Thursday, July 30, 2009

The Medievalist Place on Earth

I just got back from a day at the Magic Kingdom at Disney World which, for those of you who do not know, is built around a series of areas. Each area has a different motif, and is a "land" within the Magic Kingdom. For example, there's Fantasyland (medieval fantasy motif), Tomorrowland (futuristic motif), Main Street (early 20th-century small town motif) etc.

The overall layout interests me. Cinderella's castle does not dominate Fantasyland as you might expect. Instead, it is the centerpiece of the entire park, the hub around which everything else revolves. Main Street, then, does not open up onto the county courthouse, but onto a medieval castle.

It would be wrong, however, to over-read this as a medieval image. Instead, I think the dominant idea is one of the fairy tale, which is then associated with medieval architecture. The park is innundated with fairies and princesses, but you're hard pressed to find a knight, or happy peasants working the fields, or a monastery, or any of the other popular images associated with the Middle Ages. Fantasyland does have Excalibur in a stone that you can pose with, but there is little else Arthurian.

Consider too the cosplay. Little girls are dressed like fairies and princesses, but little boys dress as pirates -- not princes or knights or kings. Swords are either clearly pirate cutlasses or lightsabers (for nighttime play) -- but consider all the various Prince Charmings, and Robin Hoods, and other fairytale male characters that boys could be dressed as.

All of which leads to my point -- are fairy tales necessarily gendered feminine? Most of the medieval/fairytale images at the Magic Kingdom are gendered feminine. Even though it's called a "kingdom," there's no king to be seen, not even a Mickey & Minnie in a crown. Instead, the castle is Cinderella's Castle (Snow White's at Disneyland, I think), named for the princess rather than the monarch. Who is the king/queen? Since it's the "happiest place on Earth," and since Cinderella is awake, presumably it's not Malificent (the evil stepmother/queen). Are we to assume the kingdom is ruled by the newly-crowned King Charming?

I'm not trying to pretend that Disneyworld has a functioning political monarchy. These slippages, though, are big, and I think work to show the way the fairy tale is gendered (at least in the Disney conception of it). The only truly important part of the Middle Ages to Disney World is the princess -- the image of the princess is the hub around which everything else revolves, just as the castle is the hub of the park.

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Having just returned from vacation, I found a lot of medieval items clogging the pipes of the Inter-web. Here are some of them:

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Light (if any) blogging for the next few days. In the meantime:

Left-Handedness in the Middle Ages

This comic strip (which I suspect is supposed to be about homosexuality) depicts the medieval church as being intolerant of the left-handed.

I've heard this idea before -- that left-handedness was somehow associated with evil or witchcraft in the Middle Ages. The problem is that I can't recall ever having run across any such reference.

I asked a historian friend of mine who's done a bit of work in witchcraft and sorcery from the late-classical/early-medieval period, and he too had never seen any good scholarly reference for this idea.

So, folks, is it true? Can someone give me an actual medieval reference -- or is this like the "fact" that people in the Middle Ages didn't eat tomatoes because they thought they were poisonous: just a load of bunk?*

h/t Ninalog

*For those who don't know, tomatoes are a New World plant. Medieval Europeans did not eat tomatoes because they had never seen (nor even heard) of them, yet somehow this myth won't die.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Monday, July 20, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Pushing the envelope of what can be considered a "morning" miscellany:

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Here's a Miscellany for your Wednesday morning. Since I'm writing this Tuesday night, and Leeds is ongoing, the Miscellany will be about 6 hours old when you can finally read it.
Hammered Out Bits has two posts on a glass bead making furnace. It's a cross-post from the Dark Ages Re-Creation Company blog. I knew of the existence of DARC, but not the blog, so I'm updating my RSS feed accordingly.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Sir Gwilym of Many Conquests

Here's a news* story about Gwilym of Many Conquests, and his many descendants.

I see they've interviewed that publicity hound Lucas Pearson of Cardiff University.

*wink, wink

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Circumstances have conspired to keep me from a full-bore Miscellany, but here's a little bit:
Not even close to being caught up, but I put a little dent into it. By the way, here's a medieval blog called Medieval Times. Update blogrolls, etc.

Friday, July 10, 2009

No Miscellany Today

Sorry about not having a Miscellany as promised this morning. I had serious computer problems, but I think I've got them more-or-less ironed out. Hopefully tomorrow.

Thursday, July 09, 2009

RIP: Virginia Brown

According to Ruff Notes, Virginia Brown, paleographer and fellow emerita of the Pontifical Institute of Mediaeval Studies, passed away over the weekend. has more details.

Various Updates

Since it's too late for a Morning Medieval Miscellany, and I've got hundreds of posts sitting on my reader, here are a few updates:
There. That gets me to under 50 to read tomorrow morning. I've barely skimmed the above, but they're reliable sources, so even though I can't vouch for the posts themselves, I suspect you'll be happy with what you find.

Friday, July 03, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Here in the U.S., we've got a three day weekend -- so here are some things to enjoy as we prepare to combine explosives, alcohol, and patriotism:
Finally, does anyone know what's going on at Medieval Music? At first I just thought the site had an ESL issue, but when I look at the links, they seem to have no bearing whatsoever on the subject matter. Something seems not right there.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Sword Polish

I met a young woman tonight who collects fantasy swords, and was interested in knowing what would be a good sword polish. I assured her that in this august community of Wordhoarders there were enough experts on swords that we ought to get some really good answers.

So, folks, what's a good sword polish?

Let's Go Shopping for Medieval Clothes!

Anyone who knows me knows that I hate shopping for clothing. I find even virtual shopping for medieval clothing to be a drag.

I've got a $20 gift certificate to Historic Enterprises, and I'm looking to buy something. I'm willing to go as high as $60 total for the right thing -- but I just can't choose! I can't even narrow it down to a few items; I'm all over the place.

I already own the generic Viking outfit (back when I got it, they didn't differentiate between Anglo-Saxon and Viking), and I have a hat to protect my bald pate. Wherever possible, I wear linen rather than wool, because it's a billion degrees in Alabama all the time. Also, I prefer early medieval and northern Europe, but I might mix periods/regions if the overall effect isn't ridiculous.

So, let's go shopping. What should I buy?

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Welcome to July! Also to kick off this month:
Quid Plura says that General Hospital has a storyline about courtly love. Seriously. It cracks me up when Maxine apparently thinks courtly love is some new sexual position. I've embedded the video below.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Morning Medieval Miscellany

Some things for you:

Title Check

A bleg for feedback -- I'm submitting a paper to an academic panel at Dragon*Con. It needs to be academic in content, but popular in tone. Since most people who aren't already committed to sitting through the paper will only encounter the title, in this case the title is vitally important. It has to say, "Hey, world, this is going to be interesting, not boring! But don't worry, it won't just be a bunch of fluff, either!"

Here's the title I'm working with: Pre-Post-Humanism: The Medieval Roots of Hybrid Humans in Science Fiction and Fantasy

What do you thing? Too hoity-toity?