Monthly Archives: November 2010

Labels have Landed me in Hell

A few days ago I noticed that someone had tried to use the search feature on this blog and it hadn’t worked very well. For whatever reason, I was under the illusion that the Google Search option would pick from my labels first. It doesn’t – it does what Google does everywhere else and searches for terms in posts. How I managed to forget this basic fact is another question. When I’m on someone else’s blog sometimes I click on the labels (or tags) included at the end of the post and see where it takes me. I’ve noticed some blogs where the labels are on the sidebar and thought that would be a useful thing to add here. Then I found I had 172 labels. I took one quick glance at those sitting in a seemingly interminable line down one side of the page and quickly killed that option.

This has landed me in Hell (see below) – I’m a label-glutton. I shall try to do better (though I’m fairly certain I said I thought I’d likely repeat my sins on the Hell-survey) and if I can figure out how to delete, say, 130 of those, I’ll try to add it back.

Thanks to Jonathan Jarrett for pointing out this little exercise. Or maybe not – in only making it to the third level I’m minor league next to him. Of course I did rate Very High in two categories and high in another two. I’m evidently a very sinful person.

The Dante’s Inferno Test has banished you to the Third Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:

Level Score
Purgatory (Repenting Believers) Very Low
Level 1 – Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers) Low
Level 2 (Lustful) Very High
Level 3 (Gluttonous) Very High
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious) Moderate
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy) Moderate
Level 6 – The City of Dis (Heretics) High
Level 7 (Violent) Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers) High
Level 9 – Cocytus (Treacherous) Low

Take the Dante’s Inferno Hell Test

I’m currently on vacation for Thanksgiving so gluttony is perhaps appropriate. In any case, don’t any expect new posts here for a week or so.


Posted by on November 20, 2010 in Humor and Games


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Trade or Gift Exchange

Ever since my recent rant I’ve been trying to gear myself up to write a review of Paradigms and Methods in Early Medieval Studies. To be honest, I don’t consider that a rant or off-base. This approach still concerns me.

In any case, there are two kinds of books which, on finishing, I’m excited enough about to review. One is the book I found very useful and the other is the book that sucked and/or ticked me off. I have a hard time reviewing books which I think were “just OK.” Paradigms is one of these.

It had some very good articles. Genevra Kornbluth uses a single luxury item to demonstrate why people should be cautious in assigning ethnic linkages to objects. Constance Brittain Bouchard provided a very interesting discussion of how she believes the patrilineal model can be largely attributed to the Carolingians. I also enjoyed a discussion of Michael Kulikowski’s in assessing archaeology to determine if urban centers really declined or changed. I once criticized Kulikowski for what I felt was his trying to fit something with insufficient evidence, at least as stated in Late Roman Spain and Its Cities, into an overall model however there’s no evidence of that in this quite good, IMO, essay.

Then there were some articles I’m less fond of. I can’t say any were terrible but some repeated arguments which were quite well worn; not new paradigms at all. Others appeared to have some axe-grinding going on.

I’d like to mention one essay I particularly enjoyed. Florin Curta discusses the exchange of Baltic Sea goods with Eastern Europe in, “The Amber Trail in Early Medieval Eastern Europe.” I’ve quite enjoyed hearing him speak and attending sessions he’s organized over the years at Kalamazoo and I thought his Making of the Slavs was quite good.

During the 6th century numerous finds of amber originating from the Baltic Sea region have been found in the Middle Danube, near the present Hungarian-Romanian border and on the northern shore of the Black Sea on the Crimean peninsula.1 Most commonly this is in the form of disk- or barrel-shaped beads however raw amber is also found. Historians have tended to view this as evidence of an active trade network between southeastern Europe and the Baltic. Curta believes that while this is evidence of an exchange network, it is more indicative of gift-giving than trade.

