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Modern Medieval

The Middle Ages still have something to say.

Updated: 2018-04-06T11:55:03.936-04:00


Heroic Age Issue 17


On behalf of the Heroic Age board and my co-editor, I would like to announce the first parts of Issue 17!!  That will be further explained below. We are very happy to release these well-deserving materials out to our readers. The forgoing also means the completion of Issue 16 of the journal. Truth be told, this issue has been done for some time, and I am just getting around to announcing it.  We have two articles in the general section and two related to Alcuin along with a translation of Alcuin’s De Virtutibus et Vitiis. The issue is rounded out with two columns and book reviews. There have been a number of changes here at HA. Brad Eden who was our book editor, and has been since the beginning of The Heroic Age, has moved on to other projects. He does so with our very great and deep thanks for all the service he has done for the journal. For a time, Thjis Porck acted as our book review editor, but he too has moved on to other projects. So we now welcome Krista Murchison of Leiden University. In addition to book review editor, columnist John Soderberg is now an associate editor as is Heather Flowers. Melissa Ridley Elmes and Richard Scott Nokes join our editorial board.  In addition we have new columnists!  Mary Kate Hurley joins us taking over and rethinking the Babel column. Richard Ford Burley takes over the Electronic Medievalia column from Dan O’Donnell who also has moved on to other projects though remains a stalwart board member. Looking ahead, the editorial team has decided to change our release policy. Whereas since our inception we have released whole issues as the issue has been completed, we are now moving to a model that, at least in my view, is more consistent with our open source, internet environment. Now, we will release each column, article, or review as it completes our process and is ready, called a “rolling release.” Each issue will be a calendar year. And as fortune would have it, the current issue number coincides with the century’s year: 17.  So that’s all good! We have growing pains. We have issues with not enough hands to do the work. Both co-editors teach 4/4 loads at their respective institutions plus carry on their own research and service requirements. Some who help are graduate students trying to finish dissertations. Some are undergraduates. Some are senior scholars lending a hand.  In short, HAis an all-volunteer organization and receives no support from any institution: neither in the form of graduate assistants nor in release time for the editorial team. So any help is appreciated. The above paragraph outlines some of the issues we have in producing the journal. We welcome any new volunteers who would like to lend a hand. We need social media people, copy editors, section editors, coders, and of course authors! Both Deanna and I are working hard to ensure that the journal begins to appear more regularly, but that depends largely on how many capable hands we have assisting us. Throughout the rest of this calendar year, additional articles, columns, and reviews will appear under the “current issue” tab, and I will try to make announcements as each is added. We are already in the planning stages for Issue 18, so if you have something you would like to submit for that issue, now is the time to send it in. Thank you all for your support and patronage of The Heroic Age through the years. Believe it or not, our first issue was in 1999! I would like to especially thank my longsuffering co-editor Deanna Forsman, our associate editors, Heather Flowers and John Soderberg, my production assistant, Sarah Sprouse, and one of my former students, Nicole Mentges who provided copy editing services. And thank you for reading![...]

Heroic Age Papers!


Merovingians and Their NeighborsSponsor: The Heroic AgeSession Organizer: Deanna ForsmanContact: Deanna Forsman North Hennepin Community College 7411 85th Ave. North Brooklyn Park, MN 55445 Phone: 763-488-0405 dforsman@nhcc.eduRecent scholarship has suggested that the political landscape of early medieval northwestern Europe owed a greater debt to the Huns, as opposed to the Romans or Germanic peoples. This session invites paper proposals that examine the Merovingian Kingdoms within the context of their relationships with their neighbors. We are particularly interested in papers that examine traditionally studied relationships from new perspectives and papers that examine little-studied interactions.Echoes of ColumbanusSponsors: The Heroic Age, ASIMSSession Organizers: Deanna Forsman and James LyttletonThe Irish ascetic Columbanus is the most famous example of the classic peregrinus: an individual who chooses a life of exile among foreigners as a form of religious devotion. Columbanus is also famous for his monastic establishments and Rule, as well as his interactions with royalty and the bishop of Rome. This session seeks to further explore the long-term influence of Columbanus in multiple venues. Papers will examine the influence of the Columbanian Rule on ascetic practice, the relationship between monastery and royalty, sources of spiritual authority, the practice of peregrinatio, etc.Contact: Deanna Forsman North Hennepin Community College 7411 85th Ave. North Brooklyn Park, MN 55445 Phone: 763-488-0405 dforsman@nhcc.eduMonsters III: Monstrous Acts of HeroismCo-sponsors: MEARCSTAPA, The Heroic AgeSession Organizers: Deanna Forsman and Asa Simon MittmanContact: Asa Simon Mittman California State Univ.–Chico Dept. of Art and Art History Chico, CA 95929-0820 Phone: 530-898-6885;asmittman@mail.csuchico.eduAre there times when heroic acts might, from another perspective, be seen as monstrous? How are Crusader tales narrated in Muslim sources, expulsion tales in Jewish sources, battles from the losing side, slaying tales told by dragons? If we listen for the subaltern to speak, what will we hear? Can we hear the legitimate laments of Grendel's mother, or understand the actions of Lanval's fairy lover? How didretinues of “Saracen” princes perceive the oft-valorized scenes of conversion? Should we praise St. Patrick for cursing inlets and killing the local “wizards” upon his arrival in Ireland? Other saints are valorized for acts of mortification, self-mutilation, and willful starvation. What do we learn if we shift our perspectives, if we re-view these images and narratives from other angles? We invite panelists for a roundtable on “Monstrous Acts of Heroism,” and welcome analysis of surviving texts and image, as well as creative and speculative retellings of medieval tales.[...]

Modern, Medieval, preserved for posterity


Prof Awesome hears some of my wild and wide-eyed theories!!  See it here:

A New Conversation


Yeah, so.....I just noticed it has been a year plus since one of us has posted here.  But that's not what I want to reflect on......

I wanted to start a conversation on whatever platforms we use now re: a problem many of us face.  Many of us medievalists, fresh from the Congress, feel like medieval impostors.  No, not the usual impostor syndrome where we think we have nothing to say in spite of our years of training, but that because we have such big teaching commitments (4/4 or more) and the accompanying grading plus the service requirements, etc etc that many of us are unable to do any research during the school year.  This in fact gives rise to that problem of finishing one's Congress paper en route or even during the conference: we have no time no matter how well we plan to get it researched, written, and done for 3/4 of our year.

So I wanted to open a discussion on strategies and ways to deal with the problem of being full plus time teacher and only part time scholar.  Comments here, or on Facebook, etc welcome.



