The First Ever Virtual International Medieval Congress

Every year, the Institute of Medieval Studies at the University of Leeds holds the International Medieval Congress (IMC), an event that provides a platform for people to share their ideas and research about the Middle Ages. The event has been held since 1994 and this year was the first time the IMC has been held virtually! The virtual IMC, or vIMC ran from the 6th of July to the 10th of July and had the theme “Borders”.

The entire event was accessible via the EventsUoL application. It had many apps and ways that you could interact, highlighted in the header picture of this blog 🙂

The app itself was really easy to navigate and I spent a lot of time going through all the options to see all the different types of events and activities that were available. Coming from a STEM background, I must admit that I do not have a lot of knowledge regarding Medieval Studies or the Middle Ages. However, when I attended two talks, “Dante between Borders” and “Medieval Video Games”, I found both to be incredibly intriguing and I was actually able to follow along quite well!

The first talk I attended was “Dante between Borders” and there were four papers presented. The four papers were around Dante’s work “Divine Comedy”. I couldn’t fully understand all of the content presented but I did pick up a few interesting things from the speakers. One of the speakers presented the different illustrations of a metaphor of a line in Dante’s Purgatory “La navicella del mia ingegno”. It was quite fascinating to see the different interpretations of the metaphor, one showing Dante commanding the ship through writing and the ship as a “vessel” to carry the weight of the mind. One of the examples shown by the speaker is the one below:

and the speaker pointed out how in this illustrations the “navicella” (literally “little ship”) is illustrated as a larger boat with a crew on board. Another speaker spoke about how the expansion of Florence and the architecture in the city influenced Dante’s work.

The second talk I attended was titled “Medieval Video Games” and this talk had a lot of people attending it! One particular topic that was how to sound “medieval” and how certain sounds perpetuated misogynistic preconceptions. For example, deep male voices were usually used to indicate violence and evil. On the other hand, female voices high female voices were associated with youth and pureness. Another speaker spoke about how Norse mythology is portrayed in video games is different from how Nordic countries brand themselves. I found both of these talks interesting and unique, and it definitely made me more interested in other topics around the Middle Ages and Medieval Studies!

Aside from the talks, there were a lot of virtual activities to see and participate in. One of them was a virtual exhibition run by a current Leeds PhD student: “Gold, Garnet and Lead: A Response to the West Yorkshire Hoard”. The virtual exhibition was in the form of slides where you could click on the items displayed to view more information regarding them. In line with the IMC, Leeds University Libraries and Galleries also did a takeover on their social media platforms. One of the activities I did was a virtual jigsaw puzzle, and I struggled a bit to the point that I thought some pieces were missing! It was a fun activity to do, and I even played alongside my family members to see who could finish it the fastest.

The SketchClub also ran had a theme of Illuminated Letters. I found the topic of Illuminated Letters to be fascinating that I looked more into it. Illuminated Letters is a form of art that can be found in medieval manuscripts and they are often colourful and decorated with silver or gold.  Here are a few examples of my favourite Illuminated Letters:

Lastly, I watched a virtual performance from The Clothworkers Consort of Leeds “Monteverdi and Purcell”. I enjoyed the performance a lot and despite it being recorded, I could appreciate the wonderful voices of the choir. You may watch the performance here.

This is my first time attending the IMC and I found it incredibly insightful and exciting! Despite the event moving online, I was still able to engage in events and exhibitions. If anything, this virtual IMC has made me even more excited for the event next year!


Joceline Kamajaya
Hello! My name is Joceline and I’m from Jakarta, Indonesia. I’m currently a Second Year Medicinal Chemistry student in University of Leeds. Before attending University of Leeds, I was a...
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