Now, don’t push, there’s room for everyone, and besides, this is going to be a fairly amateur presentation as I’ve not done this before. Welcome to the May issue of the well-known and highly-esteemed Blog Carnival for the Historical Humanities, Carnivalesque!
Had I but wit enough and time, I’d try and generate some entertaining veneer theme such as has been done before by the more experienced: but lacking both of those commodities, instead I shall try and let the links speak for themselves. Ho yus. And because we naturally impose patterns on chaos, perhaps, it seems to me that the blogosphere at which I’ve been pointed or through which I’ve wandered lately has broken down into a few fairly broad themes.
Now the past as we medievalists know only too well falls into three parts: the ancient world, our bit, and the rest until now. One might be able to leave that last bit out of this particular gathering, had not Judith Weingarten so cunningly joined them up with a post that reminds us that the Renaissance really did involve some Classical models, and in this case a pretty Sienese one too, at Zenobia, Empress of the East. Meanwhile, no less imperious but with the tranquility that only being 1921 years old can instil, the Emperor Antoninus Pius gives us his fond recollection of Rosemary Sutcliffe’s The Eagle of the Ninth as he discovers it is to be filmed. Of course, sometimes it does to remember that we don’t have to reconstruct the doings of the ancients: quite a lot of what they constructed can still be seen, and seventeen of the best in the line of theatres and auditoriums are presented by OTBeach’s Travel News, which I freely admit has no other relevant content at all as far as I can see, but these pictures are worth a quick look.
In the Soil
When we move into the Middle Ages, though, we tend to find that material culture has to be retrieved from the ground with a trowel. And these last two months have seen some reasonable successes in that line, including: some Saxon (among lots of other!) finds at Dereham in Norfolk, reported by Melissa Snell at About.com on the basis of this report in the Dereham Times; a probable Viking trade centre at Woodstown in Ireland reported by David Beard at Archaeology in Europe on the basis of a BBC report; and a Viking sword pommel found on the Isle of Man and reported by the redoutable Martin Rundkvist at Aardvarchaeology, with pictures. Of course, sometimes you need to take care interpreting such things, as your humble host was moved to point out a few days ago after going to a clever friend’s paper.
Sometimes, you don’t have to dig at all, either because people just let you in as with this story about new access to 5th-century Japanese royal tombs reported by Larry Swain at The Heroic Age blog (which is encouraging); or because natural disaster suddenly reveals them to you, as with the eleventh-century church of Sant Romà de Sau in Catalonia, currently on plain view because the reservoir that usually covers it is all used up. This is less encouraging, but still fascinating: the report and a salutary picture can be found at News for Medievalists, and further links at Medieval Material Culture. Slightly more deliberate removal of water not far away in Barcelona’s docks area has in turn revealed a medieval ship’s remains, as can be read here having been reported by David Nishimura at Cronaca. And this being a blog technically focussed on Catalonia, I was never going to ignore that…
While we’re on the subject of ships, though, some of them have less happy tales. One such is the famous Øseberg ship, in which two Viking-period women were laid to their final rest, but it appears that some of the suspicions which had been entertained about their deaths can now be put to rest also, as Karen Larsdatter again reports at Medieval Material Culture. The Middle Ages is a period in which the theme of death comes up rather a lot, isn’t it? Observe this post on Anglo-Saxon infanticide at The Naked Philologist, the new blog of the highly-regarded Highly Eccentric where she is now hosting her more academic reflections, though as far as can be told they are still perhaps more eccentric than naked. Or, this note on a man who fell foul of the ill-favour of Philip the Fair, Enguerrand de Marigny, at Executed Today (though it is perhaps fair enough to expect the odd death there). And hey! Why stick at one person when you could get more than 1500 and burn most of a city? Someone seems to have done this to Florence in 1304, after all, and if you didn’t know, Heather Stein has a post at Sybilla Oritur to tell you all about it. And moving briefly from the sufferers of death to the dealers of death, Military History and Warfare brings us this useful and well-sourced introduction to Byzantium’s top soldiers, the Varangian Guard.
