Birkbeck Medieval Seminar

Ƥǿşŧḗḓ ƀẏ: Catherine Clarke 7 years ȧɠǿ

I was invited to speak at this year’s Birkbeck Medieval Seminar on 27 April, on the theme of ‘Landscape and Belief’. This was a great opportunity to discuss some of our aims and methods in the ‘City Witness’ project, and I came away with lots of interesting feedback and plenty of questions and ideas to consider.

My paper, ‘Terrae incognitae: Medieval Landscapes and the Scholarly Imagination’, explored own research practices and approaches to medieval landscapes, exploring the kind of language we can use to express and to reflect upon our processes of imaginative engagement and creative recovery. I discussed some of the tools we use to reconstruct and re-imagine medieval place, from textual description through to digital mapping and 3D visualisation, focusing particularly on places where empirical scholarship necessarily meets something more speculative and conjectural. I wanted to get us thinking about those ‘leaps of faith’ we regularly make in our research, even after all the hours of source study and analysis.

These questions are particularly relevant for our work on medieval Swansea, where evidence is so scarce and recovering the medieval landscape and the practices of those who inhabited it is so challenging. I’ve been thinking about the ways in which research practice can legitimately incorporate the imaginative and creative, and the challenges in making such subjectivity or provisionality legible in our work. We’re currently debating what our approach should be to the 3D visualisation, which is proving a controversial area, with a variety of different opinions on the project team. This debate is challenging and really interesting – more to follow as our discussion develops.