During the 6th century, amber finds take on a curious pattern. Curta displays both a map and a table showing that there are a few finds near the Baltic Coast, then virtually nothing for a distance of up to 750 km from the coast with substantial amber finds at a distance of 750-1500 km. Of 2,254 beads found, 2,199 are found at this distance from the coast. (64)

Curta believes this distribution pattern is inconsistent with a trade network and should be viewed as evidence of elite gift exchange between the Baltic and present-day Hungary and Crimea. He believes that, “A commercial network for the distribution of amber south- and eastward from the Baltic Sea would have produced a much more dispersed distribution, not unlike that of the early Roman period.” (68) He believes that the amber was given, often in raw form with beads then manufactured locally. This amber was then used as a means of status display, particularly for women as the Middle Danube began to undergo social differentiation. (68-9) He further enhances this concept by stating that, “The association of amber with elites is amply confirmed by excavations in Crimea and the Caucasus region, where amber is restricted to a few, high-status sites.” (69)

Amber is found through the 7th century, including in bronze hoards in Ukraine. (71) Around the year 700 amber disappears from both the Middle Danube and Crimea. Curta believes this should be interpreted as an interruption of contact between these areas and the Baltic Coast elites. Once amber begins to be distributed again during the Carolingian period, the Middle Danube is not part of the picture. (71-2) In essence, Curta believes historians have been looking for a revival of something that didn’t exist prior to the 9th century and that the Amber Trail in the 6th and 7th centuries wasn’t a trail at all, but that the concentrated nature of depositions at substantial distances from the point of origin of the product should be considered evidence of another form of contact and exchange; one of gift-giving between elites.

Obviously, I found this article very interesting. My one regret is that it isn’t longer. It consists of about 11 pages of text (the first and last are half pages) including two maps and a table; likely 3,500-4,000 words. There are many details I’m interested in finding more about. I would have been interested in finding out if Curta felt these were simple two-way Baltic-Danubian and Baltic-Crimean exchange systems, or if there were contacts between the Danube and Crimea as well, creating something of a triangle. I would also have liked more detail on the finds themselves and on the evolution of a social hierarchy which Curta only mentions briefly. The presence of raw amber is also interesting and not something I would have expected to be exchanged as a gift. I suspect this is a failing on my part; after all, even today we often trade raw timber internationally rather than sending finished lumber (there are sound reasons for this, including the susceptibility of finished lumber to salt water damage when compared with timber). I think it’s important to note that though Curta’s explanation accounts for high-level elite contact rather than lower level contact through trade, it is contact and evidence that early medieval culture groups maintained communication and networks with one another. Interesting stuff and something I hope I have the chance to find him going into in more depth elsewhere.

1Curta states that infrared spectrography can determine if amber is Baltic in origin. (61-2)

Curta, Florin, “The Amber Trail in Early Medieval Eastern Europe” in Paradigms and Methods in Early Medieval Studies, ed., Celia Chazelle and Felice Lifshitz. (Palgrave MacMillan: New York, 2007), pp. 61-79. ISBN: 978-1-4039-6942-2


Posted by on November 18, 2010 in Books, Economy


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Hagiography or "What I’ve been doing since my TV Blew Up"

Well, this no TV thing has had unexpected consequences. Strangely, I haven’t been reading more – I’ve been working more, both on my work-work and my play-work. On Saturday I started putting together a list of all of the saints’ lives in my possession – and yes, I know not all of these are saints; I’ll get to that in a minute. I spent the better part of the day on this, never getting dragged away to watch a college football game, or much of anything. In the end I found out I had 149 saints’/non-saints’ lives in my possession (sort of), as well as a few lives of royalty. If you’ve been following this blog for a while you know I enjoy hagiography but I had no idea I had this much of it.

Why did I do this? To save $19. I think, after finishing this post, this paid out to something like $1.50/hour. I was looking at buying a book which allowed you to look into. So I’m checking the Table of Contents and I think that I have most of the vitae already – but I can’t remember where, and the prospect of looking through my books for them isn’t particularly attrective. The thought also crossed my mind, Gregory’s History has several discussions of people covering several pages which amount to vitae, gee I wish I’d noted them. So I decided I needed to database my saints.

Once I finished this I thought I should post it. That wouldn’t take much, would it? Problem: Blogger will let you post tables but won’t widen the browser window. That was pretty useless. I tried several other ways and was discouraged and finally figured it out this afternoon when I got home. Unfortunately it isn’t what I’d hoped it would be which is a table anyone could paste into their own spreadsheet but I’m posting it anyway. It was a vendetta or something by this point.

