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I have again to apologise for a gap in posting. I’ve been on holiday! I did mean to have something ready for posting before I went, but the preparation overwhelmed everything, sorry. Now I’m back, and back in the past, … Continue reading
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I have mentioned before now that, by pretty much complete coincidence with my research topic, I have occasional family reasons to pitch up in Catalonia, at a place called Palautordera. Long ago I wrote a post lamenting that the one … Continue reading
I’ll try to make up for some lost time here by following fast on the last post for once. The next thing I want to record from the memory banks of 2017, after a huge conference in which my department played a small part, is a small one in which we were all of it. The theme for the 2018 International Medieval Congress (which was a huge conference organised from my department, to coincide with the Congress’s 25th birthday, was ‘memory’, and by way of trying to get the department, or at least its partly contained cluster the Institute for Medieval Studies, geared up for that, on 23 May 2017 we held a workshop on that theme of memory. This was an all-day event featuring twenty speakers, which we managed by limiting everyone to no more than five minutes. This kept everyone to showcasing one important point about how our work intersected with the key theme and no more, and was actually quite an enjoyable challenge, but it also makes a neat little time capsule of who we then were. It would be a bit daft to try to summarise five-minute papers, but it seems worth giving at least a running order and some comments arising. So this was that running order.
Axel Müller, “Welcome and Introduction”
- Catherine Batt, “Mind, Memory and Penitential Psalm in Cambridge MS CUL G.I.1”
- Fozia Bora, “The historical digest (mukhtasar) as an aide memoire in the medieval Islamicate”
- Hervin Fernández-Aceves, “Del olvido al no me acuerdo: the medieval memory of Mexico”
- Jonathan Jarrett, “Remembering the Deeds of Guifré the Hairy?”
- Alan Murray, “Memorialising Virtue: Exempla in Chronicles of Teutonic Order”
- Trevor Smith, “Remembering the Nation’s Past: Middle English Passages in the Long Anglo-Norman Prose Brut Manuscripts”
- Daniele Morossi, “How Manuel I’s Good Memory Led to the End of the Venetian-Byzantine Alliance”
Discussion and Coffee
- Julia Barrow, “Hereford Cathedral Obit Book”
- Melanie Brunner, “Memory and Curial Processes in 14th-Century Avignon”
- Joanna Phillips, “Memorialising the Crusades: History with the Nasty Bits Left In”
- Thomas Smith, “Constructing German Memories of the First Crusade”
- Iona McCleery, “Memories of Meals”
- Francisco Petrizzo, “The Disappeared: Memory Loss in Family History”
- Pietro Delcorno, “The ‘Memorable’ Armour of John of Capistran”
- Alaric Hall, “Alternative Facts, History, and the Epistemologies of Wikipedia”
Discussion and Lunch
- Emilia Jamroziak, “Response”
- Alec McAllister, “Mnemonic Software”
- Sunny Harrison, “Between Memory and Written Record”
Coffee and Cake
So there we have seven permanent members of the School of History, two from the School of English and one from the School of Languages, Culture and Society; one from IT Services with a responsibility for us in History; two temporary members of History staff; and five of the IMS’s postgraduates. And what were we saying? Well, it’s my blog, so let’s start with me me me… I used the different ways that the half-legendary founder count of Barcelona, Guifré the Hairy, has been put to work for various political endeavours over the centuries following his demise, to argue that we had a responsibility to ensure that the control of certain memories cannot become a political monopoly. This involved a pomo syllogism so I’m not sure if I convinced even myself, but there is material there.
