Somerville welcomed two new Victoria Maltby Junior Research Fellows, Dr David Bowe and Dr César Enrique Giraldo Herrera, to the college at the beginning of this month.

Dr David Bowe

David Bowe

Dr David Bowe is a medieval and modern linguist and a lecturer in Italian and translation. Bowe, who grew up in Somerset, has remained in Oxford for most of his academic career and, in his words, has “gone from North to East via 19th century women’s colleges”. His undergraduate degree was at St. Hugh’s, his masters was at Somerville, his DPhil at St. Hilda’s, he then had a brief spell teaching at Balliol and, for a change of scenery, held two fellowships at Leeds University.

“There is a fantastic community of Medievalists both in Somerville and in Oxford” said Bowe. “The Somerville Medievalists have been really welcoming and have invited me into their community which has been really lovely.”

Bowe’s project for his 3-year stipendiary Junior Research Fellowship is titled ‘Buried in dialogue? Recovering female voices in medieval Italian lyric,’ and will investigate representations of women’s voices in the medieval Italian tradition.

Women’s voices in Italian medieval texts are largely men writing as women but there is one surviving woman poet from the period of whom Bowe is particularly interested. She writes under the nom de plum Compiuta Donzella di Firenze, which roughly translates as the accomplished young woman of Florence.

“Most lyric poetry is shaped by the traditions of courtly love – so it’s very much men writing allegedly either in service of or seduction of women. What she does is take some of those tropes and images and turn them on their head. She uses irony, critique and resistance to those images and those frameworks.”

Despite there only being a few texts by Compiuta Donzella di Firenze left, Bowe feels she deserves more recognition and attention. “She either gets marginalised as a footnote in a book about women writers in the Middle Ages or she’s not discussed within the context of that broader period.  I’m hoping to demarginalise her by situating her in a broader context of this idea of representations of women’s voices. “

Dr César Enrique Giraldo Herrera

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Somerville’s second new JRF, Dr César Enrique Giraldo Herrera, is a biologist and social anthropologist originally from Colombia. Herrera studied biology at the Universidad de los Andes in Colombia. He was first interested in anthropology after doing fieldwork working with bats.

“I was working with an Amerindian collaborator and he turned out to be a very interesting person who knew a lot about bats because he was interacting with them all the time. When I was working with him I understood that there were other ways of understanding nature and that if you paid a little bit more attention to what people knew about their local environment you learned more than if you just tried to experiment from a western point of view.”

Herrera went on to study for a magister in Social Anthropology at the same university in Colombia. He then completed a PhD in the subject at the University of Aberdeen and went on to teach and to be a Postdoctoral Researcher at the University of Iceland. For his 3 year Junior Research Fellowship at Somerville, Cezar will be focusing on shamanism and microbiology.

His research is in light of shamanism in Amerindian culture being reassessed and regarded as management techniques for health and the environment. The widely accepted view, that shamanism is a spiritual practice, was propagated by missionaries of the 16th century.

“The entities that shamans are dealing with, for example entities that cause diseases or protect certain species, are thought to be perceivable under certain circumstances and under these circumstances are considered to have bodies and to reside in certain particular places in the body. The notions shamans are putting forward and the way they understand the body as something which is fluid and contagious are more coherent with modern notions of microbiology than notions of religion.”

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