I offer you a truncated, adapted for this blog, version of the database. The excel file, which I’ll happily send on to anyone who e-mails me, includes items such as the date the subjects lived, date vitae were authored, where said saint/non-saint lived and, once I get to it, will include if they actually are saints and in which church. There’s also a column for the name of the subject of each vita but fortunately, all of the subjects have their name in the title. Nice of Sulpicius Severus not to write one titled, On this holy dude who left the army to become a bishop famous enough to likely save Gregory of Tours’ ass nearly 200 years later. Now that I think of it, listing the original language might be cool too.

I beg everyone’s indulgence for the many errors, above all improper source citation. All I can say is that this is from a spreadsheet for my own use and adding publication information wasn’t important; I can look at my bookshelves to find what I need. Also, within a given book, the saints/non-saints are ordered alphabetically, not the order in which vitae appear in the book. Titles are entered as they are listed in the respective books. Because I was interested in the subjects as well as their vitae you’ll see, for example, two listings of Gregory of Tours’ “About Romanus and Lupicinus, abbots” as I listed both names in my spreadsheet. If an author isn’t listed for a vita, it’s anonymous (entering “anon” for all these seemed a bit tedious). And I know some of these aren’t exactly vitae, but they all include at least some hagiographic elements. I also debated listing the names of, for example, all of Jerome’s “Illustrious Men” and decided that would send me into prosopography, a place I definitely do not want to go.

I’m going to add a new section to my blog titled, “Resources” which will be (at least for now) solely for things I’ve put together myself, not a list of stuff available on the web or elsewhere. This will allow me to post brief notices when I update something. Or at least this thing if it leads a lonely life on that page.

Oh, and the book? I bought it. The Willehad’s, Willibald’s and Willibrord’s had me confused. Lucky I didn’t end up with a book on wildebeest. Or Willy Wonka.

Anyway, here it is:

Chevallier, Temple, trans., A Translation of the Epistles of Clement of Rome, Polycarp and Ignatius, and of the First Apology of Justin Martyr. ISBN: 9781432677879
“A Relation of the Martyrdom of Ignatius”

Crossley-Holland, Kevin, trans., The Anglo-Saxon World: An Anthology. ISBN: 9780192835475
“The Passion of St. Edmund” by Aelfric of Eynsham

Davis, Raymond, trans., The Lives of the Ninth-Century Popes. ISBN: 9780853234791
“Benedict III”
“Euguene II”
“Gregory IV”
“Hadrian II”
“Leo IV”
“Sergius II”
“Stephen V”

Davis, Raymond, trans., The Lives of the Eighth Century Popes. ISBN: 9781846311543
“Gregory II”
“Gregory III”
“Hadrian I”
“Leo III”
“Stephen II”
“Stephen III”
“Stephen IV”

Defarrari, Roy, et. al., Early Christian Biographies. LC#: 64-19949
“Life of St. Ambrose, Bishop of Milan” by Paulinus the Deacon
“Life of St. Anthony” by Athanasius
“Life of St. Augustine” by Possidius
“Life of St. Cyprian” by Pontius
“Life of St. Epiphanius” by Ennodius
“Life of St. Hilarion” by Jerome
“A Sermon on the Life of St. Honoratus” by St. Hilary
“Life of Malchus, the Captive Monk” by Jerome
“Life of St. Paul, the First Hermit” by Jerome

Dutton, Paul Edward, ed., Carolingian Civilization: A Reader. ISBN: 9781551110035
“Benedict of Aniane: His Life and His Times” by Ardo
“Life of Charlemagne” by Einhard
“The Life of Saint Leoba” by Rudolf of Fulda
“Life of Louis” by Thegan

Eusebius, Cameron & Hall, trans., Eusebius: Life of Constantine. ISBN: 9780198149248
“Life of Constantine” by Eusebius of Caesaria

