“The Provocative 15th Century”

Oct 14, 2015

gutenberg-bible-pageLibraries were being founded in France, Italy, Persia, and England. Johannes Gutenberg has set up his movable type printing press “as a commercial operation” in Mainz, Germany and five years later, in 1455, he completes “the first major book printed in movable type in the West,” the Gutenberg Bible. William Caxton sets up the first printing press in England in 1476 and two years later publishes “the first printed copy of The Canterbury Tales.”

It’s the 15th century and literature is being printed and shared like never before.

“The Provocative Fifteenth Century” brings together “international leaders in the field of Medieval studies as well as critical newcomers” to bring interdisciplinary focus on “the recent resurgence of interest in 15th century texts and manuscripts” in regards to “this decisive moment in English literary history.”


“The Provocative Fifteenth Century”
Friday-Saturday, Oct. 16th-17th, 8:30 a.m.-5 p.m.
The Huntington, 1151 Oxford Rd., San Marino 91108
Cost: $25; a buffet lunch may be enjoyed for $20
Register by emailing
Or call 1.626.405.3432


"The Pardoner's Tale," from the 2nd edition of Geoffrey Chaucer's The Canterbury Tales; printed by William Caxton, 1483

“The Pardoner’s Tale,” from the 2nd edition of Geoffrey Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales; printed by William Caxton, 1483


Event schedule:

Thursday, Oct. 15th, 7:30 p.m.

Lecture: “Paper Aeroplane and Other Vehicles”

Simon Armitage, poet and recently elected professor of poetry at the University of Oxford, presents a tour of his own work, from dramatizations of ancient texts to urban myths of the modern world, via his acclaimed translations of medieval epics such as Sir Gawain and the Green Knight and The Death of King Arthur. A book signing will follow the talk.

Free; no reservations required.

LocationRothenberg Hall, Steven S. Koblik Education and Visitor Center


Friday, October 16, 2015: Aesthetic Misbehavior

8:30 a.m.: Registration & Coffee

9:30 a.m.: Welcome: Steve Hindle (The Huntington)

Remarks: Lisa H. Cooper (University of Wisconsin, Madison)

Andrea Denny-Brown (University of California, Riverside)

10p.m.:  Session 1: Provoking Patrons and Misbehaving Memorials

Moderator: Lisa H. Cooper

Robert Meyer-Lee (Agnes Scott College/Indiana University, South Bend), “Troy Book Misbehaving”

Jenni Nuttall (St. Edmund Hall, University of Oxford), “‘Conveied by resoun’: Verse-Form, Patronage, and Provocation in the Fifteenth Century”

Noon: Lunch

1 p.m.: Session 2: Unexpected and Estranged Aesthetics

Moderator: Catherine Sanok (University of Michigan)

James Simpson (Harvard University), “Performance and Performativity: Anti-Theater around and in Fifteenth-Century Drama”

Jessica Brantley (Yale University), “The Provocations of Orthodoxy”

3 p.m.: Break

3:15 p.m.:Session 3: Experimentation, Correction, and Wrongdoing

Moderator: Alexandra Gillespie (University of Toronto)

Daniel Wakelin (St. Hilda’s College, University of Oxford), “Writing and the Risk of Error”

Andrea Denny-Brown, “Criminal Form”


Saturday, October 17, 2015: Evocative Objects

9:15 a.m.: Registration & Coffee

9:45 a.m.: Session 1: Stimulating Rolls, Books, and Bags

Moderator: Andrea Denny-Brown

Shannon Gayk (Indiana University, Bloomington), “By Provocative Means: The Powers of Middle EnglishPrayer Rolls”

Alexandra Gillespie, “‘Unbokeled is the male’: Chaucer and the Makeshift Manuscript”

11:45 a.m:  Lunch and show and tell of late medieval Huntington manuscripts by Vanessa Wilkie, Curator, British Historical Manuscripts

1 p.m.: Session 2: Displaced Bodies, Readers, and Senses

Moderator: Robert Meyer-Lee

Catherine Sanok, “Provoking Saints”

Anthony Bale (Birkbeck, University of London), “The Humanist Pilgrim: Fifteenth-Century English Readers, from Venice to Jerusalem”

3 p.m.: Break

3:15 p.m.: Session 3: Inventions, Emotions, and Technical Exhilarations

Moderator: Jenni Nuttall

Anke Bernau (University of Manchester), “Vernacularizing the Aesthetic in the Fifteenth Century”

Lisa H. Cooper, “‘Out of this prosis blake’: Farming, Feeling, and Form in On Husbondrie


Closing Remarks:      Lisa H. Cooper and Andrea Denny-Brown


This conference is funded by The Huntington’s Dorothy Collins Brown Endowment and The Center for Ideas and Society, University of California, Riverside.





Source information:
The British Library

Image, top right: partial page from original Gutenberg Bible; the British Library.

Image from “The Pardoner’s Tale” sourced from







Flintridge Books

Lyd and Mo Photography

Louis Jane Studios

Homage Pasadena