Wednesday, December 31, 2008

A very cool post at Babelstone re: the first appearance of Ogham in a manuscript....

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

PEAA Awards Additional

Its been suggested that I add a new category to the voting: Best Podcast on Medieval Subject. Consider it added.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

PEAA Awards

Just a reminder to send in your nominations for the PEAA awards, I'll announce the winning nominations after the 1st of the year, hopefully very soon after the beginning of the year.

Friday, December 19, 2008

PEAA Additional Categories

Let me add some categories, though I won't post these to the other blogs:

Best Journal Article of the Year

Best New Medieval Book of the Year

Best New Medieval Web Project of the Year

Best Use of Electronic Media of the Year

Best Medieval Movie/TV Show of the Year

Best Medievalism Web Site of the Year

Best Medievalism Book/Movie/TV of the Year

First Annunal Unofficial PEAA Awards

Announcing the first annual Praemium Ephemeridis Aetheriae Auctoribus awards (Award for Authors of Ethereal Diaries). Ok, I'm not that caffeined (rhymes with fiend) yet, so if you have a better name or acronym, write in. Anyway, here's the deal. Nominate the best medieval blog *entry* of the year that is not one written by you. So: medieval, an entry, written by someone other than the person nominating. Here are some categories I've thought of:

Award for Best Blog Entry of the Year

Award for Blog Entry that Fueled Research

Award for Blog That Best Serves the Medieval Community

Recognition for Best Electronic Article on a Medieval Topic

Award for Best Entry Making Fun of Ourselves

Write suggestions and nominations to larsprec AT gmail dot com

I'll collate and between the 25th and the 1st announce things that are gaining votes and announce those whom we wish to recognize after the first of the year.

The prize contains nothing other than the approbation of fellow medievalists.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Why I'm a Medievalist Meme Ruminated: Warning Terribly Autobiographical and Rambling!

Being on the job market has reminded me of "meme" not long ago that addressed why one becomes a medievalist. I started this journey a long, long time ago, well, a long time ago to me. While I've defended successfully, I'm still finishing the editing, so it'll be January before I have a piece of paper in hand. That's ten years after I walked in Paul Szarmach's office in the middle of snow storm to have our first face to face, a little over 12 years since I began to apply to graduate schools, and about 14 years since I had a sit down with myself and said I "gotta finally do this thing" and began researching what it would take to get me there and started buying books and reading. For me that's ahead of the story.

So how did I become a medievalist? I'd like to be able to list all these grand scholarly things that sound impressive....but I can't. I became a medievalist more or less through the back door and well, out of love.

My family has no tradition of higher education. My father's father, whom I never met, apparently went to college in Minnesota for awhile. I have notebooks that my father gave me where Granddad did his botany homework, drawing plants and making notes of their physical descriptions and properties. But when he went West to the then "wilds" of Montana, working to take the railroad across the state, he apparently left family and education behind. I know few details, as my Dad's family is dominated by my grandmother: anytime I ask my father or his siblings about Granddad, the focus quickly turns to Grandma. Anyway, point is, Granddad had a college education at the turn of the last century: and that's it. None of my father's siblings went to college, my father didn't even finish high school and later earned his degree.

My mother's side is new American. Both my mothers parents came to the US just a hair before the first world war, one in 1910 and the other in 1914. Both were of good, German, peasent stock, and when they married in 1915, they set up farming in North Dakota. Needless to say, they didn't go to college either, and neither did any of their children.

Well, that reading thing....reading was the one thing that I was good at all the way through school. So I read. All the time. English classes introduced me to adapted versions of the Aeneid and the Odyssey and Shakespeare and of all the stuff we read, I found that that was the literature I loved best. So when I went to library and slowly but surely my reading evolved into three areas of interest: current politics, history, esp. pre-modern, and classical and medieval literature. Now when my poor high school councilor was dubious about me making it in college he stirred my inner Beowulf. I was ok: areas I was good in I excelled, areas I wasn't, I bombed. Hence PSAT, SAT, and ACT scores were mixed and my grades were B average. Rather than rip his arm off, though, I worked like a dog. Since my councilor wasn't really going to help me much get into anything except the local college, which I didn't want to do, and my parents had no clue, and there was no internet to use, I started researching colleges at the public library. I had no idea what I was doing. Quite by chance, someone asked me about Seattle Pacific Univ and if I thought that would be a good school. I looked it up, applied, and got in.

Now, a major....given my interests at the time, I thought that I'd become a Relgion-Philosophy major. I spent the summer before and after my freshman year on fishing boats. The great thing about gill netting is that you have periods of intense activity, followed by a few hours of inactivity. So I'd sit on deck and read. I even had a library card for the Juneau Public Library--yes, I've seen Sarah Palin's house--well the governor's mansion which I walked by on my way to the library when we came into town after the weekly fishing period was done. Go to the laundromat, buy a shower while the clothes are in the washer, head up the hill past the mansion and over to the library was my weekly routine, return and set about swabbing decks, repairing and cleaning nets, and joy of joys....occasionally scrubbing the bottom of the boat....a most unpleasant of jobs. Give me shoveling manure any day of the week (yes, done that too). Anyway, I read on deck. I read all of Shakespeare, tried to read the Fairie Queene, read Augustine's Confessions and City of God, read all of C. S. Lewis and read Tolkien's Hobbit and Lord of the Rings, read Milton, read Chaucer, read the Odyssey, the Aeneid, the Bible.....When I got to college however I found out that reading some Augustine and Aquinas wasn't the same as being a philosophy major. So I switched to Religion-Greek and Linguistics. there's something. I'd already had some German and Latin in high school. Now I added Greek and Hebrew and during a History of English course, discovered Old English and Beowulf...and I was in love! I think of it this way now: Greek is a great intellectual challenge that I love working in. Latin is like my lifeblood, I love working in Latin....but for those moments of linguistic FLOW, moments at which I completely lose myself and its all about the task in hand....those moments belong to working in Old English and Old Norse. I'm not sure yet where Old Irish and Hebrew fit on that scale, but I enjoy those too.

So, my career as a medievalist was sealed: I kept reading these texts, I loved learning and working in these languages. I can't point to some grand intellectual thing, but I can point all the way back to elementary school for the initial elements that led me to become a medievalist. It took me 14 years with stops and starts to get from college graduation to graduate school in medieval studies. But I did it for the simple reason that I love it: I love the stories, I love the manuscripts, I love the languages. Its my personal love affair with this material. And should it happen, heaven forfend, that I not be in academia, I love this material enough to grab that proverbial, figurative arm and rip it off: i. e. I'll still be working in it because I love the material.

So that's why I'm a medievalist. Nothing grand. Just a love affair that's been growing stronger for forty years now.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008


A few months ago, I read Spice: The History of a Temptation by Jack Turner and had intended to mention it here, but had forgotten. Now we've moved and the book is packed away in the 2 dozen book boxes we didn't have room for when we went from 2 bedrooms to 1 (meaning I lost my office at the same time I was losing my school office). And to boot, I'm out of town....and get to catch up on blog posts! Yay!, I'm no expert on the history of potables and comestibles....far from such a state. Its something I want to look into and I've collected a few volumes to read up on when I suddenly have free time. I took History of the World in Six Glasses with me on a trip to Merry Olde Angleterre a few years back since there's about 8 hours of free time each way. (I actually had about 12 on the way there, but that's a different story and watched 6 movies while reading said book.) So to the book....

It isn't a scholarly tome. Its non-fiction, seems fairly well researched, but aimed at educated, interested, intelligent non-professional sorts of folk. I enjoyed it immensely, and at the back of the book the author includes a Narrative sort of "Works Cited". So it isn't footnotes, and it isn't just bibliography, but gives the reader good sources, both primary and secondary, to run to for further information.

The book was brought back to mind as I was deciding what of my spice store I was packing to bring with to T-giving holiday here in the USA. I do the cooking in my house, the price of marrying a much younger woman I suppose. But especially now that my wife's mother has passed, I do the cooking for her family too. Ok, those of you who have seen me in the flesh have probably realized that I look the way I do because I'm actually quite good at that cooking thing. So anyway...back to the book again....

Its a wide ranging study. It begins with the early modern period and talks about the beginnings of the modern spice trade as the Western powers go out in search of spices etc in the Far East. But then after the introduction we go backwards in time. But Turner, the author, does not tell simply a chronological tale.

I learned a great deal. There was material about ancient uses of spices, a find in Iran of a village from about 6000 BCE in which a spice from the Far East was found, and still rather fresh. Loads of good tidbits about the Greeks, Romans, and Egyptians. But he doesn't neglect the medieval either. There was stuff from Bede and Aldhelm and Aelfric, and Christian comments about the wrongs of spicy foods and rents paid in pepper in the late middle ages. He illuminated the familiar too by looking at the land of Cockayne and its appearance in various sorts of medieval literature, and spice and its smell as signs of heaven. In the late medieval period, there were even spice mongers in lower class neighborhoods in larger cities, much less the personal spice expert to the nobles, who sometimes was at odds with the cook in the castle!

Turner details the double-mindedness of the Church: spices signified heaven, or the stink of hell depending on the need of the preacher. He also talks a bit about the uses of spices in medieval medicine which was interesting, even invoking an Anglo-Saxon charm as I recall. Fortunately he also debunks the common false preconceptions of the medieval period. For example, the wide spread use of spice to disguise rotten food (uh, no). He talks about spice as a status symbol in the medieval period, and the medieval diet. He even talks a little about spices as aphrodisiacs (though how our forebears thought that applying pepper to the male genitalia would Viagra-like aid in sexual performance is beyond me.)

In all, the thesis of the book is simply that spice and spices were catalysts for history: art, intellectual, and caused humans to act to get them. He proves that thesis I think.

