little of Horst’s scholarly corpus has been translated into English. These lectures, then, mark an introduction of this formidable scholar to a wider audience.

“. . . One of the best expositions of the history of the doctrine of infallibility to emerge in the last five years, ranking it with the works of Brian Tierney or Francis Oakley. . . . This is an example of a mature scholar in absolute command of his subject matter. It will be highly valuable for church historians, graduate, and seminary libraries.”

Catholic Library World

Subscribe to our newsletter and receive a free ebook!

Be the first to know what's new from the
University of Notre Dame Press