Masha Johnson

Q&A on Medieval Women, Material Culture, and Power: Matilda Plantagenet and Her Sisters

Which part of your research on the daughters of King Henry II of England and Eleanor of Aquitaine was particularly exciting? Answer: It is always amazing to actually hold the material items we study because it helps to make tangible what happened in a distant past. One memorable occasion was when I lived in Spain and visited the cathedral archive in Toledo to study the seal of Queen Leonor of Castile. It is attached to a charter issued in 1179, in which she confirms and extends the endowment of the altar of St. Thomas Becket in Toledo Cathedral. It was...

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A Global View of the Early Middle Ages

Have you ever wondered how globally connected the pre-modern world was? Have you ever asked yourself what happened in the medieval period outside of Europe and the Mediterranean? Do early medieval Oceania, Korea, Tibet or other far-flung regions seem like fascinating topics that you would like to know more about? Are you in search of a book on medieval history that does not merely claim to be global, but actually covers the whole globe? If your answer is yes to any of these questions, then A Companion to the Global Early Middle Ages will definitely be of interest to you....

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Christine D. Baker on Medieval Islamic Sectarianism

In the tenth century Middle East, a remarkable thing happened: two Shi’i states took over the greater part of the Muslim world. First, the Fatimids, who began as an underground Shi’i revolutionary movement and declared an independent caliphate in North Africa in 909; they would eventually establish the city of Cairo as their capital and rule until the late 12th century. Second, the Buyids, Shi’i Persian mercenaries from the mountainous hinterlands just south of the Caspian Sea, conquered Baghdad in 945 and took control over the Sunni ‘Abbasid caliph and his territories. They would retain power for a century and...

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Q&A on Friar Francisco de Osuna’s “Norte de los estados” in Modernized Spanish

What inspired you to do this edition? Francisco de Osuna is best known for his influence on the Spanish mystics Teresa of Avila and John of the Cross. My purpose in producing the first modern edition of this work was to recover Osuna’s reformist and extraordinary vision of marriage. When I first read his 1531 guide, Norte de los estados, I was struck by its attention to women’s spiritual equality and its open treatment of the body, including sexuality, childbirth, and illness. Relative to other conduct manuals of the era it offers an intimate window into how clergy used confession...

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Personalities behind Everyday Sermons from Worcester Cathedral Priory

What is most intriguing about this collection of early fourteenth century monastic sermons is its rare, and possibly unique, survival. It consists of an unusual mixture of roughly written notes on parchment trimmings, with changes, corrections and marginal additions probably for reuse, neatly finished instructive homilies probably for novice monks, sermons copied from a Dominican sermon manual with some alterations, and several sermons composed for special occasions such as a monastic visitation. How, why and when were they first bound together? The answer to this conundrum can only be surmised. Prior to their initial medieval binding together they may have been...

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‘Antisemitism’ before ‘Race’?

Words matter. For historians of Jewish-Christian relations in the Western World, the decision to use the terms Antisemitism or Anti-Judaism is often made in the light of differing opinions about the nature of anti-Jewish sentiment in different historical periods. One question, however, has proved to be particularly problematic: is it possible to talk about ‘Antisemitism’ in the Middle Ages, before the appearance of scientific concepts of ‘race’? In October 2012, I was invited to give a research seminar paper on anti-Jewish propaganda produced in the late medieval and early modern Iberian world at an Australian university. The title of the...

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Nicholas Morrow Williams on The Fu Genre of Imperial China

When people hear "Chinese poetry," they often think of a brief, imagistic poem about nature, like Wang Wei's famous "Deer Fence": "In the empty mountains, no one to be seen . . ." And there's no doubt that this type of poetry has been particularly influential and well-received in modern times. When we look further, though, it turns out that Chinese literature in its long history has contained many quite different types of poetry as well, from romantic dramas to philosophical expositions. My edited volume The Fu Genre of Imperial China: Studies in the Rhapsodic Imagination highlights one of the most...

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Learning to Cook with Tomatoes

10 December 2019 What is this book about? The Modern Steward offers the first ever translation of a book first published in Naples in two volumes in 1692-94.  The book is a sort of how-to guide, instructing the leader of a prominent household’s staff on how best to entertain his master’s guests, with a primary focus on cooking and meals.  It includes many recipes and menus for banquets and other fancy occasions, but it also discusses the healthiness of various foods, proper practices for shopping, cooking, and managing the household staff, etiquette and protocol, and many other matters. Who was...

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Craft Beer Culture and Modern Medievalism

“You’re writing a book about beer? Ha! Can I help you with the research?” This kind of response was a common one during my two years of researching, writing, and editing my book, Craft Beer Culture and Modern Medievalism: Brewing Dissent. I confess, the topic did make a good excuse for trying new beers and new breweries as I educated myself more comprehensively about the craft beer community, its values, and its pleasures. I’m not one to decline a good brew, and I enjoy making my own (in tiny one-gallon batches) on my stove. For some, however, the good-natured laughter...

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Intersectionality in Digital Humanities

Often referred to as “the big tent,” digital humanities have been perceived as open and welcoming. As it happens, the openness, more often than not, required an introduction. Some individuals and some research were indeed welcomed, while others were left just outside the margins. Everything seemed rosy: but as some of us knew it was not. For this reason, it made sense to ask questions about whether the purported collegiality and openness of the digital humanities were indeed such. This collection seeks to provoke discussion and defy the status quo while sparking a conversation about where the digital humanities is...

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