But you know, in the midst of death we are in life. People don’t seem to believe it, but the Middle Ages had their share of bawdy laughs, and Karen Larsdatter of Medieval Material Culture, who thus gets her third link in this carnival and is clearly too prolific, reports on a stage adapation of Boccaccio’s Decameron that recognises this and tries to keep all the rude bits in. Er, as it were. And the Naked Philologist (she again) gets a little tied up in a little-recognised subtext in Gawain and the Green Knight here, or at least someone does and she tells us about it, which is probably both safer for her and for anyone following the link. (And Adam Golaski has published the fourth instalment of a translation of the same poem which is kinky in purely syntatical terms, but still very much worth a try. Hat tip here to Jeff Sypeck of Quid Plura.) But let’s remember that without the subject of this section, kinky or otherwise, none of us would be here! And some of us have gone further than others to prove it. Richard Scott Nokes of the Unlocked Wordhoard, for example, has gone so far as to test his students’ mtDNA in what transpires in fact to be a deeper scheme that establishes that really, he was a Viking all along! The bow-tie of the photoes or his Anglo-Saxon disguises should be considered either distractions, or perhaps super-villanous alter-egos designed to conceal his new career of plunder, pillage and arson. Remember, Professor, Rule One: pillage, then burn, OK? and good luck. The job prospects may be better your way… Meanwhile, for those of us still wrestling to get this sort of thing straight, Anna Davies coordinates a number of medieval historians into giving their best-considered dating advice courtesy of a magazine site called nerve.com. Don’t say we never do anything to help…
Medievalists looking back
Of course, despite Ms Davies’s best advice, what many of us actually spend our quality time with is manuscripts and texts. Actually, these last two months, perhaps because a lot of the usual suspects have been either preparing for or at Kalamazoo, as shall be noted, the text work has been a bit thin on the ground. Your humble host has been squeezing pips out of a judicial record about counterfeiting of coin in tenth-century Barcelona in his old-fashioned way, but really the manuscript work that calls out for recognition is on illumination. Even when he’s avoiding writing serious content such as usually graces Got Medieval (ahem), we can rely on Carl Pyrdum for this, and his recent series Mmm… Marginalia is quality work in all its three instalments, while the inimitable Jennifer Lynn Jordan has continued her weekly Weird Medieval Animal Monday at Per Omnia Sæcula, most recently with the onager. But for serious work on texts one should probably turn to Michelle of Heavenfield, who has been doing so much lately that she’s had to move some of it, on her project on St Bede’s Abbreviated Psalter, to another blog at Selah. This has not stopped her keeping Heavenfield full of interesting stuff, though: for example, how much weight would you think that you could put on Bede’s report of what position St Oswald prayed in? Michelle not only asks but answers.
Medievalists looking forward
But really, what we like to talk about most, especially at this season, is ourselves, and especially how we include ourselves in the public. Regular readers will know that this is a perennial source of hand-wringing at A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe, but it’s really not just me. Striking opposite extremes, Matt Gabriele of Modern Medieval has been convincing people of the relevance of the Middle Ages to their right-now honest-injun lives at Delaware, while Kirsten Ataoguz at Early Medieval Art takes the brave alternative of suggesting that really, our material is anything but relevant, but that it is rather beautiful. And then they argue about it in her comments, so go and cheer them on! I want to side with Matt, but I do find Kirsten’s argument easier to sustain. And on the sidelines Michelle of Heavenfield points out a relevance we maybe weren’t expecting for our work by arguing that we are currently living through a process we more normally write about, ethnogenesis. “I’m doing things that haven’t got a name yet!”, indeed…
Elsewhere, though, some of us are just hanging on: while the ever-forthright Lettriste speaks from the heart about what this profession will do to your relationship at The Rebel Letter, the little-known Gesta does likewise about trying to meet everyone’s expectations at On Boundaries. Gesta however does the UK academics the great service of going on to find a list of what the main British funding body considers the ‘leading scholarly journals in history’ so at least we can quantify a few of these expectations. But when it comes to why any of us do it in the first place, pride of place in these last couple of months must go to Magistra et Mater, who has done what any properly obsessive academic ought to have done and not just made a list, but done it by way of modifying someone else’s. Your personal reason’s got to be in this somewhere!
And so what is it, finally, that we do? Well, this month at least, mainly we go to Kalamazoo. So much has been written about this lately, including one helpful post from Richard Scott Nokes explaining what it actually is, that really the best your humble host can do here is provide a round-up of round-ups, where again Professor Nokes has done sterling service, and links through to the overlapping but complementary one at News for Medievalists. Two write-ups that I did like, however because they involved reactions to papers I thought I would have liked to hear also, have been provided by Larry Swain at The Ruminate and the newly-apparent CyberMedievalist.
Like almost everything else ever posted on A Corner of Tenth-Century Europe, this has become much too long. Ordinarily I would quote Churchill and claim that “I didn’t have time to make it short”; this time, however, I entirely blame the quality of the various witting and unwitting contributors. It remains only to say that as I understand it, the next Carnivalesque will be no. 40, the early modern edition, and will probably appear at Janice Liedl’s jliedl.ca, though the relevant page says ‘provisional’ about that so don’t hate her (or me) if it turns out otherwise. And I hope you’ve had fun on your visit meanwhile! Thankyou for stopping by.