This was a pretty easy read, geared as I said to a popular, educated, and intelligent audience though not necessarily the specialist. I learned a lot, even about things medieval, and looked at things I did know through a new lens that expanded my view of things, and eventually my teaching. I'd recommend this book.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Shivering me timbers

Wow. I was just at In The Middle and read Eileen Joy's post, ending with the introductory lines of one of her short stories. Here it is below. Fabulous line!

"History has many skins, layer upon layer of fragile papyrus, a thick apocrypha of facts and fictions, strands of white hair, cups full of brown teeth and jewelry gone green with rust."

I'm gonna have to steal that.....

Friday, November 07, 2008

Medieval Literature I Didn't Know II.a Bibliography

Just a quick one here. Not much has been written on the Letter to Sigeweard. Its a rich text, and it is now beginning to attract attention beyond just my own work. By the way, it has traveled under 3 names: Letter to Sigeweard (its a letter and its addressed to Sigeweard), Treatise on the Old and New Testaments (translation of the incipit in Laud 509), and Libellus or Libellus de veteri testamento et novo, the Latin incipit in Laud 509. In my work, I opted for "Letter to Sigeweard" since the text of the letter contains so much more than simply a discussion of the Bible.

At the time I started, this was just in process:
Hall, Thomas N. "Ælfric and the Epistle to the Laodiceans." Apocryphal Texts and Traditions in Anglo-Saxon England. Ed. Kathryn Powell and Donald Scragg. Publications of the Manchester Centre for Anglo-Saxon Studies 2. Cambridge: D. S. Brewer, 2003. 65-83.

Then followed news that Richard Marsden was updating the EETS volume edited by Crawford, S. J. The Old English Version of the Heptateuch, The Treatise on the Old and New Testament, and His Preface to Genesis, EETS os 160 (London: 1922) and will someday appear as The Old English Heptateuch and Ælfric's Libellus de veteri testamento et novo for EETS os 330 by OUP. When I exchanged emails with Dr. Marsden, it was to appear in Dec. 2006. Last May it was advertised at K'zoo by Boydell who handles EETS volumes as appearing in October. But the Oxford site now says Nov. 21, 2008. We'll see. And that's only volume 1!

The first editor of the text was William L'Isle whom I mentioned in my original post on the subject. He is the first modern editor, publishing in 1623 and stands as a bridge figure between Parker, Cotton and that generation of Old English scholars and Junius later in the 17th century. He was interested in establishing the theology of the Anglo-Saxon church to use in the ongoing Protestant Reformation especially in terms of the Bible in the vernacular and the Eucharist. Thus, his interest in the letter. His work is: A Saxon Treatise on the Old and New Testaments written at the time of King Edgar (Aboute 700 Yeares Agoe) by Aelfricus Abbas....(the title is hugely long) Printed by John Haviland for Henrie Seile, 1623. In 1638, after L'Isle's death, the book was reiussed as Divers Ancient Monuments....I should mention too that in addition to the Letter, L'Isle reprinted Matthew Parker's edition of an Easter sermon by Aelfric, that itself was the first printed Old English.

I'm told that the great Hugh Magennis has published a translation of the text in Metaphrastes, or, gained in translation: essays and translations in honour of Robert H. Jordan, Edited by Margaret Mullett and published by the Belfast Byzantine Texts and Translations series in 2004. I haven't seen it. Magennis also wrote an entry on it for the membership driven The Literary Encyclopedia that is online, but one can only read the first snippet for free. But from that, it appears to be mostly descriptive.

But that's all. There are no other articles or books on the Letter that I know of. There are many places, though not as many as one might think, where some aspect of the letter is discussed such as Paul Remley's Old English Biblical Verse or Hugh Magennis' Images of Community in Old English Verse. One curious reference is in Allen Frantzen's Before the Closet where Frantzen says that Sigeweard is a priest, which he wasn't. But these references usually have a paragraph or two to illustrate some point and move on. I should compile all these, but well, I have other projects to finish, including my editing!

Canon II

Wow, what a 2 months! I'm returning to catch up on a couple posts in the wings before moving on to new material. As the title to this one indicates, this post is responding to some issues raised in the comments on the first post on Canon that I thought better answered here than in the comments section, especially after more than a month has passed.

Ed Gallagher wrote in the comments:

A difficulty with your take on the rabbinic discussion of what "defiles the hands" is that the rabbis not only discuss writing material and styles, but also specific books. For instance, Ecclesiastes or Song of Songs (m. Yad 3.5). This seems to mean that certain books would not defile the hands under any conditions, while other books would defile the hands if they are written in a certain way. So the issue is one of sanctity (= defiling the hands), which can only occur if certain conditions are met. The book itself has to be holy (= canonical), and it has to be written in a certain way and on certain material. You are right to point out that more than just canonicity is involved, but I think that canonicity (= status as scripture) is one of the things involved.

First, let me challenge your definition of canonicity. I do not believe that we can equate "status as scripture", a religious and theological category with "canonical status" a literary category. The two may certainly overlap, especially in Judaism and Christianity, but both also developed canonical works and lists that are "scriptural", for example, and certainly the Greco-Roman world around them had canonical texts that were not scriptural, if they even understood what "scriptural" might be.

Second, you report the typical interpretation of the phrase. The problem as I see it is that it lacks evidence, and of course is contradicted by other dicta in the Mishnah's corpus. There is no evidence that the rabbis had in mind ALL copies of Ecclesiastes say and all translations in their pronouncement, and of course had no way to enforce it even if they did so mean it. Further, they don't bother to list for us all the books that "defile the hands." There is also that lovely debate between the Pharisees and Sadducees regarding the books of Homer, which according to the Pharisees the Saducees believe make the hands unclean. Are we seriously to believe that the keepers of the Temple and the High Priest's party placed Homer on a par with Moses, David, and the Prophets? Or reduce the comment to mere insult hurling, and the rabbis simply don't record the Saduceean response? The last speaker in rabbinic lit usually is the winner.

So here it is in a nutshell for me:
1) there is no evidence directly connecting the idea of sanctity to canonicity: i. e. that sanctity is the cause for a text to be considered canonical

2) There seems in some groups any way to be a way in which a holy text is not necessarily canonical: how else do we explain the reference to Homer and the Sadducees without a reduction to absurdity?

I rather think the direction flows the other way: the book was canonical, copies of it were in the Temple, it therefore must be determined if the object is holy or not. Thus, the canonical status comes first, the sanctity second rather than the majority of thinkers who have it the other way round.

I realize that this isn't an adequate response, especially for a view that goes against the usual interpretation and understanding. But it will have to do for now.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

An Official Word

I passed. There's loads of editing to do before final submission of the dissertation, but the 5 members of my committee saw fit to pass me, and even praised sections of the work as being "groundbreaking" and "fascinating". I for one am quite pleased.

The Chaucer Rap

I found this rather amusing, from YouTube:

Chaucer Rap

Thursday, October 23, 2008

Cotton Library Day

The Great Nokes over at Unlocked Wordhoard reminds everyone that today is Cotton Library day....the day in 1731 of the Ashburnham House, then housing the nascent national library, burned down in which much of the Cotton Collection suffered some kind of damage. For us Anglo-Saxonists of all stripes, it's a day to be grateful that we have what we have. The Great Nokes asks readers what their favorite Cotton manuscript is. I went with the obvious one: Cotton Vitellius A.xv.

But it reminded me to talk about a manuscript that *didn't* go through the Ashburnham House fire. I'm sure the one or two people reading this (and I can safely say with absolute certainty that neither reader is my mom or my spouse!) are saying "Huh?"

Oxford Bodleian Library Laud 509 is a copy of Aelfric of Eynsham's "translations" of the Heptateuch (Genesis, Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, and Joshua, followed by Aelfric's sermon summarizing Judges). These are followed by Aelfric's letters to Wulfgat and Sigeweard, and then a copy of prose Life of Guthlac that is now a separate manuscript, London, British Library Cotton Vitellius D.xxi, but was originally the ending of Laud 509. The other main manuscript with the Hexateuch is also a Cottonian manuscript, Claudius B.iv and has the advantage of being wonderfully illustrated.

Ok, so, the attentive reader will have noted that Laud 509 has a copy of a text that is also in a Cottonian manuscript, and what's more part of Laud 509 remained with the Cottonian library, and obviously both went through the fire. So that should indicate that Laud 509 was once a part of the Cottonian did it come to Oxford and be designated Laud 509?

Well, there's a nice little story there, and I at least find it interesting. Laud 509 was in fact part of the Cotton Library. William L'Isle in the early 17th century became interested in learning Old English and to establish certain doctrines of the Anglo-Saxon church. The Protestant Reformation and Counter-Reformation were still in full swing and one of the points that L'Isle and other Protestants continued to argue was the doctrine of the Eucharist and the Biblical text in the vernacular. As is well known, the English Reformers used Aelfric and other Anglo-Saxon writers to justify their views. So L'Isle borrowed from Cotton the two manuscripts with the Hexateuch. He made notes from them and in them over the early years of the 17th century and returned the illustrated hexateuch in Claudius B.iv to Cotton as the more valuable of the two. He returned and reborrowed Laud 509 over the years and even offered an exchange of some of his manuscripts in return for 509. Cotton died, and after his death L'Isle simply kept the manuscript for his use in preparing a vernacular edition of the English Bible in Old English, a project that his own death prevented him from completing. It is apparent that at some point early on, Cotton himself separated the Guthlac from the other texts as there is no evidence of L'Isle's notes in that portion and that the Guthlac traveled with the Cotton Library and not with L'Isle's 509.

