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Featured Member: Kristin Bourassa (University of Southern Denmark)

5 Nov 2016 12:59 PM | Andrew Klein


I did my BA (History and Medieval Studies) and my MA (History with Specialization in Medieval and Renaissance Studies) both at the University of Ottawa, and my PhD (History) at the University of York, UK. Now I work as a postdoc and academic manager at the Centre for Medieval Literature (History department, University of Southern Denmark & Department of English and Related Literature, University of York).

You’re arriving at an airport for a research trip and the border control agent asks what you do. How do you answer?

As a Canadian working in Denmark with a history of student visas in the UK, I get asked this question a lot. Right now it usually goes something like: 

Canadian border control: “What are you doing in Denmark?” 

Me: “I…work at a Centre for Medieval Literature?”

Canadian border control: “…you don’t hear that every day.”

What projects are you currently working on?

I have two main research projects on the go right now. The first is the process of publishing parts of my PhD research as articles. I have a new one forthcoming in Florilegium, “The King and his Relatives in Political Literature for Charles VI of France,” and am working on a book chapter on the 15th-century manuscripts of Philippe de Mézières’ Songe du viel pelerin, originally completed in 1389. 

I’m also writing a monograph tentatively titled Pierre Salmon’s Dialogues and Political Literature in Late-Medieval France. The book will look at two remarkable manuscripts: the two very different authorial versions of a text editorially titled the Dialogues based on it being partly framed as a record of a conversation ostensibly held between Charles VI of France and Salmon, who worked as the king’s secretary. The manuscripts both contain extensive image programs as well as multiple textual genres (mirror for princes, autobiography, catechism, letters…), and my monograph will explore the role of these genres in 15th-century attempts to intervene in political conversations using literature, as well as the way Salmon’s record of the conversations he had and letters he exchanged with influential figures of the day propose a model of the political community in 15th-century France. You can see the manuscripts online here;2 and here

What do you think is the best part of being a medievalist?

I’ve always enjoyed the way the medieval can be both utterly alien and completely familiar. On the one hand, from a modern perspective there’s something extremely bizarre about describing the king of France as a white falcon with golden feet, a golden beak, and a crown, and then sticking that falcon in the middle of a chessboard and telling him each square of the board has a lesson on how to govern better. But on the other hand, there’s something extremely familiar about people using available media to have political conversations (think Rick Mercer’s rants or late-night talk shows). And I always get a laugh out of medieval complaints that kids these days just wear their clothes too tight and reveal too much to passers-by.

Why did you join the CSM? What other societies do you belong to?

I was urged to join during my MA so I could participate in the CSM’s annual conference, which took place at Carleton that year. I remember being really confused about the relationship between the CSM conference and the rest of the activities on campus – Congress is a baffling model for a rookie, but now that I get how it works, I love it.

I’m also a member of the Society for the Study of French History, the Société des études médiévales du Québec, the Medieval Academy of America, and the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature (Medium Aevum).

Where can we find/read some of your work?

In addition to my forthcoming Florilegium article, I recently (2016) published “The Royal Entries of Henry VI in a London Civic Manuscript” in the Journal of Medieval History, and in 2015 my chapter “Reconfiguring Queen Truth in BnF Ms. Fr. 22542 (Songe du vieil pelerin)” came out in Textual and Visual Representations of Power and Justice in Medieval France: Manuscripts and Early Printed Books, edited by Rosalind Brown-Grant, Anne D. Hedeman, and Bernard Ribémont (Ashgate).

In an unusual move for a UK PhD, I didn’t put an embargo on the digital version of my PhD thesis, “Counselling Charles VI of France: Christine de Pizan, Honorat Bovet, Pierre Salmon, and Philippe de Mézières,” so it’s free to download. You can find links to all my work here: I’m also on Twitter (@kristinbourassa).

Any final thoughts?

Being the current CSM PR officer has made me realize how many interesting things Canadian medievalists are doing all around the world! If you’re also on Twitter, please consider subscribing to our Twitter list Canmedieval, And remember to email for your own Medievalist of the Month feature!

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