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Past Projects

Past Projects

Staff members of the Centre for Medieval Studies are engaged in a wide range of research projects, singly or in collaboration with scholars from other institutions. Listed below are our past funded projects.

Lawyers in Society, 1258–1558: The Private Lives of Medieval and Early Tudor Lawyers and their Role in English Society

This new study seeks to enhance our understanding of lawyers and complement what we know of the professional legal world they inhabited by examining the social and economic context in which they flourised. It seeks to explain the contradictory attitudes towards lawyers revealed in contemporary literary works and in the attacks on judges and lawyers at times of political stress by analysing both their relationships to and in society and the perceptions engendered by activities carried out in their private (as well as professional) lives. It will examine evidence of their material culture, cultural pursuits, social aspirations and pretensions, as well as recourse to the law in their private capacity. Their role in local networks and with regard to the balance of power in local society will also be assessed. The two-year project (2007–09) is led by Professor Anthony Musson and funded by the Economic and Social Research Council.

Professor Oliver Creighton and Professor Henry French co-direct a team of historians and archaeologists working on the AHRC-funded 'Community and Landscape' project, running from 2010-2012. The project investigates the gardens, deer park and wider historic landscape of Politmore House and will establish practices for engaging local people, schools and societies in presenting landscape heritage, while promoting community 'ownership' of research.

Professor Oliver Creighton directed this joint project between the Universities of Leicester, Exeter and Oxford to excavate three trenches in the market town of Wallingford in Oxfordshire, one of the best preserved Anglo-Saxon burhs in England. The project sought to illuminate urban transformation between c800–1300AD – a crucial period of renewal and growth spanning the Saxon and Norman periods – through excavation, survey and documentary study. It was funded by the AHRC.

The co-authored publication Transforming townscapes. From burh to borough: the archaeology of Wallingford, AD 800–1400 resulted from this project.

This project undertakes the first detailed study of citation and allusion in the period c1340–1420 as expressed in the two genres at the cutting edge of musical style at the time, the motet and the chanson. Medieval composers had always demonstrated a readiness to exploit existing material in their creation of new works, nowhere more conspicuously than in the 13th-century motet. Only very recently have musicologists begun to explore citational practice in the 14th-century Ars nova repertory; their findings suggest that citation and allusion continued to occupy a vital place in the compositional imagination albeit in a different guise and in the context of newly modernised genres.

Our aim is to clarify the extent, nature, and significance of such citational practice in both lyrical and musical production in 14th-century France. Focussing on musical works with vernacular texts, citational activity in the musical repertory will be located within the broader context of literary and social practices of the time. This investigation will contribute to some pressing topical questions within musicology and to broader interdisciplinary debates: how does the Ars nova repertory intersect with earlier works, and what light does citational practice shed on the emergence of the new polyphonic chanson of this period? To what extent did Guillaume de Machaut, the most famous poet and composer then as now, draw on earlier traditions in his lyrics and music, and how far are his works representative of his own period? What is the relationship between the musical and lyric-only corpus, and is the traditional view of a split between musical and poetic production in this period fully justified? How can citational practice in music and text enhance our understanding of memory and attitudes to remembrance in the Middle Ages?

This interdisciplinary and multi-facetted project has potential to benefit a number of scholarly constituencies. By cutting across disciplinary boundaries in the manner proposed, it should afford both musicologists and literary scholars a more rounded and contextualised view of their particular corpus of material. This study of citational practice in the late medieval context will also contribute to ongoing studies of intertextuality in general, and to topical debates concerning memory in the Middle Ages and the negotiation of past and present.

Project team

Professor Yolanda Plumley (Director of the Centre for Medieval Studies, Principal Investigator) wrote a monograph and several essays on citation in the song repertory of Machaut and his successors, and co-edited two volumes of essays on citation, intertextuality and memory (see under publications for details).

Dr Giuliano Di Bacco (Fellow in Medieval Studies) assisted by technical consultant Gary Stringer, developed an online text archive of the corpus of texts of the musical repertory c1300-1420 that includes contemporary lyrics without musical settings.

Tamsyn Rose-Steel wrote a PhD thesis and published an essay on citation in the 14th-century motet.