ENGL 4183 Intensive Latin Online 2015Dr. Larry Swain Bemidji State University Course Description: This course is an intensive introduction to Latin, covering in nine weeks a full academic year’s worth of the language. This will require a lot of work and dedication on the part of both instructor and student. By the end, however, the student should be able to read Latin prose with the aid of a grammar and a good dictionary or lexicon. There will be a great deal of memorization. Via our online tools, discussion board, online office hours, recorded lectures, live lectures, exercise sharing and corrections, and Q&A sessions delivered via D2L, power point presentations, and other tools, we will go through the entire text and master basic Latin. The course will require a commitment from the student. A MINIMUM of 2 hours and preferably 4-6 hours a day will need to be spent working on the exercises, in class, interacting with the professor etc. Because delivery is online rather than in a traditional classroom, the need for each individual student to apply him- or herself diligently daily is even more important than in a face-to-face class.  We will meet virtually in an online classroom for each lesson to explain the grammar lesson, to do some in class exercises, to correct exercises, and so on, for approximately an hour, more if necessary or if student interest. The rest of your time will be spent working on exercises, translating sample passages of actual Latin, memorizing the forms. Texts: Intensive Latin by Floyd Moreland and Rita Fleischer Other materials as assigned(I will have advice about students’ dictionaries, additional grammar aids in print and online and so on as well throughout the course). Highly Recommended: English Grammar for Students of Latin: The Study Guide for Those Learning Latin by Norma Goldman and Ladislas Szymanski This course is six credits; I think a full year of Latin deserves a full year of credit.  The above URL at the top is the Center for Extended Learning Admissions website.  This URL is for the tuition calculator:  [...]

Charlie Hebdo and Neighborliness


I'm cross-posting this from my personal blog. There is a lot more to say, and a lot more to tease out, but these brief thoughts seem like an important reminder while so many are so busy with the Clash of Civilizations narrative.___Today, I began reading David Nirenberg’s Neighboring Faiths: Christianity, Islam, and Judaism in the Middle Ages and Today, and the attacks in Paris on the offices of Charlie Hebdo and the all-too-expected violence against Mosques provide an unsettling and imminent backdrop for what is otherwise some light research reading. Even if I were not horrified by these propagating acts of violence, my professional interests would already be raised in light of Salman Rushdie’s invocation of a “medieval form of unreason” as a way to describe Islamic radicalism. As many others have noted, the labeling of something as “medieval” is a comforting fantasy of casting the present (and our own responsibilities to it) into the darkened past. See this piece for an excellent take on it.Of course, this event has brought back “The Clash of Civilizations” (as if it ever left). As a perfect example, Senator Lindsay Graham has stated that “Our way of life doesn’t fit into their scheme of how the world should be. If you stopped talking about radical Islam, if you never did a cartoon again, that’s not enough. What people need to get is they can’t be accommodated. They can’t be negotiated with. They have to be eventually destroyed.” It’s them or us.These stark terms and boundaries, boldly-colored in lines of a rather cartoonish portrait, obscure the interdependence of Christianity and Islam. Nirenbeg describes this interdependence as “coproduction,” that religions coproduce each other in a dense network of identification and dis-identification. Another phrase he uses here is “ambivalent neighborliness,” an array of responses to the neighbor “ranging from love and toleration to total extermination” (2).Senator Graham and many others would do well to heed Nirenberg’s analyses concerning the interrelationships between Christianity, Judaism, and Islam:My goal in them [the ensuing chapters] is simply to convince you that Islam, Christianity, and Judaism have never been independent of each other: that is as neighbors, in close relation to one another, that they have constantly transformed themselves, reinterpreting both their scriptures and their histories. Their pasts are not discrete, independent, or stable, and neither are their presents or their futures. (12) Total annihilation can never be good public policy, and most importantly, it’s a blood-tinged fantasy that ultimately seeks to forget how much our neighbors mean to us, even (and sadly, perhaps especially) when we kill them.[...]

9/11, the Qur'an, and Sympathy to Diversity


Toward the end of last week, I sat down to look ahead at my teaching topics for this week, looked at the syllabus for my World Literature I course (antiquity to early modern), and realized that I had scheduled the Qur'an on 9/11. When I had made the schedule weeks before, I had taken my pre-made template and populated the empty slots with the reading trajectory that I imagined for the course, without regard for dates--more concerned with overall and weekly organization. At first, I was daunted by the prospect of teaching the Qur'an on the historic date that had practically introduced American culture to Islam through an international tragedy; eventually, I came around to hoping that it would be a good opportunity.

The Qur'an,
Walters Art Museum, MS 567, fol. 1b
(1230 AH / 1814-15 CE, Iran),
Courtesy of The Digital Walters.
As it turns out, the class went wonderfully--thanks to great students. They were engaged, interested, and some of them knowledgeable about the Qur'an and Islam from previous reading (on their own or in other classes). They identified the nuance of the Qur'an as a religious text, acknowledging the complicated nature both in comparison with and distinct from some of the other world religious texts we've read over the past few weeks (the Hebrew Bible, Christian gospels, Confucius' Analects). Discussion was lively. About halfway through the class, the elephant in the room finally reared up when students began to confront multiple interpretations of certain passages in the text itself, the historical spread of Islam, and themes of militant conversion in both the text and the history of Islam--and in the history of world religions more generally.

I took the opportunity to underscore one of my key goals in the class: to instill a sense of diversity and sympathy for world cultures and various representations of what it means to be human. I was honest: I told them that I had no idea about the date when I had put the Qur'an on the scheduled, but that I thought it was a good opportunity for rethinking and revising some of our assumptions and expectations on a day when those thoughts may be very present in our minds. I told them that we had to understand culture and literature through interpretation; that we had to understand cultures not as monolithic (there is no single "Islamic culture" just like there is no single "Christian culture"); that all of our readings and discussions lead us to consider diversity and sympathy. As I said all of this, I watched as they took in what I was saying--nodding, smiling, taking notes, agreeing. They chimed in, echoing some of my words, extending my ideas, and our discussion turned to reflections on how we live in a moment ripe with possibilities for cross-cultural, multi-faith, ecumenical conversations. It gave me hope, and one more reason to remember why I love teaching.