L'Isle died in the late 1630s and somehow the manuscript was acquired by Archbishop Laud, seemingly with an interest in the vernacular Bible of the Anglo-Saxon period as L'Isle was. But Laud was running afoul of Parliament: by this time we're fast approaching Cromwell and Milton et al, both of whom are already active. If memory serves Laud, sensing trouble brewing, made two large manuscript bequests to Oxford in 1641-2, including this manuscript. And that's how a Cottonian manuscript came to Oxford and escaped the Ashburnham House fire of 1731.

In full disclosure, the foregoing is not the result of my original research. It is a summary of what is found in Neil Ker's Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon and Graham, Timothy. “Early Modern Users of Claudius B.Iv: Robert Talbot and William L’Isle.” In The Old English Hexateuch: Aspects and Approaches, ed. Rebecca Barnhouse and Benjamin C. Withers. Kalamazoo: Medieval Institute Publications, 2000. For more, I write about this manuscript in chapter 3 of the ol' beast.

Today, Post 1

I do have a couple of posts hanging out there like chads that I aim to complete someday soonish and then move on to the next Medieval Literature I Didn't Know piece, the one that inspired the series in fact, and will go well with Dr. Nokes' monster class if I get it translated for him so he can use it in class which most likely won't happen.

Ok, long breath....24 hours away from becoming, after a 25 year journey, Dr. Larry Swain.

Tuesday, October 14, 2008


Everyone has a blogroll. At a prompt from Steven Till, I'm updating mine at long last. My principal for this update is: I'm not including other blogs I post to, I'll put those up in the title. And these are blogs *I* currently read with regularity and that have postings that may be read with regularity....interesting blogs I check but that haven't had a posting in a year or 6 months aren't included. It will take me awhile, perhaps a couple weeks to complete this as the roll is long and I've been having trouble getting them all in without the window to Blogger shutting down, so I'm now doing it piecemeal. If you don't see yours, send me a note and I'll add it to the list. (Oh, I've also excluded blogs by other Heroic Age board members, I'll highlight those over on the HA blog.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Naked Philologists

NP shared this on her blog and I thought it was too good not to pass on in case you missed it:

Monday, October 06, 2008

Readyish to Share

Well, I have a defense date. Oct 24 I go before a board of 5 and defend my work. I'm more nervous about the editing than I am about the content.

Still, it isn't done. I just want to graduate and get a job someday. There's much yet to do on the work. But I thought I'd share for those who might possibly want to read it (ok, that's you Mom, but you should probably wait for the hardback).

Its here.

Undoubtedly between now and the defense I'll tweak it more, and after the defense I'll tweak it more, and after I know where I'm going there'll be significant changes to move it into a book. But there it is.

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Norman Conquest

I know I'm a bit behind here, but I wanted to wish everyone a Happy Norman Invasion Day! On this date in 1066, Billy the Conker, as 1066 And All That calls him, began the invasion of England. Sept. 27

Saturday, September 06, 2008


I'm returning to the other end of my academic interests for this post. I've recently completed reading Phillip Davies Scribes and Schools, first published in 1998. This shows that I'm only about ten years behind on my reading. This post is mostly about Second Temple Judaism and ancient scribal activity, but there is some medieval content toward the end.

Anyway, its a great, and I think overlooked, volume. The premise is that when discussing the canonization of the collection we know as the Hebrew Bible, we ought to look to scribal schools and activities. The Hebrew Bible is less a "religious" text than a cultural text composed, collected, codified, and canonized by scribes. The processes at work are social processes that are only in part religious. These processes are further the same processes we see in ancient Mesopotamia, Egypt, and the Hellenistic world. YES! The only other person whom I know to have discussed the development of the biblical canon from this perspective has been Nahum Sarna in a pamphlet he did for Library of Congress in which he points to these same processes at work.

There are various models of canonical development that Davies critiques. He rejects the models that do not adequately place the canonical of Jewish texts in a cultural mileau of the Ancient Near East. He rejects models that suggest that the canon, or perhaps multiple canons, arose to address and resolve conflicts in the community. In my view, this is absolutely correct. While there were certainly conflicts only a few of which we are able to discern in the text, canonization is seldom a process that is designed to paper over such differences. Individual texts may be removed or added to a preexisting canon to resolve such conflicts, but the canonizing process really has nothing to do with community conflicts as a whole. Davies also takes to task Michael Fishbane, who also sees the canonizing process as taking a long time and in scribal activities, but offers no certain rationale. In my mind, this is true as well, and what's more, for some reason not quite adequately explained in his writings, Fishbane rejects the notion of a pre-rabbinic canon. Related, Davies also rejects, rightly I think, that the texts of the Hebrew Bible were written to be canon...i. e. the canonical process and the composition process are one and the same. This might be true of some of the later material, such as Daniel, but as a whole can not be sustained, and so far as I know would be a unique situation in canonical history. Davies comes to a similar conclusion in that he points out that the composition of some books can not have been intended as canon (Song of Solomon for example), nor does Davies see how an author could develop the canonical clout so to speak to have a writing accepted. He also takes on James Sanders and Brevard Childs. These two are who got me interested in the question of canon in the first place, but one of the questions and issues here is that they look at the end product and talk about reception and canon communities. This is important, but has little place in a discussion of the processes of canonization; both tend to be rather too theological as well.

Davies argues, erroneously I think, that the canonization process can not have begun in the monarchical period (c. 1050-585 BCE), and so he points to the Persian period as the point of departure in the process. He further argues that for the prophets, the idea of a true vs. false prophet is not the major motivating factor. And before I forget I should toss in here that scribes serve power structures, and thus their canonizing activities have to be seen in relationship to those power structures.

There are places where I strongly disagree with Davies. He's a minimalist, I'm not. Considering scribal activity in the cultural mileau during the monarchical period, canonizing undoubtedly occurred then....whether that activity has much bearing on activity after the Exile is a different question.

When we get to the rabbis, Davies does not go nearly far enough in his critique of taking the phrase "to make the hands unclean" as indication of canonicity. It has for long been thought that rabbinic discussions on whether a particular scroll containing a literary work, particularly a literary work that belongs in what we know of as the Hebrew Bible, expressed as whether or not it "makes the hands unclean" indicates whether or not the rabbis were debating its canonical status.

They weren't. The tractate of the Mishnah in which the phrase occurs is Yadaim, "hands", and its subject matter by and large is ritual purity as it pertains to, well, the hands. Thus a black pot on an open fire makes the hands unclean. Heave offerings in the Temple violated by mice make the hands unclean. The only books that get mentioned are those pertaining to the Bible.

The issue, even with the books, is ritual purity: what and in what conditions do certain objects impute impurity that must then be purified. Thus, the scrolls containing what we call Scripture impute impurity according to the Mishnah only when written on leather (parchment), in Assyrian square script, in Hebrew. Any translations do not so impart impurity under any conditions. In short, only the scrolls written in a deluxe manner, any other manner (on papyrus in a different script or a different language) need not apply. Now if we press this into service as an indicator of canonicity we run into the problem the Psalms for instance are only canonical if written on leather in Assyrian square script in Hebrew: but not if written on papyrus in Hebrew in Assyrian square script. ANd it should be obvious that that is NOT how canon, canons, and canonical processes work.

Davies notes that the phrase refers to holiness and leaves the question there really, not going far enough to point out the error of our ways. Nor does he point out that talking about canonizing processes producing a "final" canon never really produce a "final" canon. Any canon that is considered closed may be reopened by future generations, particularly generations like the rabbis who are picking up the pieces after a major cultural upheaval.

Davies does point out toward the end of the discussion but misses the import of the fact that modern Christianity does not have a closed canon of its Bible(s). There are at least 3 major recensions, and each of those has minor differences depending on the body of people one is referring to. Nor does he point out that "lists of books" as a final product are no sure measure of canonicity either or of closure: again taking Christianity as an example, the first such list that had any widespread authority, rather than local authority, was the Council of Trent in 1550.

Others who reviewed the book have pointed out other problems. For example, Davies thinks that the canonizing process in the Persian period started because that's when the texts were first written; but the problem there is that some of the texts contain references to a social situation that no longer pertains to fifth century Jerusalem and that the writers of that period never knew. Others point to studies of scribal activity in Mesopotamia and cast doubt on whether we have sure evidence of canonizing processes there, the evidence is unclear. These are just examples.

All in all however, I thought the book a good one and many of the problems could have been resolved with simply a longer volume, but then it couldn't have been in this series. And it must be remembered that canonizing processes, and the final product, a literary canon, takes place within the context of scribal activity.

And this is true in the medieval period as well. We too seldom talk about the literary canons and canonizing processes in the medieval period; it goes beyond mere availability. There are the works that any educated person was expected to know, there's Alfred's canon, there's the entire process of what was read by medieval authors and why, the canon of Aelfric's works (and how and why such works were often divorced from their authors), and of course the invention of authority in a new work imitating a canonical one. We often hint around these issues. We have talked about them to a degree (Stock's Listening to the Text, Martin Irvine, etc) and talked about scribal culture and scribal activity. But not really, unless I'm missing something, in terms of canonical and the canonical process. Maybe its time we did.

What is of interest to me though is that to a degree there's a stream of scribal tradition, some part of which is canonical process, some part of which is dipolmatic in nature, some part of which is literary or theological or philosophical in nature, that can be traced from the invention of writing all the way to the present. We still participate in that scribal tradition, those of us in the Humanities in modern academia (and others). Even in the post-cultural wars period, we've invented new canons, not really done away with them--anyone may check the anthologies for literature classes to confirm that! Anyway, along the same lines what interests me too is that what we see in the medieval period is something akin to the Rabbinic problem: recreating a culture out of the past inheritance and the present. And it is interesting what they chose (hence at least in Anglo-Saxon studies we have the Sources of Anglo-Saxon Literary Culture project and Fontes Anglo-Saxonici both of which examine Anglo-Saxon literary borrowings of the past. I don't know of like projects for other fields.) But this is getting me into the subject of another conclude this one, scribal tradition and the accompanying canonical processes are an ever-flowing stream worthy of our study as we too continue the processes. I have to go fix dinner now, so a good stop to finish. As Garrison Keilor says, "Be Well. Do Good Work. Stay in touch."

