Open lectures

Come along and join the MA students at our Open Lectures series. Attendance at the Open Lectures will cost £5 per lecture (payable on the door, or by booking online in advance - free for CCCU staff and students ).

The Open Lectures take place at our Canterbury Campus on Saturdays from 6.15pm - 7.45pm. You can book your place online.
For information you can call us on 01227 782919

Lectures takes place in Newton (Ng07)

Directions to our Canterbury Campus

NB: Please note that our Open Lectures are arranged differently this year. 
They will be in four groups of 3 rather than two groups of 5. 
The dates for the year are: 7 October, 21 October, 4 November, 13 January, 27 January, 10 February, 10 March, 24 March, 7 April, 19 May, 2 June, 16 June.

Spring Term 2018

January 13

Celestial Inspiration: How the astrological symbolism of stars, planets and signs has shaped English literature

Neil Spencer
Whisper it quietly - the truth makes the academies uncomfortable - but the language of astrology has left a startlingly deep imprint on English literature across the centuries. In this talk, Neil Spencer looks at some outstanding examples of how the symbolism of the heavens has shaped the literary canon. He will offer a simple guide to astrological symbolism (no previous knowledge necessary) before showing how it became an imaginative construct for assorted authors.

Under scrutiny are The Canterbury Tales by local author Geoffrey Chaucer, William Shakespeare’s Hamlet, the seven Narnia books of C.S. Lewis, Margaret Mitchell’s Gone With the Wind, Ted Hughes' Birthday Letters, J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter septet and Eleanor Catton’s 2013 Booker winner The Luminaries. Learn why Harry Potter is a Leo and Scarlett OHara an Aries, why there was a Talking Horse in The Magician’s Nephew, why Ted Hughes knew he and Sylvia Plath were destined lovers from their first encounter, and why the Earth going round the Sun was part of Hamlet’s angst. Other esoteric literary secrets will be available on a time-permitting basis.

Neil Spencer is a well-known journalist and writer. His background in popular music includes the editorship of New Musical Express during the papers most influential spell in the late 1970s and early 1980s. He has written about and interviewed many of pop’s greatest stars, including Bob Marley, Bob Dylan, Robert Plant, Bjork and The Slits. For the last 20 years he has written for The Observer about music, books, movies and for several years contributed a weekly horoscope column to The Observer Magazine. As a scriptwriter he is responsible for Bollywood Queen (2003), a masala musical set in London’s East End starring James McAvoy, and the forthcoming rock and roll road movie Burning Men, both directed by Jeremy Wooding. His book, True As The Stars Above, Adventures in Modern Astrology was published in 2002, and is currently being updated for e-book release in 2018. His 2010 face-to-face interview with the poster boy of rationalist scepticism, Richard Dawkins, is viewable on social media.


January 27

Late Medieval Art and the Sacralising of the Landscape

Joanne Anderson
This lecture will explore the sacralising of the landscape by focusing on exterior wall paintings in the late medieval Alpine territories and specifically the depiction of saints.

It will consider how their imaged presence on primary and secondary routes in the mountains managed the visual and spiritual experience of travellers as well as those in the local community, who lived with the imagery on a daily basis. In this way, we will think about apotropaic values but also aesthetic ones.

These painted saints persisted, and were therefore operational, in the landscape for up to one hundred years at a time which allows us to think about the temporal, spatial and experiential elements of 'art' and how they contributed to the sacralising of the landscape. On a more practical level, the lecture will also look to the jobbing artisans responsible for the making of the images, whose workshop practice speaks to circulation systems and the reality of seasonal migration.

Joanne Anderson is Lecturer in Art History at the Warburg Institute. Her research interests include Mary Magdalen in the medieval and early modern period, art and landscape and exhibition history. Joanne’s doctoral thesis on Mary Magdalen has been incorporated into her monograph, entitled Moving with the Magdalen: Late Medieval Art and Devotion in the Alps (Bloomsbury Academic, 2018). It focuses on the importance of the mountains to Mary Magdalen’s cult and contingent imagery found in parish churches and chapels across this geography. Her prior publications explore connections to pilgrimage, religious theatre and female patronage in the cross-cultural Alps. Before joining the Warburg, Joanne held positions at Birkbeck College (2014-15), the University of Sussex (2013-14) and the University of Warwick (2009-2013).


February 10

The House of the Grail

John Matthews
A number of medieval texts, beginning with the 12th century Perceval or Le Conte del Graal by Chrétien de Troyes, describe a visit to a castle, chapel or temple dedicated to the Holy Grail. It is evident that simply to visit these places is to effect a profound change upon the visitor. In effect the places were the Grail is housed are chambers of initiation.

In this talk John will look at several neglected texts, some previously untranslated, which offer detailed accounts of buildings constructed to house the Grail, and a possible source for a physical site which may have influenced the writers and architects who saw the Grail as a symbol of spiritual gnosis.

John Matthews is an independent scholar who has published over a hundred titles on the Arthurian Legends, Traditional Wisdom, and Grail Studies. He was recently guest editor of the journal Arthuriana, for which he edited a special issue on Modern & Post Modern Arthurian Fiction. John has been involved in a number of media projects, as an advisor and contributor, including the Jerry Bruckheimer film King Arthur (2004). He shared a BAFTA award for his work on the Educational DVD made to accompany the film. Much in demand as a speaker both in Europe and the USA, he has taught at (among others) the Temenos Academy in London, Oriel College, Oxford, and at the University of Seattle in Washington. He lives in Oxford with his wife, the writer Caitlin Matthews, and 2 literary cats.


