Monday, June 30, 2008

All New "Under the Sun" 2.0! Now with More Ecclesiastix!

Warning: Non-Medieval Content. Unless the oblique reference to Leonardo is medieval.

Reading this article about unoriginal originality brought to mind an old post of mine about the "Kinkade Code," and this earlier post by someone I'd never heard of. After running across that, I googled "Kincade Code" and came up with any number of other posts with the same joke. Some follow my own post, and could theoretically have been influenced by it, but many pre-date it, so short of some sort-of wormhole in space/time, we came up with the idea independently.

As a colleague of mine used to say, "Great minds think in the same rut." Or this, too.

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Still have guests, but have a little free time to blow through a Miscellany. When I have more time, I'll probably write a more substantive response to Jeff Sypeck's entry in Modern Medieval's Blog Forum.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Viking Parties

In response to a question below (and in an effort to have some original content in a week devoted to entertaining family), the saga I've been reading is Egil's Saga, Bernard Scudder's translation, from the Penguin Classics The Sagas of the Icelanders, or as I call it, "The Big Book of Sagas."

I finished "Egil's Saga" today and started working on "The Saga of the People of Vatnsdal," which proposes, among other things, that the best way to ingratiate yourself to your future in-laws is to stab their ne'er-do-well son in his sleep.

My favorite section of "Egil's Saga" is:
Everyone became very drunk, and for every toast that Armod drank he said, "I drink this to your health, Egil."
The men of the household drank to his companions' health, with the same words. A man was given the job of keeping Egil and his companions served with one toast after another, and he urged them to drink it up at once. Egil told his companions that they should not drink any more, and he drank theirs for them too when there was no way to avoid it.
Egil started to feel that he would not be able to go on like this. He stood up and walked across the floor to where Armod was sitting, seized him by the shoulders and thrust him up against a wall-post. Then Egil spewed a torrent of vomit that gushed all over Armod's face, filling his eyes and nostrils and mouth and pouring down his beard and chest. Armod was close to choking, and when he managed to let out his breath, a jet of vomit gushed out with it. All Armod's men who were there said that Egil had done a base and despicable deed by not going outside when he needed to vomit, but had made a spectacle of himself in the drinking-room instead.
Egil said, "Don't blame me for following the master of the house's example. He's spewing his guts up just as much as I am." (138-139)

And that, my friends, is a classic of world literature. What did you have to read for your job today?

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Morning Medieval Miscellany

The occupation of my territories by various relatives continues, but my list of things to go in the Miscellany grows (along with a very long list of things to do when I can get to the office), so here's a partial Miscellany, which will be as long as I can do before kids start coming in here and talking to me. Unlike usual, I may not have read all these entries very carefully:
OK, there's a four-year-old in here asking me questions about airplanes, so I'll have to quit now. Sorry if I've left you off. By the way, Jeff Sypeck has posted the results of his fundraiser for Paralyzed Veterans of America.

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

The Middle Ages Have Been Cancelled. Please Move Directly to the Early Modern Period.

Well, not really ... it's just that I've got a houseful of relatives, so I'm not really able to do any writing, editing, or keeping up with the blogosphere. Earlier I tried to read a viking saga, and kept re-reading the same paragraph over and over as I got interrupted.

Indeed, right now I've got a four-year-old repeating "What are you typing?" ad naseum right next to me. Maybe I'll try doing a Morning Medieval Miscellany at night ... kind of like when Saturday Night Live was taped and didn't air on Saturdays.

