Thursday, May 28, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Today is the last day of the school year for my children. Pray for me. After praying, here are some things you should be reading:
Also, a new medieval blog, Ruff Notes, has made its maiden post. Update blogrolls and RSS feeds accordingly.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

How I Single-Handedly Ruined a Scholarly Publication

I ran into Roy Liuzza at the Kalamazoo Congress, and he told me that the Old English Newsletter had some difficult editorial decisions to make regarding my article "Beowulf: Prince of the Geats, Nazis, and Odinists."

The problem they grappled with was how to deal with the various racial epithets in the article. Should the OEN give them voice? Should the OEN bowdlerize them? I myself had given various public presentations of the material, some of which carefully removed offensive material, and others of which smacked the audience in the face with it -- in my mind, it all depends on the audience.

In the end, OEN decided to split the difference. The online version essentially "bleeps out" the terms with asterisks, so you find things like: "beowulf_a filthy N****R???" The paper version of the same article, which I got in the mail yesterday, leaves everything intact.

It seems to me a good compromise. An online publication is the sum of its links, and to include racial epithets in the online version might have affected the electronic profile of the OEN, at least as far as search engines are concerned. The changes are not misleading; I'm guessing any native speaker of English with an elementary school education can figure out what the original said.

As scholars, though, we take the truth to where it leads, even when those places are dark and drear. I'm glad for the paper version, because it takes us to those places without relief. As someone who spent many, many hours trudging through Nazi and Odinist e-mails and websites, I can promise you the article offers only a small taste of what is out there.

So, for those of you who were shocked to get your Old English Newsletter in the mail and find that content, I'm the one who put it there, and for that I offer no apology.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

On this Tuesday, the day of the bellicose god Tyr:

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Breathe Where You Will

Here's a new medievalist blog: Breathe Where You Will. Update your blogrolls and RSS feeds accordingly.

Trebuchet Bleg

My Cub Scout pack has a Scout-o-rama coming up next March, and since we have a medieval lit prof, a medieval history prof, and two engineers among the fathers, we are strongly considering building a trebuchet as a pack.

Does anyone out there know where we might find a suitable design for a trebuchet? We definitely want something that's a real father-son project, so a design that's too complicated for elementary school boys is not a problem, just so long as it can be broken up into managable pieces.

Also, it's important that the trebuchet be able to launch sometime ostentatious. One that can only lob golf balls or baseballs is too small -- but one that can launch a melon across a field and splatter it on (or near) a target is just the kind of thing elementary school boys can get excited about.

Let other packs demonstrate wildlife conservation or how to build rope bridges. We'll be demonstrating how to crush your enemies, see them driven before you, and hear the lamentation of their women!

A typical Pack 41 den meeting

Morning Medieval Miscellany

A short Miscellany on this, the feast day of St. Barrfoin, who is notable as a friend of Columba and Brendan, and also for having the word "barf" in his name.

Wednesday, May 20, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

On this Woden's Day:
And, in my favorite post of the day, Dame Eleanor Hull advises on discretion and propriety in conducting a liaison at the Kalamazoo Congress. Alas, I am inexperienced in this area, though I suppose there is always 2010.

*Insert Barack Obama joke here. I'm too lazy to think one up.

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

Mony Wylsum Way

The URL for the blog Mony Wylsum Way looks awfully familiar, but it's not on my blogroll or RSS feed, so I'm going to call it a new medieval blog (though it's been around for almost a year) and add it to my list immediately.

Monday, May 18, 2009

Lions Devour Crusaders (metaphorically)

Eastern Nazarene College has changed its mascot from the "Crusaders" to the "Lions" because of "the atrocities of the medieval Crusaders."

Like the Christian Children's Fund (now ChildFund International), they might consider dropping all references to Christianity, and change their name to Eastern College. Or maybe "Eastern" too could be falsely perceived as a veiled orientalist reference, and they could just change their name to "College" and call their sports teams "The Collegians."

Seriously (momentarily abandoning snark), the Lions? As long as they were bowing to popular perceptions, couldn't they at least have picked an animal less commonly associated with eating Christians?

If Robin Hood Were a Somali Pirate...

