Building Legacies, Founding Dynasties: Motherhood, Construction and Lineage in the Literature of the Middle Ages (Kirsty Bolton)

This week, Kirsty took us through the role of Medieval women in terms of lineage, as well as their depiction in contemporary literature. During this era, women were subject to patriarchal control, and so their representation in literature is an important avenue of research.

Kirsty has particular interest in the relationship women seem to have with water. The first character that was discussed is that of Melusine, a Medieval woman from folklore who is often depicted as a serpent or fish.

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Throughout the story of Melusine, the daughter of a human father and a fairy mother. It is often eluded that she too has fairy powers; for example, she leads her sisters in the revenge against their father by locking him in a mountain. As punishment, when she is married she cannot see her husband on Sundays, which is when she would transform into something Other than human (generally thought to be a mermaid). Further evidence of her possible fairy heritage is seen in the strange deformities eight of her ten sons have, although this could also be a part of her punishment.

Eventually, Melusine’s husband breaks his vow and spies on her during her enchanted bath on a Sunday, which causes her to transform into a dragon. However, the role of Melusine as mother is never diminished and is in fact entirely separate to her transformation, as each evening she returns to nurse her infant sons.

The second character that Kirsty discussed with us was the Lady of the Lake, who first appears in the Lancelot Grail.

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While Lancelot’s mother was fleeing from their besieged castle she is so consumed with grief at the death of her husband that she leaves Lancelot to die. It is here that the Lady of the Lake takes Lancelot from his mother and raises him, nurturing him as if he were her own.

The Lady of the Lake is perhaps more famous for giving Excalibur to King Arthur, therefore making his power one highly connected to water. The Lady of the Lake even acts as a foil to Morgan le Fay, thwarting her attempts to disrupt Arthur.

Like Melusine, it is suggested that the Lady of the Lake has a fairy heritage that allows her to live under the water or that the lake is actually a glamour to conceal her actual home; either way, her connects to magic and the lake are very strong.

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Investigation of Wave Impacts on Porous Structures for Coastal Defences (Robbie Mayon)

This week Robbie Mayon, one of the Southampton Marine and Maritime Institutes’ PhD researchers, spoke with our group about the impacts (literally and metaphorically) waves can have on our coastlines.

We are looking at roughly 1-meter rise in sea level over next 80 years as a best case scenario–worst case being a 2-meter rise, which would lead to over 1 million homes lost in the UK. We therefore must develop and deploy better coastal defence structures and materials if we hope to combat this.

There are four main types of waves: spilling, plunging, collapsing, and surging. Breaking_wave_types

For Robbie, plunging waves are key to his work. When a wave impacts, there’s a large pressure spike, followed by some oscillation afterwards. It is this pressure spike and the oscillations that come after that Robbie is currently modelling to determine what can be done to dampen the effects of these types of waves. He uses OpenFOAM CFD Package to model his waves, using a Dambreak flow simulation.

The main area of concern that he has encountered is air bubbles in the water, as the fluctuations of these bubbles can cause further impacts on the coast (or area that was impacted). His research is focusing in on a way to eliminate these air bubbles, and thus lessening the damage from waves.


Robbie graduated with a BEng degree in Civil and Structural engineering from the University of Aberdeen in 2006, with his dissertation focussing on Finite Element Methods for the design of structural steel connections. Following on from this he worked as a Structural Design Engineer with a consultancy firm based in the British West Indies. In 2014 he obtained an MSc degree in Engineering Simulation and Modelling (First class honours) from Dublin Institute of Technology, Ireland, with his dissertation focusing on investigating the phenomenology of soil liquefaction and subsequent slope failure using the smoothed particle hydrodynamics method.