Citation in Late Medieval French Lyric

Friday, 7 December 2007

Citation and Allusion in late Medieval French Songs and Motets (c1270–1400)

Wednesday, 23 January 2008


Recent books on memory in the Middle Ages are stimulating the interest of scholars across a range of disciplines. The theme of citation and intertextuality continues to attract attention, especially that of literary studies but equally scholars from other disciplines concerned with the Middle Ages, including history, art history, religious studies, musicology. This conference's aim was to stimulate further scrutiny of these themes with papers exploring intertextual practices and manifestations of borrowings, modellings, allusions, and other evocations of pre-existing material, and on the overall role of memory in medieval culture.

Text archive

Our text archive of Late-Medieval French lyrics was devised as a research tool for the study of citational practices in the French lyric repertory from c1280–1420, as part of the 'Citation and Allusion' project. Designed and implemented in its current form by Giuliano Di Bacco and Gary Stringer, the archive offers to scholars of literature and musicologists, as well as other readers, an online resource for the study of late medieval French lyric from a variety of perspectives, by offering a searchable repository of hundreds of lyric texts newly transcribed from their original sources.

This online resource also presents a prototype for an electronic edition of medieval poetry. By allowing multiple views of the same text seen from different perspectives and from multiple sources, it seeks to exploit the specific potential of the new media, rather than simply replicating the characteristics of a traditional paper edition. The design of this resource, which uses international standards of encoding, employs open-sourced and the latest technologies, and makes its own source codes available, should contribute to current debate in the domain of Digital Humanities on better strategies of interchange and interoperability between scholarly projects dealing with similar materials.

For the title of our archive, we have chosen Je chante ung chant, the textual incipit of a late fourteenth-century chanson by Matheus de Sancto Johanne that is transmitted by the celebrated Chantilly Codex (Ch). This song goes on to quote the musical opening of a song by Matheus's contemporary Jehan Haucourt, who, like Matheus, worked in papal Avignon in the late fourteenth century.

Visit Je chante ung chant for more information and to explore the archive.



Y. Plumley, G. Di Bacco, and S. Jossa, eds., Citation, Intertextuality and Memory in the Middle Ages and RenaissanceVol 1: Text, Music and Image from Machaut to Ariosto (University of Exeter Press, 2011)

G. Di Bacco and Y. Plumley, eds., Citation, Intertextuality and Memory in the Middle Ages and RenaissanceVol 2: Cross-Disciplinary Perspectives on Medieval Culture (University of Exeter Press, 2013)

Y. Plumley, The Art of Grafted Song: Citation and Allusion in the Age of Machaut (2013)

Articles and Book Chapters

Y. Plumley, 'Citation, allusion et portrait du Prince: peinture, parole, et musique', in V. Fasseur, ed., Froissart à la cour de Béarn: l'écrivain, les arts et le pouvoir (Turnhout: Brepols, 2009)

G. Di Bacco, ‘Original and Borrowed, Authorship and Authority. Remarks on the Circulation of Philipoctus de Caserta’s Theoretical Legacy’, in Y. Plumley and A. Stone, eds., A Late Medieval Songbook and its Context: New Perspectives on Codex Bibliothéque du Château de Chantilly, 564 (Turnhout: Brepols, 2010)

Y. Plumley, 'Whose Voice is it Anyway? Songs within Songs in the Age of Machaut', in K. Brownlee and E. Dillon, eds., Etymologies of Medieval Song (Turnhout: Brepols, forthcoming)

Y. Plumley, 'Self-Citation and Compositional Process in  Guillaume de Machaut’s Lyrics with and without Music: The Case of Dame, se vous n’avez aperceü (Rondeau 13)', in J. Bain and D. McGrady, eds., A Companion to Guillaume de Machaut ­ An Interdisciplinary Approach to the Master (Brill, 2012)

Y. Plumley and U. Smilansky, ‘Béarn’, in D. Wallace, ed., Regeneration. A Literary History of Europe, 1348-1418 (Oxford University Press, forthcoming in 2014)

Conference Papers

Y. Plumley, ‘Whose Voice is it Anyway? Songs within Songs in the Age of Machaut’ (International conference, Etymologies of Medieval Song, University of Pennsylvania, February 2008)

Y. Plumley, ‘Machaut meets his Mates: Masculine Rivalries and Poetic Exchange in the Voir Dit and Loange des Dames’ (Plainsong and Medieval Music Society conference, Bristol University, April 2008)

