April 2017

A Public Medievalist’s Little Red Book

Review: Richard Utz, Medievalism: A Manifesto (Kalamazoo and Bradford: ARC Humanities Press, 2017). 95 pages, $15.00/£11.99. https://arc-humanities.org/products/m-77101-116111-24-8211/. Reviewed by Paul B. Sturtevant (publicmedievalist@gmail.com) Over the past generation, the humanities have been changing immensely—both due to pressures from within as well as from without. Long gone are the days, if they ever really existed in the first place, of the cloistered ivory tower academic, whose sole job was to dutifully retreat from the world into a quasi-monastic world of study, commentary, and teaching the occasional novice. And good riddance, too. Many academics have chafed at the increasing pressures from government initiatives...

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Gendering Death in Middle English Translations of the Epistre Othea

Middle English writers, regardless of their knowledge of classical myth, occasionally swap genders of characters in Christine de Pizan’s Epistre Othea (c. 1400), a work in which Christine’s invented goddess Othea instructs Hector of Troy in virtues, including those that might help him avoid his own death. The two independent fifteenth-century translations, Stephen Scrope’s Epistle of Othea (c. 1440-60) and the anonymous Lytle Bibell of Knyghthod (c. 1450), both misrepresent women as men, sometimes by accident, and at least once, I argue, to signal participation in alternative iconographical and textual discourses. Stephen Scrope initially uses the masculine pronoun “his” for...

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The Donkey and the Boat

When looking at the history of the eleventh-century commercial upturn in the Mediterranean – which accompanied a similar upturn in the North Sea, focussed on Flanders – many historians have not got significantly beyond the conceptual framework of Roberto Lopez’s work, summarised in his The commercial revolution of 1971, for whom, as he schematically put it, demographic growth caused agricultural progress, which in its turn caused more surpluses which could be traded; this, plus the ‘freedom and power’ of Italian cities – unlike their Muslim counterparts – and their flexible commercial contracts and credit operations, was enough to make the...

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The Dance of Death and #WhanThatAprilleDay17

As avid lovers of all things dark and spooky, Elizaveta Strakhov and I are thrilled to be editing a volume of Middle English poems on death. The centerpiece of our collection is John Lydgate’s Dance of Death, a fifteenth-century translation of a French poem about the Dance of Death, or Danse Macabre. The Dance of Death As famously illustrated by Hans Holbein and others, the Dance of Death was a popular visual and poetic motif throughout late medieval Europe. A personified Death, often represented as a skeleton, addresses individuals from every level of society, from the Pope down to the...

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