Carol Symes

 Carol Symes

Contact Information

309 Gregory Hall, MC-466, 810 S. Wright St.
Associate Professor
View CV

Additional Campus Affiliations

Biography

Carol Symes received the Ph.D from Harvard and became a member of Actors’ Equity in the same year.  She also holds a B.A. from Yale, an M.Litt from Oxford, and a Certificate in Stage Combat from the Society of British Fight Directors, earned during professional training at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School.  Her first book, A Common Stage: Theater and Public Life in Medieval Arras (Cornell University Press, 2007), has been awarded the Herbert Baxter Adams Prize of the American Historical Association, the John Nicholas Brown Prize of the Medieval Academy of America, the David Pinkney Prize of the Society for French Historical Studies, and the Bevington Prize of the Medieval and Renaissance Drama Society She is the editor, with Caroline Goodson and Anne Lester, of Cities, Texts and Social Networks, 400-1500  (2010); and co-author, with Joshua Cole, of W.W. Norton's bestselling Western Civilizations textbook. 

Fundamentally, her research focuses on histories of communication and transmission: the means by which people of the past exchanged ideas and information; and the processes by which artifacts and understandings of the past are transmitted to future generations. Her current book project, Mediated Texts and Their Makers  in Medieval Europe analyzes the material conditions and embodied uses of writing, the give-and-take among multiple genres of documentation and multiple literacies, and the fundamental influence of performance on the making and meanings of medieval texts.  It reveals that many non-elite historical actors were involved in negotiating, drafting, disseminating, and interpreting the sources on which we rely for our knowledge of the past. This project has been supported by a Burkhardt Fellowship from the American Council of Learned Societies and a residency at the National Humanities Center in 2013-14. It is under contract with Penn Press and will be completed with the support of a fellowship from the National Endowment for the Humanities (2017-18).

Another ongoing project, Modern War and the Medieval Past: The Middle Ages of World War I, explores the ways that ideas, monuments, and landscapes associated with the Middle Ages were sentimentalized, targeted, destroyed, and revived before, during, and after the Great War.  Meanwhile, some very new research looks at how the experience of incarceration shaped Shakespeare's actors, audiences, and plays.  It grows out of the lessons she learned while teaching and performing Shakespeare's plays at the Danville Correctional Center, a medium-maximum security state prison for men. She subsequently founded the Education Justice Project's Theatre Initiative and directed a full-length production of The Tempest in April of 2013.

Carol Symes is the founding executive editor of The Medieval Globe, the first academic journal to promote a global approach to medieval studies. This biannual publication explores the modes of communication, materials of exchange, and myriad interconnections among regions, communities, and individuals in an era central to human history. It encourages and promotes scholarship in three related areas of study: the direct and indirect means through which peoples, goods, and ideas came into contact with one another; the deep roots of allegedly modern global phenomena; and the ways in which perceptions of “the Middle Ages” and “the medieval” have been (and continue to be) constructed, shaped, and deployed around the world, in a global context. TMG's inaugural double issue was published in 2014: Pandemic Disease in the Medieval World: Rethinking the Black Death, edited by Monica H. Green. It is now available in book form.

At Illinois, Symes holds joint appointments in Theatre, Global Studies, and Medieval Studies, as well as in History. She is also affiliated with the Unit for Criticism and Interpretive Theory. In the past few years, she has begun to create stageworthy translations of several important medieval dramas, including the Anglo-Norman Ordo representacionis Ade (the so-called Jeu d'Adam), the Latin comedy Babio,  and the monumental Ludus de Antichristo.  All have been staged in productions directed by one of her current Ph.D students, Kyle A, Thomas.  Her verse translation of The Play of Adam  had its world premiere at The Cloisters (Metropolitan Museum of Art) in New York on December 17-18, 2016. It was restaged and filmed at Illinois in 2017.

Carol Symes is the recipient of the Queen Teaching Prize for Instruction in History (2007) and the Dean's Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (2008).  She was named Helen Corley Petit Scholar for 2008-09.  In 2011, she was appointed Lynn M. Martin Professorial Scholar, an appointment that was renewed in 2014. To date, her work has been supported by the Mellon Foundation, the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Center for Advanced Study at the University of Illinois, and the Centre for Medieval Studies at the University of York.  She has also been Visiting Associate Professor of History at Harvard.