Just to be a nice guy, I'll embed a video of a pretty girl in medieval garb playing the dulcimer. Does she look a little like the Mona Lisa to you?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Morning Medieval Miscellany

I'll have some guests for a few days beginning tomorrow, so everyone try not to write anything interesting about the Middle Ages for the next week, OK?
  • Steven Till asks what we think about Christian Bale as Robin Hood.
  • Mary Kate Hurley has a post about Beowulf and love, or the lack thereof. I'm with MKH on this one -- I'm not feeling the love.
  • News for Medievalists has several new posts, including one telling us that Dante is no longer exiled from Florence. If they really meant it, they'd exhume him, clone him, and then make the clone mayor.
  • The Naked Philologist has a few new posts as well, including one on "The Humerous Later Life of St. Æðelðrið," a post on Templar trial papers, and a bleg for feedback on a paper proposal about Archbishop Wulfstan. My own opinion: The paper looks quite interesting, but I think Wulfstan is so cool that I'd listen to a paper speculating on Wulfstan's favorite color, so I'm not the most objective judge. Being as objective as possible, though, it looks pretty good to me.
  • Jonathan Jarrett has a post on problems working with charters of Cluny, and includes this phrase I intend to steal in the future: "Preservation by neglect."
  • OK, this isn't really medieval, but the word "dwarf" made it appear on my fantasy mytho-medieval radar. This article really ticks me off -- how is it relevant that the woman was a dwarf? The subtext of the piece seems to be something like: "Hey, look at that! A dwarf pimp! I wonder if she whistles while she pimps? *snicker* Let's now all imagine kinky sex with dwarves!" The dwarfism has nothing at all to do with the charges against her ... they just seem to have thrown it in for puerile interest.
Ever have one of those days that you despair about how much there is to know about the Middle Ages, and how easy it is to forget? Yesterday I stared for five minutes looking at a poem that I used to be able to sight-read, and now I was stumped in the first 10 lines and had to look in the glossary. Sure, as soon as I saw the word, I smacked myself in the forehead and immediately remembered it, but there's just so much to forget, you know?

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Woohoo! Free (sorta) Books!

Jeff Sypeck of Quid Plura is giving away hardcover copies of his book, Becoming Charlemagne, for a donation of $10 to the Paralyzed Veterans of America!

In case you're wondering, the book is well worth the $10 donation -- which I think is probably tax-deductable, too, so if you itemize, it's free! A wonderful, readable history of Charlemagne written by a really cool guy, heck, you can't go wrong!

Hurry ... he has a very limited supply! Do it NOW!*

*Don't all the exclamation points in this post communicate urgency? What are you doing reading a footnote when you could be doing a good deed and getting a book? Move it, mister!

Saturday, June 21, 2008


I had no idea about this show, Kaamelott. Because the episodes are all shorts, they appear to be more or less in their entirrty on YouTube, though you might have to search around a bit for subtitled clips if you don't speak French (and I sure don't). Here's one on medieval music that had me cracking up.

h/t The Anchoress

Morning Medieval Miscellany

I'm back from my Cub Scout trip, covered bug bites and sun burn. A good time was had by all. Here are a few other things guaranteed to give a good time. Today's Miscellany seems to have a bunch of strange medieval animals.
I can't shake the feeling I've forgotten something in the above. I'll just have to count on my fellow Wordhoarders to reveal it.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Medieval Literature I Didn't Know

Larry Swain has an exciting new series over at The Ruminate, "Medieval Literature I Didn't Know," focusing on little-studied medieval texts. Given the amount of work even a single post must take, I doubt he'll be able to meet the once-per-week mark, but even once-per-month would be an outstanding contribution.

His first entry is a neat little poem about the loss of Christian learning in England. I note that it is untitled, probably suggesting that no one has ever entitled it before. Larry, since you have now published it online, along with your own translation, I think that gives you the right to entitle it!

Morning Medieval Miscellany

I've been teaching Keats of late, filling in for a modernist colleague. Yesterday I taught "Ode on a Grecian Urn," and desperately wanted to joke that Keats had written a sequel, "Ode on a Franks Casket," but I figured no one would get it but me.

