Dr Almut Suerbaum, Vice Principal of Somerville College and Lecturer in Medieval German, has featured in a BBC Radio 4 programme focused on the life and work of Hildegard of Bingen, which was broadcast again at 9.30pm on 26 June.

Hildegard of Bingen lived in what is now Germany in the twelfth century, where she was an abbess, a writer, a visionary and one of the first composers of music whom we know by name. Her advice was sought across Europe, and she corresponded with key political and religious European leaders of her day. Her writings include visions, prophetic comments on the state of the church, but also herbal medicine and cosmology.

“Hildegard does not quote the church fathers, but alludes to them, so when she says she is ‘indocta’ [a non-scholar] she doesn’t mean she is uneducated,” said Suerbaum. “She is writing in a Benedictine tradition, imbued in the range of texts which form part of the daily monastic readings. That is likely to have included Augustine, Rhabanus Maurus, the great commentator, and probably also contemporaries such as Rupert von Deutz.”

Dr Almut Suerbaum is particularly interested in the dialogue between Latin and vernacular culture, and in dialogue as a literary form. She is the convenor of the Somerville medievalist research group, which has just completed a collaborative project on polemic in the pre-modern period. It was the second project of its kind and received attention in the 2014 Somerville Magazine.

The programme can also be listened to online.

Fellow BBC Radio success

Fiona Stafford, Professor of English Language and Literature at the University and a Fellow of Somerville College, was also featured on BBC Radio in 2014, when she presented a 5-part series called The Meaning of Trees on BBC Radio 3 in mid-May.

The series, which ran for one working week, drew on the literary and historical associations trees have amassed over the centuries in Britain and took a different species for each programme: Pine, Hawthorn, Apple, Poplar and Rowan.

A feature article on Professor Stafford’s Radio series appeared on the College website in May.

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