- Michael Drout has a post on crackpot theories and Beowulf.
- The Medieval Club of New York has the announcement for their "The Subjects of Friendship, Medieval and Medievalist" event on Friday, March 7th. Me, I'll be at a gala at the Fitzgerald Museum, but if you're out that-a-way, you should consider going.
- The Heroic Age has an update with all sorts of Calls for Papers and the like.
- Steven Till has the medieval term of the day, investiture, as well as the cover art for George R.R. Martin's next book.
- Navit struggles with primogeniture in Beowulf.
- Heavenfield has questions about King Alfrith of Northumbria, his relationship to Aldhelm, and his baptism.
- The weird medieval tribe this week is the Panotioi. Many of the descendants of the Panotioi have either been President or have run for the office.
- JLJ also gives us another installment of Today in Medieval History, in which she explains the origins of leap year. Please note, however, the skull & crossbones on her arm -- she's turned to piracy!
- Modern Medieval has been boasting that it is the top Google hit for the phrase "medieval porn." In an effort to attain medieval online supremacy, therefore, I include the following words in this post, carefully selected from Google Zeitgeist: American Idol, anna nicole smith, badoo, barack obama, bill richardson, britney spears, chris benoit, club penguin, dailymotion, ebuddy, facebook, fred thompson, Heroes, hillary clinton, hi5, iphone, iran, joe biden, john edwards, john mccain, mitt romney, myspace, nokes (ok, not really, but I was feeling left out), paris hilton, ron paul, rudy giuliani, second life, tmz, transformers, vanessa hudgens, webkinz, youtube, 2007 cricket world cup.
Friday, February 29, 2008
Thursday, February 28, 2008
Wednesday, February 27, 2008
At the moment, my Old English class is scheduled to be a traditional "brick & mortar" class meeting TTh 11:30-12:45. I can fight to get an evening slot instead, however, and see if I can get the University to let me teach it as a distance learning class.*
To do this would take a expenditure of political capital, as well as a big chunk of my time, not to mention re-designing the class to work in the DL environment. It's worth doing if I get enough people wanting to take it via distance learning, but definitely not worth it for two or three folks.
Therefore, I am willing to fight to change this to a DL class if I get enough commitments from you folks out there to take it. Notice I said "commitments" -- that is, you promise to take the class if it is at all possible -- a general vague interest is not enough. Please also note that the University isn't going to use all this expensive infrastructure for people who want to, ehem, "unofficially audit the class." You'll have to commit to actually taking the class as an official student.
This class is intended for undergraduates with no previous experience with Old English. Folks who have previously studied OE will not find much of use here, but on the good side there is no prerequisite. We'll start with a brief bit of the history of the English language, followed by a week's study of modern English grammar (which we'll use as a basis for the study of OE grammar -- those of you with Latin background will already know all that stuff). After that, the first half of the semester is learning grammar and vocabulary, so grading will be mostly by quiz, though you'll also be expected to do an oral recitation of some OE verse.** The second half of the semester will be translations of verse and prose.*** Every day I'll assign a certain number of lines for you to translate, and every day in class we'll go over the translations together. The final project will be to translate a certain number of lines of verse (usually around 20-30), and to write an accompanying essay defending the translation and editorial choices you made.
So, the upshot is this: If the above class sounds cool, and you are willing to commit to take the class from August to December 2008, e-mail me this week. If I get enough commitments, I'll fight to get a DL slot. If not, well, I hope you can find an Old English class near you. By the way, when you e-mail me, please also include your real name and contact information, not just your nom de blog.
*i.e. real-time, not e-mail, wherein distant students are watching on a monitor and participating via video cam and microphone.
** This is the part that current and future high school teachers find particularly useful -- confidence in pronunciation.
***No, we won't be translating Beowulf. I find it's too hard for beginners, though I may find a very tiny easy section for us to translate. We will however, be translating a few dirty riddles near the end of the semester as a little reward for those who have survived the Old English boot camp experience. Riddles are really, really hard to translate, but are so much fun that they're worth it.
Tuesday, February 26, 2008
- Michael Drout announces that he's finished the Anglo-Saxon Minor Poems for Anglo-Saxon Aloud. Hooray! I'm going to use that as a resource for my Old English class in the fall. By the way, watch this space for an announcement about the OE class.