You guys would have gotten it, though, right? Here are a few other things you'll likely get:
  • Lots of medievalists are talking about the 14th Berkshire Conference on the History of Women, so I'm guessing we'll be well-represented there.
  • The Heroic Age has a CfP for the 5th annual Australian Early Medieval Association Conference.
  • Heroic Dreams has posts on DIY mead and catapults. Warning: Do no operate catapults under the influence of mead. In legal terms, this is known as a CUI, or "Catapulting Under the Influence."
  • News for Medievalists has several new posts.
  • Jeff Sypeck reviews Lloyd Alexander's The Rope Trick.
  • Julie K. Rose has a post on primroses.
  • Scribal Terror has a nice little post on jousting, that also contains video from a tournament in Slovakia in 2007. I'll join in the fun by embedding a different tournament video below.

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

July Feast

As a few of you know, I'm plotting with another faculty member to push medieval academic stuff in the 2008-2009 year. We have several different plots running at the same time, some strictly academic, but a few that straddle the academic/popular line, in order to garner more interest in the scholarly side. Yes, sneaky, I know.

Among the various tracks I have going is the resurrection of the old Society for Creative Anachronism (SCA) organization on campus. Years ago Troy University was home to Falling Star, but that went defunct when all the students who formed it graduated. The plan is to bring it back to life under a different name. I've already been talking to the nearby Shire about the plan, and will get in contact with the Kingdom as soon as I get a better sense of direction.

My first little foray will be to invite folks in this area to come to the July Feast, July 11-13 in Cullman, Alabama. I'm planning to be there for the whole thing, though if you don't want to camp and just want to stay the day, July 12th is the only full day. If you're interested but don't want to be alone, don't worry -- I'll be there too, and I'm a newb as well.

What to expect? Well, Friday night is mostly people setting up their campsites. That's when I'll probably be arriving, because I also enjoy the camping aspect as well. Sunday morning, on the other hand, is mostly tear-down. If you are thinking you want to camp out just one night, I'd recommend Saturday-Sunday, because some of the fun runs until late into the night, so you'll probably want to just return to your tent to crash.

Saturday, then, will be when most of the fun stuff happens. There will be arts & crafts, sword fighting (both heavy weapons & rapiers), music, dance, and storytelling. Basically, think of a Renaissance Faire, but much cheaper, and everyone is in on the action. You can see images of and commentary on my first SCA event here.

So, what's it gonna cost you? Assuming you aren't an SCA member, it's $17 for adults, $10 for children (though it's cheaper if you only come for Saturday -- $14 and $8.50 , respectively). Food is included in that price, though lunch on Saturday is a fundraiser. By any measure, that's a dirt-cheap weekend.

If you plan to go, try to let me or Lady Georgianna (334-868-1513 or ladygeorgianna AT bellsouth DOT net) know at least a week in advance if possible. Everyone is suppose to be in garb (medieval-style clothing), and since most folks don't have that laying around, we'll have to arrange for some loaner-clothes for you so you won't feel out of place.

So, if you're interested, come join me. Pitch your tent next to mine, and explore all the fun we can have together. It's fun, it's cheap, it's nearby, and the food should be delicious!

What the heck is wrong with Tracksy?

I rely heavily on Tracksy and Technorati to help me find previously-overlooked medieval websites. Every day, I scan the incoming traffic for pages I've never seen before, then I go check out those pages to see if they're one-shot deals or sites with consistent medieval content.

Over the last couple of days, though, Tracksy has been giving me a "timed out" error, and now I see that it claims I only had 9 visitors yesterday. Now, the previous day when it said I only had 35, I suspected an error, but decided to assume traffic had just dropped of. NINE visitors, though? I generally only get traffic in the 90's on holiday weekends and such, so there's no way I'll believe only 9 visitors.

Am I the only one having trouble with Tracksy?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Morning Medieval Miscellany

I'm busy, busy, busy today, but not too busy to take 15 minutes out of my day to bring you your Miscellany. Enjoy!
  • Mmm ... Marginalia is of a stanza wrangler.
  • The Person of the Week is Abbot Berhthun of Beverly, who, among other things, healed "the dumb boy with the scabby head." How terrible to go through history known as the dumb boy with the scabby head!
  • The Weird Medieval Animal of the Week is the cerastes.
  • Blog Forum 1 on the relevance of medieval stuff is up -- hooray! The first post is by Cybermedievalist, and is entitled, "Why I Care about Medieval History, and So Should You." I'm not participating in this at the moment because I wanted to give other people a chance (after all, I've been writing about this topic for three years), but I'm looking forward to reading these.
  • The Naked Philologist has a post about a 14th-century execution.
  • News for Medievalists has a post about a dig at Hungate and how Open University is using that to make training films. Medieval archeology is interesting and all, but I could never do it; with my bald head, all that outdoor work would give me skin cancer for sure.
  • Fresh from the word-hoard of Julie K. Rose are twelfindus, devove, and ganch.