On Teaching Bisclavret


I originally wrote this for my personal blog, ParaSynchronies, but I've decided to cross-post it here as well.Like many people I know, I've been reading article after article on the Isla Vista shootings last Friday. When I haven't been reading articles, I've been delving into the heartbreak and poignance of #YesAllWomen. I get like this (I'm certainly not alone). When an event like Isla Vista or Newtown happens, I always seem to have difficulty escaping the event horizon of such senseless tragedy. Well, I wish I could say it was always senseless. There is too much sense (I do not, in any way, mean reason). Rather, there is too much to be read, too many free-floating signifiers of hate and violence that demand to be interrogated, if not interpreted. It's in this state that I finally poked my head out to get back to work prepping Marie de France's "Bisclavret" to teach in a summer British Lit I Survey course.This text has always struck me as a deeply troubling one. The first time I taught it, I selected this lai because of its werewolf.  I was teaching my first upper-level medieval lit class (in fact, the last such course of its kind I have taught), and I chose as my theme "The Monstrous Middle Ages." A short text about a werewolf seemed like an obvious and perfect choice. For those of you who aren't familiar with the tale, here is a brief summary:A Lord seems to have a wonderful life --  status, nobility, and a lovely wife; however, he has a secret. For three days a week he disappears into the forest to become a werewolf. His wife, anxious about these frequent disappearances, confronts him and asksHim and him what is going on. She fears that he has a lover on the side (I would add that this is a fairly justifiable fear given the evidence she had) and so she needs to know. At first, he refuses to tell her but after much coaxing he relents. He also reveals, after initial resistance, where he hides his clothes. He runs about naked in the forest, subsisting on whatever prey he can find, but he needs his clothes to once again resume human form. The lady, aghast at this state of affairs, convinces a knight (one who has attempted to woo her) to steal her husband's clothes. In return, she marries the knight. The husband is then trapped in his wolfish form, and is eventually taken in by the King who recognizes the seeming nobility of the animal. The story comes to a climax when the lord sees his connubial usurper and attacks him. Next, the wolf sees his wife and, in a fit of rage, launches himself at her and swipes off her nose. At this point, it seems like the wolf is going to be punished for this, but one of the wise counselors of the King suggests that the animal has never acted so viciously before and so there must be a reason. Agreeing, the King has the lady tortured until she reveals everything. Ultimately, the lord is returned to his human form and his one-time wife, now disfigured, is exiled. As a sign of her crimes, future generations of the women in her line are born without noses.Whenever I teach this text, there is always an excellent conversation about the tensions between the spaces of the forest and the court, between civilization and wildness. The early going consensus in class often seems to be that the werewolf is not the true monster of the text, but rather the lady exhibits more monstrosity in her actions. Now, part of the reason we reached such conclusions might be because of how I lead class discussion, choosing to focus on some questions, and not others, but I also think that Marie de France provokes her readers to both overlook certain key details and to be rattled by that act of overlooking. After we've talked for a while about the working of monstrosity in the text, I often pose the following question: "Is there any way we can discover a sympathetic reading of th[...]

Modern Medieval at Kalamazoo 2014


And so it comes around again, Spring, when medievalists long to go ... to Kalamazoo. The blog has been a bit quiet of late, but as you can see from the run-down below, we've all been very busy! We're organizing, presiding, and presenting like crazy over here!Matthew GabrieleThe Exegetical Turn: Exegesis as a Paradigm for New Understandings of the Middle AgesThursday 3:30 p.m. Schneider 1320 Sponsor: Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Virginia Tech

Organizer: Matthew Gabriele, Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State Univ. Presider: David M. Perry, Dominican Univ.Kissing Christ: Judas’s Mouth as Biblical ExegesisRabia Gregory, Univ. of Missouri–ColumbiaThe Exegetical Diplomas of King Philip I of Francia (1060–1108)Matthew GabrieleRead! Think! Engage! How Luther’s Exegesis of Genesis Exhorted People out of the Cloister and into Family and SocietyJennifer Hockenbery, Mount Mary Univ.Writing the Middle Ages for Multiple Audiences (A Panel Discussion)Friday 3:30 p.m. Fetzer 1045Sponsor: CARA (Committee on Centers and Regional Associations, Medieval Academy of America)Organizer: Michael A. Ryan, Univ. of New MexicoPresider: James M. Murray, Western Michigan Univ.A panel discussion with David M. Perry, Dominican Univ.; Ellen F. Arnold, Ohio Wesleyan Univ.; Matthew Gabriele, Virginia Tech; and Laura Saetveit Miles, Univ. i Bergen. Rick GoddenDisability Studies and the Digital Humanities (A Roundtable)Friday 3:30 p.m. Schneider 1155Sponsor: Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle AgesOrganizer: Joshua R. Eyler, Rice Univ.
Presider: Tory Vandeventer Pearman, Miami Univ. HamiltonA roundtable discussion with John P. Sexton, Bridgewater State Univ.; Cameron Hunt McNabb, Southeastern Univ.; Jonathan Hsy, George Washington Univ.; and Richard H. Godden, Tulane Univ.#;()@?”:—*! (A Roundtable)Saturday 1:30 p.m. Fetzer 1005 Sponsor: BABEL Working Group
Organizer: Eileen A. Joy, BABEL Working Group Presider: Richard H. Godden, Tulane Univ.Seeing SpacesChris Piuma, Univ. of TorontoThe Divorce of Punctuation and DiacriticsMeg Worley, Colgate Univ., (A Breath)Joshua R. Eyler, Rice Univ.D’oh: A Brief History of Misusing the Apostrophe and Why Its So AnnoyingDavid Hadbawnik, Univ. at Buffalo‽: Interrobanging ChaucerCorey Sparks, Indiana Univ.–Bloomington*
Robert Rouse, Univ. of British Columbia&Jonathan Hsy, George Washington Univ.Medieval Literary EthicsSunday 8:30 a.m. Schneider 1350Organizer: Emily Houlik-Ritchey, Univ. of California–Santa BarbaraPresider: Emily Houlik-Ritchey“Doctrine by ensample”: Literature’s Ethical Problem and Spenser’s Aesthetic SolutionMaria Devlin, Harvard Univ.By Writing Amended: The Ethics of Interpretation in Hoccleve’s SeriesA. Arwen Taylor, Indiana Univ.–BloomingtonThe Virtues and the Will in Chaucer’s Parliament of FowlsSarah Powrie, St. Thomas More CollegeProsthetic Neighbors: Enabling Community in The Wedding of Sir Gawain and Dame RagnelleRichard H. Godden, Tulane Univ.Brandon HawkNew Methods in Anglo-Saxon HomileticsThursday 10:00 a.m. Schneider 1325Sponsor: Society for the Study of Anglo-Saxon Homiletics (SSASH)Organizer: Brandon W. Hawk, Univ. of Connecticut
Presider: Stephen Harris, Univ. of Massachusetts–Amherst“It maie be Alfricus for al my conninge”: Authorizing Ælfric in the Long Seventeenth CenturyR. Scott Bevill, Univ. of Tennessee–KnoxvilleUt quidam perverse opinantur: Bede’s Criticism of Unnamed SourcesDamian Fleming, Indiana Univ.-Purdue Univ.–Fort WaynePeople of the Bread and the Book: Ecclesiology and the Eucharist in Ælfric’s Catholic HomiliesRae Grabowski, Cornell Univ.Universal Saints Located in Anglo-Saxon EnglandThursday 7:30 p.m. Bernhard 204Organizer: Kevin R. Kritsch, Univ. of North Carolina–Chapel HillPresider: Bryan Carella, Assumption CollegeAn Old [...]

