Introducing Our New Co-Editor!

After careful review of the excellent applications we received, we are pleased to welcome Gwendolyne Knight Keimpema as our new Junior Editor. She will start working in this capacity for the Fall issue, with Nadine Kuipers becoming Senior Editor as Melissa Ridley Elmes steps down from the position after two years of commitment to Hortulus.

Gwendolyne holds a M.Sc in Information and Library Studies from the Robert Gordon University, a MA degree in Medieval Studies from Stockholm University, as well as a MA in Archeology from Aberdeen University. She is currently writing her dissertation on the social implications of shapeshifting imagery in early medieval Europe for her PhD project at Stockholm University. Gwendolyne’s multidisciplinary background has allowed her to work both as as an assistant editor for Hortulus for our Fall 2015 issue and copyeditor for the popular science publication Au Magazine at the University of Aberdeen. We look forward to the new ideas and perspectives she will bring to Hortulus.

The Hortulus team would like to express their gratitude to Melissa Ridley Elmes, for her dedication as an editor, her guidance and direction, and her willingness to explore new avenues of digital publishing. We congratulate Melissa with her new appointment as Assistant Professor of English and Medieval Literature at Lindenwood University and wish her all the best for her future pursuits.


Now Accepting Applications for the Hortulus Co-editor position!

We are accepting applications at this time for the Hortulus co-editor position.This is a two-year appointment lasting from 2016-2018; the first year is spent in a junior editorial, training capacity, while the second year comprises senior editorial duties. The deadline for applications is July 1.

Further information can be found here:

Call For Papers: Spring 2016 Open Issue

Hortulus: The Online Graduate Journal of Medieval Studies is a refereed, peer-reviewed, and born-digital journal devoted to the culture, literature, history, and society of the medieval past. Published semi-annually, the journal collects exceptional examples of work by graduate students on a number of themes, disciplines, subjects, and periods of medieval studies. We also welcome book reviews of monographs published or re-released in the past five years that are of interest to medievalists. For the spring issue we are highly interested in reviews of books which fall under the current special topic.

Our upcoming issue will be published in the spring of 2016, and is an open issue with no theme. We particularly encourage the submission of proposals that take a strongly theoretical and/or interdisciplinary approach, and that examine new and previously unconsidered aspects of these subjects within medieval studies. Articles may be from any discipline: history, art history, archaeology, literature, linguistics, music, theology, etc. Work from every interpretive angle is encouraged. Most importantly, we seek engaging, original work that contributes to our collective understanding of the medieval era.

Contributions should be in English and roughly 6,000 – 12,000 words, including all documentation and citational apparatus; book reviews are typically between 500-1,000 words but cannot exceed 2,000. All notes must be endnotes, and a bibliography must be included; submission guidelines can be found here. Contributions may be submitted to and are due February 15, 2016. If you are interested in submitting a paper but feel you would need additional time, please send a query email and details about an expected time-scale for your submission. Queries about submissions or the journal more generally can also be sent to this address.

(UPDATE) Assistant Editor Positions. Application due Jan 15, 2016

Job Purpose

Assistant editors will help in the editing and proofreading of the articles and reviews accepted by the journal. Assistants may also be asked to take on additional projects such as drafting and disseminating calls for papers, PR, and correspondence; opportunities will be given to assistant editors who wish to gain more experience with HTML coding should they be interested. Assistants will work closely with both the Junior and Senior Editors but will have limited contact with one another.  There will be four assistant editor positions open—two for the Spring 2016 open issue and two for the themed  issue, “Gender and the Feast,” in the Autumn of 2016. The posts will be roughly 5 months in duration, with the majority of the workload taking place in the 3 months prior to the issue’s publication. Applicants must maintain their position as a graduate student (US)/post-graduate researcher (UK) during the entire length of the position and MUST NOT graduate during this period. If you have already received your doctorate degree or WILL receive your doctorate degree during this term you will be ineligible for the position. An assistant editorship will provide a chance to gain some experience working for Hortulus and if you are interested in becoming a Hortulus Editor in the future, taking on an assistant position would serve you well with respect to experience.