- Mirror in the Smoke has a post about medieval lesbianism and other transgressive sexual acts.
- Jeff Sypeck sees Njal's Saga in a car wreck.
- Modern Medieval gets in on the "Why I Teach Medieval Lit" action.
- Steve Muhlberger points us to the Anglo-Norman Dictionary Online.
- Steven Till's medieval word of the day: heriot.
- Jennifer Lynn Jordan points us to the Anglo-Saxon Wikipedia. Oh, please, please, PLEASE someone create an entry for me! To have my name in the Anglo-Saxon Wikipedia ... well, with a career highlight such as that, I could just immediately retire.
- The Weird Medieval Animal is the dipsa.
Sunday, February 24, 2008
Preparing for battle
Discussing medieval fashion
Weaving and manuscript illumination
Fighting on the Quad
Friday, February 22, 2008
- Steven Till discusses the legal battle over Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit.
- News for Medievalists has an update, including an article about Wikipedia's refusal to remove images of Muhammad.
- Heavenfield's Person of the Week is Cynefrith, Abbot of Gilling. The question is asked there: why did he leave Wearmouth-Jarrow for Ireland? The answer is obvious: he heard Shamrock Shakes were available year-round there.
- Geoffrey Chaucer (the one who hath a blog) laments the passing of Sir William, aka "Ulrich von Liechtenstein"
- Dr. Virago tells us why she teaches medieval literature.
- Medieval Material Culture Blog gives us an article with this opening line: "The tiny Channel Island of Sark will meet on Thursday to discuss plans to bring Europe’s last feudal state in line with western democracies." Um, perhaps I'm missing something here, but if they've been voting on this issue, in what way are they feudal? Is it only the Chief Pleas who are meeting together to vote on this?
- Jonathan Jarrett has a post about the motives of Crusaders, and the rights/responsibilities of historians when they moralize about the past.
Thursday, February 21, 2008
Troy University’s MediEvolution Project and the International Student Cultural Organization welcome the community to a Medieval Demonstration on February 23rd from 10 am to 2 pm on Shackelford Quad in Troy, AL. This event features the Society for Creative Anachronism, a non-profit educational organization devoted to the study of the Middle Ages. The event will feature weapons demonstration, dance, arts and crafts, and much more. Troy University main campus hosts the event, encouraging visitors from the surrounding community. The International Student Cultural Organization (ISCO) is an organization devoted to promoting cultural exchange and understanding between international and American students. The Troy University English Department’s MediEvolution Project promotes medieval studies through popular outreach, such as this demonstration.
- Will McLean offers some medieval research resources, particularly around Middle English.
- John Holbo offers a review of Mervyn Peake: The Man and His Art. OK, not technically medieval, but I wanted to throw it in anyway.
- Scribal Terror offers a tale of "terror, pestilence, and a very nasty-smelling dead guy who wouldn't stay buried" from medieval England.
- Medieval Material Culture has a link to an article from the Telegraph, "Mutilated Body Identified as Edward II's Lover" ... indicaing that at least SOME of the dead in medieval England stayed that way.
- In the Middle links to the same article, and also asks what scholarly work has been done on the medieval body, as well as what needs to be done.
- Jeff Sypeck has a post contrasting sweet, Playmobil medievalism with the medievalism of the Battle of Kosovo. Definitely worth reading.
- Our Weird Medieval Animal this week is the caladrius, a bird that, if real, would be bred by life insurance companies.
- Heroic Dreams tells us of haunted castles, and a new element of the Highlander franchise.
- St. Columba offers marital counseling, and Heavenfield defends all the people who weren't Bede in the Age of Bede.
- Carl Pyrnum argues that his Appalachian roots make him a better medievalist, and also offers some medieval porn. Don't worry; it's work-friendly. And, by the way, by linking his page to the phrase "medieval porn," I've probably just given him the highest Google profile of any medieval blog.
Wednesday, February 20, 2008
Medieval elves have always struck me as being somewhat closer to our contemporary idea of fairies: small, mischievous little sprites, with just a bit more of a dangerous edge. Tinkerbell might betray you to Captain Hook, but medieval elves could shoot you and your livestock with invisible arrows that would make you sick, perhaps even mortally ill.