Thursday, September 04, 2008

A tidbit...

Whilst I prepare another longish post instead of doing other work like editing, I thought I'd share this jewel. A friend sent this to my wife who naturally sent this to me. I have no idea what its original source is or whether I'm violating copyright, but its priceless.

Tuesday, August 19, 2008

Medieval Literature I Didn't Know II

Its time now for the continuation of the series. In fact probably past time. I thought that perhaps what I would do is introduce you to the subject of my dissertation. The Letter to Sigeweard is one of those texts that I few people check and may refer to from time to time, but so far there is only one single article on it, written by my adviser as a matter of fact. So not a lot of scholarly attention has been paid to it.

It's a letter written to an Anglo-Saxon nobleman about 1005. The occasion seems to be that Sigeweard, the nobleman, has been pestering Abbot Aelfric of Eynsham, already a well-known vernacular writer, for copies of his works or an original work. Aelfric says that he was at first relunctant, but Sigeweard's good works convinced him, and so Aelfric writes this letter.

Nothing is known of Sigeweard. He may have signed the foundation charter for Eynsham, but the orthography of his name in the charter and in the letter are different, and neither contains any further identifying information, so the charter signer may be a different man.

The Letter is interesting. In my edition it runs about 750 lines. It seems to be an almost off the cuff production as if Aelfric didn't know quite what he wanted to do or talk about. So he begins homiletically talking about the necessity of doing good works and what happens to those who do evil works, and by the way, that reminds him of a verse about how God did a good work at creation....which leads into a treatment of the creation of the heavens, the fall of the angels, the creation and fall of humanity and the results of said event and the typological meaning of Adam and Eve. At this point Aelfric seems to have settled on his approach in the letter and mentions that he will discuss the books of the Bible beginning with those Moses wrote. He picks up with the Noah cycle, then Abraham....and after 150 lines on Genesis through chapter 22's sacrifice of Isaac, he spends 8 lines talking about Isaac, Jacob, and the 12. He then moves on to Exodus, focusing entirely on the deliverance aspect, barely mentions Leviticus and Numbers, chats a little about Deuteronomy. And so on throughout the Bible to the book of Revelation.

After this, he's reminded that the author of Revelation is John, and it just so happens he can tell Sigeweard a bit of something about that apostle, and so gives a translation of Eusebius's Ecclesiastical History, III.25, a story about John and a young thief. While Aelfric knows this work in its Latin translation by Rufinus, in this case he is translating from Paul the Deacon's homiliary, compiled under Charlemagne and highly influential (thanks Derek!), where we find 3 homilies on John for Dec 27, inclusive of this one. After the story on John, Aelfric turns to other matters: he reflects on the structure of society: 3 legs on which the king's throne stands (laborers, those who pray, and those who fight) and he intimates that those whose job it is to reflect on these things ought to. He further translates and adapts directly from Eusebius via Rufinus "about the Jews", that is, Eusebius quotes long passages from Josephus' Jewish War on the fall of Jerusalem that Aelfric shortens but nonetheless paints a less than pretty picture. He concludes by warning Sigeweard about drinking too much.

Such a summary, though accurate, does little justice to the letter, and I won't be able to do so here either since I've written 400 pages on it! But in addition to those matters, there is some discussion of typology, some discussion of the ages of the world, some discussion on catechetical information, some discussion on current politics c. 1005. The letter is in many ways a microcosm of all Aelfric's works: a little homiletic and catechetical, a little hagiography, a little about other theological concerns on which he has written.

Turning to my own work on the Letter, I try to make a case for:

1) Aelfric's canon of the Bible is influenced by the 3 pandects produced at Wearmouth-Jarrow in 716

2) Aelfric is influenced by several Old English poems

3) Aelfric makes multiple, implicit anti-Aethelred comments in the Letter

4) He is NOT saying different things in his Judith homily and in the Letter

5) Aelfric's career must have begun earlier than is usually supposed and probably at Glastonbury

I know before I walked into my adviser's office in 2002, I hadn't heard of the Letter and didn't know that much about Aelfric, having spent my MA career looking at Bede and the age of Alfred. Now I know quite a bit.

Its an interesting work. It not only tells us a lot about Aelfric and his beliefs and concerns, but would be a useful teaching text for beginning Medieval students, and fairly easy to read as a beginning Old English piece. In fact, Skeat included it in the first 6 editions of his Anglo-Saxon Reader with such an aim in mind.

I hope I've sparked a little interest in the Letter to Sigeweard, but not too much so I can get a few publications out of it before your articles do!


BTW: I should mention a few things:

1) My thanks to Derek Olsen of Homilaria and Haligweorc for mentioning to me that the section on John was listed in Smetana (bib forthcoming).

2) Stephen Carlson, if you're reading, I managed to work Papias into it a couple of times, thought you'd find that of interest.

Monday, August 18, 2008

A Long, Boring, Homiletic Sort of Post

There's a lot of heat this summer, and much of it is being generated around medieval theory. There was first the Allen piece and the subsequent furor; here where I asked for comments on some new material at The Heroic Age there's a minor kerfluffel; and now there's a blog that is essentially an ad hominem against JJ Cohen and the rest of the In the Middle crew.

What is it about theory that has people up in arms? Well, before addressing that, let me get into some nitty gritty details about things. First, let me revisit the Allen Furor.

Back in May folks undoubtedly recall the reactions over the piece Charlotte Allen published. My own take take on the issue was commented on here as well. Good friend, imbibtion partner, and fellow blogger Dr. Nokes of Unlocked Wordhoard had a few things to say about the Allen furor.

He's right about many things. Many responses were merely ad hominem, engaging in the same sort of tactics that Allen herself engaged in. Many responses were justifiably angry. But it was not our finest hour.

Scott points out several things before getting to the meat of his response: 1) there are a lot of papers at Kalamazoo that are not great....and he explains well why that is a good thing! 2) that there are some very big "fault lines" I think was the word he used between literary theorists and historians, linguists, and even others who use different kinds of approaches to literature, much less theologians and others in our field. And there are: many a medievalist would have some significant problems with the applications by medieval literary theorists, at least by some. I know I've had my problems with the "cookie cutter" approach where 3/4 of a paper is a summary of Derrida or other theorist, and 1/4 pressing a piece of medieval literature into the Derrida model described (and sometimes misunderstood!), and having finished, the author will read next year on the same model applied to a different text. Yes, we all have our problems with this. And we should. And we should also keep in mind that such papers are the not the private reserve of literary theory, but occur in other subfields too. And we should remember, especially those of us who dabble in philology yet, that philology lost its place as Queen of Sciences in the 19th century largely because of philology done badly, "theoretical sound changes argued in detail based on theoretical languages by theoretical speakers in some far off forest in ages long gone by" as one writer put it. I've made that point before, I'll likely make it again. 3) Scott also makes the point that we medievalists properly study the Medieval, not Medievalism (though I would argue that there is little difference: studying the medieval, even within the medieval period, also MUST mean studying how the medieval is mediated. In my own work for example I talk about how the text I've edited is situated in its original context as a letter, but also the various uses it was put to and audiences who used it in the 11th, 12th, 13th, 16th, 17th, 19th, 20th, and now 21st centuries and how those audiences appropriate(d) it. That's a kind of medievalism, but seems to me to be a necessary part of what we do. Whether that can be compared to say Arthurian movies or medieval-like fantasy novels etc I suppose is in the eye of the beholder, but I obviously would say yes.)

Scott goes on though and relates some things that perhaps we've missed: the Allen piece is good news! HMMMM, not sure about that Scott.....

1) Scott points out that the Weekly Standard printed an article about us medievalists. That means we're important. And that is good news. There's no such thing as bad publicity.

I disagree. The Weekly Standard published a piece that bemoaned the state of academia, or one small part of it as indicative of the whole. That doesn't mean that they think medieval studies is important except as something to point to in order to further the agenda I mentioned in my own reaction to the piece.
Think of it this way: The Jews in Germany or for that matter in the pogroms of Czarist Russia received plenty of press. They were important! The ills of the world were caused by them! And they were eradicated, attacked, killed, arrested, murdered....and that's the light report.

No, I don't think that Allen, The Weekly Standard, et al are out to get medievalists and remove them from the planet, or that they blame us for the ills of academia. We were convenient, not important, a convenient illustration of the ills of the humanities in academia that Allen and her ilk are out to save. While my example above is extreme, and I could choose less extreme or emotive examples, it illustrates that all publicity is not good (unless one is a celebrity in need of publicity), and being considered important are NOT always positives.

Cast your mind back for a moment though. What caused this furor? Allen made fun and mischaracterized over 3000 participants in Kalamazoo as all doing "theory", theory to be made fun of and poked at as not worthy of consideration. When the discussion came up on the primarily history oriented discussion list, Mediev-L, many had sympathy with Allen's points, if not her tone and method. One scholar went on record as saying that he thought the whole point of the article was to point out the bankruptcy of post modern theory, and he agreed. Without addressing whether po-mo theory is bankrupt and is ruining medieval studies, the interesting thing is how that issue creates strong feeling. Even blog friends have addressed the issue in various comments and blog postings, I won't link to them to avoid finger pointing and further negativity. Besides, defending theory and theorists is not my intent here.