Fear, A.T., trans., Lives of the Visgothic Fathers. ISBN: 9780853235828
“The Life of St. Aemilian the Confessor” by Braulio of Saragossa
“Life and Martyrdom of Saint Desiderius” by King Sisebut
“The Life of St. Fructuousus of Braga”
“Lives of the Fathers of Merida”
“On the Lives of Famous Men” by Ildefonsus of Toledo 1

Gardner, Edmund, ed., The Dialogues of Saint Gregory the Great. ISBN: 9781889758947
“Of the Life and Miracles of St. Benedict” by Gregory the Great
“The Dialogues of Saint Gregory, surnamed the Great, Books I and III” by Gregory the Great 2

James, Edward, trans., Gregory of Tours: Life of the Fathers. ISBN: 9780853233275
All of the following are authored by Gregory:
“About St. Abraham, an abbot”
“About St. Aemilianus and Brachio, abbots”
“About St. Aemilianus and Brachio, abbots”
“About St. Caluppa, a recluse”
“About St. Friardus, a recluse”
“About St. Gallus, a bishop”
“About St. Gregory, a bishop”
“About St. Illidius, a bishop”
“About Leobardus, a recluse”
“About Ursus and Leobatius, abbots”
“About Romanus and Lupicinus, abbots”
“About St. Lupicinus, a recluse”
“About St. Martius, an abbot”
“About Monegundis, a nun”
“About St. Nicetius, bishop of Lyons”
“About St. Nicetius, bishop of the Trevari”
“About St. Patroclus, an abbot”
“About St. Portianus, an abbot”
“About St. Quintianus, a bishop”
“About Romanus and Lupicinus, abbots”
“About St. Senoch, an abbot”
“About Ursus and Leobatius, abbots”
“About St. Venantius, an abbot”

Kardong, Terrence, trans., The Life of St. Benedict by Gregory the Great. ISBN: 9780814632628
“The Life of Benedict” by Gregory the Great

Keynes, Simon and Lapidge, Michael, trans., Alfred the Great: Asser’s Life of King Alfred and Other Contemporary Sources. ISBN: 9780140444094
“Life of King Alfred” by Asser

Kleist, James A., trans., Ancient Christina Writers 6: The Didache, The Epistle of Barnabus, The Epistles and the Martyrdom of St. Polycarp, The Fragments of Papius, The Epistle to Diognetus. ISBN: 9780809102471
“The Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp Bishop of Smyrna”

Klingshirn, William, trans., Caesarius of Arles: Life, Testament, Letters. ISBN: 9780853233688
“The Life of Caesarius” by Cyprianus, Firminus, Viventius, Messianus, Stephanus

Martyn, John R. C., trans., King Sisebut and the Culture of Visigothic Spain, with Translations of the Lives of Saint Desiderius of Vienne and Saint Masona of Merida. ISBN: 9780773450332
“The Life and Passion of Saint Desiderius” by King Sisebut
“The Life of Saint Masona”

McNamara, Halborg & Whatley, trans., Sainted Women of the Dark Ages. ISBN: 9780822312000
“Aldegund, Abbess of Maubeuge” by Hucbald of Saint-Amand
“Here Begins the Life of the Holy and Blessed Anstrude, Virgin of Our Lord Jesus Christ”
“Austreberta, Virgin and Abbess of Pavilly”
“Here Begins the Life of the Blessed Queen Balthild”
“Saint Bertilla, Abbess of Chelles”
Burgundofara – Begins in chapter 11, no title given by Jonas of Bobbio
“The Life of Saint Clothildis”
“Saint Eustadiola, Widow of Bourges”
“The Life of Genovefa, a Virgin of Paris in Gaul”
“Gertrude, Abbess of Nivelles”
“Saint Glodesind, Virgin of Metz in Belgica Prima”
“Monegund, a Widow and Recluse of Tours in Gaul” by Gregory of Tours
“The Life of the Holy Radegund” Venantius Fortunatus
“The Life of the Holy Radegund Book II” by Baudonivia
“The Life of Rictrude, Abbess of Marchiennes” by Hucbald of Saint-Amand
“The Life of Rusticula, or Marcia, Abbess of Arles” by Florentius of Tricastina
“Saint Sadalberga” by Jonas of Bobbio
“Waldetrude, Abbess of Mons”

