Reading Researchers: Figures of Transgression

In a regular feature, we’ll bring you updates from “Reading Researchers,” highlighting the innovative and compelling research that members of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies are pursuing. Here’s an update from Dr. Ute Wölfel, a Lecturer in German Studies, whose research interests include the German war film, GDR feature and documentary film, GDR literature and representations of everyday life in print media.

I’m often being asked what academics do in the summer when the students are gone. People normally suspect that we have three months of holidays. Well, just as football players don’t only work on Sundays when the League matches are on, academics don’t only work during term time. Rather, the summer is my ‘training camp’ when I catch up with research and prepare next year’s classes.

Part of my summer this year was devoted to research workshops, days when I met with other academics who share my interests. One of the topics that brought me together with colleagues in Reading was Figures of Giving_a_sick_man_a_drink_as_US_POWs_of_Japanese,_Philippine_Islands,_Cabanatuan_prison_campTransgression in Films on War and Violent Conflict. After a series of film screenings throughout the academic year, we had the summer luxury of listening to each other’s work on those intriguing characters who cross the line between friend and enemy. Why are they part of so many war films? Are those who have contact with the ‘other side’ vile traitors because they seriously harm their own group of belonging? Or are they important as future negotiators?

The workshop allowed us to shuffle and test ideas for a new project, out next ‘match’.


Reading Researchers: The International Medieval Congress

In a regular feature, we’ll bring you updates from “Reading Researchers,” highlighting the innovative and compelling research that members of the Department of Modern Languages and European Studies are pursuing.

To inaugurate the series, we’re publishing a commentary from Professor Catherine Leglu, a medievalist specialising in Occitan and French literature, who teaches undergraduate modules on modern French Language, French for Managers, French cinema, and the cinematic adaptations of literary texts. Professor Leglu, a member and former director of the Graduate centre for medieval studies, recently attended the International Medieval Congress (IMC), which took place in Leeds from 7-10 July. Here are her reflections on the proceedings:

Most academic conferences are discreet events, where like-minded people who know each other very well get together to share ideas, applaud new researchers and to develop their discipline. Then there are the very big congresses. A university or town is suddenly full of chatty people dressed in smart casual, lugging cloth book bags, getting lost. Highlights include getting your first and possibly only chance to meet someone you have read and quoted, to participate in excited conversations with people who know exactly what you are on about, and to network a bit.

I have been a regular since the late 1990s at the annual Leeds International Medieval Congress, a massive four-day event that brings together medievalists from all disciplines and at all career stages, and holds an exceptional book fair. This year, the IMC hosted 1779 medievalists from 57 countries. There were 545 sessions (a slot of one-and-a-half hours where panels of up to four researchers deliver papers times between 15 and 20 minutes).  These also included keynote (hour-long) lectures and a live video-conference debate with a conference that was happening the same week in Lausanne.

This is the conference programme in its 334-page printed version:


I was pleased that one of the stalls at the book fair displayed a book I published in late 2013 with Rebecca Rist (Reading) and Claire Taylor (Nottingham). The commissioning editors also come to the Leeds IMC, so it is a good occasion to discuss book proposals.

In fact, that is exactly what the three of us did three years ago, and the result is here to see:

Catherine's Book

Given the disappointment of having to miss up to thirty-seven other sessions when you choose to attend one, I decided to join in the live tweeting. All tweets with the hashtag # IMC2014 appeared on big screens outside the Leeds Students union refectory, so you could keep up with several different papers at once.

The Leeds IMC is, as I said above, a chance for academics to get together. It is also an occasion for a reunion. I spoke at a session chaired and organised by Dr Marianne Ailes (Bristol), who obtained her MA in Medieval Studies and was awarded her PhD in Medieval French literature at Reading (1989). I also had a chance to have a meeting with Rachel Ernst, who also did her MA in Medieval Studies at Reading, and who is currently finishing her PhD on the Cathar heresy, supervised by myself and Rebecca Rist.

From left to right: Marianne Ailes, Catherine Léglu, Rachel Ernst.


This year’s IMC had as its thematic strand ‘Empire’. Here are the titles of the papers we gave in our session, which was session 815, on the topic: CHARLEMAGNE: A EUROPEAN ICON.

Catherine Léglu: ‘Charlemagne, King of the Franks, in Occitania: Exploring a Paradox’

Adrian Ailes (The National Archives: Public Record Office, Kew, and a member of the Centre for Medieval Studies, University of Bristol): ‘The Attributed Arms of Charlemagne’

Jade Bailey (Department of French, University of Bristol): ‘Archaising Charlemagne Texts in London, British Library, MS Royal 15 E VI’.