Truth and Truthiness:
Belief, Authenticity, Rhetoric, and Spin in the Middle Ages and Renaissance
















The capacity of language both to communicate truth and to manipulate perceptions of it was as vexed a problem for the Middle Ages and Renaissance as it is today. From Augustine to Erasmus, enthusiasm for the study of rhetoric was accompanied by profound concern about its capacity to mask the difference between authenticity and deceit, revelation and heresy, truth and truthiness. Even the claim of authenticity or transparency could become, some thinkers argued, a deliberate form of manipulation or “spin.” In our current era when public figures aim to create effects of immediacy and authenticity, this conference looks at the history of debates about rhetoric and, more generally, about the presentation of transparency and truthfulness. Taking an interdisciplinary approach, this conference considers the role of the verbal arts in the history of literature, law, politics, theology, and historiography, but also broadens the scope of rhetoric to include such topics as the rhetoric of the visual arts and the language of the new science to produce effects of objective access to “things themselves.” Plenary speakers will be Lorna Hutson (University of Oxford) and Dyan Elliott (Northwestern University).

Thank you for your interest. Online registration has now closed. Walk-in registration is available at the event in the lobby of Barnard Hall, with cash or check accepted. 


Saturday, December 1, 2018
All sessions held in Barnard Hall, 3009 Broadway, NYC


Registration and Breakfast


Plenary I: Held Lecture Hall
Introduction: Joel Kaye, Barnard College

  • Dyan Elliott, Northwestern University: The Art of Misdirection: Clerical Perspectives on Sodomy in the High Middle Ages

Session A
Chair: Laurie Postlewate, Barnard College
Held Lecture Hall

  • Kathy Eden, Columbia University: Signs of the Times in Petrarch’s Sources of Truth
  • Kira von Ostenfeld-Suske, Huntington: Humanist History, Truth, and Polemics: The Artes Historicae of Philip II’s Official Historians
  • Sarah H. Beckjord, Boston College: Performing “Spin” in the Comentarios reales

Session B
Chair: Benjamin Breyer, Barnard College
Barnard Hall 302

  • Kathleen Loysen, Montclair State University: True Stories: Constructing Images of Authority in the French Renaissance Tale
  • Alani Hicks-Bartlett, New York University: “Charlemagne’s Lie(s) and the Deterioration of Truth in Orlando furioso: Ariosto’s Renegotiation of the Chanson de Roland, Pulci, and Boiardo
  • Marian Rothstein, Carthage (professor emerita): The Conundrum of Annius of Viterbo’s Forgeries for France


James Room

Plenary II
Held Lecture Hall
Introduction: Rachel Eisendrath, Barnard College

  • Lorna Hutson, University of Oxford: England’s Insular Imaginings

Session C
Chair: Peter Platt, Barnard College
Held Lecture Hall

  • Joel Kaye, Barnard College: A Great Philosopher Plays the Shell Game
  • Jenny Mann, Cornell University: Can a Fiction Pretend to Lie?: More’s Utopia, the Liar’s Paradox, and the Imitation Game
  • Jeff Dolven, Princeton University: The Devices of Sundry Gentlemen

Session D
Chair: Orlando Bentancor, Barnard College
Barnard Hall 302

  • Lauren Robertson, Columbia University: Hamlet’s “Experiment”: Knowledge, Performance, and the Play-Within
  • Katie Lindeman, Tel Aviv University: Constructing the Catholic True Man: Masculinity, Authenticity, and Medieval Inquisition
  • Jake Purcell, Columbia University: Anti-Skepticism and Merovingian Epistemology

Session E
Chair: Gregory Bryda, Barnard College
Barnard Hall 409

  • Laura Levine, New York University: Judicial Procedure as counter-magic in Malleus Maleficarum
  • Jessica Maratsos, Cambridge University: Fractured Body/Fragmented Presence: Rosso Fiorentino in Rome
  • Seth Stewart Williams, Barnard College: Equivocal Bodies: English Recusants, Gesture, and Dance


