Donald Bullough Fellow – A Look Back

Blog written by Dr Jacqueline Murray

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Photo attrib. Nick Amoscato, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

When I walked into the Department of Mediaeval History for the first time I was greeted effusively by the fantastic office staff, Dorothy Christie and Audrey Wishart. These two friendly faces quickly became the fonts of all information. ID cards, library and IT access, all done with the blink of an eye. After apprising Tim Greenwood of my arrival, he instantly whisked me off to that all important centre for medievalists: Jannettas. Soon joined by Alex Woolf, we moved from coffee to fabulous soup – cream of aubergine – and with that I was introduced to one of the most important gathering places for medievalists in St Andrews, with flavours of gelato limited only by imagination )though I confess to wondering about haggis gelato]. Over time my daily café became We Are Zest both because of its proximity to 71 South Street and because of their staffing policy to employ and train young workers

The Donald Bullough Fellowship provides a unique opportunity to become immersed in a rich community of medieval historians. Not many of us, especially at North American universities, enjoy the company of so many scholars whose fields of expertise stretch from Scandinavia to Byzantium, Roman Britain to the fifteenth century, and multifarious geographies, temporalities, and topics in-between. This depth and breadth of scholarship is complemented by weekly seminars by visiting scholars, sponsored by St Andrews Institute for Mediaeval Studies, and other research groups.

A couple of seminar presentations stand out to me. One, on spiders in Anglo-Saxon manuscripts, was a fascinating introduction to an unfamiliar research area. Thankfully, the illustrations of spiders did not disturb a real-life arachnophobe. Another speaker reconceptualized the periodization of Germanic Imperial literature in the High Middle Ages, proposing a different series of ebbs and flows in book production. These and all the presentations were a wonderful introduction for post-graduates and also provided exciting new concepts for faculty members.

In addition to presenting my own seminar on a reconceptualization of medieval masculinity through masculine embodiment, I also led a workshop on mystical castration, focusing on the fine distinctions of context and experience. The annual Gender and Transgression in the Middle Ages conference was a lovely way to end the semester. Particularly notable was the excellent keynote address by Elizabeth Robertson and terrific discussions with the speakers and graduate students. Additionally, I had the privilege to be invited to give presentations at the University of Aberdeen and the University of Dundee.

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Photo attrib. Dunnock, CC-BY-NC-ND 2.0

The main responsibility of the Bullough Fellow is to write. This is necessarily a solitary activity, so much of one’s time is spent alone, but there are opportunities to enjoy the presence of scholarly colleagues. It is the office, the computer, and the library that must capture the attention of the Bullough Fellow as they engage in diligent research and the pursuit of intellectual tidbits from the past that will form the basis of hours of thoughtful deliberation in the future. I was delighted that the St Andrews Library is rich in both current and retrospective secondary sources, and boasts an exceptionally helpful staff and an efficient Interlibrary Loan office, on those rare occasions it might be necessary. All in all, the research support at St Andrews is exceptional.  I wrote far more than I had anticipated and I will always remain grateful for the scholarly support, nestled (like the building itself) within the heart of an ancient and noble Scottish city.

Living in St Andrews, a city and university of great Scottish antiquity, is rather like being transported into the Middle Ages. Walking the little streets, especially near the cathedral and north port, offers a medieval world view that counteracted the glass and concrete skyscrapers of my daily cityscape. It is not just the fact of the vestiges of medieval houses; rather it is that they can occupy two or three full blocks. Similarly, the ruins tug at the heartstrings: the devastated cathedral, the remnants of the bishop’s palace, and perhaps, worst of all, the destroyed Blackfriars, all bring home the vicissitudes of the Scottish Reformation.

I feel very grateful to have spent five months with the medievalists of St Andrews. I am most grateful to have been afforded this extraordinary opportunity, truly a highlight of my professional life. Thank you so much St Andrews!!

About standrewshistory
With over forty full time members of staff researching and teaching on European, American and Asian history from the dawn of the Middle Ages to the present day, the School of History at the University of St Andrews has one of the finest faculty and diverse teaching programmes of any School of History in the English speaking world. The School boasts expertise in Mediaeval and Modern History, from S cotland to Byzantium and the Americas to the Middle East and South Asia.Thematic interests include religious history, urban history, transnationalism, historiography and nationalism. The School of History prides itself on small group teaching and tutorials allowing for in depth study and supervision tailored to secure the best from each student. Cutting edge research combined with teaching excellence offer a dynamic and intellectually stimulating environment for the study of History.

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