... then apparently his name would be Ahmed Yusuf ... or at least, that's what his lawyer says.

Morning Medieval Miscellany

On this Monday:

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Contagions on the Plague

On the brand-spanking new blog Contagions, Michelle Ziegler's inaugural post is on the plague.

Please note that I'm posting this less than two hours after the blog's inception. Am I good or what?

Saturday, May 16, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

I've got Cub Scout camp, so tomorrow there will likely be no MMM. Until then:
That's it for now. Below you'll find my interview with Boy, do I look dorky sitting on that table and waving my hands in the same motion over and over.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

A few items for you this morning:
Well, there's much more, but I'm running late, so this will have to tide you over until next time.

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Nolan Hatcher, RIP

Though the Wordhoard is generally exclusively for medieval content, I could not let this go unremarked.

Nolan Hatcher, a retired professor from Troy University, passed away yesterday. He was the kind of man we should strive to be: philanthropist, scholar, pillar of the community.

I first met Dr. Hatcher my first year here at Troy, about a decade-and-a-half after his "retirement." For Dr. Hatcher, retirement simply meant he wasn't teaching courses any more. He continued to be involved with the University, particularly international students. Even though most have never heard of him, every international student at Troy University owes Dr. Hatcher a debt of gratitude. It was he who made certain that community leaders were connected with the international students, sometimes by giving int'l student leaders a venue at the Rotary Club to talk about their experiences here, and sometimes by prodding local business leaders into supporting the students in their fundraising.

I don't know if I could tell you the name of another Troy professor who retired 20 years ago, but Nolan Hatcher I knew. He understood that being a professor was an avocation as well as a vocation. I admired him, and our community is diminished by his loss even as we are inspired by his example.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Vaulting and Vellum

Here's a previously-overlooked medieval blog: Vaulting and Vellum. Apparently I met these folks at K'zoo without knowing it. Hope I was charming.

K'zoo Thoughts

Twice in recent years I've been forced to sprint through the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, including this year. If my schedule allows, I'm making a concerted effort next year to spend three days there.

For the non-academics out there, the Congress is the Big Show for medieval studies on this side of the Atlantic, and I would argue is still dominant over the other Big Show (called the International Medieval Congress) in Leeds, England. Because the two names are so annoyingly similar, for short-hand they are usually called "Kalamazoo" (or "K'zoo") and "Leeds."

Since my sojourn there was so brief, I expected to have little to say about K'zoo this year. As always, I went to various sessions, with papers ranging from the boring-but-important, to the interesting-but-unimportant, as well as the elusive fascinating-and-important, and the dreaded boring-and-stupid. Bilbo's pizzaria might have moved, but it remains the favored watering hole. As usual, I saw grad students make their first forays into the field, I saw seasoned academics cultivating their protoges, and I saw the solid old scholars of the legendary past greeting their old friends as if they were all still in graduate school. If you could see K'zoo from on high, you could trace out the typical career path of a medieval scholar from generation to generation.

Some things, though, are clearly changing. For example, the K'zoo Congress had much more in the way of "poster sessions" (though that's a misnomer from the pre-PowerPoint past, since nearly everything was on a screen) than we've seen in the past, including a lot of work that is difficult to present in the 20-minute lecture style of the humanities. For example, Michael Drout showed his lexomics project at one of the poster sessions, and I confess I had previously misunderstood it; the demonstration at the poster session was a much more effective means of showing off his work.

The poster sessions were also part of a greater tolerance for the study of history through re-creation. I had a discussion with an SCAer about how the SCA had been booted from the Congress years ago, but now was finding its way back in -- largely because both the SCA and the Congress have grown to have their own identities. Even ten years ago scholars involved in the SCA or similar medieval recreation groups tended to keep their associations low-key; today we see that nexus point between the scholarly and the popular celebrated.

Blogging, too, has changed, as JJ Cohen discusses over at In the Middle. This year marked the end of the "Weblogs and the Academy" sessions, in the end killed by the academic respectability of it all. I had a too-short discussion about this with Another Damned Medievalist, who was at the annual blogger get-together. She reminded me about the very first get-together, and how it was fraught with anxiety over pseudonymous bloggers. Some people were afraid to come and be outed, and we went with the early-morning meeting primarily because no one else would be crazy enough to be awake at that time. In those days, except for Drout and me, very few medievalists were blogging in their own names.

