Emma Olson

Woolf Institute PhD Scholar


Emma Olson has been awarded the Woolf Institute Cambridge Scholarship to commence her PhD Studies in 2023 in History at Trinity College under the supervision of Dr John Arnold.

Emma's doctoral project will explore the role of sound, music and speech in interreligious encounters in the thirteenth-fourteenth century trans-Pyrenean frontier of southern Francia and north-eastern Iberia, at a time when Christian rulers were working to expand and solidify their control over multi-ethnic, multi-religious populations with a long and complicated history of sharing their cities. There, no sole authority or culture could dictate or contain noise production. Christian church bells and civic trumpets competed and blended with the muezzin’s call to prayer and the Jewish shofar; forms of Mozarabic and Latin chant struggled to differentiate themselves through slight variations in musical modes; Christian troubadours and Muslim juglares performed in the same courts; and secular and ecclesiastical authorities experimented with methods of regulating the sounds of speech and song with new written recording technologies. Emma will locate and analyse examples like these as "sonic violence": opportunities for medieval people to weaponise sound, but also productive moments of intense interaction, communication and interfaith exchange. Ultimately, she hopes to understand how sonic violence performed power, difference and faith in this culturally rich but indeterminate and contested region.

Emma received a BM in Music Performance from the University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign and an MA in Medieval Studies from Yale University.

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