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Carnivalesque: We are the Memory-Keepers

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One of the things which I like best about the blogosphere is the way in which an idea or a topic gets picked up and batted about from blog to blog, in an unstructured sort of way which, in my head, forms lovely little spiderwebs back and forth across the internet.

Take for example, that perennial hot topic, sexuality. In The Middle have an interesting series on queer theory and the middle ages, with posts going back as far as March this year. I'm particularly fond of this post. I always like to see someone taking a good hard look at the sources and applying them to Theory, rather than the reverse. There have been plenty of posts made on topics of sex and sexuality, but most recently, Magistra et Mater suggests that it does seem to me to be possible to have a text which is indifferent to sexuality in the Middle Ages much more easily than one that is indifferent to religion or gender. However, she defends the validity of anachronistic categories like "gay".

Speaking of Theory... Jonathan Jarrett has a heartfelt plea for the use of comprehensible language in critical theory. Yes, please. And while you're thinking about the way you write, Magistra et Mater offers the merits and drawbacks of "flashy history".

Now, on to reading. Dr Nokes thinks that modern critial theory leaves us ill equiped to read medieval allegory. If you're an historian, don't think you're excused. Magista et Mater wants you to read more literary scholarship. If you're burdened with an overabundance of travel time, you could try listening to it instead, with Matthew Gabrielle's podcasts on medieval texts.

No matter who you are, Dame Eleanor Hull wants you to think about performing reading and incorporating performative reading into your teaching. I am reminded of Jennifer Lyn Jordan's puppeteering escapades. In addition, I proffer this old but moving post, in which Dan Remein talks about reading Beowulf.

Dan Remein is a man with a deep passion for the texts he works with. Another man with a passion is Jonathan Jarrett, who sees historians as custodians of memory.When popular memory fades, as it will, who remembers the fallen? Who, in fact, remembers anyone? We do. Historians are our cultural memory specialists. Thanks Jonathan. That's exactly what I've been trying to articulate this year.

Why blog history? Mary Kate Hurley considers blogging as reader-based writing. She's right, too. I know my essays write a lot more smoothly if I take the time to blog them first. I figure if I can't explain to a non-medievalist like niamh_sage why what I'm doing is interesting, how on earth am I supposed to explain it to Microsoft Word?

ExecutedToday takes his charge as guardians of memory seriously. Someone going by the name of Jason recommends the Sad tale of Hypatius and Pompeius, excecuted by their uncle, Emperor Justinian.

Also on that page you can see Justinian's 'very foxy wife' Theodora. My sometime teacher Vrasidas Karalis also cares about preserving the memory of Byzantium, and one of his favoured methods is telling salacious stories about the imperial court. Theodora featured quite heavily, along with Zoe the Man-Eater- "she used to hold beauty contests amonger her generals, you know".

Stories are memory keepers. Another brilliant memory-keeper is this meme which has been doing the rounds. In that post, Magistra et Mater told us seven little known facts about Charlemagne. Derek the Ænglican told us about Ælfric Bata. Jennifer Lyn Jordan pimped her favourite toyboy, Prester John. Michelle of Heavenfield handily put up a list of all the responses so far. goblinpaladin, Dr Nokes, and myself, are all owing responses somewhere down the tag tree. Coming soon, I promise.

Some other stories we have been telling of late:

Scribal Terror brings us St Christopher the Cynocephalus.

Jeff Sypeck waxed lyrical about Theodulf, abbot of Fleury and Bishop of Orleans. As if that weren't enough, he then made up a very bad joke story about medieval music and modern cinema.

Both Michelle of Heavenfield and Jennifer Lynn Jordan have told tales of medieval Ely lately.

Boing Boing brought us a picture which told a thousand words: an ancient greek potty. Meanwhile, Aaardvarchaeology shows us a sword with a tale to tell.

Speaking of swords, Heroic Dreams has a nice introduction to knightly weaponry. Once you've got your weapons, any good warrior will turn at once to mead, and Heroic Dreams has that covered too.

If swords aren't good enough for you, you could pick up Archimedes' Death Ray from Classics Reloaded. In an act of shameless self-promotion, I'm going to invite you to consider the similarity between Archimedes' Death Ray and Roger Bacon's Mirrors of Doom, which I warned you about here.

