In the Fordham History Department the month of August is often a quiet time, but the department came back to life with excitement as two doctoral students defended their dissertations after years of research, writing, and revision. The History blog congratulates Elizabeth Kuhl and Jonathan Woods, who both successfully defended in the past few weeks.
Elizabeth Kuhl’s dissertation “The Dragon and the Cloister: History and Rhetoric in the Writing of Stephen of Rouen” addresses intellectual life at the important Norman abbey of Bec in the middle and later twelfth century. It was at this house that a monk named Stephen of Rouen created the striking but neglected Latin verse narrative Draco Normannicus. As Elizabeth demonstrates in her dissertation, the surviving manuscripts of Bec, including Stephen’s own personal handbook, can tell us a great deal about the context in which the Draco Normannicus was composed. Elements of the dissertation have already appeared in print and have been mentioned on this blog in previous posts.
Jonathan Woods’ dissertation is entitled “Rebellion and Reformation in Scotland: the Lords of the Congregation and the End of the Auld Alliance 1547-1561.” It is an account of the pivotal decades in which the Protestant Reformation took hold in Scotland, as a league calling itself “The Lords of the Congregation”, which included a large number of important nobles and landholders, fought the forces of Mary of Guise, Dowager Queen and then Regent of Scotland and defender of Catholicism. While the story of the war is well known to historians of early modern Scotland, Jonathan’s dissertation painstakingly reconstructs the makeup of the “Lords”, locating their efforts not only in the context of religion and high politics but also the aristocratic culture of the time.
Like all History defenses, Elizabeth and Jonathan were examined by five-member panels consisting of their committees and additional outside examiners. Both featured the participation of experts greatly knowledgeable in their fields, in Elizabeth’s case Professor Scott Bruce, and for Jonathan, Professor Jane Dawson of the University of Edinburgh. Professor Dawson joined participated via Skype from a cottage close to where the action of Jonathan’s dissertation had taken place!
Congratulations to Elizabeth and Jonathan for all their hard work.