Riddles in Conversation – May Seminar Series

The Exeter Book riddles are often enlisted to illustrate what we think we know about early medieval culture, but the truth is that they are better at asking questions than giving answers. In this seminar series, therefore, we put the Exeter Book riddles in conversation with different kinds of knowing. Exploring in turn poetic translation, visual art, ornithology, and woodcraft, these four conversations will bring new insights to our understanding of early medieval culture.

The series is organised by Megan Cavell (University of Birmingham) and Jennifer Neville (Royal Holloway, University of London) as part of the AHRC-funded Group Identity and the Early Medieval Riddle Tradition project.

4 May 1500 BST (5 May 0000 AEST), online (zoom)
Riddles in Conversation 1: Avant Garde Translation Techniques

  • Judy Kendall (University of Salford)

In this seminar Judy hopes to stimulate you to consider ways in which conventional translation practices can fall short, and instead to encourage you to engage with more unorthodox approaches to translation. With specific application to Old English texts and riddles, she demonstrates how the application of such avant garde translation techniques can bring us nearer to, or less far from, or at the very least differently far from the texts and cultures with which we wish to engage.

Register for this seminar.

11 May 1500 BST (12 May 0000 AEST), online (zoom)
Riddles in Conversation 2: Creative Communities

  • Emma Molony (Printmaker, Independent Scholar)
  • Jacob Polley (Newcastle University)
  • Chris Jones (University of St Andrews)
  • Megan Cavell (University of Birmingham).

The group will be talking about their lockdown project, in which they collaborated with one another, a filmmaker, printmakers and members of the public through crowd-sourcing techniques to produce an interactive multi-media version of The Exeter Book’s Riddle 57 which was featured by the BBC as one of their ‘Culture in Quarantine’ projects in 2020.

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18 May 1500 BST (19 May 0000 AEST), online (zoom)
Riddles in Conversation 3: Ornithological Insights

  • Jim Reynolds (University of Birmingham)

Jim Reynolds is a lecturer in Ornithology and Animal Conservation at the University of Birmingham. He has studied birds for the last 30+ years and is interested in how birds live in an urbanising world. He will be offering his expert knowledge about some of the many species that have been proposed as solutions to early medieval riddles.

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25 May 1500 BST (26 May 0000 AEST), online (zoom)
Riddles in Conversation 4: Woodcraft and Wordcraft

  • Sharif Adams (Pole Lathe Bowl Turner, Independent Scholar)

Sharif Adams specialises in ancient wood-turning techniques, some of which date from the Iron Age. He uses a traditional foot-powered pole lathe to turn wooden bowls, pots, cups, flasks, and boxes, and for more than ten years he has been helping to keep this traditional craft alive by offering regular classes in all aspects of pole lathe turning. For this seminar he will be speaking about the history of the pole lathe, his own journey with the craft, and how it has now been reclassified by the Heritage Crafts Association from ‘critically endangered’ to ‘currently viable’. He will use his extensive experience to reflect on Exeter Book riddles that may disguise the processes of this once familiar craft.

Register for this seminar.