The days of Ivan Tribble, when it looked like blogging could be a career-killer, seem like ancient history. I used to run through my blogroll every morning in about 20 minutes -- now, I have to do the Morning Medieval Miscellany as a service to the field. As one person confided to me, "When you didn't have a computer and couldn't do the Miscellanies, my traffic got so low I quit blogging for a while." Today, who could consider himself a legitimate scholar if not at least aware of what's happening on the various listservs, blogs, and static websites?

Naturally, the field is always slowly shifting around; for example, one old lion of the field told me that when he was in graduate school, he was considered a radical for writing a dissertation on prose rather than poetry. What is different today is that the media of legitimate scholarship is changing. Once upon a time, places like the Wordhoard were considered at most a salon, but today they seem to be approaching a new form of legitimate publication.

These changes are both terrifying and exhilarating. On the one hand, I wouldn't want some smart-aleck comment I've made about a high school video version of Beowulf being considered a publication on par with my manuscript research, or my work on popular reception of the medieval. On the other hand, the quickening pace of the field is invigorating, when in some cases you get articles published in months rather than years, and feedback is almost immediate.

If you've never been, join us at Kalamazoo next year, where, God willing, I'll still be enjoying the ride.

Thanks to Karma and Rivkah!

One more time I want to thank Karma from Slouching Towards Extimacy and Rivkah from Medieval Manuscripts Online for helping to pick up the slack on the Wordhoard while I was sans good computer access. Karma, why didn't I manage to see you at K'zoo?

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Believe it or not, there have been a few non-K'zoo items in the medieval world of late. OK, there have been quite a few, but I wasn't able to keep up, so here are some from the last day or so.
This discussion of "Blogging in the Academy" in The Valve isn't at all medieval, but I may be disucssing the issue here soon.

Blogging K'zoo '09 Round-up III

The third (and probably final) round-up of posts from the 44th International Congress on Medieval Studies.
You can find Round-up I here and Round-up II here. You can find my own K'zoo post above after I've gotten around to writing it now that I'm home!

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Blogging K'zoo '09 Round-Up II

Here are some more K'zoo posts:
I can't believe I'm missing the dance right now. I'll bet all the ladies are disappointed...

Friday, May 08, 2009

Blogging K'zoo '09 Round-Up

Since I had to take off from the International Congress of Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, I'll be keeping up by reading what others are saying. Here's a round-up so far:
I know it doesn't look like much NOW, but most people are still in the thick of it, and haven't had a chance to blog -- plus I left off irrelevant stuff, like announcements of parties and sessions that have already happened at this point, picture of the Tiny Shriner, etc.

I'm not staying at my own home, but I'll continue to post round-ups as long as I have reliable internet access.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Medieval Astronomy

In what is likely my last post before heading off to the Kalamazoo Congress, I give you MS Library of Melk Abbey, Frag. 229, which shows Magister Wolfgang de Styria's lecture notes on astronomy.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

K'zoo Nokes Sightings

For those who would like to catch a glimpse of the elusive Nokes in the wilderness of Michigan:

Thursday, 3:30
Schneider 1140
Session 137, Neomedievalist Communities
"Beowulf: Prince of the Geats, Nazis, and Odinists"

... and another opportunity at:

Friday, 3:30
Schneider 1140
Session 345, Teaching the Medieval World with Popular Culture (A

Unfortunately, because of non-academic issues in my schedule, I doubt I'll be at the conference on Saturday, and I doubt I'll even be able to get a room for Thursday night, so I may not be in Kalamazoo much at all. Catch as catch can this year, I'm afraid.

Friday, May 01, 2009

Science Fair Trebuchet

Students at the Charles Henderson Middle School in Troy, Alabama built a working trebuchet for their science fair project, along with a poster discussing the history of the weapons.

From left to right: Robert Salmon, Jude Taylor, and Preston Rhodes.

Pretty cool, eh? A teacher asked them what they planned to do with it, and they said they didn't know. If I had a place to put it, I'd buy it off them and use it to besiege my enemies.