Share and Share Alike


A while back, I was at a conference and a fellow conference attendee made a really important observation. Now, the truth contained in this oberservation is one we all know, especially those of us working in Digital Humanities and using the Web for scholarship and pedagogical needs. But his comment really made me realize both how widespread this is and how problematic it has become. The Web is empty. Ok, so that's not how my colleague put it. And of course it is not literally true. The Internet is full of all sorts of things. But what it now lacks and once had in abundance is the activity of scholars and teachers. Once not long ago, it was common for professors and instructors to upload syllabi, course exercises and materials, articles and thoughts in progress. Truly, the amount of material we all shared regularly with one another and the world was mind boggling. Now, however, our universities encourage and sometimes require us to use Blackboard, D2L, and similar content management software to run classes, upload materials, and so on. Of course, these are all proprietary. They discourage sharing, worry about firewalls, and generally put materials out of reach. Most faculty no longer have a personal web page. Not even me, in my case because the university has it so buttoned down that it is impossible to use. Point is, we no longer share. This is not the first time we have seen this corporatization, this clamping down on things once freely available. Back in the day, between the “internet” being shared with universities by the DOD, and the explosion of the web, we had BBS, bulletin board services. Folks programmed all kinds of things: games, office software, communication software, and shared it all on the BBSes, delivered of course over dial up (thank heaven for smart modems!). Of course, that has all but become a thing of the past as companies have gobbled up smaller companies and rolled over the individual developer. Rare is a Linus Torvalds or even a Zuckerberg who develop a program and make it free to use. No, the phenomenon is not non-existent; but it is becoming more and more rare. Someone might point out the various open source projects. Or ResearchGate,, and other such sites where scholars are sharing their materials. And that's true! I don't disagree. But too few are sharing, and most are sharing pre-publication versions of papers, a few will add conference papers, fewer add materials prepped for the classroom or just plain materials not really suitable for publication but very good research tools or data-mined material. Anyway, the point is, 12-16 years ago when the web was new, we shared things. Now, we don't share as much. Some of this is simply that our home institutions discourage it by making everything go onto Blackboard and like sites. We've seen this before. It hasn't in the long run done us any good other than push up prices, require a constant round of updates, a culture of "let's see if we can X corporation's locks" rather than "let's see who can create the best product."  And so it goes. Point is, it is just too easy to give in to the corporatization of our work. We're encouraged to. Just put it all on the university's subscribed site, D2L, Blackboard, something else. And that's fine to a degree; but it does rob a larger audience of your work, of shared community resources, of useful information that we once upon time as medievalists gladly gave one another and our students. So this is an appeal. I hope to encourage people to once again share more of their work, in particular class materials, freely online. There are multiple ways of doing so for free: a web page,, ResearchGate, Linkedin, etc. Even (but beware the dangers) Dropbox and Google Docs. In the long run, our fi[...]

Exploring Wellcome Library Manuscripts


Another win for open access to special collections holdings is making the news: the Wellcome Library has made over 100,000 high-resolution images of items in their collections available to the public, all under Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY 2.0) licenses. For good reason, this news is getting due attention. What struck me was the number of medieval treasures now available--especially manuscript images.In the cases of some of the Wellcome manuscripts, images provided are just the inside pages with modern descriptions (so hopefully more images from these items will appear in the future). In other cases, there are images of full pages. Many of these are fascinating witnesses to medieval scientific practices, such as an unidentified eleventh-century Anglo-Saxon manuscript with Old English medical recipes that Stewart J. Brookes discussed on the DigiPal blog.I highlight a few others to give a sense of the Wellcome holdings.*Some of the manuscripts contain astronomical lore, such as this Arabic Horoscope of the Mongol Prince Iskandar, grandson of Tamerlane, showing (according to the description) "the positions of the heavens at the moment of Iskandar's birth on 25th April 1384" (Or MS PER 474).This horoscope, from The Book of the Birth of Iskandar, is a good witness to the holdings of Arabic items in the Wellcome collection. For example, searching for "Iskandar" with date range between 0 and 1500 calls up 392 results; searching for "Arabic" between the same date range calls up another 83 results.A few particularly nice images, in fact, are from Arabic books (MS Arabic 421, 437, and 458), showing the bindings of different codices that are instructive for looking at the materiality of these objects:Other manuscripts contain medical knowledge mixed with other traditions, like the following three images, from a manuscript of the Apocalypse of John (MS 49, c.1420-30): the first, from the Apocalypse; the second, a diagram for urinomancy; the third, a diagram of bloodletting techniques within a zodiac.For those interested in 15th-century English texts, the Wellcome Images hold a selection of scientific writings from the period. A few good examples: first, a collection of English and Latin scientific tracts (MS 411/3), with the image here from a text "On Unlucky Days"--a particularly fascinating genre of astronomical lore; and, second, a manuscript of the Pseudo-Galen Anathomia in English (MS 290).This is just a small selection of some of the images that jumped out at me. Certainly the collection is worth much more extensive exploration, and can lend much to bringing medieval artifacts into the classroom.* On a side note, a few frustrating issues make navigating the site difficult. One is a lack of clear browsing abilities--for example, to browse just manuscripts, or to limit by time or geography. Another is the lack of permalinks for items, making it difficult to cite individual images or item entries in the collection. For this reason, I've provided the low-resolution images here, though high-resolution images are available to download from the Wellcome site.[...]

New Year's End


And so we come to the end, again. Always again, or at least always until the end. Endings have been inescapably on my mind these last few days, especially provoked by Karl’s excellent post at ITM. And, as I'm sure everyone is aware, we are at year's end, with all the existential (and financial and personal and…) accounting that that entails. But, endings are opportunity for beginnings, and so there is some hope for optimism. Or is there? What does it mean to make a new beginning? Does the beginning of a new year mean anything outside of our collective agreement to mark this as the time in which we begin a new sequence of months?It's also about time for all of us to begin making new resolutions as we look forward to the promise of a new year. In addition to Karl’s ruminations on plucking the grain from the little clergeon in Chaucer’s “Prioress’s Tale” (the dead body of the boy is miraculously singing, and he will only be quiet and restful once the grain is pulled from his tongue), I am mindful of another medieval text: Piers Plowman. More specifically, I’m thinking of D. Vance Smith’s reading of the poem in his Book of the Incipit. Smith gives us a way to grapple with the repeated new beginnings of Langland’s poem -- the poem can’t seem to quite fashion an end, but it continuously fashions new beginnings. Smith observesthe crucial importance of beginnings to the formal structure, theology, and political phantasmatics of the poem suggests the powerful presence of what might be called, rather, an inceptive animus, the epiphenomenon of beginning—the anxiety of beginning that is manifest indirectly as indirection itself, as the reluctance to make closure, or as the irrepressible remnant of what comes before the beginning, which is made to end. (19)During New Year’s, we’re often possessed of such “an inceptive animus.” Already I’m seeing New Year’s Resolutions, both sincere and glib, all over my various social media feeds. The New Year's Resolution (NYR) is a curious speech act: through it we attempt to call forth a better tomorrow by attempting to dissolve the past. Common and recurring resolutions for myself include the desire to “get more work done” or “be better organized” or “write more,” etc. In each case, the hope for better future behaviors is predicated upon a negative evaluation of past behavior. Smith again: “beginnings are a privation of the past in a larger sense: as the annulment of history, of what must become the outside, the exterior, of an event to make the event unique—which is to say, intelligible, initiating, and historical” (21). To make sense of this moment as new, to decide to make it different, we often attempt to annul the moments that gave birth to it.Unlike Langland’s insistent re-beginning of the poem, we don’t necessarily have the same “reluctance to make closure.” Instead, the NYR expresses a deep desire for closure, but only as a way to redress and make right past experience. “Sure, I screwed up last year, but this year, this year, I’ll fix it all and be better.” Inevitably, though, we make the NYR only to break it, often sooner rather than later. The past we seek to annul is indeed an “irrepressible remnant,” always ready to haunt us. We can't fully annul the past, and any gesture to do so only confirms it. But, I want to be clear here: I’m not saying that the lazy are always lazy, or the overindulgent always so. Rather, I just think it would be good to remember that while 2014 is a new year, with all the promise that suggests, mostly it’s just the next year, another item in a series whose ultimate length we can’t know. So, don't treat your New Year's as some new, final beginning. Remember th[...]