In that way, I don't think medieval elves occupied the position of "other" in the sense of being non/human.* There were "others" in the medieval mind -- for example, trolls in Scandinavian folklore often seem very nearly human, and certain kinds of fairies (the kind that look more like The Fairy-Queen or Midsummer Night's Dream fairies), as well as all those weird foreign tribes who are cynephalous or acephalous or scatocephalous.** Instead, they are a way of labelling the unknown.
Being "elfshot," which sounds ridiculous to the modern mind, is strikingly similar to the ideas that you and I hold to. "What? Invisible flying elves shoot you with invisible darts that you cannot even feel, and you become ill? Preposterous! Everyone knows that invisible flying creatures called germs and viruses, that you cannot even feel, enter your body and you become ill!"
How many times have we gone to see a physician about an ailment, and we are told "it's some kind of bug going around -- here, I'll prescribe you an antibiotic." Throwing antibiotics at patients is another way of saying that we don't know what is causing the illness, but it's probably some kind of bacteria. Ditto for a lot of other ailments. One problem with studying Latin is that you'll hear from your physician that you have something with a Latin name, and you realize from that Latin name that they don't know what's causing it either.
So, we throw a Latin tag on it, we label it "viral" or "bacterial" or whatnot, and we call it a day. As many times as not, this is really our way of saying that illness is caused by a variety of invisible things, and it could be any one of them. Elves and fairies occupy the same space, I think. Unlike witchcraft, which suggests a malevolent human agent, elves are fairies are just part of the natural world. When we same someone is "elfshot," we are saying that an illness is caused by one of any number of invisible things, and it could be any of them.
What about the other kinds of elves, trolls, and fae, the big ones? The ones who are "others," and nearly human, occupy a more malevolent (or at least alien) intelligence in the world. I use the word "alien" intentionally, because aliens (the outerspace, abducting kind) work in the same way for our culture. If Fox Mulder had lived a millennium earlier, he'd have been an Inquisitor, looking into claims that children had been abducted by fairies, or were perhaps changlings. Indeed, our "alien/human hybrid" of science fiction is just another version of the changling.
We haven't really changed much at all. Elves, fairies, changlings or viruses, bacteria and aliens -- in many ways we still occupy the same mental geographical landscape, we've just changed the names of some of the more prominent features.
** OK, I made that last one up, but I know some people like that.
Monday, February 18, 2008
Now that the 100,000th visitor contest is over, I can clear the pipes of some of these links that built up. I desperately wanted to write something this weekend about fairies, but I didn't want to knock the contest off the top. Expect more original posting to come soon.
- Got Medieval discusses medieval metaphors of climate change.
- Heavenfield has an early modern print that's worth looking at (and loosely connected with St. Brendan), and the Person of the Week: Cynefrith, Physician of Ely.
- In the Middle has several good posts, including a meditation on the idea of the "stranger" or "foreigner" in medieval lit, a link to someone's reaction to John Howard joining the Order of the Garter (which, as a good republican, I had wrongly assumed had been defunct for centuries), and a link to Middle English air guitar.
- Scribal Terror has a post about Pictish stones (something I had never heard of before), and also a link to an article arguing that not only was medieval thought well-developed, but also that the Renaissance was no great shakes in terms of thinkers. What I found most interesting was that it placed the intellectual high-water-mark in the late Middle Ages, rather than in the beginning, where I would.
- Steven Till has a post about how accurate medieval-themed restaurants are (or rather aren't), and the medieval term of the day, "scutage."
- Mac Stone tells us there's a new issue of Coyote Wild, but I haven't read it yet to see if there are any medieval-themed stories.
- Kate Marie points us to a video of Jeff Sypeck's appearance on C-Span to talk about Becoming Charlemagne. It's just over an hour in length, so I haven't seen it yet, but when he was here on Troy's campus meeting our students, he really wow'ed them, so I'm guessing it's worth watching.
- Somehow, I just realized this weekend that I didn't have Larry Swain's blog, The Ruminate, on my blogroll, nor among my subscriptions. I've rectified that.
