Brut in New Troy 2020
26-29 June 2020
Brut conquers Britain and builds New Troy (London).
London, British Library, MS Harley 1808, fol. 30v. © British Library.
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The conference is made possible by generous support from the Henkels Lecture Fund, Institute for Scholarship in the Liberal Arts, College of Arts and Letters, University of Notre Dame, for which we are very grateful.
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From at least the twelfth until well into the seventeenth century, the 'standard' version of Britain's history held that the realm’s founder was an exiled descendant of Aeneas called Brutus (or Brut), who came to the island with a band of Trojans, conquered the hostile giants living there, and named the land 'Britain' (or 'Britannia') after himself. The moment that marks Brut’s transition from warrior to king is his foundation of the capital city of New Troy, later known as London.
Geoffrey of Monmouth's Historia regum Britanniae (c. 1136) first popularized this matter and offered a history of Britain until its conquest by the Saxons, thus giving rise to the long-lived and diverse Brut tradition of the 'legendary history' of Britain. In the high and late Middle Ages, on both sides of the Channel, lay and clerical writers translated and transformed Geoffrey's Historia according to their own interests and purposes, in prose and in verse, and in Latin, continental and Anglo-Norman French, English, Welsh, and several other European languages. Many of these writers extended the narrative far beyond its original conclusion, bringing the story past the fall of the ancient Britons and all the way up to contemporary times. Britain's legendary history continued to be reimagined after the medieval period. Writers as late as John Milton (in his 1677 History of Britain) and even Charles Dickens (in his 1851-53 Child’s History of England) continued to draw on the Brut tradition: its profound and lasting influence on conceptions of Britain’s earliest past cannot be overstated.
This conference is devoted to the study of the Brut tradition in all of its variety. It is the first scholarly conference about the Brut tradition as a whole. It aims to bring together established academics, early career scholars, and graduate students from around the world, working in a range of disciplines (e.g. English, French, Medieval and Modern Languages, Celtic Studies, History, Art History), providing a forum for comparative, multilingual, cross-period, and cross-disciplinary investigations of Brut-related texts and manuscripts, including early histories of Britain. It builds on the triennial meetings of the International Lawman’s Brut Society, and while Lawman's Brut remains an important subject of inquiry this event also seeks to bring many more Bruts under the spotlight, and at the very heart of New Troy. Ultimately, it aims to facilitate multi-disciplinary and international scholarly discussions and collaborations, and in so doing it hopes to help to transform the field of Brut studies.