Last week, the results of the Science Media Centre Video Competition was judged. It was an incredible competition, open to previous participants of the SMC’s science video workshops. There were eight entries, and the judges were incredibly impressed with the creativity and quality of the entries. I was fortunate enough to watch all eight entries and chat to a number of the participants. This week and next, we’ll be running a series of articles on the various projects. Today we’re looking at Professor Simone Marshall’s project on a very special and mysterious manuscript of Geoffrey Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales.
Who was Chaucer, and what are the Canterbury Tales?
Geoffrey Chaucer (1343-1400) is known as the Father of English literature, and is widely considered the greatest English poet of the Middle Ages. A Renaissance-man of sorts, Chaucer achieved fame during his lifetime as an author, philosopher and astronomer, as well as maintaining an active career in the civil service as a bureaucrat, courtier and diplomat. He is best known for his works The Canterbury Tales, The Book of the Duchess, The House of Fame, The Legend of Good Women and Troilus and Criseyde.
The Canterbury Tales is a collection of 24 stories that runs to over 17,000 lines written in Middle English between 1387 and 1400. In the Tales, Chaucer uses the tales and descriptions of its characters to paint an ironic and critical portrait of English society at the time, and particularly of the Church. Chaucer’s use of such a wide range of classes and types of people was without precedent in English. Although the characters are fictional, they still offer a variety of insights into customs and practices of the time.
So what’s special about this particular manuscript?
Who was John Hamilton Mortimer?
John Mortimer (1740-1779) was a London painter, engraver, and etcher who won a lot of awards in London for his historical painting. A lot of the subjects of his works relate to English nationalism, and he produced a number of exhibitions of literary subjects, most notably twelve illustrations of Shakespeare’s works.
Did Mortimer draw the pictures upon which the engravings were based? Or did he copy another artist?
Mortimer engraved and etched his own illustrations. He exhibited his works at the London Society of Artists every year from 1762 until 1777.
You can see the collection of Mortimer’s prints here.
What are your goals with this research project?
What got you interested in science (English?) communication?
Why do you think science communication is important?
What’s your favourite medium for communicating your research?
Comments from judges
Simone’s video was very well received by the judges. In fact, she was granted second place in the competition. According to Baz, the video had a “great intro, titling text and music in keeping with era, dissolving through stills to a great piece to camera.” Simone ensured the video was”nicely framed” and looked up into the camera, keeping the viewer engaged. One qualm was that the viewer was only granted “a fleeting glimpse at the images” presented.
The narrative of this video is excellent; Simone “posits a discovery up front, climbs into some evidence and then leads us into the next quest,” namely, “how the book and illustrations come to be.”
According to Dacia, Simone’s video was
“One of the most polished examples we’ve judged from this or previous contests. Excellent use of music and the close ups of the engravings make us appreciate the beauty hidden away in these rare books. Love Simone’s use of action shots and selection of backdrops for her pieces to camera. All are beautifully lit and exposed so the colours really stand out. Great delivery and a really warm, engaging presence on camera. Whispering in the library and turning to gaze off into the distance at the close were brilliant touches. Top notch.”
Finally, Tessa commented:
“This video was tight and was really well put together. There was a good mix of speaking to camera and other movement shots. I liked the zoom into photo feature as a way to give static images some movement, but in this case as the images were the subject of the video, I would have appreciated more time to examine them as non-moving images.”
Associate Professor Simone Marshall is interested in anonymity in medieval literature, fifteenth-century English literature, medieval women’s literature, palaeography and codicology, academic writing, digital modes of writing. You can learn more about her work here.
Next month, the Science Media Centre will take its popular science video making workshops to Auckland and Hamilton, offering more researchers the chance to get science video savvy.
These video workshops (produced in collaboration with Baz Caitcheon) focus on giving scientists the tools and skills to communicate their research in short videos aimed at an online audience. You’ll learn how to capture footage that can then be used on platforms like Youtube and Vimeo and news websites like Stuff and Herald Online.
WHERE: Auckland, AUT (Wednesday, May 2nd, 8.30am – 12.30pm)
Hamilton, (date TBC)
You can learn more about these workshops and apply for them here.