The SPECTRESS project enabled me to spend a month in New Haven at the Center for Cultural Sociology at Yale University. I trained as an art historian and my research concentrates on medieval manuscripts, so my time at Yale enabled me to engage with ideas from outside my own discipline. I very much enjoyed the opportunity to learn from my host Ron Eyerman and the lively and welcoming community at the Center. My research project asked whether Cultural Trauma theory, which has largely been developed through an exploration of modern and contemporary case studies, could be of use in the study of the distant past. I took as a case study the White Ship disaster of 1120. On the 25th of November the ship carrying the heir to the English throne and many other members of the nobility sank, apparently causing the death of all but one of those on board. This event was recorded in histories, poems and images (and continues to inspire fictional accounts in contemporary literature).
Historians have used these sources to attempt to establish what happened, and the consequences of this event. Cultural Trauma theory prompted me to re-examine the primary source evidence to explore when, where, and how the disaster was recorded, with particular emphasis on the accounts produced during the period when consequences of the death of the heir to the throne led to civil war. In conducting this research I was able to use the exceptional facilities of the Beinecke Library and the Sterling Memorial Library, and I am extremely grateful to the staff for all their help.
While I was in New Haven I also enjoyed the chance to explore the fantastic collections in the University Art Gallery and the Center for British Art. I was also inspired by the public lectures and Women’s Faculty Forum events, and enjoyed meeting some of the many visiting fellows from around the world.