Session F
Chair: Christopher Baswell, Barnard and Columbia
Barnard Hall 409

  • Karen Sullivan, Bard College: Medieval Sincerity and the ‘Reality Effect’: Did Troubadours Love Their Ladies?
  • Lauren Mancia, Brooklyn College: Credo: Did Medieval Monks Really Believe?
  • Deborah Fraioli, Simmons University (professor emerita): The Correspondence of Abelard and Heloise: The Story that Lies Within

Session G
Chair: Orlando Bentancor, Barnard College
Barnard Hall 302

  • Ryan E. Gregg, Webster University: The Rhetoric of City Views: Anton van den Wyngaerde’s Genoa as Argument for Charles V’s Hegemony
  • Jessica Maier, Mount Holyoke College: News, Real and Fake, from the Front: Mapping the Great Siege of Malta
  • Juan Carlos Garzon Mantilla, Columbia University: “Ancient Cosmographers Varied and Erred”: Early Modern Global Literacy Debated from the New World


Wine and Cheese Reception


Thank you for your interest. Online registration has now closed. Walk-in registration is available at the event, with cash or check accepted. 


Contact Rachel Eisendrath,






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Beyond Borders: Mutual Imaginings of Europe & the Middle East (800-1700)

The 25th biennial conference of the Barnard Medieval & Renaissance Studies Program brings together scholars whose work challenges the stark border between Europe and the Middle East during the long period between 800-1700. Rather than thinking of these areas in isolation, this interdisciplinary conference reveals the depth of their mutual influence, exploring how trade, war, migration, and the exchange of ideas connected East and West during their formative periods. Distant worlds were not only objects of aggression, but also, inextricably, of fantasy and longing, as Jewish, Muslim, and Christian thinkers looked to each other to understand their own cultural histories and to imagine their futures. Plenary speakers are Nabil Matar of the University of Minnesota and Nancy Bisaha of Vassar College.


Saturday, December 3, 2016
Barnard Hall 

Registration and Breakfast 

Plenary I

Nancy Bisaha, Vassar College
“From Medieval Christendom to Renaissance Europe: The Shifting Place of Muslims in the Pre-Modern World”

Session I : The Politics of the Border

Cristelle Baskins, Tufts University
« Habsburgs and Hafsids on the Border of Christendom »

Enass Khansa, Harvard University
« Negotiating Legitimacy in the Andalusian Caliphate & the Catholic Kingdoms of Iberia »

K. A. Tuley, University of Minnesota, Twin Cities
« An Ensemble Performance : Sovereignty in the Eastern Mediterranean Theater in the Thirteenth Century »

Sabahat Adil, University of Colorado-Boulder
« Locating al-Andalus, or Where Does al-Andalus Begin and End and Why Does it Matter ? »


Plenary II

Nabil Matar, University of Minnesota
"The Protestant Reformation and its aftermath in early modern Arabic sources."

Session II : Trade and Artistic Exchange 

Heather Madar, Humboldt State University
« The Sultan’s Face Looks East and West : Sixteenth-Century European and Ottoman Sultan Portraiture »

Antje Bosselmann-Ruickbie, University of Mainz
« Byzantine Ornaments : Cultural Transfer in the Thirteenth to Fifteenth Centuries »

Winston Black, Assumption College
« Perversion and Perfection in the Orient : Twelfth-Century European Fantasies of Eastern Spices »

Session III : The Literature of Religious Interchange

Hossein Kamaly, Barnard College
« The Christian Reformation : From a Shī‘a Catholic to an Augustininan Prior Turned Muslim »

John Paul Hampstead and Amrita Dhar,  University of Michigan
« From Marrakesh to the Tower of London : Constructing a Jesuit Martyrology, 1580-82 »

Islam Issa, Birmingham City University
« Dialectical Interchanges : Milton, the English Renaissance, and the Arab Nahdah »

Concluding Discussion

Wine and Cheese Reception


Contact Rachel Eisendrath,

. . .


