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Durham University

Department of English Studies

Event Archive

This is an archive of past events within the Department of English Studies. Please see our current events for forthcoming activities.

Some of our public events are recorded and are available as podcasts via our Research English At Durham blog.

Laid Bare: Attitudes to Nudity in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period

10th March 2018, 09:15 to 16:30, Senior Common Room, St Cuthbert's Society

An interdisciplinary workshop on attitudes to nudity in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period. Guest speakers include the medical historian Peter Murray Jones (King's College, Cambridge), and the art historian Jill Burke (The University of Edinburgh).

View the workshop programme.

This project aims to consider attitudes to nudity in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Period in a variety of media and genres – not just art but also archaeology, theology, literature, history, law and medicine. Whilst the important role of nudity in Christian teaching and theology has been sufficiently acknowledged by contemporary scholarship, the extensive range of attitudes and associations projected onto the medieval body have yet to be fully revealed. Nudity undergoes its own fashion changes, in which the body is ever shifting regarding the meanings inscribed upon it, variables such as faith, ethnicity, social status, gender, sex, age, health and bodily ability alongside changes in environment and context act to continually alter the meaning and experience of nudity. Within the period under review nudity may represent one or more of the following categories: innocence, heroism, purity, vice, temptation, monstrousness, eroticism, beauty, barbarism, paganism, divinity, weakness and power. Consequently, nudity within the middle ages and early modern period is a highly charged state of being, central to various cultural beliefs and identities which required delicate negotiation on both an ideological and practical level, particularly in relation to the necessities of daily life (e.g. washing, sex and grooming).

The multiplicitous nature of the body in these periods provides a highly fertile and underexplored field of study; naturally suited to interdisciplinary discussion. We are bringing together a group of experts representing a range of fields and evidential sources to discuss and share their perspectives on this topic. We hope to set up a network with a view to further meetings, and eventually to a collection of essays and an associated exhibition.

If you would be interested in attending, please contact Tristan Lake (

Contact for more information about this event.


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