Alexa Amore (Medieval Studies) returns from walking the Camino de Santiago

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Alexa Amore (MA Program, Medieval Studies) at Las Medulas (ancient Roman mines near Ponferrada, Spain).

Every year, students at Fordham University have the unique opportunity to walk the Camino de Santiago through the study abroad course Study Tour: Medieval Spain. This summer, graduate student Alexa Amore (MA Program, Medieval Studies) accompanied Professor David Myers, chaperones Alex Egler, Louisa Foroughi, and Rachel Podd, and a group of 24 undergraduate students (Fordham’s largest Camino group to date!) on the medieval pilgrimage route from León to Santiago de Compostela. The group was also thrilled to be joined in Spain by Katrine Funding Højgaard, a former visiting student from Denmark in Fordham’s graduate program in Medieval Studies.

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Apse of Sant Climent de Taüll (twelfth century romanesque fresco), National Art Museum of Catalonia, Barcelona.

As a medievalist with interests in pilgrimage studies and art history, Alexa was eager to follow the traditional pilgrimage route through Spain and to adopt the lifestyle of a pilgrim, or peregrina. She opted to travel as light as possible, leaving her laptop at home and bringing only a twelve pound backpack and camera with her for the entire trip. Alexa arrived in Spain several days before the official start of the study tour in order to spend some time in Barcelona and Madrid. Among the highlights from this part of her journey, she visited several famous Gaudí buildings including the Sagrada Familia as well as the National Art Museum of Catalonia, which houses one of the most important collections of romanesque frescoes in the world.

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Katrine Funding Højgaard (Fall 2015 visiting student, MA Program, Medieval Studies) standing in front of El Christo de la Luz, a mosque built c. 999-1000 CE and later converted into a church.

She also visited all three major museums in Madrid–the Prado, the Reina Sofia, and the Thyssen Bornemisza–and took a day trip to Toledo in order to see  several former synagogues and mosques, including El Cristo de la Luz. “As an undergraduate I took a class on Spanish art that covered everything from visigothic churches to Picasso’s Guernica,” she explained “so I was so excited to see all of these works of art in person.”

When she arrived in León, Alexa started to feel nervous about the two weeks of hiking that lay ahead of her. “I didn’t do much training ahead of time because I was so busy during the semester… I wasn’t sure how it was going to work out, but I was determined to walk the whole way on my own two feet!”

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Sunrise at Rabanal del Camino, a tiny village on the Camino de Santiago with approximately 60 permanent residents.

For Alexa, the best part of the pilgrimage was the journey itself. She especially enjoyed the tiny villages along the Camino “where there was absolutely nothing going on and it was just peaceful and life was incredibly simple for the people living there. It was so nice to arrive, take off my shoes, and just sit and look at the sky and the mountains, listen to the birds and watch the sun set. And after a really long day’s walk, you just feel like you earned every minute of that stillness.”

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Katrine Funding Højgaard (Fall 2015 Visiting Student, MA Program, Medieval Studies) and Alexa Amore (MA Program, Medieval Studies) proudly display their completed credenciales and compostellas at the pilgrim’s office in Santiago de Compostella.

After the long-awaited arrival in Santiago de Compostela with the Fordham group, Alexa travelled south to spend a few days visiting Córdoba, Granada and Seville. 28 long days on the road later, she was happy to return to the United States. “It didn’t take long for me to realize that all along, I was actually on a pilgrimage to New York City,” she explained. “I really missed home, but I was so glad that I left it all behind in order to gain a fresh perspective on where I am in my life now and where I’m going in the future.”

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The Fordham Peregrinos of 2016!

For more on the Camino de Santiago, visit the Fordham peregrinos’ ongoing digital project, Mapping the Camino: The Student’s Guide to the Camino de Santiago, which Alexa founded along with Professor Myers and the Fordham peregrinos of 2016.

Heather Hill (Medieval Studies) Presents at North Carolina State University’s Graduate Student History Conference

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Campus view at North Carolina State University

Heather Hill (MA Program, Medieval Studies)

Heather Hill (MA Program, Medieval Studies)

On Saturday, April 2, Medieval Studies MA Heather Hill presented a paper at North Carolina State University’s Graduate Student History Conference. This paper, entitled “Textual Inheritance: A Theory for Agency of Women in English Books of Hours,” is based on seminar work with Dr. Alex Novikoff in the History department, and serves as the foundation for her thesis. Heather considers trends in the historiography related to books of hours and merges them into a form of Brian Stock’s textual community. The result is textual inheritance, where the commissioner of a book of hours serves as the interpreter for a greater textual community that is formed by the people who have inherited the book of hours. Through textual inheritance, the commissioner influences the devotional and educational practices of the inheritors, thus giving authority to the commissioner in their selection. Heather argues that this is especially significant where women act as commissioner and men become inheritors, since women rarely get the opportunity to influence the devotional practices of men. In her paper, Heather considers this concept in relation to two books of hours, the Egerton Hours and the Felbrygg Hours, and highlights the possible impact that the female commissioners of these books may have had on their beneficiaries.