And now we have a new furor. The new member of the medieval blogosphere, In the Medieval Muddle, has set itself up as a response and "antidote" to the theory oriented blog In the Medieval Middle. The problem, as anyone following the drama has noted, is that the blog is set up not to offer what it claims is better theory, but to respond with personal attacks against J. J. Cohen and the ITM crew. Were it simply a case of disagreement or presenting a different model of doing theory in Fields Medieval, that would be a welcome addition to the medieval blogosphere. But those who've been following know that the level of discourse has degraded, personal attacks all round. Its human nature that when one feels attacked, not just challenged, but attacked, to attack back. And so it goes.....were I a little more cynical I'd say the mind(s) behind the Muddle was deliberately poisoning the water not only for the purpose of personal negative reinforcement, as pathetic as that is, but further to create drama by which to further advertise his blog, and by doing so attracting attention, personal positive reinforcement.

Appeals for a higher level of discourse, perhaps not phrased as well as they might have been, were nonetheless met first with "wait, we'll eventually get there" while providing not substantive indication that such would be the case, and the level of discourse quickly devolved into ad hominem attacks on posters. Pointing out the logical fallacies inherent points made against Cohen were equally met with scorn. To take one example, Cohen in a comment on ITM said he had experienced a moment of transcendence while walking and heard the chirp of a bird. The Admin of Muddle jumped on this suggesting that Cohen meant instead the Buddhist concept of Mindfulness. When pressed by one poster, the Admin insisted he had searched Sartre, Kant, and other theorists and thinkers and couldn't find any such notion of transcendence. Yet, he seems to have missed the discussion of transcendence and the role of birds and bird-song that has taken place in Western poetry (and to a lesser extent in theology) that follows along the Aristotelean, late medieval categories, categories a medievalist might be expected to follow. Mindfulness, with its intentional review of thoughts, the attentional stance to rise about those thoughts, is at best an analogue to what Cohen was talking about, but certainly wasn't it. No one likes to be shown to be wrong in public, and the expected ad hominem attacks followed quickly, and more attacks on Cohen and ITM.

It has been in some ways a rather sordid summer. All the poison, anger, and frustration, and all of it being expressed over theory. Not our finest hour, we, including present writer, too often have responded in kind. We can not just ignore it and let if fester. Nor should we respond by lowering ourselves to that level. We're professionals. We know our subjects. Let's engage on that level. Surely there is room for theory, and if you disagree with how someone is doing it, well, provide a different model. Please. I've got to learn somehow!

By allowing the Allens, the Muddles, and the dissatisfaction to continue will only continue to poison the field overall. Let's not do that. Ok, end of sermon. I hope someone takes me up on it.

In the Medieval Muddle

Some of you are aware that a new blog on theory, generally attacking In The Medieval Middle, has arisen: In the Medieval Muddle. That blog has now been shut down, as following the link will show.

HERE'S AN OPPORTUNITY FOR THOSE OF YOU WHO ARE INTERESTED AND ABLE TO DO THEORY!..There is obviously interest in discussing theory by some people in the blogosphere: there is room for more than just the folks at ITM. This is a chance to do some theory without the ad hominem poison of the middling Muddle blog.

I've been thinking of an email list devoted to theory if there is interest. Let me know if you're interested.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Non-Medieval Content

Ok, this has nothing to do with the medieval, but being a huge Dr. Who fan, Classic and New, I thought this worth posting:

With Harry Potter conferences and sessions at conferences, I'm boggled that its taken so long to devote some academic thought-processes to the Doctor.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Query and Help

I'd like to get some feedback, spilling over my two blogs Heroic Age and The Ruminate.

I'm interested in anyone's reactions to the current issue of HA's:

1) State of the Field piece


2) the new "theory" column piece Absent Beowulf

Readers might be interested to note that starting with the next issue, there will also be a regularly appearing Philology column.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

It is Finished

Well, more or less---the dissertation is done. No more writing until I put it into a book. Now for the defense date....if anyone is interested, after I've done some editing, I'll post a link here.

Monday, August 04, 2008

Medieval Literature I Did not Know I.d

For this apparently last post on Worcester Fragment A, I thought I would list some bibliography here, some of which has already been mentioned in the series or in the comments. But I thought it might be useful to included a list, not that there is that much written on this.

Brehe, S. K. Reassembling the First Worcester Fragment Speculum, Vol. 65, No. 3 (Jul., 1990), pp. 521-536

Frantzen, Christine. The Tremulous Hand of Worcester: A Study of Old English in the Thirteenth Century Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1991 pp. 70-1.

Heningham, Elanor K. "Old English Precursors of the Worcester Fragments" PMLA vol LV #2, June 1940 291-307

N. R. Ker. Catalogue of Manuscripts Containing Anglo-Saxon p. 466-7

Moffat, Douglas. "The Recovery of Worcester Cathedral MS F 174" Notes and Queries ns. 32 1985 300-2.

Cannon, Christopher. The Grounds of English. Oxford University Press, 2004, pp. 34-41.

I haven't included dissertations or editions.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

Mythic Origins II

Not too far back but far enough I made a post about Mythic Origins. There were several helpful comments, but I'll stop at the top down.

Brandon H. added:
Depending on where you begin or how you classify "origins," Gildas' On the Ruin and Conquest of Britain could be included.
Geoffrey of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain; there is, however, the complication of Gildas, Bede, and Geoffrey blending together because of the use of compounding sources as each writes.

Would they? I think what I'm after at the moment is works that explain the origins of a people or group. So while Gildas' letter/sermon is a source text, and explains something about early Anglo-Saxon England (maybe), I don't think I'd count it as a text of mythic origins. Likewise Geoffrey's History certainly seeks to justify Norman rule and explain the new state of the world, but is it really "mythic origins?"

SO I guess this is pushing me to define what I mean by "mythic origins" as opposed to "mythic history".

I think the same might go for the Heimskringla, adn the other I confess I only know by name, and haven't read it. A candidate for Medieval Lit I didn't Know....

And I agree, the Quran I think needs to be in the list!

Thanks Brandon!

Matthew Gabriele, co-blogger at Modern Medieval queries:

I'm not trying to be a pain but couldn't almost anything be a story of "origins"? For example, the Oxford Chanson de Roland tells of the "origin" of a monarchy and a nobility, as well as the foundation of Christendom and Francia.

To answer the question, well, I suppose it depends on how you define origins. But I'm attempting in this case to define it as texts which explicitly not just explain the way things are, but explain the beginnings whether of the world, a people, a kingdom, the church etc, produced in the Medieval period.

So I'd disagree about Roland, at least in the Digby mss. What we encounter there is a Francia already centuries old, a "conflict" centuries old, all the nobility have titles and lands and relationships and reputations, and the battle isn't about Charlemagne's monarchy per se. It does I think seek to explain in part the right of the king trumping the right of his nobles if the two come into conflict, but that's not really an origin myth, at least as I am defining it for the purposes of my list.

John Jarret suggested Paul the Deacon's History of the Lombards and the Russian Chronicle. Anything Irish or Welsh that fits the bill? What else?

Here's the original list with the new additions at the bottom:

Bede's Ecclesiastical History
Jordanes Getica
Isidore Gotorum
Gregory of Tours History of the Franks
Planctus for William Longsword
Laymon's The Brut
Snorri Sturlson Prose Edda
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle
Paul the Deacon, History of the Lombards
Russian Chronicle
Icelandic Landnamabok
the Hadith

Edit: Added Gregory of Monmouth's History of the Kings of Britain

Song of Roland
Gildas the Wise's Ruin of Britain

Monday, July 28, 2008

Medieval Literature I Didn't Know I.c

After a mere month's break between posts on this wonderful little piece, I finally have cleared the decks enough to return to the questions raised. Just as refreshers, the Original Post is here, the second post is here, and the third here. This is the fourth post, and it deals with comments on the second post.

Brandon commented:

You discuss those names that are and aren't mentioned with interesting notions that could no doubt be probed there. I'm especially interested in the fact that the poet doesn't mention the name Wulfstan--either the Archbishop of York or the Saint. As you write, "the majority come from two periods: they are either mentioned in Bede or come from the Benedictine Reform movement of the 10th and early 11th centuries"--and Wulfstan, Archbishop of York was esp. a product of the Benedictine Reform and vernacular education through preaching, law, and his Institutes. Furthermore, St. Wulfstan was quite a social reformer in his own right, bridging pre- and post-Norman Conquest. Could the lack of either name contribute to a theory of the poem's date before the prominence of these figures--as pre-Conquest, even pointing to a date in the first decade of the 11th century (before Wulfstan became so prominent in legal work and before he composed his Institutes)?

Yes, the absence of Wulfstan(s) is interesting. Particularly so since Alphege is mentioned, d. 1012, when Wulfstan is already on the rise in importance. And if the poem is indeed from Worcester, and copied in Worcester, the absence of Wulfstan is particularly notable and troubling.

The only answer I have to that, and I admit it isn't a satisfactory one, is that those who are specifically mentioned fall into two somewhat overlapping categories: 1) some dealt with Biblical materials (Bede, Alcuin, Aelfric) and 2) they all died before Alphege, 1012. This might suggest a date. If the poet has a criteria that the person has to be dead to be in his list, and has to be known as a teacher of the people, that would put the poem between 1012 and 1023...Wulfstan is not mentioned simply because he is still alive. If the poem is later, and post-Norman I can truly think of no reason at the moment why either Wulfstan (well, Wulfstan the Homilist and Wulfstan II) would be omitted from the list. Tis a sticky wicket.

Dr de Breeze commented:
I'm still not sure I buy the pre-Conquest date, however. Most basically, it just feels like a post-Conquest piece lamenting the displacement of the English people and language as a result of Norman incursions.