Friday, February 15, 2008
How to win:
OK, actually figuring out who is 100,000 isn't all that easy, because a lot of you get your Wordhoard through RSS feeds like my own subscription service or some reader, and so you don't count unless you actually click on it to open a new window (I think). Furthermore, some of my visitors are Googlers who are looking for something specific, glance for about 5 seconds, and realize that what they want isn't here, so they navigate away.
Here's what I'll do: I'll check the Wordhoard obsessively. The first person to post a comment in this thread after the counter flips to 100,000 will win. That means in order to win you'll have to actually visit the page and do a little typing. Obviously, anonymous posters can't win (since I won't know who you are). If you want to advance the counter, be sure to visit the Wordhoard by clicking on the page ... don't just read it from your e-mail subscription or in your subscription service.
If I've forgotten some technological glitch, well, then, I'll just muddle through and pick the closest person to 100,000 that I can.
Ready ... set ... comment!!!
Thursday, February 14, 2008
On a happier note, today is Valentine's Day, so perhaps not a bad day for a poem in which seduction plays a central role. Here are various Valentine's Day love notes from around the medieval blogosphere for you:
- Folks have reminded us about the role Geoffrey Chaucer had in the development of Valentine's Day, including In the Middle, Quid Plura, and CNN. Catholic Forum has page on St. Valentine, as does the Catholic Encyclopedia.
- Quid Plura has a bunch of links that are not to be missed, including the second and third videos embedded below.
- In the Middle has an excerpt from Hybridity, Identity, and Monstrosity in Medieval Britain that my Brit Lit I students would do well to read (*hint*hint*)
- Heavenfield has a post on St. Brendan and Lent.
- Steven Hart has a video clip and translation of a song about trolls. I'll also embed the video below, but it's quite long, so unless you've got a great deal of free time, your best bet would be to listen to it in the background while doing something else.
- Slouching Toward Extimacy has Medieval Hagiography Mad Libs!
Wednesday, February 13, 2008
The first paper, "Why Myth Matters," was exactly what needed to be said first. I was a little trepidatious about giving a paper about the Bible as myth at a Christian college, and wondered if I might have to make the first five minutes caveats and a basic lecture on the difference between the word "myth" as the Discovery Channel uses it, and as literary scholars use it. Greg Hartley took care of all that, however, and threw in some CS Lewis for good measure.
My first paper, "Lies I Tell My Daughter," was basically about martyrdom myths in the Bible, late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, contrasting them with prosperity gospels of the 20th and early 21st Centuries. If anyone got cheesed off at what I said, it was probably from this lecture.
The second paper was Brian D. Smith on "Mythology and Neo-Paganism." Essentially, it discussed various strains of neo-paganism and their mythological underpinnings. I suppose this paper is the reason my earlier post of the schedule at the Areopagus lectures got batted around some pagan/wiccan websites, but so far as I can tell no one commented beyond the initial linkage. Frankly, other than the expected discussion of how neo-paganism is dangerous to Christianity, I doubt most neo-pagans would find much to disagree with in his paper. It was a learned and fair-handed portrayal. This is not to say that anyone could have walked away thinking Prof. Smith is a fan of paganism (neo or otherwise), but simply to say that he was careful not to offer a Chick-tract version of neo-paganism.
The third paper way by my old friend Dr. Les Hardin. Besides being a really awesome guy, Les is a really awesome scholar, and laid out a carefully structured reading of Revelation that tied it into emperor-worship in the first century. I've heard him speak on Revelation as part of the apocalyptic genre before, and he was just as good as ever. Unfortunately, he stole my anecdote about the first time we met*, so I'll have to take revenge at a later date.
The last paper, mine, was not meant to be nearly so controversial as the first, though it got a lot more questions, mostly about cultural mythologies of masculinity and femininity. Perhaps this is a reflection on the fact that the first paper I gave was a real downer.
In any case, Florida Christian College was very gracious. They put me up in a lovely apartment, offered a generous honorarium, and had a good spread of papers. Not only did the students show up, but folks from the surrounding churches came as well. I was expecting the questions to be about on the level I get when I present at scifi/fantasy conventions, but the Areopagus crowd was more sophisticated, and had a solid knowledge of the Bible, allowing for a bit more subtlety in argumentation and allusion. If I'm ever invited back, I'll go enthusiastically.