Main Duties & Responsibilities

1. To engage in detailed editing of content published by the journal including but not limited to organization, comprehension, grammar, style, and quality assurance.

2. To accomplish assigned work in a timely and efficient manner

3. To be willing to learn new skills required by the position both generally and specifically related to programs and applications.

Knowledge, Qualifications, Skills, and Experience


  • Ability to edit prose for content, organization, and detailed areas such as grammar and punctuation
  • Organizational skills
  • IT literacy
  • Communicative
  • Able to adhere to strict editorial schedule


  • Familiarity with basic HTML

Rate of Pay

All positions at Hortulus are un-paid voluntary positions and provide an opportunity for MA/PhD students to get more involved in online academic publishing.

Closing Date

15th of January, 2016


Please email the following items to

A Hortulus Social Media Event: #AskaDHMedievalist !

We are excited to announce that Hortulus is hosting its first-ever social media event: #AskaDHMedievalist!

Are you a medievalist who is interested in using digital humanities in your teaching or scholarship, but unsure of how to proceed? Looking for tips, advice, or resources for a digital project? Wondering how to apply for medieval-focused DH grants? Concerned about how to market yourself as both a medievalist and a digital humanities scholar?Or maybe you just wonder what a medievalist digital humanities scholar does in terms of scholarship?

For the next two weeks (October 1-14), we are collecting your questions about the intersection of medieval studies and digital humanities via Twitter (#AskaDHMedievalist, tweeted to @HortulusJournal) and our Facebook page. No question is too basic or too technical!

Your questions will be answered by two medievalist digital humanities scholars in the Fall 2015 issue of Hortulus Journal.

ready…. set…. ask away!

Melissa Ridley Elmes and Nadine Kuipers, Hortulus Editors

CFP: Hortulus-sponsored session at Leeds IMC 2016


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Hortulus-sponsored session, International Medieval Congress at Leeds, 2016

Gender at the Feast

The roles of women and of gender in the Middle Ages have received particular attention in recent years with invigorating studies across multiple disciplines. Medieval women, such as Margery Kempe or Christina of Markyate, have been brought to the forefront in the minds of medieval scholars and questions of female agency and gender roles have been given new scholastic importance in medieval circles.

Keeping in mind the theme of the 2016 Congress this session seeks to turn the focus of gender to the specific topic of feasts and feasting. This session will examine how gender roles and gendered objects affected the preparation, celebration, ceremony, patronage, and perception of feasting in all strata of medieval society. The session follows the theme of our Fall, 2016 issue of Hortulus, ‘Gendered Spaces’, and we hope to be able to publish in that issue some of the papers delivered in this session. As our journal mission is to support the professionalization efforts of graduate students, the session is organized, presided over, and comprises papers given by current graduate students.

Welcome topics include, but are not limited to:

  • Roles of women and female religious orders at feast times.
  • Gendered objects and their uses in times of celebration or feasting.
  • Defining gender roles within the process of celebration.
  • Gendered spaces pertaining to either the secular dining hall or the physical religious environment at feast times.

Abstracts for 20 minute papers and brief bio or CV to Dustin Aaron ( / by September 20, 2015.

Announcing Our New Co-Editor!

After careful deliberation of a number of qualified applicants, we have finally settled on the new co-editor for Hortulus. Nadine Kuipers of the University of Groningen will be joining us this Fall as the Junior editor, with Melissa Ridley Elmes moving into the senior editor’s position as Jenny Bledsoe leaves the editorial staff.

Nadine holds a Research Master’s degree in Classical, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies, with a specialization in the field of medieval English literature and book history, and a Bachelor’s degree in English Language and Culture, also from the University of Groningen. She is currently working on a PhD, with medieval husbandry books comprising the subject of her dissertation. Her multidisciplinary approach to medieval studies, comprising paleography and codicology, art, landscape, and archaeology, will permit her to work across disciplines with article writers and book reviewers, while the extensive digital humanities experience she has gleaned through working on the digital John Skelton project will help ensure that Hortulus Journal arrives safely and bug-free to your computer screen, Ipad, mobile phone, and other digital reading platforms.

