Tag Archives: horses

A trip across the pond some time ago

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

Horses for courses

(I promise that this is the last entry for a while I will begin with a non-medieval piece of token coinage. This one is relevant, but possibly only to one reader. Back to the real deal shortly, after I have met some deadlines…)

Reverse of a copper halfpenny token issued by an uncertain party between 1787 and 1805 depicting Pandora's Breeches afire with a serpent beneath, Fitzwilliam museum CM.BI.1925-R

Reverse of a copper halfpenny token issued by an uncertain party between 1787 and 1805 depicting Pandora's Breeches afire with a serpent beneath

… on the other hand, one persistent advantage of the attachment to Clare is the conversation. One Monday not long ago, after finding a fellow Thomas Spence enthusiast (see above), I got talking to my more immediate colleague Dr Tatsuya Mitsuda, who has now landed a job in Japan and so will not be my colleague for much longer. This means that he is wrapping up his current field of research, which has been on the ownership of and fascination with the horse in modern culture. Among the interesting things he said is that it takes till horse-racing becomes a popular sport for horses to become so personalised as to get names, as before that the focus is on the rider and also very upper-class; affection for horses, he suggested, was mainly a middle-class thing.

A stone carving of Odin on Sleipnir

A stone carving of Odin on Sleipnir

This, it seemed to me, was likely to be vulnerable to attack from the Middle Ages, which is a concern fresh in my mind as you know, but the only named medieval horse I could immediately think of was Sleipnir, who is something of a special case. Now, having been directed by the Unlocked Wordhoard, who were also good enough to link to me, to an almost-irrelevant post at In the Medieval Middle that referred to a relevant one, I have the full answer and a characteric recommendation to read more Jeffrey Cohen, which indeed perhaps I should do some day, though I may wait for his Leeds keynote before I judge the urgency of this given my to-read pile. Anyway, the answer is that, as I suspected, chivalric literature has quite a few named horses in it and Karl Steel also had some more twisty examples that you can follow up there if such things interest you. All the same, I think Tats has some safe ground to retreat to from this onslaught of the medievalists in terms of popular, that is widespread, ownership of horses and the identification of the horse as celebrity is still interesting. Just, perhaps, not as new as all that.