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Medieval Beginnings: The Travels of Sir John Mandeville

Irina Dumitrescu and Mary Wellesley, 4 December 2023

4 December 2023 · 07mins

For the final episode of Medieval Beginnings, Mary and Irina look at by far the most popular text (in its time) of all that have featured in the series: The Travels of Sir John Mandeville. The fictional traveller’s fantastical descriptions of different places, peoples and animals across the Holy Land and Asia are almost certainly drawn mainly from other textual sources, rather than direct experience by the unknown author, and yet the work was often used as a source of reference as well as entertainment or prurient interest.

Among the Ancients: Ovid

Emily Wilson and Thomas Jones, 4 December 2023

14 November 2023 · 11mins

Ovid was perhaps the most prolific poet of Ancient Rome, certainly in the amount of his poetry which has survived (around 30,000 lines). This episode focuses on his 15-book epic, the Metamorphoses, a patchwork of hundreds of stories of transformation, including numerous retellings of famous myths from Apollo and Daphne to the Trojan War.

Medieval Beginnings: The Digby Mary Magdalene Play

Irina Dumitrescu and Mary Wellesley, 4 December 2023

4 November 2023 · 11mins

For sheer scale and spectacle, surely few plays of any period can match The Digby Play of Mary Magdalene. Boasting at least fifty speaking parts, with multiple locations, scaffolds and pyrotechnics, including an ascent into heaven, this wildly ambitious piece of late Medieval theatre mixes traditional hagiographic drama with magical adventure, romance and broad comedy.

Among the Ancients: Horace

Emily Wilson and Thomas Jones, 4 December 2023

14 October 2023 · 09mins

Emily and Tom follow Virgil with one of his contemporaries, Horace, whose poetry played an important political role in the early years of Augustan Rome and has had an enormous influence on subsequent European lyric verse.

Medieval Beginnings: Middle English Lyrics

Irina Dumitrescu and Mary Wellesley, 4 December 2023

4 October 2023 · 07mins

From the first recorded instance of the word ‘fart’ in English, to nuanced vignettes of sexual power dynamics, the numerous Middle English lyrics that have survived down the centuries, often scribbled in the margins of more ‘serious’ texts, offer a vivid snapshot of everyday medieval life.

The Long and Short: Ted Hughes’s ‘Gaudete’

Mark Ford and Seamus Perry, 4 December 2023

24 September 2023 · 12mins

Originally conceived as a film script, Gaudete is Ted Hughes’s apocalyptic vision of an English village in the throes of pagan forces. While it may be ‘the weirdest poem by a very weird poet’, as Mark puts it in this episode, Gaudete shines a light on many Hughesian preoccupations and paved the way for his best-selling collection, Birthday Letters. A strange fusion of Twin Peaks and Midsomer Murders, Gaudete is the former Poet Laureate at his most uninhibited and brilliant.

Among the Ancients: Virgil

Emily Wilson and Thomas Jones, 4 December 2023

14 September 2023 · 12mins

In the ninth episode of Among the Ancients, Emily and Tom arrive at Virgil, focusing on his 12-book epic the Aeneid, which describes the wanderings of the Trojan prince Aeneas after the fall of Troy. They discuss the political background to Virgil’s life, which saw the fall of the Roman Republic, and the complex, ambiguous space his poetry inhabits, blending the mythical and historical, the geographical and imaginary, while interrogating the costs of empire and triumph in his own time.

Medieval Beginnings: Troilus and Criseyde

Irina Dumitrescu and Mary Wellesley, 4 December 2023

4 September 2023 · 11mins

Chaucer’s 14th century tale of ‘double sorrow’, Troilus and Criseyde, set during the siege of Troy, is the subject of Irina and Mary’s ninth episode of Medieval Beginnings. Based largely on Boccaccio’s Il Filostrato, Chaucer’s novelistic long poem displays a psychological realism that would make Henry James envious, and, with the matchmaker-uncle Pandarus, introduces a character of startling and often perplexing opacity.

The Long and Short: James Joyce’s Dubliners

Mark Ford and Seamus Perry, 4 December 2023

24 August 2023 · 10mins

In their eighth episode, Mark and Seamus discuss the astonishing confidence of Joyce’s early work, which not only launched his literary career, but also initiated the grand project of his writing life.

Among the Ancients: Lucretius

Emily Wilson and Thomas Jones, 4 December 2023

14 August 2023 · 10mins

In their eighth episode of Among the Ancients, Emily and Tom look at a contemporary of Catullus, Lucretius, and the only poem we have from him, De rerum natura (The Nature of Things), which sets out ideas about how to live one’s life based on the Epicurean philosophical tradition, embracing friends, gardens, materialism and moderation.

Medieval Beginnings: Sir Gawain and the Green Knight

Irina Dumitrescu and Mary Wellesley, 4 December 2023

4 August 2023 · 11mins

Irina and Mary jump to the 14th century for an introspective Arthurian romance about a knight trying to live up to his perfect reputation. The mysterious and intricate Sir Gawain and the Green Knight is perhaps best understood as a series of games within games, in which our hero, a recurring character throughout medieval literature, is never sure what adventure he’s playing.


Among the Ancients: Catullus

Emily Wilson and Thomas Jones, 4 December 2023

18 July 2023 · 11mins

Emily and Tom move to Ancient Rome for the second half of their series, starting with the late Republican poet Catullus.