Carnivalesque XL

It's an extra-large Carnivalesque!* Carnivalesque XL here!

It's a bit more tilted to early modern than medieval, but that's OK ... we love the early modernists here too.

*Oh my gosh, I've been waiting so long to use that joke.

Happy Birthday, Unlocked Wordhoard!

The Unlocked Wordhoard is three years old today. Someone send me a cake!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Since there were only a few items yesterday, I decided to hold off on the latest MMM until today. Big mistake. The floodgates opened! Now, let's see how many of these I can get through before having to start my day.
I might do something for Dragon*Con this year. I'm talking with them about it now.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

World of World of Warcraft

I'm going to customize my avatar to make fun of faux Latin guild names!

'Warcraft' Sequel Lets Gamers Play A Character Playing 'Warcraft'

Morning Medieval Miscellany

It's a good morning to be a medievalist, and here are a few reasons why:

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

"Dark Age for Medievalists, or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love Charlotte Allen

I've intentionally waited until tempers cooled a bit before writing this post. Emotions were running pretty hot about "A Dark Age for Medievalists," an article taking to task the Kalamazoo Congress and those of us who present our work there. Scholars who were named either directly or by paper title wrote both publically and privately to me via e-mail. Now that we've had time to catch our collective breath, let me offer a bit of advice:

Chill. Out. Dude.

First of all, let's admit that though there were a lot of unfair or invalid accusations in Allen's article, there were some that had a grain of truth. There are a lot of half-baked papers at K'zoo, but Allen's interpretation of that fact (that K'zoo is for bottom-feeders) is backwards. In fact, so many people slap together such papers because they need funding to get to K'zoo because it is the BIG SHOW. That means you're going to find a bit of detritus around if you aren't careful to avoid it. If, like Allen, you go looking for it, you'll find the stink of it all over you.

Second, let's also admit that there are some serious faultlines between how historicist literary theorists think about history and the way certain historians think about history. Allen is firmly encamped on one side, so can it be any surprise that she lobs a few grenades at the other side? She doesn't develop those arguments, but she doesn't have to -- this was an article in a popular publication, and the arguments are (or should be) well-known to the scholars in the group.

Let's also admit that one could make a firm case that the proper study of medievalists is the medieval (not medievalism), and if so, folks like me who examine and promote medievalism are wasting our energies on something frivolous. I rather obviously disagree with that position, but I think the medieval need always be the center of medievalism, so I understand her point there. It might be wrong, but it is a point-of-view with a fine pedigree.

Frankly (and here's where some of you are going to become angry with me), I don't think our response to "Dark Age" was the online medieval community's finest hour. Far too many of our critiques of the article were actually ad hominem attacks on Allen -- and the public attacks were tame compared to some of the e-mails I got. Aside from my preference for a more civil academic discourse, what does that really prove? Even if Allen is a kitten-beating, slave-owning, plagiarizing, telemarketing, cattle-raping, book-burning, Prius-driving, Keith Olbermann-watching, crack-smoking, Jesus-hating, baby-shaking, illiterate, left-handed daughter of a Klansman and Stalin's transgendered clone, none of that necessarily invalidates her arguments. While many people took her to task regarding the accuracy of what she wrote, too many of us lost our tempers. You might argue that her article had an ad hominem flavor to it, but as I tell my children (and frequently have to remind myself), you can't control what other people do, but you can control your own behavior.

