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The Material Middle Ages: Inscribed Objects

Lectures: Dr. Lilla Kopár (Catholic University) gives the final talk in the 'Virtual Middle Ages: A User's Guide' series hosted by Medieval Studies.

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Dr. Lilla Kopár (Catholic University) will speak on "The Material Middle Ages: Commemoration through Inscribed Objects" on Thursday, March 21 at 4PM in the Bondurant Auditorium.

Commemoration is an essential ritual of identity formation and community formation through the creation of social memory. It is a form of interaction with events and people of the past; thus it is a social process and a performative act rather than a historical event or tangible object of the past. Material objects of various kinds, however, play an important role in commemoration because they help capture and mediate memories. These “things of the past” are intended to objectify the past and extend it into the present in order to facilitate the commemorative process.

Runic inscriptions are of interest not only as evidence of language and literacy in early medieval England, but also of the cultural functions of the objects on which they appear. This talk will consider three case studies that illuminate the ways in which runic writing was used to commemorate the dead in Anglo-Saxon England: a cremation urn from Loveden Hill, Lincolnshire; the wooden coffin of Saint Cuthbert; and a carved memorial stone from Great Urswick, Cumbria. Dr. Kopár will show the diversity of rune-inscribed objects in their material and function, from containers for human remains to monuments on public display. In each case, she will discuss the linguistic problems of the text and the relationship of the inscription to the object and its find context before turning to a broader examination of the role of inscribed objects in the act of commemoration and the question of the choice of runic over the Roman script.

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Sponsored by: Medieval Studies, University Lecture Series