I understand what you mean, but I think that that feeling is based in *OUR* stress on 1066. After all, in spite of recent work on 12th century texts, manuscripts, and linguistics, we're taught from the time we're knee high to grasshoppers to see 1066 as a watershed. But let's remember that there was a another take over by a foreign people in 1016, and it wasn't at all peaceful, and it only became smooth when Aethelred and Edmund died and there was no one else left but Canute. It would not appear, that as benevolent as Canute seems in many ways, that the transition was all that smooth (one of the reasons Canute spent so much of his reign in England and married the redoubtable Aelfgifu (Emma--what a woman!)--anything to cement that hold. Meanwhile he could send off his second wife and son by her to rule Denmark, Norway, and his Swedish holdings for him (though they botched it but good). I. E. I think it shows in part that the transition to Canute's reign was not quite as smooth as the sources present it....and the wars leading up to 1016 were devastating on the whole country. Who was left to teach them? ANyway, all of that to say that I agree it feels like a "post-Norman" piece, but I wonder how much of that feeling is due to my conditioning to see 1066 as a watershed event, but to hardly consider 1016 as anything more than a new king coming to the throne, when the facts on the ground indicate something else again.

de Breeze continues:
Also, Brehe's 1990 article "Reassembling the First Worcester Fragment" makes a compelling argument that the poem displays late-12th century versification (which also helps to explain the list of bishops in lines 11-15).

I'll have to reread it. I remember not being convinced, particularly in light of some of latest things coming out about how early Middle English is (i. e. what we call early Middle English in the 12th century, is actually the spoken English of the late "Old English" period, the written language we know as Old English in the 10th and 11th century is archaic, deliberately so, and literary, and not the spoken language at all. Add to that some of Tom Bredehoft's analyses of LATE Old English poetry and meter, and Brehe's article in my memory begins to come apart at the seams. ) But I'll have to reread it to make sure my memory isn't playing tricks on me.

But let's say for the moment that Brehe is right: how do we know that this is the original form of the poem and not the Tremulous Hand's doing? He's known to change texts as well as get things wrong....can we really get behind his text in terms of meter and orthography and say definitively that it represents the original of the poem? Sure, I'm aware that raising that issue, we have ask the same question about the content of the poem. But I'm prepared to think that he got most of the content more or less right, while the way he recites poetry might be off a bit. Still thinking.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Carnivalesque XLI

The latest CARNIVALESQUE is up and running. Great job by Meg at XOOM. Ancient and early Medieval focus this time.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Kalamazoo 2009

HMMM...well, I got Internet service back last Tuesday and have been catching up on email and the blogosphere, and well, actually writing....I noticed that there were a few posts complaining about the lack of history in the 2009 CFP and that its becoming a "literature conference" more and more every year.

Huh? Have you people looked at the same CFP I did? I counted 214 Sponsored Sessions, of those I counted 61 organizations, or 28.5%, that are offering specifically and unquestionably history sessions. Nor are the remainder "literature", the field isn't divided into history vs. lit: there are sessions on Philosophy (not literature), theology (not literature), Biblical Exegesis (arguably having something to do with literature, but just as arguably having something to do with intellectual history, and thus, history), Art, Music, Science, Manuscript Studies (of the 5 people from whom I've learned the most about manuscripts and related topics, 1 is in English, 1 is an historian, the 3rd was a PhD in history and then librarian specializing in rare books, the fourth is a museum curator, and the fifth is in an art dept---so I count Mss studies as truly interdisciplinary, but also a discipline in itself, and so not literature or history), linguistics, digitation, teaching the Middle Ages, sessions in honor of specific scholars, sessions on or using interdisciplinarity to approach a topic (Boydell's history as lit, lit as history) and of course medievalism topics (such as Tolkien at K'zoo). Take all of those away, and yes, there's a nice chunk of literature left, 57 by my count not including medievalisms. So it looks pretty even to me.

Harder to classify are those sessions like Latin Antiquity I-III, that could as described involve anything. I didn't count those in either category.

What is underrepresented is LATIN and EARLY medieval (other than Anglo-Saxon studies). Easily fixed by sending in a plethora of early medieval papers to the General pile. Or offer sessions on early stuff next year.....which might be more problematic than one expects.....

OK, next post taking up Worcester Frag A again.....

P. S. I might add that in the Special Sessions I found some 34 sessions dedicated to history or historical subjects. Probably more literature sessions there, but then there are also a smaller number of sessions altogether.....

Friday, July 04, 2008


I am moving,and since I didn't think ahead far enough, I will be without consistent Internet access until somewhere about July 15, so I will not be posting material here until then, even though I very much want to continue the ongoing discussions here on Worcester Fragment A, Latin Education, and cogitating on the Allen furor, owing Nokes a response.....who knows, I may use the internetless time to finish the dissertation.....*gasp*!

Tuesday, July 01, 2008

Heroic Age 11

On behalf of the Board and editors of The Heroic Age, I would like
to announce the publication of Issue 11. My special thanks go out
to Linda Malcor, Deanna Forsman, and Bill Schipper and all of our
readers who went beyond the call of duty to finally bring it
together and released to the world.

There are many things to enjoy in this issue. Board member Linda
Malcor and colleagues have put together an interesting collection
of papers exploring various aspects of Arthur and folklore. In
addition to those four articles, there is a short article on a new
textual find.

Turning to our regular features, we have the usual suspects. Michel
Aaij continues to inform us about medieval studies in Europe in
Continental Business and Dan O’Donnell continues his series of
reflections in Electronic Medievalia. In the Forum, we have several
pieces addressing the State of the Field in Anglo-Saxon Studies.
And we have a new column beginning in this issue. The Babel group
has joined forces with us at The Heroic Age and will be publishing
a column in every issue generally addressing the application of
theoretical approaches to early medieval studies. In this inaugural
column, Daniel Murtaugh weighs in with an article focused on
Beowulf. Further, Aaron Kleist introduces us to the Electronic
Aelfric project. I almost neglected to mention an excerpt from
Martin Foys' recent book, Virtually Anglo-Saxon.

Please take a look at our upcoming Calls for Papers. In addition
to specific, themed sections, The Heroic Age accepts papers on any
aspect of the early Medieval period (300-1100) dealing or touching
on NW Europe (loosely defined) at any time.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Mythic Origins

Jonathan Jarrett in his response to my 1000 Medieval Books post mentioned the stories of origins, how a people came to be. I thought it might be a useful exercise to collect those in a single post, eventually expanded to include best editions and translations of each text or online locales. This list admittedly uses short hand author names for a particular work that at the moment I'm too lazy to expand.

So my preliminary list off the top of my head is:

Bede's Ecclesiastical History
Jordanes Getica
Isidore Gotorum
Gregory of Tours History of the Franks
Planctus for William Longsword
Laymon's The Brut
Snorri Sturlson Prose Edda
Anglo-Saxon Chronicle

So what am I missing?


I've updated my 1000 books list to reflect some of the comments received:

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Medieval Literature I Didn't Know 1.b

Finally, I'd like to get around to answering Jonathan Jarrett's statements on my Original Post. Jonathan points out: "Brandon and Prof. Muhlberger, I guess what Larry is guiding us towards is a suggestion that the `others' here are the new Danish rulers of the period 1016-42. I could imagine anyone looking at Harold Harefoot's court in this frame would have thought things had come to a pretty pass."

Well, not steering toward, but at least trying to entertain as a possible interpretation of the poem. One of the things (more in a subsequent post) that the poem does is uphold Set A (Bede, Aelfric, those saints/monks) against the "Now" in which teaching the people is not done. Certainly after the Benedictine Reform petered out (Wulfstan notwithstanding) with the new Viking kingdom etc, that description fits pretty much anything after that point.

Note that the emphasis is on TEACHING, what was being taught in terms of Christendom. The contrast and emphasis falls on "those guys taught the people in English vs. these guys now do not teach the people [at all]". Thus, the emphasis is not one of LANGUAGE, it isn't the language sermons are delivered in that has changed, but the existence of teaching vs. the nonexistence of teaching. One might even read the line that mentions the English language as saying "These taught the people (even) in English". There certainly seems a decline of Christian teaching as Aethelred's reign draws to a close and we go into Cnut and following.

Jonathan continues: The Æfric/Alcuin thing is a weirdness too; it might be argued that it reflects confusion, suggesting a later date, or maybe one could say that the author knew of Charlemagne's court's habit of learned Biblical by-names for the court scholars and had mockingly or affectionately assigned Æfric a learned Carolingian by-name...

That's a good point, but I've become convinced by my own argument I think. Since last week I've taken a look at the beginning of the text of the OE translation of the Interrogationes. Aelfric starts by describing Alcuin and the text. It would be easy for a reader to think that the preamble about Alcuin applied to the "translator" since the prologue in the Worcester copy doesn't mention Alcuin in a historical context nor that the original was a Latin text. The original poet simply misunderstood.

Jonathan continues: What I'm getting at is, are there any contents which could not be assigned happily to a pre-Conquest date? As it stans it seems to be a copy of a pre-Conquest MS, so you have questions of use and audience several times, original poem, first gathering, recopying by the Tremulous one. Worcester all the way? I could believe in a Worcester self-image as the last redout of learning in a vulgar age, somehow, but for all that time? Or is the piece just lucky enough to be foudn by someone sympathetic every now and then? I love these sorts of questions, even when they have no answers...

Not that I know of: what remains of the manuscript is extremely fragmentary, and only a few leaves have all their text. The three identifiable texts are the Grammar and Glossary, our poem, and the Soul and Body poem, anything else remaining is so fragmentary that it has not been identified. So yes, use, audience, survival of Old English into such a late period, and what the Tremulous Hand was up to....apparently he felt comfortable enough with English earlier than his time to take on early works and one might surmise that this manuscript represents works in Old English he thought worthy to copy. But of the 3, two seem to be pre-1066, suggesting a strong possibility, though not absolute, that the third might be as well.