Aside from all of the above, I think we've missed what's really noteworthy about Allen's article -- It is good news for medievalists. The Weekly Standard, an extremely influential publication with a circulation of more than 60k (some sources put it at over 80k) saw fit to run an article about the state of current medieval scholarship. The piece was not a fluffy article, but was seriously bemoaning the scholarship.

In other words, we're important. Medieval studies matter. They matter enough that the editors thought their readers would care about the supposedly-poor state of medieval studies. The old cliche that there is no such thing as bad publicity comes to mind.

A weird thing has happened since I started writing the Wordhoard: I've become a sort of bush-league public figure. No, I'm no Stanley Fish, but perhaps I'm a Stanley Baby Guppy. One of the side effects of that "success" (if you can call it that) is that perfect strangers e-mail me all the time to tell me what they think of me. Often it's nice, but I get my share of hate mail too ... in fact, I got a couple of anonymous pieces today. At first, when I these sorts of messages, I used to get my stomach in knots. I was angry at how they had unfairly accused me, or how they had twisted my words, and would lay awake in bed at night fantasizing about meeting that person and laying waste to them with the perfect comeback.

Over time, though, I came to realize that even the negative e-mails are an odd sort of compliment. They are affirmations that what I write on here is read by people and taken seriously. As such, those that try to make a valid point (beyond "you suck") deserve the respect of being taken seriously even if the writer didn't mean to offer me any respect. When the person offers a return e-mail address, I try to respond politely and respectfully. As Proverbs 15:1 says, "A gentle answer turns away wrath," and I've found that to be the case. In a few cases, I've managed to turn angry rebukers into friends.

So, cheer up! People care about your scholarship! People think you are important! If you want to respond, do so by finding a public forum to present your work to interested people outside the scholarly community. The Wordhoard is one such place, but if you seek out opportunities and learn how to present your work in a way non-specialists can understand it, I think you'll find you're satisfying a real hunger to hear about what you are doing.

Plus, if you were one of the people criticized in the article, next time someone asks you why your research is important, you can simply look surprised and respond, "Haven't you read about my work in The Weekly Standard?"

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Medieval "Catholics" vs. Medieval "Christians"

Dr. Virago posted a couple of times about seeing the phrase "medieval Catholics" in scholarly books ... something I mentioned is a real pet peeve of mine. I've really got two reasons for this, one scholarly and one spiritual.

The single most important medieval technology for inventing the modern world was the printing press, and one of the things the printing press allowed for was Protestantism. Medieval Christianity is a manuscript culture religion, and as such, while Protestantism could be considered in theory, in practice lack of access to Scriptures meant that it was impossible. If you wanted access to Christian scriptures in the West, you had to do it through someone with access to a Bible and the ability to read it.

In spite of (Because of?) that dynamic, you don't have strictly unified proto-Catholic Church through the Middle Ages. The various religious orders wax and wane, as do movements like the Benedictine Reform, the conflict between competing Church heirarchies (such as Bede describes between the Irish and Roman Church), and monasteries move from being lay organizations to clerical organizations.

If there were any proto-Protestants, they were the Lollards, but though the term technically refers to a specific religious movement, it tends to be used by medieval people as a catch-all term for heretics, especially anti-clerical heretics. Though there are some scholars who see Protestantism as growing out of Lollardy, I think that notion is in the minority.*

The idea of being "Catholic" with a big C is one born of the anxiety of the modern era. We could say that the Roman Catholic Church solidifies in the modern era in part because of competition from Protestants. Lollards were never a real threat, but Protestants were. In some ways, the Catholic Church strongly centralizes power to oppose Protestants, but in other ways, it is to respond to some of the more legitimate complaints of reformers by instituting a sort of "quality control," much as the aptly-named Gregory the Great did in his day.

My objection, then, is that the term "Catholic" is really anachronistic in this setting. To offer a parallel, it would be like calling medieval clocks "medieval non-digital clocks." It's absurd to draw the distinction because there was no such thing as a digital clock in the Middle Ages. To say "medieval non-digital clocks" implies the existence of medieval digital clocks -- and short of some really fantastic find of an LCD calculator watch buried for centuries in a bog somewhere, I think we can say with some certainty that there was no such thing.