Review of Digitized Medieval Manuscripts Maps


Over the past few days, medievalists have been abuzz about a new resource for manuscript study in the digital age: the folks at Sexy Codicology (a team made up of Giulio Menna and Marjolein de Vos) launched the Digitized Medieval Manuscripts Maps website. I have been personally eager for this launch for several weeks now, since versions of some maps already appeared on Twitter (Giulio Menna first conceived of the maps in July 2013), as teasers for the main launch this week. If the emergence of digitized manuscripts has caused a major sea-change the field of medieval studies, Digitized Medieval Manuscripts Maps is a rising star to help with navigation.What are the Digitized Medieval Manuscripts Maps? Most simply, they present interactive visualizations of thousands of digitized medieval manuscripts in hundreds of libraries geographically plotted on world maps. The maps and data are presented in four basic forms. On the "Standard" map (built on GoogleMaps), each point represents a library, which can be clicked on for more information about the institution, its digitized holdings, and a link. The Heatmap (also based on GoogleMaps) presents a visualization of the concentration of digitized manuscripts across geography--the more manuscripts in a location, the more concentrated the visualization; the heatmap is currently presented as a series of static images, with promises of future developments. The "Fancy" map (built on MapBox) is the most fully developed, an improvement on the "standard" map and heatmap. While it is still in development, the "fancy" map is fully usable and fully interactive, and the creators promise future capabilities that will encompass those of the other maps on a single platform. Finally, the creators give full, open access to the original data used to construct the maps--a complete list of libraries that have put digitized manuscripts online.Little needs to be said about the quality of these maps, since users can see for themselves that the maps are a useful addition to the field. Instead, I want to focus on three foundational characteristics of the project that make this project excellent. First, although this launch presents some already great resources, the project is not complete but in a state of development. While this may seem to be a drawback for those focused on long-term sustainability and other related issues, for this project it suggests much potential for future improvements. In relation to sustainability and quality, my second assessment relates to the use of already well-established tools. The site itself is built on the all-purpose WordPress platform, while the maps are built on GoogleMaps and Mapbox--all apt choices that have been tested and well met in digital humanities work. Third, the entire project is fully open, licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License. The project creators' laudable openness and willingness to share is already evidenced by the posting of complete data sets, as well as the use of other software devoted to open access (notably, WordPress and Mapbox). It is hoped that other projects associated with digitized manuscripts will follow this same path.If there is any drawback to the project--a review must have its quibbles, and mine are both minor and hopefully remedied in the future--it is the lack of stable funding. Unfortunately, this does affect the "fancy" map, since the creators are only able to use the free version of Mapbox to create it, and are limited in the amount of space for the maps. Thus, the "fancy" map is limited in numbers of monthly views (currently at 3,000) as well as functionality for zooming in and out on the map. Moreover, the lack of stable funding hin[...]

Briefly noted -- Accessus: A Journal of Premodern Literature and New Media


Readers of Modern Medieval will want to go take a look at the inaugural issue of Accessus, a publication of the Gower Project. This excellent-looking first issue includes the following essays that bring together disability studies, medieval studies, manuscript studies, and new media:
  • "Blind Advocacy: Blind Readers, Disability Theory, and Accessing John Gower"
                 Jonathan Hsy
  • "Blindness, Confession, and Re-membering in Gower's Confessio"
                                           Tory Vandeventer Pearman
  • "The Trentham Manuscript as Broken Prosthesis: Wholeness and Disability in Lancastrian England"
                                                                                                                               Candace Barrington
  • "Civility and Gower's 'Visio Anglie'"
                                                                                         Lynn Arner
In the "Introduction," Editors Georgiana Donavin and Eve Salisbury describe the work of Accessus and of this volume as follows:
Inventive theoretical approaches and the use of current technologies in interpreting Gower’s poems have been part of The Gower Project since its inception. To en-vision, re-vision, and see things anew is something of a leitmotif among the several essays presented here, all of which enable us to engage actively in contemporary concerns and at the same time recognize how the writings of the past encourage us to embrace such opportunities.
Hopefully next week I'll have a review up of these four essays, but for now, some finals week(s) reading for all of you. Also, see Bruce Holsinger's take over at Burnable Books.

On Mass Killings: The Importance of "Cultural Ether"