The Hortulus staff would like to present its heartfelt thanks and appreciation to Jenny Bledsoe for her strong leadership of the journal over the past two years, and we wish her well as she continues her doctoral studies at Emory University.

Call For Papers: International Congress on Medieval Studies (“Kalamazoo”) 2016: “Gendered Spaces”

We are excited to announce that Hortulus has had a sponsored session approved for ICMS 2016. Please find details below, and consider submitting an abstract!

CFP, ICMS (“Kalamazoo”) 2016: Gendered Spaces
Hortulus-sponsored session
Session organizer and presider: Melissa Ridley Elmes, co-editor of Hortulus

The concept of gendered spaces—areas in which particular genders and types of gender expression are considered welcome or appropriate while other gender types are unwelcome or inappropriate—is a key element in the study of human geography. Gendering spaces is one way in which social systems maintain the organization of gender, and can preserve and dictate the accepted norms of gendered behavior, as well as relationships and hierarchies between men and women. Studying gendered spaces—environments, landscapes, and other places that have been designated specifically for “men” or for “women,” as well as the “public-private” divide often defined  with men in public and women in private spaces, for example—can provide us with important knowledge of the ways in which the spaces we inhabit reinforce our cultural positions from a gendered perspective; for instance, how such spaces serve to segregate or to unify, to reinforce or subvert traditional forms of masculinity and femininity. This understanding, in turn, can shed light on existing power structures and the conflicts and issues that arise between men and women in a given culture.

This session seeks to examine the subject of gendered spaces from a medieval vantage point, considering ways in which medieval society powerfully shaped and sought to control ideas of masculinity and femininity through the public and private spaces that were designated for men and women and how those spaces were used. We hope to attract an interdisciplinary panel of papers including studies from historians, art historians, and literary scholars that will extend our thinking about gender in the medieval period. The session shares a theme with our Fall, 2016 issue of Hortulus: The Online Graduate Journal of Medieval Studies, and we hope to be able to publish in that issue some of the papers delivered in this session. As our journal mission is to support the professionalization efforts of graduate students, the session is organized, presided over, and comprises papers given by current graduate students.

Abstracts, brief bio, and participant information form to Melissa Ridley Elmes ( by September 15, 2015.

General Interest Column: A. W. Strouse on, “How To Be Unprofessional”


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How to be Unprofessional

A.W. Strouse

Plenty of empirical evidence demonstrates that humanist doctoral students are utterly screwed:

  • The mean attrition rate in humanities Ph.D. programs is roughly half.
  • Time-to-degree averages about ten years.
  • There are practically no decent jobs for humanities doctorates.

And anecdotal evidence confirms, too, that many graduate students feel tormented by their advisers, tortured by poverty-level stipends, and generally just stressed the hell out.

So, what should we do?

Personally, I see this doomsday scenario as a radical opportunity. In such a dire situation, it would be irrational for me to simply conform to the norms of professionalization in the hopes of winning a tenure-track position. Therefore, I feel liberated. If I have nothing to lose, then I can to take big risks, go for broke, and enjoy my studies.

As I recently argued (in a special issue of Pedagogy [1] dedicated to issues in graduate education) I want to create a more “unprofessional” kind of “professionalism.” I’m not talking about skimping on footnotes, sleeping with undergraduates, or staging “occupations.” I’m talking about making a conscious decision to take pleasure in my studies and to resist, in whatever ways possible, the forces that often make graduate school unpleasant. My theoretical explication of “unprofessionalism” can be found in the article; here are some practical policies:

  • Don’t complain to or commiserate with other graduate students. It’s boring, unproductive, and self-indulgent.
  • Write only one course paper per semester. During my last three semesters of coursework, I would arrange my schedule so that I only had to write a full research paper for one of my courses. I would audit some of my classes. And for the full-credit courses, I would write a historiography paper (usually to compliment the full paper); or I would create a translation, an edition, etc. This made my life much less stressful, and it made my papers much stronger.
  • Read widely. I’m currently reading Paul Vitz’s biography of Freud. Freud has nothing whatsoever to do with my dissertation, but I’m completely fascinated by Vitz’s thesis that Freud was an unconscious Catholic.
  • Get out of the library. I usually work from home. But when I’m reading at the library I always make sure to take a long walk to my favorite bakery, where I eat a big cookie. Life is too short!
  • Get out of academia. Go to the theater, go to a roller coaster park. Tutor, garden, volunteer. Don’t wait until summer break—do these things during the most stressful part of the semester.
  • Grade papers with a timer. Any highly literate person should be able to read and grade an undergraduate’s six-page paper in five minutes. When I grade my students’ essays, I set a five-minute timer for each paper. Often I go over the time limit, but it’s pretty exhilarating to race against the clock.
  • It’s OK to cancel office hours sometimes. Occasionally I hold my office hours in Central Park, or I cancel them altogether and walk up to the Metropolitan Museum. (I love to look at those pious portraits of Low Land burghers[2], whose neurotic work ethic and propensity for self-flagellation still inspires so many of us.)
  • Your students will respect you more if, just once during the semester, you use a four-letter word.
  • Don’t ask permission. A few semesters ago I decided to teach Chaucer’s Troilus and Criseyde in a required, freshman composition class. I knew that my supervisor would tell me it was a terrible idea to teach Middle English in an introductory course, so I never mentioned it to anybody until after the fact. The course was, of course, an overwhelming success, because students love to be challenged.
  • Ask for opportunities. In my experience, most of the people working in the university are kindhearted, bright individuals who recognize the struggles that graduate students face, and they’re more than willing to help—but they often don’t know how to help. But almost every time that I have asked for an opportunity, it has been afforded me. All you have to do is: figure out who to ask, figure out how to ask, and then ask.
  • See the big picture. Graduate students are in such bad shape for a reason: the folks who dictate national economic policy believe strongly in privatized, individualist entrepreneurship. We are impoverished, because (in theory) such material pressures will force us to compete, innovate, and create—in ways that benefit society at large. That ideology may or may not be flawed. But, for now, it’s all we’ve got to work with. And, to some extent, it is working. On the micro-economic level (i.e., in terms of my own quality of life) being a graduate student kind of sucks sometimes. But, on the macro-economic level, the system produces quality researchers and teachers for what is arguably the world’s best university system.

Looking at the situation from a global perspective, I’m grateful that the American taxpayer is willing to fund my quixotic investigations of medieval poetry. I see it as my duty to repay society for its investment by working hard, teaching well, and creating new opportunities. It’s my responsibility to make the most of my time as a graduate student, and sometimes that means challenging preconceived ideas about what it means to be a graduate student.

A.W. Strouse is a poet who studies and teaches medieval literature at the City University of New York. Strouse’s articles have appeared in Romanic Review, Pedagogy, and Names; and Strouse’s recent book of poems, Retractions & Revelations, is available from Jerk Poet[3].


Digital Publishing Column: Yvonne Seale, “On Empathy in Editing”


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On Empathy in Editing

Yvonne Seale, Fall 2014 Assistant Editor

            You’d perhaps expect to learn a great deal about the craft of writing when working as the editor of a journal like Hortulus. It’s true. I learned to wrangle wayward apostrophes, to figure out where an argument needed to be shored up with a contextualizing paragraph, and the tricky art of unearthing topic sentences from where they’ve been buried mid-paragraph. But what I didn’t expect to learn was something more profound: that you are not what you write.

Getting to grips with the mechanical aspects of editing is an important thing for any aspiring academic to learn, one which benefits both the article on which you’re working and, ultimately, your own writing. I know from my experiences as an editor and as a peer reviewer that figuring out how to phrase the suggestions you want to make to an author, thinking through how to articulate a hunch you have about why that paragraph needs to be moved there, can help you to truly internalize writing rules you’ve been hearing for a long time. It may be an old adage, but it’s a true one—you only really understand something if you can explain it to someone else.