More anon....great questions folks, and thanks!

Thursday, June 26, 2008

Latin Edumacation in the Early Medieval Period: I BLEG You

This is a query that I'll likely get around to asking on e-lists and other medievally boards as well, but though I'd start here.

For those who know or care: today I completed chapter 2 (edition, commentary, translation, intro and chapter 1 all done). And it gets easier from here.

Ok back to the question which is only tangentially related to dissertation work or to the discussion of Worcester Fragment A. But what if anything do we know about Latin education in the early middle ages? What I'm specifically looking for is the education in WRITING, Latin Composition if you will.

From what I can remember about the writers with whom I've worked, these Latin works are all composed by men with noble connections and families. (Aelfric is a probable exception, but his Latinity is one of the motivating factors for the query.) Now I'm not talking about teaching everyone in a school or monastery to READ Latin, at least at a basic level, nor to copy a Latin text, but to actively compose in Latin, a different skill altogether, and writing is a different skill than reading, and composition a different skill than simply writing or copying. So who was taught to compose? Nobles only? Everyone? somewhere in between? Sources? Or do our sources tell us?

Friday, June 20, 2008

Medieval Literature I Didn't Know I.a

Steve Muhlberger and Brandon H raised some good issues in the comments to my last post on Worcester Fragment A. The issues are good and require enough of an answer that I thought a full follow up post would be better than answering in the comments.

Steve asked:
"Couldn't the new teachers be post-Conquest continentals who don't know English and may even scorn English saints?" and related Brandon H asked: I'm intrigued about who the author refers to with "another people teaches our folk"--could it be the Normans (as Steve has posed)? Perhaps Viking-influences seen in the late Anglo-Saxon era? Who are these seeming "others" with their "damned" education?

The answer is that I think it depends very much on when one dates the original poem. That is, it is evident that the poem as we have it is dependent on an Old English original that the Tremulous Hand of Worcester has not completely understood in his copy and updating of the orthography (Utronomius for Deuteronomius). So if the original is post-1066, then these new teachers condemned in the poem must be the Normans. If the original is pre-1066, and depending on how pre-1066, then there seem to me to be two possibilities:

1) if written early in the 11th century, 1016-1035 or so, the referents must be the men Cnut brought with him. The contents of the poem speak well to this, I think, in that there is nothing in the poem that necessarily indicates a post-1066 date, and certainly all those mentioned in the poem are deceased long before 1066. Against this however, and I need to check this out in more detail, I don't know how many Norse churchmen were appointed in Cnut's reign that might earn the ire of an English monk! As far as I currently remember, most of the leading churchmen in Cnut's kingdom were Englishmen.

2) If written more in the middle of the 11th century, then the referent is probably still the Normans: Both Emma and even more so Edward the Confessor brought a host of Normans into England and they were quite close to the throne for some much they took over the church I'm not certain and again is something I'd have to check into when I get round to doing a paper on it. But in that case, still NOrman, just pre-Conquest Normans. These Normans close to Edward excited a bit of commentary from the English, and the Godwins eventually forced Edward to send them packing in the early 1050s, about the time he was forced to marry....I've forgotten the exact chronology at the moment.

So those are the three possibilities, and much depends on dating. Typically, what little scholarship that has been done on this text dates it as post-1066, though as I mentioned in my original post there is reason to think it pre-1066.

Brandon H. went on to express interest in the names in the list and noted that we have saints and bishops, no mention of Alfred and suggests that in spite of his importance to us moderns, that maybe he wasn't all that important to them.

It is an interesting list of names. I think more important than that those named are all saints and bishops (not wholly true: Aelfric, Alcuin, and some others on the list don't quite fit the bill on that score....), but that they are all MONKS! And I think it is this latter that is important to note. If this writer is a vestige of the Benedictine Reform, we know that Edgar for example is held up as an example of the Golden Age, but he is not mentioned either.

Further to note about the list of names is that the majority come from two periods: they are either mentioned in Bede or come from the Benedictine Reform movement of the 10th and early 11th centuries. Two minor exceptions: Aldhelm (who is mentioned by Bede, but more in a moment) and Swithun. Aldhelm, though mentioned by Bede as I just said, was an important writer for the Benedictine Reform and was highly influential on Dunstan and Aethelwold. Swithun, who was a bishop during Alfred's reign, was an "invented" saint by Aethelwold (note that his "vita" contains nothing about his actual life, but almost entirely deals with posthumous miracles.) and the Reformers and he becomes the patron of New Minster in 972, so that explains their presence in the list. Given this, the absence of certain figures between those two periods I don't think should excite a great deal of comment. One thing about both groups: those in Bede faced non-Christians and a newly Christianized people to teach and so were always at risk. Note who is not named in the list, but is said to be important: Alcuin, but Prof de Breeze has chimed in noting this, so I'll hold off for just a moment. But other important figures who are much like Alcuin are not mentioned: Boniface, Willibrord, Theodore, and more who are left out.

The claim that they all taught the people in English is an interesting one. We can not confirm that in a lot of cases: certainly Bede is described as having translated some works into English, though none survive, and Aldhelm we're told by Geoffrey of Monmouth also wrote some Old English works, of which I think only one riddle survives though someone will likely correct me there. Aelfric, certainly. But do we have any evidence of Aethelwold, Dunstan, Swithun etc teaching English PEOPLE (not just monks) in ENGLISH? I suppose that like Aelfric they must have preached to congregations including lay men and so used English.....we do have plenty of anonymous homilies in Old English. But nothing confirmatory that I'm aware of.

Let me turn to Dr. de Breeze's note before finally closing this. The mention of Aelfric, whom "we call Alcuin" is interesting and puzzling. Here are the interpretive possibilities as I see them.

1) the line simply bears witness to its subject: the lack of learning in England has resulted in the confusion of 2 of its teachers in history
2) the Tremulous Hand has made a scribal error and conflated two lines or some other error causing the two names to be associated.
3) According to PASE, there are some 115 different men named Aelfric in the 10th and early 11th century, many of them monks or churchmen. There must be some way to distinguish them all: Archbishop Aelfric, Aelfric Cild, Aelfric Bata, there an otherwise unattested "Aelfric Alcuin" or better "Aelfric Ealhwin" meaning Aelfric of Eynsham? Since, so far as I know, this is the earliest mention of Aelfric of Eynsham outside his own writings, it might be a possibility.
4) related to #3, one of Aelfric's works is a "translation" of Alcuin's Interrogationes Sigewardi in Genesin. I don't know anything about the manuscripts of this text, except to say that there is one that is mid to late 11th century from short, the author of the poem, regardless of date, likely read the text, and a) didn't know who Alcuin was, but took the introductory material of the English text which talks about Alcuin, and how he taught many English men etc. as identifying the author of the English text, i. e. Aelfric. It is clear I think from the poem that the author values ENGLISH teaching, not as a nationality necessarily but as a LANGUAGE, more than Latin and I see no evidence in the poem to argue for a high degree of Latinity, so it isn't likely that the poet knew Alcuin's works.

I don't know that anyone else has made the latter suggestion, or how well it stands as an explanatory argument, the one that seems to be the most popular is #1, the poet simply didn't know and was ignorant. I suppose my suggestion is really an expansion of that in one direction....

It is worth noting that Alcuin is in large part dependent on Bede both for the idea of addressing "Interrogationes" as a method of teaching and exegesis (not original with Bede either, but Bede's "questions" were well known and popular) as well as for the content of his own Interrogationes. Aelfric translating Alcuin also often used Bede as a source, and so the text in question ties all three of those names together.

de Breeze further asks: "Do other sources refer to Aelfric as Alcuin? Does this reference have any implications for the date of the text? I'm thinking that it would be less likely for a pre-Conquest text to include this kind of "alternate" name."

I don't know of any other sources that confuse or conflate Aelfric as Alcuin, but then I also do not know any other texts that mention the two in the same breath either.

As for implications of date, I don't think so. The Benedictine Reform was key, but had already experienced some significant set backs under Aethelred and by the time we get to Cnut it seems to have dissipated. We have a lot of copies of manuscripts from the 11th century, but little original work other than Wulfstan (note: not "no original work", but "little original work"). So I think the confusion of Aelfric and Alcuin, particularly given the above, is just as likely in the reigns of Cnut and Edward (and Harthacnut if I remember rightly that he came between) as after the Conquest.

I think one thing that might in fact indicate date is the emphasis on ENGLISH teaching rather than....than what? Latin? That would be the most natural assumption, and I know that was something of an issue for the Normans who looked askance at church things being done in the vernacular and not Latin, though in other ways they seem to have tried to learn English. That emphasis on English vs. Latin as a vehicle for Christian education might indicate the post-Conquest date.

Jonathan Jarrett has posted some probing questions, I'll answer those and any others that come in a further post and perhaps get around to posting some bibliography.


