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Durham University

Institute of Medieval and Early Modern Studies (IMEMS)

Wilhelm Levison Memorial Lecture

Wilhelm Levison, born in Düsseldorf in 1876 of a Jewish family, was one of the greatest historians of the early middle ages. Lecturer at Bonn in 1903 and professor in 1909, the Nuremberg laws of 1935 forced him as a Jew to resign his chair, and in November 1938 he was debarred from the use of libraries. In early 1939, Durham University, which had in 1931 awarded him an honorary doctorate, offered him a fellowship. In April 1939 he and his wife Elsa moved to Durham where he continued his research until his death in 1947 and prepared for publication his most important work, England and the Continent in the Eighth Century. He and his wife are buried in the Bow Cemetery.

This lecture series was inaugurated in 2008 in order to celebrate the scholarly vision and achievements of Professor Levison. Each year a speaker is invited to build upon the foundations of cross-Channel cooperation and understanding in medieval history which Professor Levison did so much to establish.

10th Wilhelm Levison Memorial Lecture: Sweetness and Bitterness. The Sense of Taste in and around Anglo-Saxon England

5th June 2018, 17:30, Palace Green Library Learning Centre, Professor Alban Gautier, University of Caen Normandie

The lecture will be followed by an optional drinks reception. Book your place here.

The sense of taste did not have a good reputation in the early Middle Ages: it was connected with ideas of gluttony and it was considered one of the grossest of the five senses. This does not mean the Anglo-Saxons did not have a discourse about taste. If we consider it along with that of their Welsh and Frankish neighbours, it appears that a "system of tastes" was polarized by sweetness and bitterness, two flavours with opposite significations and connotations.

Alban Gautier holds a doctorate and agrégation in history. He is currently professor of medieval history at the University of Caen Normandie (France). He published a French translation of Asser's Life of King Alfred (Paris: 2013), along with several books and articles on the history of food, Anglo-Saxon England and Northern Europe in the early Middle Ages, such as Le Festin dans l'Angleterre anglo-saxonne (Rennes: 2006), Alimentations médiévales, Ve-XVIe siècle (Paris: 2009), and most recently Beowulf au paradis. Figures de bons païens dans l'Europe du Nord au haut Moyen Âge (Paris: 2017).

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Past Lectures