Education

  • Ph.D Harvard
  • Bristol Old Vic Theatre School
  • M.Litt. Oxford
  • B.A. Yale

Selected Publications

Journal Articles

Popular Literacies and the First Historians of the First Crusade Past & Present 236 2017, p. 37-67.
The ‘Desire of Deeds’: On Cherishing Medieval Charters English Language Notes - special issue on Medieval Materiality 53 2 2015, p. 149-159.
Photo of publication
Introducing 'The Medieval Globe' The Medieval Globe 1 2014, p. 1-8.
The Drama of Conflict and Conquest: Medieval Theatre's First Millennium ROMARD: Research Opportunities in Medieval and Renaissance Drama 51 2013, p. 5-10.
Bouhaïk-Gironès, Marie, and and Carol Symes (translator) Comment faire l’histoire de l’acteur au Moyen Âge" by Marie Bouhaïk-Gironès -- translated as "How Can We Write the History of the Actor in the Middle Ages? ROMARD: Research Opportunities in Medieval and Renaissance Drama 50 2012, p. 31-46.
When We Talk About Modernity American Historical Review 116 2 2011, p. 715-26.
The Medieval Archive and the History of Theatre: Assessing the Written and Unwritten Evidence for Premodern Performance Theatre Survey 52 2011, p. 1-30.
The Middle Ages between Nationalism and Colonialism French Historical Studies 34 2011, p. 37-46.
The History of Medieval Theatre / Theatre of Medieval History: Dramatic Documents and the Performance of the Past History Compass 7 2009, p. 1-17.
The Performance and Preservation of Medieval Latin Comedy European Medieval Drama 7 2003, p. 29-50.
The Appearance of Early Vernacular Plays: Forms, Functions, and the Future of Medieval Theater Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies 77 2002, p. 778-831.

Book Contributions

Photo of publication
Knowledge Transmission: Media and Memory A Cultural History of Theatre in the Middle Ages edited by Jody Enders. Knowledge Transmission: Media and Memory Edited by Jody Enders, London Bloomsbury Publishing 2017, p. 199-211.
Medieval Battlefields and National Narratives, 1830-1918 Myth, Memory, and the First World War in Scotland: The Legacy of Bannockburn edited by Gill Plain. Medieval Battlefields and National Narratives, 1830-1918 Edited by Gill Plain, Lewisburg Bucknell University Press 2016, p. 83-100.
Ancient Drama in the Medieval World The Reception of Greek Drama edited by Betine van Zyl Smit. Ancient Drama in the Medieval World Edited by Betine van Zyl Smit, Hoboken Wiley-Blackwell 2016, p. 97-130.
Liturgical Texts and Performance Practices Understanding Medieval Liturgy edited by Helen Gittos, edited by Sarah Hamilton. Liturgical Texts and Performance Practices Edited by Helen Gittos, Edited by Sarah Hamilton, Aldershot, Eng. Ashgate 2015, p. 239-267.
Ordo representacionis Ade" (Play of Adam) and "Babio The Broadview Anthology of British Literature Ordo representacionis Ade" (Play of Adam) and "Babio Peterborough, Ontario Broadview 2012, p. 10-67.
Repeat Performances: Jehan Bodel, Adam de la Halle, and the Re-Usable Pasts of Their Plays Collections in Context edited by Anne Hedeman, edited by Karen Fresco. Repeat Performances: Jehan Bodel, Adam de la Halle, and the Re-Usable Pasts of Their Plays Edited by Anne Hedeman, Edited by Karen Fresco, Columbus The Ohio State University Press 2011, p. 275-287.
The Tragedy of the Middle Ages Beyond the Fifth Century: Interactions with Greek Tragedy from the Fourth Century B.C.E to the Middle Ages edited by Ingo Gildenhard, edited by Martin Revermann. The Tragedy of the Middle Ages Edited by Ingo Gildenhard, Edited by Martin Revermann, Berlin De Gruyter 2010, p. 335-69.
Out in the Open, in Arras: Sightlines, Soundscapes, and the Shaping of a Medieval Public Sphere Cities, Texts, and Social Networks, 400-1500: Experiences and Perceptions of Medieval Urban Space edited by Caroline Goodson, edited by Anne Lester, edited by Carol Symes. Out in the Open, in Arras: Sightlines, Soundscapes, and the Shaping of a Medieval Public Sphere Edited by Caroline Goodson, Edited by Anne Lester, Edited by Carol Symes, Aldershot, Eng. Ashgate 2010, p. 279-302.
Goodson, Caroline, and Anne Lester Introduction Cities, Texts, and Social Networks, 400-1500: Experiences and Perceptions of Medieval Urban Space Introduction Aldershot, Eng. Ashgate 2010.
The Confraternity of Jongleurs and the Cult of the Virgin: Vernacular Devotion and Documentation in Medieval Arras The Church and Vernacular Literature in Medieval France The Confraternity of Jongleurs and the Cult of the Virgin: Vernacular Devotion and Documentation in Medieval Arras Toronto Pontifical Institute of Medieval Studies 2009, p. 176-197.
Manuscript Matrix, Modern Canon Oxford Twenty-First Century Approaches to Literature: Middle English edited by Paul Strohm. Manuscript Matrix, Modern Canon Edited by Paul Strohm, Oxford Oxford University Press 2007, p. 7-22.
The Lordship of Jongleurs The Experience of Power in Medieval Europe, 950-1350 edited by Adam Kosto, edited by Alan Cooper, edited by Robert Berkhofer. The Lordship of Jongleurs Edited by Adam Kosto, Edited by Alan Cooper, Edited by Robert Berkhofer, Aldershot, England Ashgate 2005, p. 231-246.
Theatre Arts and Humanities through the Eras (Volume V): Medieval Europe (814-1450) edited by Kristin Figg, edited by John Friedman. Theatre Edited by Kristin Figg, Edited by John Friedman, Farmington Hills, MI Thomson Gale 2004, p. 377-416.
A Few Odd Visits: Unusual Settings of the Visitatio sepulchri Music and Medieval Manuscripts: Paleography and Performance. Essays in Honour of Andrew Hughes edited by John Haines, edited by Randall Rosenfeld. A Few Odd Visits: Unusual Settings of the Visitatio sepulchri Edited by John Haines, Edited by Randall Rosenfeld, Aldershot, Eng. Ashgate 2004, p. 300-322.
The Boy and the Blind Man: A Medieval Play Script and Its Editors The Book Unbound: New Directions in Editing and Reading Medieval Books and Texts edited by Stephen Partridge, edited by Siân Echard. The Boy and the Blind Man: A Medieval Play Script and Its Editors Edited by Stephen Partridge, Edited by Siân Echard, Toronto University of Toronto Press 2004, p. 105-143.

