Conference History

Professor Lee Snyder (in monk's habit, center) and students posing in Cook Hall before the 1977 "medieval banquet". Photo from the Manatee County Digital Collections.

conference or "medieval fair"?

Lee Snyder's original vision for the Conference combined academic events (the "conference") and re-enactments meant more as entertainment (the "fair"): the 1976 conference included a concert of medieval music and a costumed banquet along with more scholarly presentations. The medieval fair proved enormously popular with locals, and was eventually moved next door to the larger grounds of the Ringling Museum. The photo archive of the Manatee County Public Library Digital Collections hosts numerous photographs from the early days.

The conference and the fair developed in tandem into the 1980s, when disagreements about size and authenticity separated them for good. But it's worth noting that both continue today! The conference is still at New College, and the fair is now the Sarasota Medieval Fair, a for-profit event held annually at the Sarasota County Fairgrounds.


In honor of the Conference's twentieth anniversary (or fortieth, depending on how you look at it) in 2016, the Conference archives—which had previously been housed in cardboard boxes under a desk—were organized, inventoried, and incorporated into the New College Archives in the Jane Bancroft Cook Library. The New College Digital Repository now features a collection dedicated to the Conference on Medieval & Renaissance Studies, which consists of all prior conference programs (1978–2018) as well as interesting ephemera from the Conference's early days such as the 1978 "poster" (detail at left), Professor Snyder's original 1977 proposal for a "learned conference" (below), and various memoranda related to the planning of the early Conferences. All materials—including programs—are publicly available as PDFs and indexed, so you can use the "search this site" box to search for past presenters or topics.

Logo from the poster advertising the various events of the 1978 "Medieval Fair".

We are grateful to New College undergraduates Victoria Deal, Antonio Juncosa, Cymri Mellen-Jones, and Adelle Singer for their efforts to organize the Conference's archives in January 2015, and to Victoria Deal and Adelle Singer for establishing the digital collection in January 2016. Thanks also to the staff of the Jane Bancroft Cook Library for their ongoing support, especially Digital Imaging Technician Ana McGrath.

Past Conference Plenary Speakers


Howard Kaminsky (Florida International University), "The Crises of 1378"


Anthony Molho (Brown University), "The Dowry Bank in Renaissance Florence"

Ira M. Lapidus (University of California, Berkeley), "Islamic and European Cities: A Late Medieval Comparison"


John Murdoch (Harvard University), "Late Medieval Logic and Natural Philosophy without Nature"

Werner Gundersheimer (University of Pennsylvania), "Wearing a Text: The Social Role of Literacy in Medieval & Renaissance Europe"


Richard Trexler (SUNY Binghamton), "Humiliating the Enemy in Renaissance Italy"

O.B. Hardison, Jr (Folger Shakespeare Library), "The Mystery of Elche"


Charles T. Davis (Tulane University), "Dante and the Empire: Political Thought and Political Rhetoric"

Stephen Ozment (Harvard University), "A Renaissance Marriage"


Joan Ferrante (Columbia University), "Audience, Patron, Author: Women's Participation in Courtly Literature"

Gene Brucker (University of California, Berkeley), "Florentine Voices from the Catasto, 1427-1480"


Edward Muir (Louisiana State University), "The Rise of Courteous Revenge in Renaissance Italy"

R. A. Shoaf (University of Florida), "Dante and Fourteenth-Century England"


William Bouwsma (University of California, Berkeley), "Humanism Reconsidered: From the Italian Renaissance to Montaigne"

William Calin (University of Florida), "Chronicles that Are History, Myth, and Art: Jean Froissart of France and England"


Maureen Quilligan (University of Pennsylvania), "Rewriting Dismemberment: Christine de Pizan and Boccaccio"

William Bowsky (University of California, Davis), "Cloisters with a View: Canons of S. Lorenzo of Florence"


Lee Patterson (Yale University), "Medieval Studies at the End of the Century"

John Najemy (Cornell University), "Giannozzo and his Elders: A Crisis of Masculinity in Renaissance Patriarchy"


Linda Seidel (University of Chicago), "Consider the Lilies: The Language of Flowers in Fifteenth-Century Painting"

Alison Macmillan Brown (Royal Holloway, University of London), "New Men, New Mores? Florence in the Late Quattrocento"


Ronald Witt (Duke University), "The Origins of Italian Humanism"

Martha Howell (Columbia University), "The Marriage Exchange in Medieval & Renaissance Europe"


James Tracy (University of Minnesota), "The Conflicting Imperatives of War and Finance: William of Orange, the States of Holland, and the Crisis of the Dutch Revolt, 1572-1576"

Gene Brucker (University of California, Berkeley), "Fede and Fiducia: The Problem of Italian History, 1350-1500 "


Stanley Chojnacki (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), "The Gender of the Casa: Wives in the Renaissance Palace"

Anne Lake Prescott (Barnard College), "Finding a Use for Bad Kings: Saul as an Anti-Model in Early Modern England"


Patrick Geary (University of California, Los Angeles), "Language, Power, and Performance in the Ninth Century"

Giuseppe Mazzotta (Yale University), "Dante: Healing the Wounded Will"


John Najemy (Cornell University), "Machiavelli between East and West"

François Rigolot (Princeton University), "Tradition, Otherness, and Cultural Relativism: About Montaigne's Cannibals"


Caroline Bruzelius (Duke University), "Battles for Bodies: Preaching, Burying, and Building in the Medieval Italian City"

Lori Anne Ferrell (Claremont Graduate University), "The Experience of Failure and the Figure of Suicide in King Lear"


Jodi Enders (University of California, Santa Barbara), "The Devil in the Flesh in Medieval Farce"

Duane Osheim (University of Virginia), "The Papacy, the Plague, and the Prehistory of the Miracle of Loreto"


Thomas F. X. Noble (University of Notre Dame), "Five Visitors and a Changing Vista: Rome in Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages"

Ruth Evans (Saint Louis University), "Breathing and Meaning-Making in the Middle Ages"


Paula Findlen (Stanford University), "Mondino's Assistant: Imagining the Female Anatomist in Medieval Italy"

Claire Sponsler (University of Iowa), "Performative Reading and the Medieval Book"


Eleonora Stoppino (University of Illinois, Urbana–Champaign), "Warrior Women and Savage Beasts: Non-Human Domestications in Medieval and Renaissance Chivalric Epic"

Malcolm Vale (St John's College, Oxford), "Secular Culture and the Church in Later Medieval Europe, 1290–1500"

2020 [cancelled]

Mary Floyd-Wilson (University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill), "The Habitation of Airy Nothings"

Jonathan Phillips (Royal Holloway, University of London), "Writing the History of Saladin"