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Birkbeck Medieval Seminar

Venue: Online

Narrating Nature: Framing Ecologies in the Middle Ages

The 2021 Birkbeck Medieval Seminar 'Narrating Nature: Framing Ecologies in the Middle Ages' examines stories of nature, landscape, and environment as they were told in the Middle Ages. Drawing on interdisciplinary discussions across history, literature, and archaeology, we explore how ecologies were not only encountered and perceived, but also constructed, imagined, and evoked. Participants in this seminar are invited to interrogate a range of topics, including: how people in the middle ages (broadly conceived) used narratives to define and frame interactions between humans and non-humans within the multi-species systems we now describe as ‘ecologies’; how topographies of culture and nature, of human work and natural agency, were negotiated in practice; and how culturally-determined approaches to texts and materials were used to structure approaches to, and understandings of, medieval environments.

Rather than viewing the middle ages as a source of primitivist, harmonious ways of living with a now-estranged nature, this seminar playfully posits that ecological constructs such as ‘wild nature’ are medieval dreams from which we ‘moderns’ have not yet awoken. By focusing on narrative, we will explore how the making of places in landscape and the telling of places in text can occupy and operationalize the ‘same’ ecologies. Ultimately, the seminar seeks to explore the ways that narratives of nature constructed in the middle ages continue to shape how we think and feel about ecologies. 

This is an online event and shall be hosted on Microsoft Teams. Please note that booking is essential, we shall send the joining link to all those who book in the days before the seminar.


Professor Pam J. Crabtree (NYU): Ecologies of Anglo-Saxon Settlement in the Brecks and the Fenland: Evidence from Brandon and West Stow

Dr Karen Dempsey (NUI Galway): Sowing Seeds: Green Worlds and the Castle Garden

Dr Leonie Hicks (Canterbury Christ Church University): Narrating Normans and Nature in Chronicle Sources

Professor Jill Rudd (University of Liverpool): 'A Certain Glue': Framing Animals in Their Natural Habitats - The Book of the Chase of Gaston de Phébus and Edward of Norwich.

Organizers: Mike Bintley and Kate Franklin
We reserve the right to cancel or postpone this event if necessary. If you have any questions, please contact

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