In the same way, the phrase "medieval Catholics" implies that there was such a thing as medieval Protestants -- but there wasn't.

As I complain about here, a lot of Protestants want to discount the medieval Church as being the flyover country of religious history, with the First Century on one coast, and the Reformation on the other coast. In this view, nothing of much importance happened, and what little was of importance was bad, such as Crusades and the Inquisition** and whatnot. A lot of Catholics also like that distinction, because it allows them to say the equivalent of "Ha! We were the Church back when you Lutherans were still living in caves!" -- a bit of an exaggeration, but in that spirit.

This is bad for the Church generally. With each side saying "We are the civilized ones, and you are the barbarians," each side can discount large patches of Church history. That tension and rivalry doesn't weaken the Church, though ... it strengthens it.*** Reading the Acts of the Apostles, it is pretty clear that the early Church was full of conflict. To avoid this conflict by disowning the other strikes me as a pretty un-Berean attitude. Paul and Barnabus fight over whether to take Timothy along with them, and they fight so sharply that they go their separate ways, but neither one says anything like "You aren't even of the faith any more and I'm going to ignore you" -- and a good thing too, since Paul changes his mind about Timothy later.

At the end of the day, the phrase "medieval Catholics" can serve as a way for Protestants to disown the medieval Church, or it can serve as a way for Catholics to exclude Protestants from the common medieval Christian heritage. It's a shame, really, since the medieval Church has much to teach us all.

*That being said, I think it is acceptable to use the phrase "medieval Catholics" if you mean to distinguish them from medieval Lollards.
**Just a reminder that the Spanish Inquisition was actually a modern event, not medieval.
***And here's where I get all the angry e-mails.

Friday, June 06, 2008

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Depending on how my article writing goes today, there might be a longer post or two later. Until then:
  • Jonathan Jarrett has a long, detailed analysis of this study (the original article is now behind a premium content wall). It looks scary at first, but it's a fascinating read. End result: the study doesn't tell us much about medieval history that we couldn't figure out using Occam's Razor (and perhaps a little of Occam's Patented Shaving Cream) ... but it wasn't really intended for that purpose anyway.
  • Henchminion reviews Mongol, and finds it "adequate."
  • Stephanie Trigg gives a nice little introduction to the poem Wynnere and Wastoure, including her own edition of an extract.
  • Larsdatter answers the question, "What is Hell," and includes a bit of a Middle English verse sermon.
  • Early Medieval Art has a post on the Cuthbert Gospels.
  • The Medieval Term of the Week is enciente.
  • The Naked Philologist has a post on St. Æðelðryð, "who was with two men and nevertheless remained a virgin." Hey, that's not so miraculous -- I went to high school with plenty of girls who were with a lot more than two men and nevertheless remained "virgins" if you asked 'em.
  • Matthew Gabriele is calling for submissions to "a blog forum about what medieval studies and/ or medievalism has to offer a wider public." Send him your ideas before June 13th.
That's it for now. I've got a bit of research and perhaps some other writing to do. If I have time later, I'll post on the issue of "medieval Christians" vs. "medieval Catholics" and maybe about the "Dark Age for Medievalists" controversy.

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Got the new store opened yesterday, finally, so I took the day off. It's been a long time since I took a weekday off, and it felt pretty good -- but back to work today! Here are some of the medieval offerings of the day:
Quid Plura has a post on medieval foxes, which includes a link to the Nickel Creek rendition. Since I love Nickel Creek, I'll close with it embedded below.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Early Medieval Art blog

Here's a newish blog: Early Medieval Art. I'd like to say something more and clever, but the title is pretty self-explanatory. Update your RSS feeds and blogrolls accordingly!

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Camlann Medieval Village

I ran across the website for Camlann Medieval Village ... any Wordhoarders ever been there?

Also, why are such things always so far from where I live?