Medieval and Renaissance Lives

Please join us for a year-long speaker series designed especially for undergraduates in the Medieval and Renaissance Studies programs at Barnard and Columbia. As part of this series, alumni of the university will discuss in an informal setting their academic and professional trajectories, as well as their current work.

6:00 pm, Wednesday October 8 
Lauren Mancia, Brooklyn College 
Barnard Hall Room 409

5:30 pm, Monday November 24
Karen Green, Librarian for Ancient & Medieval History and Religion, Butler Library
Location: Rare Book and Manuscript Library 

6:00 pm, Wednesday February 4
Karl Steel, Brooklyn College
Ella Weed Room on the second floor of Milbank Hall, Barnard

6:00 pm, Monday March 2
Sara Lipton, Stony Brook University
Ella Weed Room on the second floor of Milbank Hall, Barnard

Refreshments will be served. Thank you!


Matters of the Word

Barnard College’s Twenty-Fourth Medieval and Renaissance Conference
Saturday, December 6, 2014



Matters of the Word will explore issues of textual materiality in the Middle Ages and Renaissance. We will consider both the material upon which words are transmitted (parchment, paper, wood, marble, bodies, etc.), as well as the inscribed object’s visual aspects (illustrations, etc.). Interdisciplinary at its core, this conference examines not only the intersection of literary studies and art history, but also addresses central concerns of the history of science, history of law, aesthetic philosophy, museum conservation, and book history.

All sessions will be held in Barnard Hall, 3009 Broadway, New York, NY 10027

9:00-10:00 am
Conference Registration
Barnard Hall, First Floor

Continental Breakfast
Sulzberger Parlor

10:00-11:00 am
Welcome: Christopher Baswell, Rachel Eisendrath, Phillip Usher
Held Auditorium

Plenary: Brigitte Miriam Bedos-Rezak (NYU)
“Texture as Signature”
            Introduced by Christopher Baswell (Barnard and Columbia)

Bodily Texts
Held Auditorium
Chair: Laurie Postlewate (Barnard)

-Jessica Brantley (Yale), "Forms of Devotional Reading in the Pavement Hours"
-Vincent Debiais (Université de Poitiers), “Writing on Light”
-Emma Berat (Columbia), “Writing with the body: reproduction and textual corruption in the Man of Law’s Tale

Words in Public
Barnard Hall 409
Chair: Phillip Usher (NYU)

-Katie Chenoweth (Princeton), “Founding French: Print Orthography and the Public Sphere, 1529-1550”
-David LaGuardia (Dartmouth), “"Word Matters in the Public Space of 16th-Century Paris"
-Elizabeth Black (Old Dominion), “Naming and Shaming: Word and (Fecal) Matter”

James Room

Plenary: Peter N. Miller (Bard Graduate Center)
“The Material Culture of Cultural History: A Trip through Peiresc’s Mediterranean World”
Held Auditorium
                     Introduced by Rachel Eisendrath (Barnard)

Writing on Buildings
Barnard Hall 409
Chair: Joel Kaye (Barnard)

-Christopher Baswell (Barnard and Columbia), “The Textual Chamber and the Trojan Scene in Chaucer's Book of the Duchess”
-Ken Kurihara (Union Theological Seminary), “Help God from Suffering: Hausinschriften and Community Lives in Early Modern German Cities”
-Margaret Meserve (Notre Dame), "Publicatio in valvis: the politics of promulgation in papal Rome, 1420-1520"

Boundaries of Print Culture
Held Auditorium
Chair: Anne Lake Prescott (Barnard)