Tuesday, June 17, 2008

1000 Books

Over at Yet I'll Hammer It Out that I discovered through this months' Carnivalesque, see post below, there's a discussion and listing of medieval and early modern works that one should read, since in those typical "Great Books" lists our periods generally get overlooked. While many of the respondents have listed some good reads, some important ones too, I think there's been a more or less missed opportunity there. There are some key "medieval" texts that have influenced a great deal of modern thought that have been overlooked, and others that I think are vitally important to read in a lifetime, more important than others on the typical "Great Books" list I could name. My list covers from circa 400-1500. So here's my list, I invite others to add their own:

Augustine: Confessions and City of God, On Christian Doctrine
Jerome: Latin Vulgate including prefaces, Commentary on Matthew
Boethius' Consolation of Philosophy
Gregory the Great Moralia in Job and Dialogues
Jonas' Life of Columbanus
Gregory of Tours History of the Franks
Venantius Fortunatus
Procopius The Secret History
Bede--most would put the Historia here, but for influence and importance I'd put On the Temple and On the Tabernacle and Lives of Cuthbert
Dream of the Rood
Vercelli Homilies
Song of Roland
Marie de France, Fables
Genesis A and B
Isidore's Etymologies (esp now that they are in translation)
Anselm's Cur Deus Homo
Einhard's Life of Charlemagne
Volsunga Saga
the Eddas
Sic et Non
Dante, Comedia
Aquinas (if you can!)
Piers Ploughman
Distichs of Cato
Letters of Abelard and Heloise
Njal's Saga
El Cid
Proslogion and Cur Deus Homo by Anselm
Queste des Saint Graal
Voyage of St. Brendan
Selected portions of the Talmud (Aboth is a good tractate)
Not exactly medieval, but medieval enough: 1001 Arabian Nights
Saadia Gaon's Book of Opinions
Maimonides Eight Chapters
Chretien de Troyes (I might suggest Yvain and Lancelot)
Richard Rolle
Michael Psellus
Julian of Norwich
Theresa of Avila
St. Francis of Assisi
Rule of Benedict

Well, that's my list. It favors England and Old English I suppose, and certainly the early period rather than the late. Nonetheless I think these important works.

What think you? Add or edit!

Monday, June 16, 2008

Carnvalesque XL

40th Carnival on Medieval Studies is up today too!

Medieval Literature I Didn't Know

I'm starting a new series over the summer. I'd like to say that it will appear once a week, but we'll see how that goes. But there is a great deal of early medieval literature of all kinds that folk don't know about, including me. So I thought I might begin a long process of slowly collecting some of that seldom studied, often overlooked stuff and talk about it. There's a purpose here too, some of it in the form of outreach to interest people in the early medieval period more, and some of it practical for some publications I'm working on.

Today, I'd like to introduce Worcester Fragment A, a piece that I'm actually quoting in the introduction to the Magnum Opus, the never ending dissertation I seem to be doing. Worcester Fragment A is so named because on f. 63R of Worcester Library ms. 174 there is this verse (followed by another verse on the soul and body). It is of course untitled in the manuscript and has gone under many names: First Worcester Fragment, The Disuse of English, Sanctus Bede or Beda Fragment, or Sicut Oves absque Pastor (which competes in my opinion with Worcester Frag. A as the best title: WFrag A has the advantage that it simply names the manuscript and identifies the piece. Sicut Oves identifies the content. Since I'm a new old fashioned text critic privileging the actual manuscript, I've opted for Worcester Fragment A.

The manuscript is early 13th century and largely contains a copy of Aelfric's Grammar and Glossary, or at least this is what remains. 66 leaves remain, few of which have all the text that was written on them, some cut in two. The leaves containing the "Worcester fragments" were used as binding in another book, were identified in the 19th century by Sir Thomas Phillips and the whole of what remains rebound in correct order. All told, in addition to the 66 leaves, there are some 15 fragments identified as belonging to this manuscript and kept with it. The famed Tremulous Hand of Worcester is not just the annotator, but the scribe of the text. The verso of the leaf that the poem below is on contains a poem about the coming of death and is followed on the next leaves by a Soul and Body poem.

Fragment A is almost always dated as 12th century, though Christopher Cannon in _The Grounds of English Literature_ makes a very good argument in my view that the poem is pre-1066---in large part because nothing of its contents demands or even suggests the post-1066 context! He fails however to cite some of the linguistic studies that suggest that what has been called "early middle English" is really spoken English of the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries, and the "Old English" written in the period is not intelligible but purposely static as a "learned" written language. That would go even further to prove the poem's point and help establish it as an 11th century piece. Anyway, after too many days putting this together, here is the poem and my translation:

Sanctus beda was iboren her on breotene mid us
and he wisliche writen awende
that theo enclisc leoden thurh weren ilerde
and he theo cnoten unwreih;
the questiuns hoteth
tha derne digelness the deorwurthe is
aelfric abbod th we alquin hoteth
he was bocare and the fif bec wende
Genesis Exodus Utronomius Numerus Leuiticus
thurh theos weren ilaerde ure leoden on englisc
thet were theo biscop9es theo bodeden cristendom
wilfrid of Ripum Johan of beoferlai Cuthbert of Dunholme
Oswald of wirceastre Egwin of heoueshame aeldhelm of malmesburi
Swiththun aethelwold Aidan Biern of winaestre (Pau)lin of
rofeceastre S Dunston and S aelfeih of cantoreburi
theos laerden ure leodan on englisc
naes deorc heore liht ac hit faeire glod
[nu is] theo leore forleten and thet folc is forloren
nu beoth othre leoden theo larep ure folc
and feole of then lortheines losaeth and that folc forth mid
Nu saeith ure drihten thus Sicut aquila provocat
uullows suos ad uolandum and super eos volitat
this beoth godes word to worlde asende
that we sceolen faeier sep festen to him.

I could not figure out how to get unicode into my blog entry, forgive me for being stupid. So "th" in the above represents a thorn, ae, ash, and there's one yogh that I simply used g for. I couldn't find an edition on the Net either. I've adapted the above from Joseph Hall's Selections from Early Middle English 1130-1250 and silently expanded abbreviations and not included the marks representing errors and corrections that have been entered into the text. I've also changed the "tyronean ond" to "and." Hope however that the one or two readers besides me reading this will be able to make sense of the text.

Here's my translation:

Saint Bede was born here in Britain among us
and he wisely translated books
so that the English people were taught through them
and he unbound the knots which called the Questions,
the secret mystery that is precious.
Abbot Aelfric whom we call Alcuin
Was a writer and translated five books:
Genesis, Exodus, Deuteronomy, Numbers, Leviticus
through these were our people taught in English.
These bishops taught the Christian faith
Wilfrid of Ripon, John of Beverly, Cuthbert of Durham,
Oswald of Worcester, Egwin of Evesham, Aldhelm of Malmebury
Swithun, Aethelwold, Aidan, Birinus of Winceaster,
Paulinus of Rocester, Saint Dunstan, and Saint Alphege of Canterbury.
These teachers taught our people in English
Their light was not dark but it glowed fairly
now is that teaching forsaken and our people lost
and another people teaches our folk
and many of our teaches are damned and that folk with them.
Now says our Lord thus, As an eagle prods
her young to fly and hovers over them.
This is the word of God sent into the world
that we should happily fasten our faith to him.

This is poem of loss, obviously, and mourns specifically the loss of Christian learning in Anglo-Saxon England. It in interesting to note that the two figures grounding the lament are Bede, d. 735, and Aelfric of Eynsham, d. 1008?, two great figures on either end of the period, literarily speaking. In between it is worthy to note that the focus is on matters Biblical: The "questions" I think refers to Bede's 30 Questions on the BOok of Kings, which focuses on Israel's downfall and eventual exile in disobedience, and then the poet turns to Aelfric's translations of Biblical materials, specifically the Pentateuch in which the emphasis is on Israel's obedience to God (or disobedience) and facing sets "heathen" foes. The "beautiful faith" is an allusion to Deuteronomy 32:11 when Israel, poised now to enter the Promised Land, anticipate conquerering the land and living in a land flowing with milk and honey. So the poet seems to want to see his people as having had their own "Moseses", there own great saints who taught the people but the people are now damnded, lost, sheep without their shepherds and taught by a foreign, heathen people. Its quite the commentary on the 11th century.

It is worth noting that the range of people mentioned extends from Paulinus of Rochester, aka Paulinus of York who lost the latter office when Edwin was defeated by Penda and Christianity was lost in the north and the last is Alphege who was a Viking victim in 1012. There's no mention of anyone afterward or of the French.

Well, I've spent 2 weeks on this now....surprise, surprise, surprise, and its time to post. Hope you enjoy!

Friday, June 13, 2008

This is good

While preparing other things for the blog, I thought I'd pass this along:

Abelard and Heloise

Wednesday, June 04, 2008

Allen Fallout

Disturbingly enough, Allen's article is making a splash elsewhere on the Net. Check out some of the following:

Standing on Shoulders

National Review

History News Network--which ought to know better

Even WMU Repuglican Students

MemeStreams has listed it as "interesting web content".

Eleanor Duckwall-a blog dedicated to current events generally has a take on the Allen piece, a bit negative, will illustrations and pictures. Still interesting viewpoint from a non-medievalist.

Dogfight at Barkstown wants to call us all barbarians.

Michael Burleigh-don't know this person, but he has some books I'd like to read, read through the comments to the post as well.

World on the Web, again the comments are interesting.

Touchstone's Mere Comments, Kalamazoo specific in the third paragraph, but worth reading the preamble.

The Motley Fool forums even get in on the act!

Over on the Mediev-L list, some have noted the article and we've been having a discussion. Unfortunately if you don't subscribe, you can't read it as the list archives don't seem to be being kept up by U of Kansas people. But John Briggs found the article hilarious, as did Nancy Spies who thinks we should all lighten up and found the article not only funny, but in the tradition of the Pythons' send ups of medieval literature and academics etc. E. Metzger of the U of Glasgow found that the point of the article is very important and that all us bloggers arguments (mine in particular) about the piece were weak. The point according to Metger is that postmodern approaches blur the line between bad scholarship and good scholarship so that they are indistinguishable. He thinks this is a vital topic of discussion.

Wow....that's about all I can say, Wow. Outreach I think is needed more now than ever before. Over on Modern Medieval Matthew Gabriele has suggested a discussion of outreach and how to do it to a larger audience.

Now for the Dark Age bit: it is a dark day for us. Not one of the blogs or websites mentioned above bothered to check out the Congress website or catalog or do anything to check out the "facts" of the article. It is indeed a dark age when a journalist's word is taken as gospel and spreads around the world without further thought.