Turning from death rays to ploughshares, Archaezoology looks at the agricultural impact of the Anglo-Saxon settlement. At the Australian Early Medieval Association Conference last year I heard a compelling paper by Verity Fisher, to the effect that Anglo-Saxon studies with its wealth of documentary sources ought to pay more attention to the archaeological record every now and again. I meant to blog about it, but instead I'll point you to Archaezoology and tell you that- unlike the few archaeological reports i've read- he tells you not only what's at the site, but how you might interpret it.
LATE EDIT via Archaeoastronomy comes Carla Nayland's post on human sacrifice in Anglo-Saxon England. Putting the excitement back in archaeology!

If you prefer words on the page to bones in the ground, you could check out Jeff Sypeck's translation of "The Tale of Charlemagne and Ralph the Collier. Several months older, but I think unmentioned in any Carnivalesque yet, there are Dan Remein's translations of medieval texts, spliced in with his own poetry.

Which brings us to languages. Thoughts on Antiquity bemoans the decline of Latin, while RogueClassicism celebrates teaching which brings Latin to life. All I have to say is that some people should probably be banned from learning Latin. I, for example, spent the last week ostentiably learning from the Latin Summer School, but in fact working on a terrible joke about alien beings from the fifth declension.

Meanwhile, Karl Hagen attempted to bring some Anglo-Saxon goodness into modern prose, and, sadly, discovered that there's no help for Dan Brown.

Classics Reloaded gave us all a heads-up: there are dead languages available on podcast from Haverford College. Meanwhile, Michael Drout has been posting all kinds of morally edifying material over at Anglo-Saxon Aloud.

Coming around to ancient texts again, April DeConick at Forbidden Gospels has been busy talking about the Gospel of Judas, and books about it.

On the canonical side, Philip A. Harland dissects the "anti-imperial Paul of Tarsus coalition" and warns that It is time for scholars, particularly those of the “coalition”, to take more care in their study of Paul within the broader context of the Roman empire. It is time to stop reading into Paul (and other ancient authors) what we wish he had thought and said. Amen, Phillip. Bonus points to you for keeping a whole blog full of things which will give me basis on which to argue with my chaplain.

Never let it be said that history isn't fun. Bestiaria Latina offer us Sudoku in Roman Numerals. Mark A Rayner considers Medieval English Government's lost PowerPoint Slides. Jeff Sypeck wonders What kept up Charlemagne's pants? In that picture you can see the puppet Charlemagne JLJ made for him- more of her handiwork can be seen here.

Regular features have been keeping the fun alive in the world of medieval blogging lately (sorry, ancient folk, I'd never opened an ancient history blog until last week. If you've any exciting regular features you want added into this paragraph, let me know). There's Jennifer Lynn Jordan's Weird Medieval Animal Monday, her occaisional Weird Medeival Tribe Tuesday, and the mysterious new feature she's threatening to launch in Febuary; In the Middle are running Festive Fridays, a chance to relax and chat to other medievalist bloggers; Brandon Hawk has just started the sort of feature I was thinking of running, Medieval Language Tuesday.

And finally, is anyone else insanely jealous of the Cranky Professor and his class? Just off for a semester's classes in Rome, don't mind us...
Which classes have you taken which really ought to come with a guided tour? What sort of academic tours do you really wish existed?
Me, I think John Pryor's course "Crusade and Jihad" really deserves a tour of the Eygpt and the Holy Land... His slide collection is awesome, but a poor substitute.

Happy Carnivalesque, everybody! It's quite a long one, but hopefully a good one.
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Note, if, like Jeff Sypeck, you find that I've misspelled your name the whole way through the post, don't hesitate to let me know. In my defence, it was one am.

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( 6 comments — Leave a comment )
Jan. 21st, 2008 03:58 pm (UTC)
It was one a. m., fair enough
but just for the record, my name is Jonathan Jarrett, not Johnathan Jarret, though there's more mistakes than that that people regularly make with it and in any case, gosh, thankyou for all the linkage! I don't really care what you call me at that rate...
Jan. 22nd, 2008 01:24 am (UTC)
Re: It was one a. m., fair enough
dammit. I thought I was doing so well, what with no one complaining for nearly twenty four hours...
Jan. 22nd, 2008 10:03 am (UTC)
Re: It was one a. m., fair enough
Gaw bless you madam, I notice that everything except the second `t' of my surname is fixed already. And there is a shedload of interesting stuff in this Carnivalesque too, I have many many tabs open now.
Jan. 22nd, 2008 01:04 pm (UTC)
Re: It was one a. m., fair enough
*stares* i got the surname wrong TOO?
bah, clearly my brain is FRIED.
Jan. 22nd, 2008 03:32 am (UTC)
PS- calling Prester John my toyboy = win!!!!
( 6 comments — Leave a comment )

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