Murray, Alexander Callander, ed., From Roman to Merovingian Gaul: A Reader. ISBN: 9781551111025
“The Life of Lady Balthild, Queen” (incomplete)
“The Passion of Leudegar” (incomplete)

Noble, Thomas & Head, Thomas, eds., Soldiers of Christ: Saints and Saints’ Lives from Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages. ISBN: 9780271013459
“The Life of Saint Augustine” by Possidius
“The Life of Saint Benedict, Abbot of Aniane and of Inde” by Ardo
“The Life of Saint Boniface” by Willibald
“The Life of Saint Gerald of Aurillac” by Odo of Cluny
“The Life of Saint Germanus of Auxerre” by Constantius of Lyon
“The Life of Saint Leoba” by Rudolf
“The Life of Saint Martin of Tours” by Sulpicius Severus
“The Life of Saint Sturm” by Eigil
“The Life of Saint Willehad”
“The Hodoeporicon of Saint Willibald” by Huneberc of Heidenheim
“The Life of Saint Willibrord” by Alcuin

Pizarro, Joaquín Martínez, trans., The Story of Wamba: Julian of Toledo’s Historiae Wambae regis. ISBN: 9780813214122
“The Story of Wamba” by Julian of Toledo

Schaf, Philip and Wace, Henry, eds., Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers, Volume III: Theodoret, Jerome, Gennadius, Rufinus: Historical Writings, etc.. ISBN: 056709412X
“Lives of Illustrious Men” by Jerome
“Lives of Illustrious Men” by Gennadius 3

Stouck, Mary-Ann, ed., Medieval Saints: A Reader. ISBN: 9781551111018
“St. Antony the Great” by Athanasius
“The Life and Miracles of St. Benedict” by Gregory the Great
“Christina the Astonishing” by Thomas de Cantimpré
“Lives of St. Christopher: The Irish Libar Breac” by Murchadh Ó Cuindlis
“Lives of St. Christopher: The South English Legendary” by Jacobus de Voragine
“The Trials and Execution of Cyprian” by Pontius
“Life of St. Edmund, King and Martyr” by Aelfric of Eynsham
“The Passion of SS. Perpetua and Felicitas”
“The Conversion of St. Francis of Assisi and the Founding of His Order” by Thomas of Celano
“Life of St. Francis: The Stigmata” by St. Bonaventure
“St. Gall” by Walahfrid Strabo
“Godric of Finchale” by Reginald of Durham
“Life of St. Maiol, Abbot of Cluny” by Odilo of Cluny
“St. Margaret, Queen of Scotland” by Turgot
“Life of St. Margaret of Antioch” (Old French edition)
“Life of St. Martin of Tours” by Sulpicius Severus
“Mary of Egypt” by Sophronius
“St. Paul of Thebes” by Jerome
“Paul the Simple” by Palladius
“The Passion of SS. Perpetua and Felicitas”
“The Martyrdom of Saint Polycarp Bishop of Smyrna”
“Life of St. Radegund” by Venantius Fortunatus
“Symeon Stylites” by Theodoret of Cyrrhus
“Umilta of Faenza” by Margaret of Faenza
“St. Ursula and the Eleven Thousand Virgins” by Herric
“The Martyrs of Lyons and Vienne” by Eusebius of Caesaria

Thorpe, Lewis, trans., Einhard and Notker the Stammerer: Two Lives of Charlemagne. ISBN: 9780140442137
“The Life of Charlemagne” by Einhard
“Charlemagne” by Notker

Van Dam, Raymond, Saints and Their Miracles in Late Antique Gaul. ISBN: 9780691021126
“The Miracles of St. Hilary” by Venantius Fortunatus
“The Miracles of the Bishop St. Martin” by Gregory of Tours
“The Suffering and Miracles of the Martyr St. Julian” by Gregory of Tours
“The Suffering of the Martyr St. Julian”

Webb, J. F. & Farmer, D. H., trans., The Age of Bede. ISBN: 9780140447279
“The Voyage of St. Brendan”
“The Anonymous History of Abbot Ceolfrid”
“Life of Cuthbert” by Bede
“Lives of the Abbots of Wearmouth and Jarrow” by Bede 4
“Life of Wilfrid” by Eddius Stephanus

White, Carolinne, trans., Early Christian Lives. ISBN: 9780140435269
“Life of Antony” by Athanasius
“Life of Benedict” by Gregory the Great
“Life of Hilarion” by Jerome
“Life of Malchus” by Jerome
“Life of Martin of Tours” by Sulpicius Severus
“Life of Paul of Thebes” by Jerome

1 Contain various short lives and miracle stories.
2 Each of these contain various short lives.
3Each of these contain various short lives.
4Contains various lives.