NB -- this was originally published at Medium, where no one saw it (probably deservedly). Regardless, I'm republishing it here. ***** BL MS Royal 19B XV, f. 37v.(early 14th c.)There’s a lot to like about Ari Schulman’s article in last week's The Wall Street Journal. The very best part is simply this:“Underlying this grim national ritual, and the pronouncements from all quarters that mass shootings are ‘senseless,’ is the disturbing feeling that these acts are beyond our understanding.”Schulman then goes on to explain why this itself doesn’t make sense. Psychologists and criminologists know plenty about why they happen, and the reasons are then enumerated (complete with bullet-pointed list). Don’t talk about the shooter. Don’t talk about his (almost always a him) motives. Don’t focus on the victims’ families. Prevent the next event by talking down the significance of this last one. Don’t feed the mental illness of the next mass killer by giving him something to aspire to.But that list strikes me as problematic — problematic because its prescriptions move towards a trivialization of the event itself in the name of preventing future events. In other words, its prescriptions move the event towards that same “senslessness” that the author decries. Schulman tries to avoid this:Rampage shootings are fed by many other sources that also must be addressed, of course… [But] these factors are more or less perennial problems of human life and cannot, alone, bear the blame for rampage shootings. In coverage of these events, the focus on insanity particularly risks playing into the need of potential future shooters to convince themselves that the world rejects them, rather than the other way around. The minority who really are psychotic, or just act impulsively, are even more likely to draw their ideas from the cultural ether.He moves in a productive direction but then draws back, finding comfort in a move towards pathologization. Mass killers become semi-automatons, “activated” by their predecessors, all related, easily categorized. We scientize them.But let’s double-back and continue on the path. Mental illness undoubtedly plays a role in almost all mass killings, but we can’t downplay that “cultural ether.” Action occurs at a moment of complex interaction between idea and reality, between rhetoric/ language and reception. Yes, we can and should attempt to understand the psychological profile of these shooters but we should also understand how cultural (humanistic) factors influence them.And perhaps this is the way out, an addendum to Schulman’s article. Don’t focus on the killer, don’t focus on his propaganda, but read it/ watch it. Understand it. Deconstruct it. Find the cultural cues embedded within it and trace their roots. Maybe it’s religion (as here & here). Maybe it’s a our cultural valorization of violence as a problem-solving option. Schulman is right that, in and of themselves, these ideas percolating in the cultural ether are not dangerous. The vast, vast majority deal with those ideas daily without recourse to violence. The problem is that, once in a while, sometimes suddenly, they don’t anymore. Suddenly, that cultural ether coalesces, become the demons that whisper in someone’s ear. And we must interrogate those moments when the demons become manifest.But that’s scary, so we tend to “rationalize.” The thing is, those cultural cues will always be different, and there will be times when dealing with mass killers when they will appear virtually ex nihilo and we’ll only be able to look back to figure out what happened and why. And that’s messy. It requires a lot of wo[...]

Is There a Comment for this Blog?


Recently, Jeffrey Cohen wrote a thoughtful blog post  (prompted by Christopher Schaberg's post) on why blogging seems like such hard work.Somehow, blogging has come to feel less dynamic and more permanent. The elevation of the blog as a venue for more "serious work" has a direct relation, I think, to the increasing use of FB and Twitter by many academics. Jeffrey writes the following about why it seems easier or preferable to dash out thoughts on FB/twitter versus composing blog posts:The immediacy of these two modes makes them seem easy: it isn't really work to place something into circulation in the Twitterverse or FB-Land. The instant commentary is also gratifying. Blogs on the other hand have become a forum more often read than interacted with, as well as great magnets for trolls and spam.I agree with Jeffrey about the immediacy of FB/twitter, and he goes on to note that composing a blog post takes real labor, whereas a series of tweets can reach the level of stream-of-consciousness. I know why I don't blog enough, and I am not happy with it, but for the moment I am most interested in the idea that blogs "have become a forum more often read than interacted with, as well as great magnets for trolls and spam." What's going on here? Why has the blog comment section become a no-mans-land?Part of the problem might be how we circulate posts now. We not only write a blog post, but also promote and advertise that post on other social media, and as a result, comments and dialogue seem to find a home on the links, and not the linked pages themselves. During the Great Swervian Dustup of 2013, many of us remarked (on twitter and FB of course) that it was difficult keeping track of the conversation. Comments were popping up all over various social media, and this proved to be a problem because not everyone is connected in the same ways. The rhizomatic quality of social media can be invigorating, but it can also be bewildering and disorienting.Looking back, I wonder if we have been so good at building community that we have forgotten to build community. I discovered In the Middle when I was feeling particularly isolated during the dissertation. I took the risk and put myself out there by commenting on the blog, under my own name, and folks responded. These early interactions encouraged me, and some of the other commenters on the blog became actual friends. What seemed like a remote and impenetrable field suddenly felt open and even hospitable. So, naturally, when social media came around, it was natural that we would extend those professional communities to other spaces. Because of how we are all so interconnected, I suspect that for many academics (of course, not all), FB can feel as much a professional space as a personal one. And many use twitter exclusively for professional/public discourse.While anyone can set up a twitter account and then follow most anyone, there is still a barrier to Facebook. Speaking for myself, I feel comfortable following anyone on twitter--there is a different set of expectations there concerning public discourse. But for FB, I wouldn't feel comfortable friending everyone. Nor do I want to. But since FB allows for more robust commenting, this could be a real problem. Although many of us are "friends"/friends on FB, we are perhaps reinforcing exclusive communities even if that is explicitly opposite our goal.Not only might graduate students feel less than comfortable with friending more established scholars (and really, there is an argument to be made for preserving more personal spaces), but the movement of conversations to FB or twitter make it so that people from other disciplines, [...]

Go to HEL!


So. I've thought for years I ought to do something about the History of English Language book choices out there, frustrating as they all are and far too expensive. But I haven't. Then after discussions earlier this year with Mary Kate Hurley and Nicole Discenza and others on this and related HEL matters, I really though I ought to do something about it. Finally, at SEMA last weekend during the HEL roundtable I volunteered. So under the auspices of the Heroic Age journal (because my co-editor has her own dedicated server), we're opening and developing an open source History of the English Language textbook and workbook. So if you have materials written, exercises composed, homepages constructed, links, etc and you are willing to share them with other HEL instructors, send them to me at and me and my minions will begin organizing and constructing an open source, web-accessible text book out of our collective materials.

“Lost Children” Texts: Returning to the Archive in the “Google Books Era”


[Cross-posted from my personal blog.]I've been reading Matthew L. Jockers's recent book, Macroanalysis: Digital Methods and Literary History (Urbana, IL: U of Illinois P, 2013), and I find much of it compelling. One thing that Jockers mentioned--and my reaction to it--has been on my mind for the last few days: the massive availability of texts in our own digital culture. But I want to put pressure on this notion, especially in relation to medieval texts.My thinking about this issue began to percolate when I read this:In this Google Books era, we can take for granted that some digital version of the text we need will be available somewhere online, but we have not yet fully articulated or explored the ways in which these massive corpora offer new avenues for research and new ways of thinking about our literary subject. (17)Jockers' point is, of course, generally taken to be true, and the massive digitization of texts has certainly changed research across the humanities (he addresses copyright issues in his final chapter, "Orphans"). There is no denying the major benefits to scholarship that have come from initiatives such as Google Books, HathiTrust, and Project Gutenberg.My knee-jerk reaction to Jockers' observation, however, was this comment:*Though what about pre-modern, unedited texts? Jockers points to his own idealism & problems such as copyright, but there are also other problems of access: e.g., some of these texts have never (or almost never, or not properly) freed from the archive.Of course, medievalists benefit greatly from free, open access to many texts, particularly those printed before and even into the early twentieth century. In the USA, copyrights up to 1923 have now generally expired--through there are exceptions, such as when estates continue to hold rights--putting all works printed before then in the public domain. It's worth noting that many resources and editions of medieval texts still consulted (such as those published by the Early English Text Society) were printed in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. There's no doubt that digitization of these texts are game-changers.Yet, if Jockers is concerned in his final chapter about copyright and "orphan" texts--instances in which ownership and copyright are unclear--I'm concerned about what we might think of as "lost children" texts (though the two types aren't mutually exclusive) that have yet to be brought out of the archive and made accessible to scholars.Many examples come to mind. One instance that I've encountered and worked on is a Hiberno-Latin commentary on Colossians that survives in St. Gall, Stiftsbibliothek, Cod. Sang. 1395, which has been mentioned in various scholarship but remained unedited and, subsequently, largely unexamined (see now my transcription and analysis in Sacris Erudiri 2012). This text is just one representative of many Hiberno-Latin texts available only by directly examining the manuscripts; in fact, this issue is the reason for the initiative behind the Corpus Christianorum Scriptores Celtigenae series (published by Brepols). Other examples abound in J.-P. Migne's monumental nineteenth-century Patrologia Latina (PL), some volumes of which are digitally available, while the whole text corpus and searchable database remains locked behind a hefty commercial paywall maintained by Chadwyck-Healey, despite the texts being theoretically available to the public domain. Again, the Corpus Christianorum is relevant here, since the Series Latina seeks to supplant Migne with a new line of critical editions. Like th[...]