Edited Books

Photo of publication
Symes, Carol (executive editor), and Green Monica H Pandemic Disease in the Medieval World: Rethinking the Black Death - The Medieval Globe, volume 1 Bradford and Kalamazoo Arc-Medieval Press 2014.
Photo of publication
Symes, Carol, Caroline J. Goodson, and Anne E. Lester Cities, Texts, and Social Networks, 400-1500: Experiences and Perceptions of Medieval Urban Space Aldershot, Eng. Ashgate 2010.
Photo of publication
Brophy et al., with James M Perspectives from the Past: Primary Sources in Western Civilization, 6th edn New York W. W. Norton & Co. 2016.

Special Issues of a Journal

Photo of publication
Pandemic Disease in the Medieval World: Rethinking the Black Death, edited by Monica H. Green THE MEDIEVAL GLOBE 1 2014. WEBSITE.
Photo of publication
Legal Worlds and Legal Encounters THE MEDIEVAL GLOBE 2 2 2016.

Reviews

The Oxford History of Historical Writing, Volume 2: 400-1400 edited by Sarah Foote, edited by Chase Robinson. English Historical Review 129 Edited by Sarah Foote, Edited by Chase Robinson, 2014, p. 1158-1161.
Authorship and Publicity before Print: Jean Gerson and the Transformation of Late Medieval Learning by Daniel Hobbins. American Historical Review 115 Source Author Daniel Hobbins, 2010, p. 1438-1440.
Periodization and Sovereignty: How Ideas of Feudalism and Secularization Govern the Politics of Time by Kathleen Davis. Journal of Modern History 82 Source Author Kathleen Davis, 2010, p. 158-159.

Essays

The Shakespeare Teacher: Shakespeare's Globe and the Prisoner's World The Feedback Loop Washington, D.C. American Historical Association 2013, p. 21-28.

Audio or Visual Publications

The Tempest (performed at Danville Correctional Center) Education Justice Project 2013. ONLINE.
Our Play (a medley of scenes by William Shakespeare performed at Danville Correctional Center) Education Justice Project 2012. Our Play (video).

Books

Photo of publication
A Common Stage: Theater and Public Life in Medieval Arras Ithaca Cornell University Press 2007.
Photo of publication
Symes, Carol, and Joshua Cole Western Civilizations, 19th edition New York W.W. Norton & Co. 2016.
Photo of publication
Symes, Carol, and Joshua Cole Western Civilizations: Fourth Brief Edition New York W.W. Norton & Co. 2015.
HISTORY IN DEED: Medieval Society and the Law in England, 1100-1600 Cambridge, Mass. Harvard Law Library 1993. ONLINE.
Photo of publication
Symes, Carol, and Joshua Cole Western Civilizations, 19th edition New York W. W. Norton & Co. 2017.

Website Articles