Posted by on November 15, 2010 in Hagiography


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Time Management I

This will have very little Medieval content and contains much more information about my personal life than I am planning to habitually post but it may interest some people.

My TV blew up yesterday afternoon. I’m not a huge television watcher. I have exactly two network TV shows I try to watch every week with three others I try to catch but am not disappointed when I miss them. I watch the local news at home in the morning – always – and often in the evening. “Watch” may be too strong of a term. Generally I’m on the computer with the TV serving as background noise and if something catches my interest I’ll look into the living room to catch it. And here’s the biggie – I watch football (American) on Sunday afternoons. I’m also a fan of the NCAA basketball tournament each March.

Cable doesn’t run where I live and I haven’t bought a dish. I get exactly two stations – the local NBC and CBS affiliates. Actually those are 5 stations because the CBS affiliate also has a radar site and the NBC has a local weather network and Universal Sports. So my television watching is already minimal. Also, while I have high speed internet this is through a wireless phone company receiver (there’s likely a technical term for this – I call it my, “USB Internet phone thingy”) with a data limit so watching over the Internet is not an option.

Still, not having it leaves a hole. After some consideration, I’ve decided not to replace it, at least for the short term. I’m going to live two weeks television free, with an option on permanence.

This will change my life habits. I like having background noise. TV used to do that even when what was on was garbage. Right now I have NPR on (tried several stations and didn’t like ’em) but this won’t work for a long-term solution. I have CD’s of stuff I like in the car and am not packing that in and out of the house. I think I’m gonna go classical indoors. I’ll leave Pink Floyd, The Who, Led Zeppelin, etc., in the car. I also have XM radio in the car and am debating a receiver inside but as of this moment I’m staying away from that.

The one negative of no TV is that every now and then, probably every 3-4 weeks, I want to completely veg in mindless non-reflection. You may think football fits that description but I usually have a good history book on the coffee table, start off reading it during commercials and end up reading it and only watching football when an announcer sounds excited/during key moments. My mindless vegetative state is achieved by, almost always on a Friday evening, renting 2-3 DVD’s of dubious quality which I won’t much care about if I fall asleep during. Did that this week and yesterday morning I was completely refreshed. I think this aspect of my life is worth keeping. Some people meditate, I watch bad movies. And very occasionally, I watch one I think might be good.

So this is something I need to deal with – but there is a solution. I have a laptop at home with a 22″ screen. I could buy a larger screen for the living room and, when I want to watch a movie, hook the laptop to it. I don’t think watching movies in my office is an option – this is my total mindless relaxation time and the chair doesn’t cut it; neither does moving the recliner in here – the floor’s already covered with books. Though having a 32″ or larger screen to work on has a sinister appeal.

So this brings me to reading. I already read a lot. Almost everything I read at home is on Medieval History – exceptions are my subscriptions to Discover and National Geographic. When I first started reading history I took breaks from the Middle Ages by reading fiction. Today I take breaks from reading about Late Antiquity, Early Medieval and Classical (usually on early Christianity) by reading something Medieval from out of my period which I don’t feel compelled to take copious notes on.

I expect my reading will increase and that I’ll read more productively. I also anticipate exercising more and being more productive around home; at the very least on Sunday afternoons. Possibly I’ll start working on my languages again – I’m in Mexico for 9 days next April and my Spanish needs to be serviceable by then.

The week after Thanksgiving I’m going to take stock. The hole left by the departure of my television may have closed by then – or it may not. If not, I’ll re-subject my home to low grade (likely harmless) radiation. If it has, I’ll likely throw in a follow-up to this post explaining the (I hope) improvements this has made in my life. For the moment though, it’s on to the books.