Heather presented her paper on the “Religion and Artistic Expression in Early Modern Europe” panel alongside Amber McDermott from University of California Riverside, who presented on sculptural depictions of female suicide in eighteenth-century France. Heather also attended a panel on the contested roles of women in the nineteenth century. The presenters on this panel considered environmental factors along with the gender roles in nineteenth-century Florida and in the Rocky Mountains, discovering how women defied their prescribed positions in each of these areas.

Another panel Heather attended was on poverty and progress in American cities. The two papers in the panel hit close to home for Heather, quite literally. The first looked at Huntington, the second largest city in Heather’s home state of West Virginia. This paper described the development of Huntington in the late nineteenth century as a railroad hub close to resource-rich rural areas of southern West Virginia. The second paper was on Heather’s second home, describing the food desert in the South Bronx. Just a few decades ago, this area was rich in fresh produce and large markets; now, fast food restaurants dominate the landscape. The paper explored how urbanization changed the food in the South Bronx and the role poverty played in this transformation. Heather found this discussion particularly striking in relation to her own experience of trying to find good food at affordable prices in the area. The author of this paper, Sam Hege, is a student at Rutgers University and is seeking to expand his work via digital mapping. Heather is excited to have exchanged contact information with Sam, and she intends to show him the work done at Medieval Studies and what he can do with digital maps.

Having had a great weekend of North Carolina barbecue and networking across several states, Heather considers her first graduate-level conference presentation outside of Fordham a rousing success!

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By Heather Hill

Graduate students Alex Profaci and David Smigen-Rothkopf collaborate with television producer on “Lords of the Darkness”

Alex Profaci (MA Program, Medieval Studies) and David Smigen-Rothkopf (MA Program, Medieval Studies)

Alex Profaci (MA Program, Medieval Studies) and David Smigen-Rothkopf (MA Program, Medieval Studies)

Last semester, Medieval Studies students David Smigen-Rothkopf and Alexander Profaci worked with Julian Hobbs, former Executive Producer at the History Channel and now co-President of Talos Films, on “Lords of the Darkness: a Historical Docu-Drama” (working title). Composed of three chapters pertaining to Early, High, and Late Medieval Europe, respectively, with six episodes of an hour-and-a-half per chapter, the series is meant to be a popular, narrative presentation of the breakdown of centralized authority in the wake of Rome’s disintegration and the development of new kingdoms in its place.

Hired as fact-checkers and researchers, David and Alex worked predominantly on the first chapter, pertaining to the Early Middle Ages (defined by the show’s scope as the period from the advent of Constantine’s rule to the turn of the millennium), and the pitch episode. The process of disseminating their research took the form of a theoretical trading card game, in which each historical figure was made into a single player wielding his or her cards, which broke down into types pertaining to, for example, the technology and religiosity of his or her time and historical events in which he or she took part or by which that figure was affected. David and Alex, bringing their academic discipline to the forefront, provided as much information as they could accumulate during this brief collaborative period to ensure the more populist approach to history Julian Hobbs practices was married with a greater attention to historical detail. Ultimately, the series is designed to be a broad, thematic one in which the Middle Ages is to be made an approachable subject for a wider, largely non-academic audience.

Essentially presenting the Medieval Era as a time in history abiding by an over-arching narrative, defined in hindsight, the series seeks to show the linear progression of events toward the end of the era. While this presentation of history is considered problematic in many academic circles, it does make the events more digestible for an audience who has not the time or interest in spending the hundreds of hours necessary reading through primary sources and secondary commentaries and analyses to understand what happened and why. This put David and Alex in the interesting position of having to emulate the very medieval chroniclers whose accounts upon which we rely now, giving new perspective of the construction of historical narrative.

History means different things to different people, and, ultimately, this experience gave David and Alex the opportunity to negotiate a balance between the complexities of historical reality with the cultural imagination of the general population, contributing to the building of a bridge between the work of medievalists and an audience as yet unreached by that corpus.

 

By Kevin Vogelaar