-Catherine Emerson (National University of Ireland, Galway), “Words on the Page: Typography in Renaissance Medievalism”
-Anneliese Pollock Renck (Bucknell University), "'Revitalizing and Resituating an Original': Cicero, Benjamin, and Camille"
-Marian Rothstein (Carthage), "The Persistence of the Manuscript”

Matters of Sound
Held Auditorium
Chair: Susan Leslie Boynton (Columbia)

-Sarah Kay (NYU), “Sound and the Word in Troubadour Lyric: How Human Is Song?”
-Alison Cornish (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), “Words and Blood: Music and the Remediation of Meaning in Dante”
-Andrew Albin (Fordham, Lincoln Center), “Sound Matters: Singing the Officium of Richard Rolle of Hampole”

Marks of Authority
Barnard Hall 409
Chair: Jesús Rodriguez-Velasco (Columbia)

-Catherine Brown (University of Michigan, Ann Arbor), “Tactile Argument and the Sign of the Hand”
-Shannon Wearing (NYU), “Materializing Women in Iberian Illuminated Cartularies”
-Nino Zchomelidse (Johns Hopkins), “Authenticity and Illusion:
The Marriage Charter of Otto II and Theophanu”

Sulzberger Parlor

Please contact Rachel Eisendrath (

Women and Community in the Ancien Régime: Traditional and New Media

JUNE 18-20, 2014

Barnard College Campus

Co-Sponsors: MARGOT


This three-day conference investigates how women participated in and contributed to different kinds of community in medieval and 
early modern Europe. Featuring presentations based on texts and images in traditional manuscript and print format, as well as work that employs new technology and media projects, the conference will be interdisciplinary, and will consider the function and importance of female communities in the natural and social sciences, religion, literature, history, music, and fine arts. Sponsored by MARGOT, a long-term research project devoted to publishing fully searchable editions of texts from the French Middle Ages and the Early Modern period.

For more information and registration:

About the Program

The Medieval and Renaissance program at Barnard College enables students to acquire a thorough knowledge of the most important aspects of Medieval or Renaissance civilizations and to gain an awareness of the interdependence of historical and cultural developments.

All images are drawn from manuscripts/books owned by Barnard College or Columbia University and made available by Columbia's Digital Scriptorium. Images used with permission. The image at the top is from Barnard College's MS1, a fourteenth-century Italian manuscript.

More Information



The Society for Medieval Feminist Scholarship has announced that the winner of the 2013 prize for the best graduate student article on feminist scholarship on the Middle Ages is Gillian Adler.  Gillian, a graduate of Barnard College, is a doctoral student in the English Department of UCLA, working with Christine Chism and Matthew Fisher.  Her winning essay, “Female Intercession and the Shaping of Male Heroism in the Roman d’Enéas and Le Chevalier au Lion,” was written for a class taught by Zrinka Stahuljak of the UCLA French Department and will be published in a future issue of Medieval Feminist Forum.  Congratulations!

Gillian Adler writes: "My paper, 'Female Intercession and the Shaping of Male Heroism in the Roman d’Enéas and Le Chevalier au Lion,' is concerned broadly with how women operate in twelfth-century French romance. I argue that the female intercessory figures who seem to wield verbal power and influence over the shape of these texts are assimilated into a narrative pattern that celebrates redemptive, foundational male heroes. Following the arguments of scholars like E. Jane Burns and Simon Gaunt, my paper looks at how the genre of romance subversively imagines an alternative to the masculinist model of homosociality in the chanson de geste tradition by privileging the place of female subjectivity in narrative, but ultimately constructs instances of female victimization that reinforce fantasies of male genealogical claims and chivalric repute. My interest in the intersection between romance and history developed in my studies at Barnard, when I was working with Professor Christopher Baswell in a course on the medieval imagination of antiquity and with Professor Timea Szell in a course on Boethius and Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales. My undergraduate work with these professors and others on everything from early medieval historiography to late medieval female devotional practices has continued to influence the shape of my current research in the UCLA English doctoral program."