London Layers


I haven't posted any medieval content here for a while, nor have I ever written about my trip to London--so I'm using this post to do both. I've long been fascinated by London, and I finally had the chance to visit (for a conference and sight-seeing) in July. I'm no less fascinated, and my wonder of the city is even more now.While there, my wife and I had several conversations about how much of a remix-mashup the city is: its earliest bits coming from the Romans, through tot he medieval mercantile hub that it became, into the modern, surviving the Great Fire, with reconstruction and continued growth up to the present.Layers. Layers of the city are visible everywhere.There some are pieces--like the Saxon arch in All-Hallows-by-the-Tower (below) and the remains of the earlier Roman building in the basement below, where visitors can still walk--that have been preserved pretty well intact, with more recent (though still medieval) construction around them. Yes, some of the city's treasures are quite well preserved in the many museums, but many are still kept in street corners, in the open, or tucked into churches that have stood against time. There are other bits--like the London Wall, once spanning along the city, now only visible at certain sites--that are crumbling, in need to restoration. And still some sites--like the Tower of London, with its Norman keep and massive fortification built up around it over time--are now regarded as national treasures, teeming with guards and security. Walking along the streets in central London, many of the buildings show the layering quite visibly, as the soot from the Great Fire lines the walls.The mashup of the city's history is stunning, and a wonder I look forward to beholding again.So here's a photo-set of just a few of my favorite details.Sutton Hoo exhibit in the British MuseumThe Charterhouse in Charterhouse SquareThe Saxon Arch in All-Hallows-by-the-TowerAn Anglo-Saxon stone cross in the basement of All-Hallows-by-the-TowerA detail from the Tower of LondonOne site of the crumbling London Wall[...]

Call for Papers: 9th Annual Graduate Student Conference in Medieval Studies - "Celebrations"


Hello all!  Jenn here again.  Here's another CFP from my friends at the CUNY Grad Center.  I'm well into the first semester of my very first year as A.B.D., and I'm beginning to contemplate some blog posts on the dissertation project I am cooking up.  In the meantime, I hope these CFPs are useful to you or those you know.  9th Annual Pearl Kibre Medieval Study Graduate Student ConferenceCUNY Graduate Center, New York, NYFebruary 28, 2014"Medieval Celebrations"The Pearl Kibre Medieval Study, CUNY Graduate Center’s student-run organization for medieval studies, is hosting their ninth annual graduate student conference: Medieval Celebrations. We invite grad students to submit proposals about celebrations of all kinds.Topics for presentations include but are not limited to:·       Festivals, feasts, and food·       Holy days and saints days·       Forms of ritual·       The Mass·       Coronation·       Baptisms, weddings, and funerals·       Entertainment and performance·       Agriculture and pagan vestiges·       Markets·       Mockery and fooleryWe also invite grad student performers of medieval music or dramatic arts to submit proposals for short performances (up to 30 minutes; please include estimation of time).Please submit your abstract of no more than 300 words by November 30, 2013.Include your name and affiliation.Papers must be 15-20 minutes in length, and performances no more than 30 minutes.Submissions should be emailed to[...]

Call for Papers: “New Media and the Medieval Ages”


Hello all!  Jenn here.  Here's a CFP from some of my very good medievalist friends at the CUNY Grad Center.  This sounds like it will be a great Kalamazoo panel.  The Pearl Kibre Medieval Study is currently accepting abstracts for its panel at the 49th International Congress on Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo (May 8 – 11, 2014) titled: “New Media and the Medieval Ages.”The field of medieval studies has a relatively long and recognized history of scholarship assisted by technology. One of the first to merge new advances in technology with humanities scholarship was a medievalist, Fr. Roberto Busa, who in the 1940s conceived and developed the Index Thomisticus—a tool for performing text searches within the massive corpus of Aquinas’s works—in collaboration with IBM. Today dozens of digital resources are available for the medievalist: online collections of digitized manuscript images, full-text databases, online scholarly editions, and tens of thousands of books and journals.  One of the more recent and popular trends amongst medievalists in new media technology is the transformation of widely conceived medieval texts and data into new forms of media and technology. Projects such as Piers Plowman Electronic Archive and the Mapping Medieval Chester project exemplify only a few of the innovative applications of new media to our study of the medieval world.Shared amongst these projects’ use of digital tools is an emphasis on remediation, taking data in one form and transforming and transposing it into another form of usable media. Additionally, through a greater focus on developments in contemporary technology, or as result of its proliferation, scholars and researchers have also become more attuned to the use, development, and creation of medieval technologies in the contexts of the written word, manuscripts, works of art, music, architecture, warfare, urban planning, and others.  The panel “New Media and the Middle Ages” aims at addressing some of the key concepts, questions, and methodologies concerning the convergences between developments in both new and old technologies and our study of the medieval past. Papers might address such questions as:  What insights might digital humanities allow in our study of medieval texts, architecture, music, manuscripts, and art?  What kinds of multimedia objects or events existed in the medieval period, and how might we as modern scholars still have access to them? What are the consequences of considering medieval manuscripts, texts, and works of art as multimedia works?Other topics for presentations include:Translation and dictionary projectsDigital projects in the visual and performance artsEncoding of medieval manuscripts and printed textsManagement and preservation of digital resourcesThe cultural impact of the new mediaThe role of digital humanities in academic curriculaFunding and sustainability of long-term projectsPlease submit your abstract of no more than 300 words by September 15, 2013 (but extended through the end of the week!)Include your name and affiliation.Papers must be 15-20 minutes in length.Submissions should be emailed to along with a completed participant information form (found at Kibre Medieval Study, Medieval Studies Certificate ProgramCUNY Graduate Center, New York, NY[...]