Y. Plumley, ‘Citational Practices in the 1320-50s: Machaut's Contemporaries and the Emergence of the Ars Nova song' (part of a session organised by Y. Plumley and G. Di Bacco on Citation and Allusion in Music and Text in 14th-Century Songs, Leeds International Medieval Congress, July 2008)

G. Di Bacco, ‘A Text-Archive of 14th-Century French Lyrics and Its Application to the Study of Citational Practices’ (part of a session organised by Y. Plumley and G. Di Bacco on Citation and Allusion in Music and Text in 14th-Century Songs, Leeds International Medieval Congress, July 2008)

T. Rose-Steel, ‘From the Horse's mouth: The Use of Citation and the Vernacular in the Motets of the Roman de Fauvel', (London Medieval Society April 2009)

T. Rose-Steel, ‘From the Horse's mouth: The Use of Citation and the Vernacular in the Motets of the Roman de Fauvel', (International Medieval Congress, May 2009) 

Y. Plumley, ‘Reading the Loange des Dames: Self-Citation and Machaut’s Lyric Process' (International Medieval Congress, Kalamazoo, May 2009)

Y. Plumley, ‘The Art of Citation: Tracing Hidden Voices in Late Medieval Song' (Early Book Society, plenary lecture, Exeter, July 2009)

G. Stringer, 'Workflow, Responsibility and Quality Control for Digital Editions: A Case Study' (Digital Resources for the Humanities and Arts conference, Belfast, September 2009)

Y. Plumley and G. Di Bacco, ‘The Exeter Citation Project’ (workshop organised by Ardis Butterfield and Helen Deeming as part of The Medieval Song Network, September 2010)

As has been recognised by many scholars in recent years, ritualised actions played an important role in medieval religious, social and political life. At the same time there has been an increasing interest in liturgical sources. This AHRC International Research Network brought together historians, musicologists, literary scholars, theologians, palaeographers and art and architectural historians, to discuss the problems involved in studying the surviving evidence for occasional services in three meetings in 2009 and 2010, and also led to an iteration of the Sarum Rite for the Reconciliation of Penitents in a medieval church, videos of which are available on our YouTube playlist here.

Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council, the research network 'Interpreting Medieval Liturgy c500–1500 AD: Text and Performance' was convened by Sarah Hamilton at the University of Exeter and Helen Gittos at the University of Kent.

Between 2007 and 2010 Professor Simon Barton held a Major Research Fellowship from the Leverhulme Trust for this project.

Dr Catherine Rider leads this project on attitudes and responses to infertility in medieval England, examining how people viewed infertility (What did they think caused it? Did they tend to blame the man or the woman?) and how they responded to it (Medicine? Prayer?). As well as examining medical texts, the project will also investigate non-medical sources which discuss infertility, such as Bible commentaries, sermons and saints' lives, in order to trace the varying attitudes to childless couples and the responses available in the Middle Ages.

MARES is a three year, multi-disciplinary, multi-period project focusing on the maritime traditions of the peoples of the Red Sea and Arabian-Persian Gulf. Drawing on ethnography, archaeology, history and linguistics, it seeks to understand how people have inhabited and navigated these seascapes in late antiquity and the medieval period, and how they do so today.

The MARES Project team is based at the Institute for Arab and Islamic Studies (IAIS) at the University of Exeter in South West England. The project is led by Professor Dionisius Agius, Al Qasimi Professor of Arabic Studies and Islamic Material Culture and the research team includes post-doctoral research associates Dr John P Cooper and Dr Chiara Zazzaro, and PhD candidates Julian Jansen van Rensburg and Lucy Semaan. Research administrative support comes from Beata Faracik.

The project is funded by the Golden Web Foundation, based in Cambridge, UK. 

For more information, see the project website.

Dr Emma Cayley is currently working on a project in collaboration with a creative economy partner, Antenna International, to create a smart device App. Our App will introduce school age pupils and other audiences to the fascinating world of medieval manuscripts. An initial stage will create a prototype based around Exeter Cathedral’s famous Exeter Book (c970) which contains the world’s largest collection of Anglo-Saxon (Old English) poetry, and features the Exeter Riddles: a collection of ninety-six literary enigmas. A later version will include other South West medieval manuscripts, including the Syon Abbey manuscripts currently held in the University of Exeter’s Special Collections department.