One last thing: FCC videotaped the lectures to put them online. Unfortunately, one of the lectures had serious technical problems, another wasn't geared for video, and mine has me croaking hoarsely. The papers were planned for oral presentation before a popular crowd, so they would need serious re-tooling for print publication. When I left, the compromise solution they were talking about was re-recording the missing parts from the technical problems, then posting them as downloadable audio files. By the time I left, nothing had yet been decided. I'll try to let Wordhoarders know how/when/where the lectures will be available.
*When Les and I first met, he was talking about a particular parable (I can't remember which one). I disagreed with his reading, and felt that the NIV's editing of the parable made it seem like it was stand-alone, when in fact it should have been combined thematically with some other parables. I based my argument on a verbal "cue" in the text that suggested that the parable should be linked to the rest. Les misunderstood me, and heard "cue" as "Q," and thought I was talking about the "Q Gospel." He argued vigorously against the existence of Q, furthermore arguing that even if we accepted the existence of Q, it wouldn't help us to understand the question at hand ... to which I replied, "No, I meant verbal cues..." That's when I knew I liked him.
Tuesday, February 12, 2008
Therefore, unless you are a student, or had some unbelievably important-looking subject heading (such as "Re: Aaargh! My eyeballs are melting and only a blood transfusion from you can end the pain!"), I probably ignored your e-mail. After an hour of deleting every non-medieval heading in my Reader and still having well over 300 unread posts, I simply went down the list and hit "Mark all as read."
So, if there's some big news, such as the skeletons of King Arthur and Alfred the Great have been found choking one another over a 4th century Gaelic/Latin parallel version of Beowulf, along with a rough draft of Boethius II: How Philosophy Bummed Me Out, an admission from Saladin that he was secretly a Christian, a picture of CS Lewis karate-chopping JRR Tolkien, and video footage of Gary Gygax getting mauled by a lycanthrope SCAer ... well, I missed that news, and have no comment on it.
Thursday, February 07, 2008
Speaking of the book, if anyone wants to review Global Perspectives for their journal, let me know and I'll pass your name, etc. on to the publisher.
- The Heroic Age has an update with all sorts of conference announcements and calls for papers.
- Will McLean notices something about Brits thinking all sorts of real people were fictional, and visa-versa -- some of the "correct" answers, particularly the medieval ones, are questionable. By the way, I've been looking online for the complete survey results. Does anyone know where to find them?
- Scribal Terror has a link to a list of popular misconceptions about the Middle Ages. An oldie, but a goodie.
- You too can become Charlemagne!
- More on Mary (the mother of Jesus) from Heavenfield, and her role as a kind of catch-all saint in the Anglo-Saxon period.
- Carl Pyrdum shows us what medieval doctors looked like (by which he means physicians, not the Doctors of the Church).
- Cinerati tells of the new Age of Conan board game. The box says it has 150 pieces -- ha! Someone who has played Axis and Allies, I laugh at your mere 150 pieces!
What I found myself wondering today was the origins of Ash Wednesday. Catholic Encyclopedia gives a date of at least the 8th Century. That places it probably in the early Middle Ages ... and Catholic Encyclopedia also quotes a bit from Aelfric. The main description reads:
The name dies cinerum (day of ashes) which it bears in the Roman Missal is found in the earliest existing copies of the Gregorian Sacramentary and probably dates from at least the eighth century. On this day all the faithful according to ancient custom are exhorted to approach the altar before the beginning of Mass, and there the priest, dipping his thumb into ashes previously blessed, marks the forehead -- or in case of clerics upon the place of the tonsure -- of each the sign of the cross, saying the words: "Remember man that thou art dust and unto dust thou shalt return." The ashes used in this ceremony are made by burning the remains of the palms blessed on the Palm Sunday of the previous year. In the blessing of the ashes four prayers are used, all of them ancient. The ashes are sprinkled with holy water and fumigated with incense. The celebrant himself, be he bishop or cardinal, receives, either standing or seated, the ashes from some other priest, usually the highest in dignity of those present. In earlier ages a penitential procession often followed the rite of the distribution of the ashes, but this is not now prescribed.