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Posted by on November 7, 2010 in Not Really Medieval


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This Bugs Me

What a week! Spent it at a conference; in my field, not medieval. I gave an awesome presentation – and that’s not just coming from me but from the evals. Somehow I think I’m on a new national program committee, a new national collaborative writing team and I was already a member of another national initiative. Plus I’m in the hospitality room the last night with just 12 of us and the intern decides we can eat 10 large pizzas. Me and another guy walked to a liquor store a couple of blocks down the road to pick up some, er, root beer, so we didn’t catch the order being made. The pizza guy shows up, sets a case on the table and pulls out 5. I’m thinking, Man, that’s a lot of pizza for how many are here and he pulls out another 5. We worked that for humor value for the rest of that night and it still had legs the next day. You had to be there but trust me, it was funny. That was the night before my presentation so I was short one run-through (and full of salt) when I gave it but it turned out pretty well.

The one negative of the week was what I brought along to read. I recently bought Paradigms and Methods in Early Medieval Studies, edited by Celia Chazelle and Felice Lifshitz. I started reading it Monday night and the first chapter, “Introduction: Early Medieval Studies in Twenty-First-Century America” is a discussion by the editors of, as the title implies, Early Medieval Studies in the US and also an explanation of why this book features only authors currently (at the time of publication anyway) working in the United States. The editors think the field of American early medieval studies is not getting the credit and recognition it deserves. They believe that American early medievalists are underrepresented in many publications, specifically mentioning Thomas Noble’s From Roman Provinces to Merovingian Kingdoms and the American Early Medieval Studies series. (p 4)

Interestingly, they spend some time discussing internationalism, a high degree of collaboration that cuts across national and continental boundaries and use Walter Goffart, Julia M. H. Smith and David Ganz as examples of scholars who have worked in both the US and Europe. They finish this section by stating, “Yet from the perspective of American academia, one cannot help but wonder whether this blending of the international professional community is not a reason the energy of early medieval studies in the United States is at times overlooked. One purpose of this collection, therefore, is to encourage renewed attention to the field as it is currently practiced here.” (p 5)

Huh? I know publishing’s a competitive deal. Is the solution to make the pond smaller so a species of fish can appear larger? This bugs me on several levels.

It bugs me because a perception I’m left with is that we (Americans – I’m not a historian) feel we can’t compete on the international stage so we should become parochial and limit contributors to those residing on our piece of real estate.

It bugs me because international cooperation, collaboration and, yes, competition is a great thing – in all fields – and should be embraced.

It bugs me because, of all people, historians should be aware of the dangers of inward-thinking, “us-against-the-world” viewpoints and should be working to avoid this, not promote it.

And finally, it bugs me because I paid $80 for a book which didn’t draw from the best minds in the field, but a subset of them.

Keep in mind that when I say “it bugs me,” that’s what I mean. I’m not mad, angry, pissed off, furious or any of that. I ended that chapter with a sense of unease, that this is not the right way to go about doing things. I understand when universities publish collections from their students. I could understand certain regions which suffer from a stigma of not having high quality work, despite evidence to the contrary, publishing English translations to expose the rest of the world to what they’ve been doing the past couple of decades. Eastern Europe and post-Franco Spain come to mind here. But for the United States?

There may be very sound reasons for this and I’d welcome any comments which might assuage my sense of unease. I know I come from “off the reservation” and maybe this is more of a usual way of doing business than I had believed. Maybe there are good reasons for this that I don’t see. And I’ll read the book and I expect I’ll learn a lot from it. I don’t expect a book with contributions from Bernard Bachrach, Lisa Bitel, Constance Brittain Bouchard, Charles Bowlus, Florin Curta, Genevra Kornbluth and Michael Kulikowski, among others, to be weak. But it still bugs me.

Chazelle, Celia and Lifshitz, Felice, eds., Paradigms and Methods in Early Medieval Studies. New York: Palgrave MacMillan (2007). ISBN: 978-1-4039-6942-2

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Posted by on November 7, 2010 in Books


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