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BL Manuscript, Royal MS 19 C II, f. 48v. Detail of Prudence writing at her desk.

I am an active researcher of medieval English literature, manuscripts, and language, in the Department of English, Languages, and cultures at Mount Royal University in Calgary, Alberta, Canada. I’m lucky to have my own research projects that are suitable for an independent researcher, and to collaborate on others that lend themselves to various investigators. Currently my research activities stretch across four research projects that are independent, yet connected, via the concept of emergence.

The Material Medieval Memory Project

The Material Medieval Memory Project (MMMP) is where the bulk of my research Researching the medieval means that new aspects, issues, and cruxes of and from the medieval are consistently emerging.energies currently emerge. The MMMP investigates how materiality acts as a form that helps us locate that which is not locatable, such as liminal or marginalized identities,

Recent project activity:

or that which exists in indeterminate spaces, such as memory and memories. The MMMP works to make digital humanities accessible to the public, and it encourages research about medieval cultures because doing so furthers our collective understanding of not only medieval culture, but Canadian and global cultures and identities. We need methods of engaging with the medieval in meaningful ways that actualize clearly facilitated connections with local communities and that yield sustained collaboration and broad scholarly exchange.

  • Fall 2018 – English 4410: Select Topics in Medieval Literature, 650-1500: Material Medieval Memory: encountering environmental memorialization. Calgary, AB. Mount Royal University.
  • May 2018. The Material Medieval Memory Project:  implications for shaping literary memory via the Environment. Research Panel, Canadian Society of Medievalists, Canadian Federation for the Humanities and Social Sciences, University of Regina Carter,
    • Jaclyn (University of Calgary): “Memorializing Matter: Early Medieval Scandinavian Identities and their Material Memories”
    • McGillivray, Murray (University of Calgary): “Deforestation, Energy Penury, and the Old English Poems of the Exeter Book”
    • Olsen, Kenna L. (Mount Royal University): “Building matters: a case study in partnerships for environmental sustainability”
  • April 2018. Olsen, Kenna L.  “Memorialising Self-Representation:  Manoeuvres of Medieval Materiality      in Letters by Women.” 52nd Annual Conference of the Medieval Association of the Pacific. University of Nevada.  Las Vegas, Nevada.
  • April 2018. Olsen, Kenna L.  and Elias Fahssi.  “Manufacturing Meaning:  Medieval and Modern Materia lSustainability?”  The Graduate College Speaker Series.  Calgary:  University of Calgary.
  • Winter 2018 – English 4401: Select Topics in Themes, Forms, and Genres: Genres of sustainability: ecocriticism and the status of the modern. Calgary, AB. Mount Royal University.
  • January 2018 – December 2019:  “Building matters: a case study in partnerships for environmental sustainability.” With Elias Fahssi, (DIRTT Environmental Solutions, Ltd.).

This case study, funded by MRU’s Institute for Environmental Sustainability, argues that solutions for sustainability are complex and require approaches that bring together methods beyond independent knowledge fields or disciplines.  Research silos undermine society’s ability to seek sustainable methods and produce them for perpetuity.  Building matters is a localized case study that alleviates this obstacle to sustainability.  This collaborative partnership uses knowledge of the human past as evidenced in the human responses to the environment, its changes and challenges, locatable in medieval literatures and charters, by way of the MMMP, and incorporates this knowledge in DIRTT’s goal to find new methods to replace practices of construction that undermine sustainability and endanger human welfare.

Current Research Assistants:

  • Tess Brilling
  • Michael Lazar
  • Samantha Purchase
  • Former Research Assistants:
  • Jeremy Blunt
  • Elizabeth Dizon

The Cotton Nero A.x. Project

The Cotton Nero A.x. Project is a collaboration between an international team of scholars with the collaboration of the British Library. We are using digital technology to improve the accessibility of British Library MS Cotton Nero A.x (art. 3) (in high-quality digital images and in extremely detailed transcription) and to create critical editions of the four poems it contains.

Cotton Nero A.x (art. 3) is the only known manuscript containing the famous 14th century poems PearlCleannessPatience, and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. The goals of the project are first of all to make available high-quality digital photographs of the entire manuscript; second to transcribe the entire manuscript at the highest possible level of accuracy and detail; and finally to produce editions of each of the individual poems in which the digital facsimiles and the new transcriptions serve as a basis for a standard critical and reading text with glossary, full textual and explanatory notes, and other supports for readers.

My main roles as the critical editor of the Middle English Cleanness and the co-author of the project’s transcription policy mean that I have participated in new readings and discoveries of the poem and its manuscript. Please visit the project’s website here: www.gawain-ms.ca

Material Girls

Material girls: Middle English secular female scribes and their cultural agents aims to answer these questions: did women living in England during the Middle English period copy books?; and how did women living in England during the Middle English period signal their participation in literary and book producing culture of their time? The question of women’s participation in the Middle English literary culture remains one of the most mysterious and haunting for present day medieval literary scholars.

This project addresses the difficulty of scribal analysis and issues of evidence and unawareness regarding records of female literary participation. This research aims to better determine the actuality of women’s lives in medieval England, suggesting that women participated in the Middle English literary culture.

I am the principal researcher of this project, though I have employed a number of Research Assistants via the project. Please visit the project’s website here: medievalmaterialgirls.ca

Emergence as Method and Theme for SoTL Research

In 2017, I participated in Emergence as Method and Theme for SoTL Research with Dr. Ada Jaarsma (Philosophy, MRU). This project (via a TransCanada SoTL Mentorship grant from MRU’s Institute for Scholarship of Teaching and Learning) examines “emergence” as an under-utilized yet valuable concept for SoTL, one that is useful as both theme for SoTL research and methodological commitment for scholarly teaching practices.

Recent project activity:

  • July 2018. Olsen, Kenna L.  “Emerging Medievalisms:  Tweets, Pods, Popular, and Popularized New Medieval Media.  New  Chaucer Society.  University of Toronto.  Toronto, ON.
  • July 2018. Olsen, Kenna L.  “’How onkynde so euer I haue ben…let me know your mynde’: Grievances Remembered, Kindnesses Manipulated, and Charities Sought – Emergence of Female Memory and Identity in Middle English Material Culture.”  Leeds International Medieval Congress.  Leeds University.  Leeds, UK.