Do any Wordhoarders know more about the origins?
Wednesday, February 06, 2008
- Jonathan Jarrett has a really interesting post on feudalism that is too complicated to describe in a single sentence. Just read it.
- Caught in the Snide has a post on Aelfric and Wordsworth.
- This isn't really medieval, but as I'm a regular guest on Geekerati, I think I should mention that they're putting out a call for writers in various aspects of geek culture.
- Got Medieval has now moved to www.GotMedieval.com ... sort of. It's really just a redirect, but Carl would like us to update links accordingly.
- Speaking of Got Medieval, as part of his Google penance, he's discussing pope names in his usually LLCoolCarl style.
- Heavenfield has posts on St. Bridget of Kildare, the Virgin Mary and Mary Magdalene, and Osfrith son of Eadwine, whom I've apparently read about a bazillion time in Bede's Ecclesiastical History but have no memory of.
- The Weird Medieval Animal this week is the chimera.
- JJ Cohen has a post about whether "The Prioress's Tale" can bring Jews & Christians together, referring to this Prioress's Tale Chamber Opera. Eileen Joy is none too happy in the comments.
- Medieval Material Culture has posts on a book about the big Gough Map in the Bodleian Library, and archeologists who think they might know the location of the palace of the first king of Scotland ... who, as it turns out, is nothing like Forrest Whitaker.
- News for Medievalists had a big update, including a bit more on the Gough Map, as well as a bit on Islamic medieval science.
- Dr. Virago sticks up for the churches in Norwich.
- Steven Till has a bunch of links to medieval history resources online.
- The Swain points out that the 2008 Medieval Congress program is up.
- The Punch Die laments that Richard the Lionhearted has, along with Winston Churchill and Charles Dickens, fallen into legend.
- A Commonplace Book wonders how sharp the edges were on tournament swords.
Tuesday, February 05, 2008
8:00 - 9:00 Breakfast and welcome
9:00 - 10:00 "Why Myth Matters," Prof. Greg Hartley
10:00 - 10:15 Break
10:15 - 11:15 "Lies I Tell My Daughter: Christian Myth in Modern Culture," Me
11:15 - 11:30 Break
11:30 - 12:30 " Mythology and Neo-Paganism," Prof. Brian D. Smith
1:30 - 1:30 Lunch with presenters (ain't you lucky? That's "with presenters!")
1:30 - 2:30 "John, Revelation, and the Myth of the Divine Emperor," Dr. Les Hardin
2:30 - 2:45 Break
2:45 - 3:45 "The Warrior Christ: Myth and Masculinity in Depictions of Jesus," Me again
3:45 - 4:00 Closing
My topics are far more medieval than the titles suggest. In the first address, I'll talk about Tertullian, Juliana, and St. Guinefort; in the second, I'll talk about Gregory the Great, Augustine (of Canterbury), Norse mythology, and the Dream of the Rood.
Don't worry, this won't be too hoity-toity -- I'm writing my papers so that a reasonably smart high school graduate can follow them. Actually, that's why I've been blogging so irregularly lately; it takes more effort for me to write easily-understandable papers for oral presentation than it does to write in the mode of Eliade or Frye, so I've been working hard to make this stuff understandable.
Sunday, February 03, 2008
Somehow the Google toolbar got installed on my computer over the last two days. I say "somehow" because I certainly didn't put it there. My best guess is that one of my children accidentally installed it, though it's possible that I accidentally installed it myself, since the dang thing is insidiously bundled with every other thing you might possibly download. I've probably unchecked that "also install Google Toolbar" button about a dozen times since the beginning of the year.
Finally it got on my computer, so I decided to give it a chance. I needn't have wasted my time. It adds another toolbar to the top of my computer, so that the top 20% of my monitor space is toolbars. Incidentally, the Google toolbar offers not one single service I have any need for. Even the Google search box is redundant, since I keep my Internet Explorer search box set for Google anyway.
So what is it that finally made my head explode? Norton Internet Security very nicely (and silently!) blocks popups for me. Google has decided that it too will help out by blocking popups. The problem is that whenever Google blocks a popup, they make a little noise and give me a popup bragging about how they blocked a popup!
Google! Stop being evil!