C19th statue of Guifré the Hairy outside the Palacio Real, Madrid
Catalan stamp depicting Count Guifré the Hairy
As for the others, you can see from the titles that we ranged from these islands and the Western Mediterranean to the Baltic, Arabia and México, as well as purely virtual space and, although it’s not obvious from her title, Iona’s case study was from Ghana, so I think our range shows up pretty well. Stand-out points for me that are still worth repeating might be these:
- There were several examples here of things that were actually Roman being used to plug gaps in both medieval and modern memories, like nineteenth-century depictions of the pre-conquest kings of México, the medieval historical legends of Britain and of course actual ongoing Roman history in the form of the Byzantine Empire of the Komneni. I thought harder than I ever had before about this when putting together my 2015 exhibition Inheriting Rome, and I still think we could do with theorizing this reach for Rome better: my impression remains that we reach for it exactly when there is a gap that has arisen in our own memories, whether through ignorance or inconvenience of the truth, and it’s so natural that people don’t usually notice they’ve done it. But it has an effect…
- A smaller and more obvious point but again not always remembered: we are at the end of a long chain of choices about what to remember from the period we choose to study, all of which left some stuff out. Here that was obvious from the letter Tom Smith had studied, which recorded a call to Germans to come and assist the newly-established Latin states in the Holy Land in 1100; this was probably forged, but survives largely in places from which Germans went on the Second Crusade in 1144. There’s a question there about which is chicken and which egg, that is, whether the Crusade demanded the creation of propaganda or the letter already existed and provoked that response. Our dating of the manuscripts isn’t tight enough to resolve that problem. But the other thing, which Alan Murray noted, is that the letter was apparently of no interest to keep in areas without much crusade response. Well, OK, obvious you may say, but if we start judging popular response by the survival of such texts, or just leaving out areas where they don’t occur from studies of supposedly global phenomena, problems may arise… And they’re bigger ones than just this source, too.
- Lastly, apparently with a bit of quick work you can make Azhagi+, a software tool mainly designed for typing Tamil and other Indic languages from an English keyboard—which may already be something you’d want to know about—type pretty much combination of diacritics and letters you like… I had forgotten this till going back over my notes and now need to do some experimenting!
And that was my local academic community of 2017, many of whom are still there, and although I’m not sure exactly how well it set us up for the upcoming IMC, it was fun and collegiate to be part of and as you can see, did provoke thought as well. And the cake was excellent, which cannot always be guaranteed! So a day well spent in 2017, I think, and not the only one either.
Posted in Catalonia, Crusades, General medieval, Germany, Institutions, Romans
Tagged Alan Murray, computing in the humanities, conferences, Guifré the Hairy, Leeds, memory, Thomas Smith
I don’t know about you, but in the current medical and economic climate, I am finding my identity as a researcher quite hard to maintain. As Dirk Gently would have put it, its waveform has collapsed. I have been letting correspondence about research projects and plans drop, just because I can’t see through to a point where they will be practical again, and I was already doing this before the pandemic to be honest. I am also, concomitantly, finding it increasingly hard to engage with the research that people are still managing to do, or at least present, like the recent virtual International Medieval Congress, which I didn’t attend. I mention this mainly because it’s one reason I’ve found it hard to get round to writing this post about the 52nd International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo in 2017; I was there and I learnt things and I had fun, although I wasn’t really presenting anything new, but it seems very far from what matters now. But maybe that means it’s important to retain, and in any case it did happen, however unlikely that large a gathering now seems. So here we are, an account. Continue reading
Posted in Carolingians, Crusades, England, France, Frontiers, General medieval, Islamic Crescent, numismatics, Spain, Vikings
Tagged Alcuin, Alice Blackwell, Andrei Gândilâ, Andrew Holt, Aragón, Ariana Myers, Baltic, bishops, Brittany, Calabria, Carine van Rhijn, Catherine Karkov, Chris Wickham, Christopher Guyol, conferences, Damián Fernández, Danielle Bradley, Eleanor Rosamund Barraclough, Elva Johnston, gender history, Graham Barrett, Greenland, Gregory Leighton, Gregory of Tours, Guy Halsall, Helen Foxhall Forbes, Hildemar of Corbie, horses, Hundred Years War, Iona McCleery, Ireland, James Schryver, Jamie Wood, Jane Sancinito, John of Salisbury, John-Henry Clay, Kalamazoo, Lee Mordechai, Mallorca, Max McComb, medieval literature, Merovingians, Molly Lester, Nicole López-Jantzen, Pablo Poveda Arias, Patrick Wadden, periodisation, Peter of Duisburg, Portugal, Rebecca Devlin, Regan Eby, Rory Naismith, Rosalind Bonté, Scotland, Sueves, Sunny Harrison, Templars, Teutonic Knights, Theodulf of Orléans, treasure, Trevor Smith, Valerie Garver, Vanessa Wright, Visigoths, West Africa