March 10

The Work of Wonder

Patrick Curry
Patrick will be discussing the work of wonder in three senses: the work we must do to make a place for wonder in our lives, its effects -- the work it can accomplish in our lives -- and the question, how does wonder work?

The last point opens into wonder as part of a way of life, one which partakes of some closely-related modes. These include metaphoric, symbolic and divinatory. We will consider their common ground as well as subtle differences.

Patrick Curry  is a Canadian-born writer and scholar living in London. He holds a PhD in the History and Philosophy of Science from University College London and has been a lecturer at the Universities of Kent and Bath Spa. He is the author of, among other books, Astrology, Science and Culture (co-authored with Roy Willis; Berg, 2004), Defending Middle-Earth: Tolkien, Myth and Modernity (Houghton Mifflin, 2004), Ecological Ethics: An Introduction (Polity Press, 2011) and Deep Roots in a Time of Frost: Essays on Tolkien (Walking Tree Books, 2014). He also edited Divination: Perspectives for a New Millennium (Ashgate, 2010) and co-edited, with Angela Voss, Seeing with Different Eyes: Essays on Astrology and Divination (Cambridge Scholars Press, 2008). He is presently writing a book on enchantment and editing a new online journal, The Ecological Citizen ( Most of his papers, articles and reviews can be found on


March 24

Icons, Images of the Invisible

Peter Murphy
Icons are not really art that is meant to be hung in galleries or museums. Icons are Church Art that has a liturgical function. Crucially, what icons do, is place the liturgy in context. It is an attempt to make the inside of a church building into something like a reflection of the reality of heaven. Icons cut across all questions of what is current or relevant in Church Art.

They are, in modern parlance, supreme examples of conceptual, site specific installation art. Iconography is a language that attempts to convey the eternal now, the eternal present, representing all God’s friends and champions throughout time and history, in the eternal glory of his presence, worshipping along with the current congregation.

Some Orthodox theologians have referred to the icon simply as ‘The First Fruits of The Kingdom’; they are considered by some to be nothing less than redeemed matter, reflecting both the outpouring of God’s love for his creation and the iconographer’s reciprocating love for his creator. An offering, in love, of all the material elements of creation, the wood of the tree, the rocks of the earth, eggs from hens, fur from a squirrel, all reverently assembled and offered back to their creator as witness to the icon painters personal willingness to try and help participate in the creation of the New Jerusalem. Peter will take us on a visual journey through the History, Theology and Symbolism of Christian Icon Painting. He will explore the role of the icon in the life of the Church, examining great examples from the past, starting with the earliest surviving Christian images, right through to examples from his own contemporary practice as a working Iconographer.

Peter Murphy trained with noted iconographer Guillem Ramos Poqui in London. He uses traditional techniques from medieval religious painting, including egg tempera paint and gold leaf. He was Vice Chairman of the Society of Tempera Painters and is a member of The British Association of Iconographers for whom he runs workshops. He runs courses in the UK, Canada, Greece, and Italy teaching these techniques, and in addition leads groups on Sacred Art Tours to Italy and Sicily. He has been commissioned by a number of churches in the UK, notably Tewkesbury Abbey and Hereford Cathedral. He has also been employed by a number of museums for special exhibitions; he has recreated a triptych by Simone Martini for The Barber Institute of Fine Arts and created a mural of ten scenes from the life of Benedict Biscop for Bede's World Museum in Jarrow. He was one of a team on a BBC TV show that recreated Botticelli’s, ‘Birth of Venus’ in a week. He is currently undertaking his fifth major commission for The Dean and Chapter of Hereford Cathedral. In 2013 year he helped establish and is chief tutor for the St Peter’s Centre for Sacred Art, located in the medieval church of St Peter’s in the heart of Canterbury. He is visiting tutor in Byzantine Iconography and Early Italian painting and gilding techniques for the Edward James Foundation at West Dean College in Sussex. To view some of Peter’s work, please take time to view the following websites:,


April 7

The Sacred Embrace of Placebo


Victoria Young
In this lecture Victoria will explore the role of medicine and healing from an imaginal perspective. Looking at symptoms through neurobiological mechanisms, Victoria charts medicine from its mythological roots to its now largely mechanistic interpretation. This enables a deeper critique of Cartesian mind/body dualism, and the reductionistic model that medicine increasingly employs. This Cartesian approach limits illness to understanding the mechanisms through which a disease operates, rather than asking why it occurs. A trans-rational approach to medicine encourages a reinterpretation of symptoms to allow interpenetration between left and right brain modes of knowing. This increases our understanding and the value of metaphor within the context of illness and health. From this elevated position alternative and narrative medicine, including the often misunderstood placebo effect, has the ability to both evolve human consciousness and resolve symptoms. 

Victoria discusses the role of placebo (a subject that has confounded science and continues to do so), and sheds some light on the debate about its efficacy. This largely rests on the differences between those who believe there are no forces operative in nature other than material ones (based on knowledge acquired from observation of phenomena in a material world), and those who believe that imagination and intuition offer another avenue to knowledge. She suggests we need to consider medicine and healing from a genuinely holistic perspective that allows a system that is dynamic rather than static, and emergent rather than linear.

Victoria Young LCPHom (Lond) MCMA MA qualified in 1993 in homeopathy, and has been in full time practice since then, working in London in a multidisciplinary clinic with conventional and alternative practitioners.  She graduated with distinction from the MA in Myth, Cosmology and the Sacred in 2016. 



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Last edited: 15/12/2017 12:02:00