The Medieval Past in Modern Melbourne

Tuesday, October 03, 2017 at 06:00 PM


Old Treasury Building
20 Spring St
Melbourne, Victoria 3002
Google map and directions

Event contact

Margaret Birtley

0418 814 957

What does the medieval past mean in Melbourne today? How does it influence our present, and impact on our cultural, architectural, institutional and intellectual heritage? Why and how should we seek to understand it? 

Although we often think of the medieval past as something that happened ‘over there’, it has a startling presence in Australian life, both enriching and troubling.

This special edition of the Making Public Histories seminar brings together several Australian medievalists from different perspectives for a lively and wide-ranging conversation about how the medieval past remains present in many forms: from the neo-Gothic structures of our stately buildings, through popular medieval narratives adapted for literature and television, to the adoption of medieval imagery by white supremacist organisations. 

Professor Stephanie Trigg (The University of Melbourne) is a noted specialist of medieval literature, and modern expressions of popular medievalism. She is also a leading member of the Australian Research Council Centre of Excellence for the History of Emotions, 1100-1800. Her program, ‘Shaping the Modern’, explores the continuance of European emotional understandings and practices in Australia, and the many ways in which modern Australians engage with and re-interpret Australia's emotional heritage. 

Dr Felix Nobis (Monash University) is a performer and academic whose solo show Beowulf, based on his own translation of the Old English poem of the same name, has been internationally acclaimed. He has spent over a decade engaging with the poem through both word and performance, and considering how to render its complexities intelligible for modern audiences.

Dr Helen Young (La Trobe University) is a scholar of medieval literature and its expression in modern popular culture, especially as it relates to representations of power and cultural relations. Her project, ‘Imagining Diversity: Race and Ethnicity in Popular Fantasy Fiction’, was awarded a prestigious Discovery Early Career Researcher Award by the Australian Research Council in 2012.

Dr Kathleen Neal (Monash University), convenor of the evening's conversation, is a historian specialising in the political culture of late medieval Britain and western Europe. She is also interested in historical ethics and the modern relevance of teaching and studying the medieval past.

The Making Public Histories series, now in its tenth year, is offered jointly by the Monash University History Program, the History Council of Victoria and the Old Treasury Building. 

The seminar is free of charge but seating is limited, so we ask you to RSVP. Please book your place using the RSVP form, below.

The image of the statue of St George in Swanston St is supplied by Kathleen Neal.
The image of a page in a 13th century Psalter-Hours (with permission from State Library Victoria) is supplied Danielle Epskamp.

 Image courtesy State Library Victoria and Danielle EpskampImage courtesy Kathleen Neal

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The History Council of Victoria Incorporated (HCV) is the peak body for history in the Australian state of Victoria. Its vision is to connect Victorians with history and to inspire engagement with the past, their identity and the world today. The HCV champions the work of historians and the value of history. It recognises that history can be written about any place, any person, any period. The HCV advocates why history matters.

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The HCV was formed as an advisory body in 2001 and incorporated in 2003. It comprises representatives from cultural and educational institutions and heritage bodies; history teachers and curriculum advisors; academic and professional historians; and local, Indigenous, community and specialist history organisations.

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The History Council of Victoria acknowledges the State Library of Victoria and the Public Record Office Victoria for supply of the archival images that appear on this website.

We acknowledge the National Film and Sound Archive for the right to use of the video footage on the home page, titled "Melbourne: Life in Australia (1966)".

Image credits

  • Italian sailors on ship at Port Melbourne 1938, Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria
  • Chinese procession in Collins near Elizabeth Street 1901, Harvie & Sutcliffe, photographers, State Library of Victoria
  • People’s homes, Aboriginal station Coranderrk 1878, Fred Kruger Photographer, State Library of Victoria
  • Chinese nurses at Children’s Hospital under scholarship 1947, Argus Newspaper Collection of Photographs, State Library of Victoria
  • Ladies physical culture class VRI Melbourne c1931, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12903/P0001, 011/02
  • Melbourne Cup, Derby and Oaks Day, Flemington Racecourse 1936, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12903/P0001/4802, 372/30
  • Flinders Street viaduct at foot of Market Street with advertisement for McRobertson’s Chocolate on bridge, Public Record Office Victoria VPRS 12800/P0003, ADV 1342