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Workshop in the History of Material Texts

Sonja Drimmer (UMass Amherst): “Bad Impressions: Livery Badges and Lucre in Late Medieval England”

Livery Badge

Monday, February 15, 5:15pm, via Zoom

Our speaker writes:
At the center of my talk is an utterly unimpressive object: the livery badge. Cheap, lead alloy medallions, livery badges bear the insignias of members of the nobility who would distribute them as well as cash payment bearing the face of the king to individuals in their service. Both of these exchangeable objects—badges and coins—enacted social, political, and economic alliances in fifteenth-century England. Both are also a form of replicable portraiture. And both, over the course of the fifteenth century, underwent formal and material changes that caused their possessors to doubt their value.

This talk is part of a larger project that examines a variety of reproducible media that preceded movable type as political discourse in visual and material form. None of the objects considered in this project—from heraldry and genealogical rolls to, horribly, the bodies of the decapitated and the lists that bear their names—were new media. Yet in the quantity, manner, and contexts of their production, distribution, and display, they threatened the foundations of the social and economic affiliations they forged. What does it mean when the most potent media for political discourse are themselves the instruments of doubt and suspicion? And why is it important to recognize the role of pre-print reproduction in this history?

About our speaker:
Sonja Drimmer is Associate Professor of Medieval Art in the Department of the History of Art and Architecture at the University of Massachusetts Amherst. She is the author of The Art of Allusion: Illuminators and the Making of English Literature, 1403-1476 (Penn, 2018), which received High Commendation for Exemplary Scholarship from the Historians of British Art. Most recently she edited a special issue of Digital Philology (2020), “Manual Impressions: Visualizing Print in Manuscript, Europe c.1450-1850,” which featured her introduction, “The Manuscript Copy and the Printed Original in the Digital Present.” Her articles have appeared in Gesta, the Journal of Medieval and Early Modern StudiesViatorExemplaria and elsewhere. And she has written public scholarship for The AtlanticThe Washington PostHyperallergic, and Bitch Media.

We are virtual for spring 2021! All are welcome. If you would like to receive details on how to attend upcoming Zoom meetings, please sign up for our listserv using this link or visit the Workshop website.

The Workshop in the History of Material Texts is supported by the School of Arts and Sciences through the Department of English and hosted by the Penn Libraries. The co-directors of the seminar are Professor Zachary Lesser (English), Jerry Singerman (Penn Press), and John Pollack (Kislak Center, Penn Libraries).

Associated with the workshop is the book series in Material Texts published by the University of Pennsylvania Press, which includes many monographs that have emerged from presentations given at the workshop over the years.

For more information, please contact Philip Mogen.