Yet this is not the most valuable aspect of the editorial experience. That lies in the way that working with someone else’s prose can change your own relationship with your writing. One of the most difficult things for a budding medievalist to learn in graduate school—or at least so it was for me—isn’t getting to grips with paleography, or the myriad uses of the Latin ablative, or even how to get through a lengthy comps exam reading list with relative speed. (Though each of these things carry their own special brand of frustration.) The most important thing is learning that you are not your work.

I know that may sound a little corny, and as the product of a stolid Irish farming family, I resisted fully understanding the maxim for quite some time. I was raised to believe that if something’s worth doing, it’s worth doing right, and that you should take pride in a job well done. There’s nothing inherently wrong with those ideas, but I think that how I internalized them led me to confuse the end-product with the process. Looking back at my undergraduate career, and even my time as a Master’s student, I can now see how that confusion led to a lot of stress, frustration, and anxiety. It’s possible to make a sincere effort with a paper or an article, to do the best you can with the information that you have, and still end up with a piece of work that doesn’t entirely do what you want it to do. And yet the most difficult thing turns out to be not looking that that draft that’s not what it should be, and figuring out how it needs to be fixed; it’s realizing that producing an imperfect draft isn’t a measure of your ability as a scholar.

What gives you a far better sense of your measure as a scholar is your ability to adapt your writing, to see the potential in your work, and to make something better of it. Working as an editor provides you with a good object lesson in the truth of this. Once an article has been accepted by a journal, an editor doesn’t work with just one version of it. At least during my stint at Hortulus, I got to see multiple versions of the same work: the original version (which was of course often itself the final iteration of many months of work), which I read through with an eye to identifying appropriate peer reviewers; the annotated versions which the reviewers return, marked up with what excited them or what they felt lacking; and then the revised version which the author returns, incorporating the reviewers’ suggestions. This version then goes through another round of line and structural edits before it’s ready for publication. The process allows you to see people making critiques, and then others taking those critiques and doing something with them—to see not just the polished final version, but also the various revisions of it along the way. Getting to observe this process at a remove helps to break down some of the fear that there are other scholars out there—the nebulous “good ones”—who are able to produce perfect work without so much as a bead of swear dampening their brow. When you get a seminar paper or a dissertation chapter back from an advisor and it’s liberally annotated with suggestions for further readings, queries about the framing of your argument, or even the occasional inscrutable ‘???’, it is in no way proof that you are less good than other graduate students, or that you are not working as hard as your peers. Critique is just one step in the process, one that will hopefully let you see the potential in your work.

Working as an editor also makes you see that you have something to offer as a scholar, that you have amassed a body of knowledge on your area of study on which you can draw. The work that you put into structuring the historiographical section of your master’s thesis—you can draw on that to provide advice to someone who’s struggling to make the framework of their article cohere. All that reading you did for your comps exams—that lets you come up with a reference to a journal article that will help to bolster the point that the author has made. As graduate students, there’s still so much for us to learn about the craft of being a historian or a literary scholar, but it’s not self-important for us to recognize that our own work is built upon a steadily expanding knowledge base.

Yet equally, to be a diligent editor also requires a recognition of the fallibility of critique, of the fact that those who review work are not omniscient. Their assessment may be wrong; they may want the author to have written a completely different manuscript. I know that when I edit something, I do so out of a sincere desire to help someone improve their work and the belief that my suggestions will help the author to do so. However, I don’t presume to think that my advice is always right just because it’s well-intentioned, nor am I so naïve as to think that all peer reviewers are working from the same good motivations. Having to critique others’ work has helped make it much clearer for me, that the critique which I receive on my work is something to be taken seriously and thoughtfully, but also as counsel rather than a final judgment.

Part of being a good editor is treating another’s work with empathy, mindful of the labor that has been put into it so far and looking always for its potential—and when you learn to do that with a colleague’s work, you learn to do the same with your own.