For more information about the project, please see the full project page within REACT Knowledge Exchange Hub.

Professor Anthony Musson leads this Leverhulme Trust funded research project with senior research fellow Dr Nigel Ramsay.

The project will address a significant gap in English legal history. It will use surviving documentary records together with visual and physical evidence (such as stained glass windows, heraldic devices and funerary monuments) to evaluate the development of the Court of Chivalry. The Court's jurisdiction covered military organisation and discipline arising both in England and overseas, including rights to bear heraldic coats of arms, and to spoils of war, such as prisoners and ransoms. The project will reconstruct the Court's activities and assess its effectiveness and authority in the key period of its early history, c1340–1500.

Peculiar in using civil law (rather than common law) procedures, it provoked suspicion and opposition in legal and political circles concerning its ambit and business. The project's intrinsic general interest is enhanced by the revival of the Court's jurisdiction in the twentieth century and the continued relevance of its role in making the modern law of arms, the regulation of which is overseen by the College of Arms, which supports the project.

For more information about the project, please see the full project page.

This AHRC Cultural Engagement Project, entitled: ‘Bishop John Grandisson of Exeter (1327-69): the bishop, the cathedral and the diocese’ took place over three months in Spring 2013. With the aim of introducing schoolchildren and other interested audiences to the history of Exeter Cathedral through the life and work of Bishop John Grandisson, this project was the result of a successful collaboration between historians in the History Department at the University of Exeter and the librarians, archivists, educators and volunteers at Exeter Cathedral.

John Grandisson was a very active bishop even though he lived during a time when Exeter was in the grip of the Black Death. Plague ravaged the city from 1348 and caused significant social and economic upheaval, but despite the many challenges that he faced during his long episcopate of forty-two years, Bishop Grandisson was able to make a powerful and lasting impact on both the city and the Church. Grandisson was not only responsible for much of the current cathedral building, including the impressive West Front and the chapel which bears his name, but he also worked diligently to join the cathedral to the wider diocese, visiting local churches and promoting reform while also founding the parish church at Ottery St Mary. Furthermore, Grandisson is also known for compiling a number of books for use in the cathedral which survive to this day and record a liturgy unique to Exeter.

By looking at Bishop Grandisson’s life and legacy – as manifest in stone and parchment – this project explored issues of memory, place and identity in the South West. Taken together, these three themes provided the structure and direction for the research and resulted in the creation of a trail for schoolchildren at key stages 2 and 3 to follow in the cathedral (highlighting Grandisson’s life and times) along with an online exhibition of many of the notable objects associated with Grandisson, such as his gold ring, his books, his letters and the works of art and architecture commissioned by the bishop himself.


Dr Kitrina Bevan

Principal Investigator

Professor Sarah Hamilton


Dr Catherine Rider

This project, led by Professor Yolanda Plumley, represents the first large-scale and sustained campaign to unite scholars from different disciplines in a programme of collaborative research into the works and manuscript sources of fourteenth-century French poet-composer Guillaume de Machaut (c1300–1377). Supported by the Leverhulme Trust, the project brings together an interdisciplinary team of academic partners from the UK, USA and EU: Professor Yolanda Plumley (PI), Dr Uri Smilansky, Dr Tamsyn Rose-Steel (University of Exeter), Professor Barton Palmer (Clemson University), Dr Anne Stone (City University of New York), Dr Jacques Boogaart (University of Amsterdam), and Dr Domenic Leo (Youngstown State University).

At the heart of this initiative is the making of a complete edition of Machaut's entire oeuvre under the general editorship of Palmer and Plumley. This will be published in print form by the Middle English Text Series (METS) and the Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages (TEAMS), University of Michigan Press. The new edition will also be downloadable gratis in digital format. Surprisingly, this initiative represents the first time all the literary and musical works will be edited to modern scholarly standards in a single campaign. The new edition includes introductory studies that synthesise new research with existing knowledge and full English translations, as well as reproductions of images drawn from the base Machaut manuscript used, along with critical notes. This scholarly work will be enhanced by purpose-made recordings of selected musical works and extracts by early music ensembles the Orlando Consort and Le Basile. These, along with materials linked to the project and other resources relevant to Machaut studies, will be presented on a dedicated project website.

For more information about the project, please see the project website and our Twitter account.