Recently discovered 14th century paintings of Lancelot and Guinevere and the world of chivalric romance were among the topics discussed at a conference at the University of St Andrews last weekend (Friday 29th – Sunday 31st).
The University’s School of English hosted this year’s British Branch meeting of the International Arthurian Society (IAS).
The IAS is an association of scholars dedicated to the study of medieval Arthurian literature.
The keynote speaker on Friday night, Professor W. R. J. (Ray) Barron of the University of Exeter, honoured the Scottish setting with a talk on ‘The Dangers of Romance’ which discussed James IV’s disastrous fascination with the world of chivalric romance.
Przemek Nocun, a Polish archaeologist, made his first trip to Britain to talk to the Society about some recently discovered fourteenth-century wall paintings of Lancelot and Guinevere in Siedlecin Castle, Poland. He was very interested to hear of the great numbers of Polish servicemen who were stationed in St Andrews during the Second World War, many of whom eventually settled in Scotland.
Nostalgia was very much the order of the day: Professor Barron was delighted to find himself lodging in St Salvator’s Hall, where he had last stayed as an undergraduate English student in the late 40s and early 50s.
Malory specialist Professor P. J. C. Field, meanwhile, was ambushed with a surprise presentation of a collection of essays published in his honour (many of whose authors were at the conference) – its editor, Professor Bonnie Wheeler, had flown in specially from Texas to present it.
On a sad note, the Society paid its respects to St Andrews’ own Professor D. D. R. Owen, who died earlier this year and who had been an active and much loved figure in the Society for many decades. A collection of his books was sold at the conference and the money will go to Berit Owen’s chosen charity, the Assocation for International Cancer Research.
The Arthurian Society last held their annual meeting in St Andrews in 1986.
The conference was organised by Dr Rhiannon Purdie, a Lecturer in Mediaeval English at the University’s School of English.
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