The Job Market: a few chunks of advice


This is the first opportunity I have had to really add anything here since our “reconstitution.”  Not for lack of things to muse upon!!  But as it is late September, the JIL has just released the first job list of the season, I thought I might toss a few things learned on both sides of the job hunt table.  First, it is hard, and it is frustrating, to have to shape each and every job application to the school/job you are applying for.  But let me tell you: I’ve chaired a half dozen search committees in the last two years, and the last thing I want is to read a boilerplate application that doesn’t tell me anything about what you the applicant can do for my program.   Ninety per cent of the applications received are people who are just as qualified as you are.  And ninety per cent of those also sent in boiler plates.  The applicants that get looked at first are those who took the time to talk about what they want and can do for our program.  If the ad says we want X and you have X tell us how you fit!  If there is no reason for you to stand out of the pile, you won’t.Second, if you are not qualified for the job, please don’t apply.  Yes, once in a great while, someone will get lucky.  But honestly, if you do not have the qualifications for the position, you are simply wasting your time and money as well as the search committee’s.  Your application will end up on the waste pile.  Third, many state schools now have online applications.  FILL THESE OUT COMPLETELY!  Yes, you have to restate information that is in your letter and on your CV and so on.  But the state schools’ HR departments may not even forward your materials due to an incomplete application.  And if they do, the application is a key piece in your arsenal.  The application is on top of your materials.  We look at it first.  The application will tell us whether or not we should continue to read the rest of your materials.  So, after you’ve written the letters, the CV, the philosophy, etc etc, do fill out the repetitious, annoying, seemingly waste of time, application.  It could be the difference between and interview and the dust bin.Fourth, PROOF READ!  It should go without saying, but an ungrammatical sentence in your application materials stands out.  Some committees won’t care; some will.  But look at it this way: when a committee is deciding whom to interview, why give them an excuse not to include you in their top list of potential interviewees?Fifth, one of the counter intuitive things that I learned while on the market was that especially in the state public institution arena, the search committee is not the final say.  Sure, the search committee does all the work, and most of the evaluating when you are on a campus visit.  But the administration has a say in many cases, so you have to sell yourself to the administrators too; that part of the interview is not simply a formality.  In my university’s case, the administration has final say, and the administration makes the offer.  Usually the administration will go along with the search committee’s recommendation, but they don’t have to.  So you must sell yourself that direction as well.  Sixth, know the market.  Look, one of the things that grad school does is force us to specialize.  In fact, the academy helps all think that we’re landing jobs in a [...]

When Is a Product of Research Ready for Public Release?


By now, many readers will probably be aware of the debate surrounding the recent release of the American Historical Society's Statement on Policies Regarding the Embargoing of Completed History PhD Dissertations. The discussion has gained quite a bit of attention on social media (particularly Twitter) under the tag #AHAgate, and there has been an eruption of responses--including the AHA's own Q & A. Tim McCormick has taken the initiative to crowd-source a curated, online collection of the discussion via the newly launched Open History project (click through to those sites for a summary, with relevant links to many responses). At first, I had little to contribute to the already strong debate, but the more I read and thought about it, the more I wondered how much of this is actually a debate. Much of my reading has been strong criticism of the AHA, with only a few responses seeking a balance to the debate.My central issue with the debate so far is that many critics of the AHA seem to be approaching the question of open access to dissertations as if these PhD theses are finished, published products. But dissertations are not publications, and they are not, themselves, the end results of research and scholarly work. If consensus is forming (at least in some circles) that academic research should (pedagogically, financially, ethically, etc.) be available to the public--as in the sciences--then we should also consider that this assumption regards what happens to published results, not drafts of research in progress. After all, scientists do not publish data openly as soon as they have lab results; they work to frame that data into reports. So, as my title suggests, I want to pose the question: When is a product of research ready for public release? I argue that the point of publication (public-ation, making public) is the point at which we need to ask the question of making that research available via open access, and that notion can drastically affect the questions we ask about the public release of dissertations.In my own response to the AHA and the debate so far, I find myself on the fence, but not from indecision. Here, in brief, are my opinions on just some issues already raised:Do I fundamentally agree with the AHA? Yes... and No. I am sympathetic (to varying degrees) to aspects of their statement and criticisms of it.Do we need more studies and facts (not anecdotes) about dissertations, open access, and publications before making assumptions and recommendations? Yes.Do attitudes and assumptions about hiring, tenuring, adjuncts, and other systemic issues in academia need reform? Yes.Do assumptions about publication need to change? Yes.Are authors' rights worth defending? Yes.Should graduate students have release rights over their own dissertation work? Yes.Is open access important? Yes.Should end results of publicly funded research be openly accessible? Yes.That last question and response is where I want to focus. First, some caveats.Of the responses to the AHA's recommendations, my thoughts resonated especially with those of Michael J. Altman, on why he embargoed his dissertation. I certainly support open access, sharing research, extending academia into the public sphere, bringing the public sphere into academia--whatever metaphors for such interaction we can muster, though whatever means we can imagine. I especially think this is important for scholars working from public funding (such as at state sc[...]

Call for Papers: Society for the Study of Anglo-Saxon Homiletics at Kalamazoo 2014


Society for the Study of Anglo-Saxon Homiletics at the 49th International Congress on Medieval Studies
Western Michigan University (Kalamazoo, MI)
May 8-11, 2014

New Methods in Anglo-Saxon Homiletics

For over ten years at Kalamazoo, the Society for the Study of Anglo-Saxon Homiletics (previously organized by Aaron J Kleist) has thrived in its aims to promote scholarship related to the sources, practices, appropriations, and early studies of Anglo-Saxon homilies. The Society recently experienced a three-year hiatus from Kalamazoo, but scholars have continued to support the possibility of future sessions by the Society. This session seeks to renew the presence of the Society at Kalamazoo, as well as vibrant scholarship and collaborative thinking about new directions for the field. Over the years, the Society has fostered a wide range of interests and methodologies both old and new: for example, source studies, Anglo-Saxon theologies, rhetoric and style, linguistics and philology, the interplay of Christian and pagan practices, paleography and codicology, afterlives of Anglo-Saxon homilies, translation theories, gender studies, and digital initiatives. This session provides a welcome forum for continued discussion of such issues of central importance to Anglo-Saxon studies, especially focused on new avenues of study in the field of homiletics.

Please send abstracts of no more than 500 words with a completed Participant Information Form (available at to Brandon Hawk ( by September 15, 2013.

Abstracts not accepted for this session will be forwarded to the Congress Committee for consideration in general sessions.

Call for Papers: The Exegetical Turn (Kalamazoo 2014)