CMS Sends Off the Medieval Studies MA Class of 2016 with Farewell Conference!

IMG_4308

From left to right: Susanne Hafner (Program Director, Medieval Studies), David Smigen-Rothkopf, Alexa Amore, Alex Profaci, Anna Lukyanova, Alex Wright, Heather Hill, and Laura Morreale (Associate Director, Medieval Studies).

The Center for Medieval Studies threw a farewell party and conference for our graduating Master’s students on Saturday, May 7th. All seven students who will graduate in August,  Alexa Amore, Heather Hill, Scot Long, Anna Luykanova, Alex Profaci, David Smigen-Rothkopf, and Alexandra Wright gave papers showcasing the scholars they have become during their time at Fordham. The conference concluded with a champagne and cake reception. The CMS would like to congratulate the graduating class of 2016 for all that they have accomplished at Fordham and their impressive placement record! We look forward to seeing what this group will achieve in the coming years.

Alexander Profaci delivered his presentation, “Old French and the Tragedy of Norman Historiography,” based on a chapter from his thesis. Comparing the Gesta Normanorum Duco with the earliest version of the Chronique des ducs de Normandie, Alexander presented the 13th century Chronique, in its lack of heroic or religiously inspirational imagery, as the presentation of Norman history as a tragic retrospective of Norman independence. David’s presentation, “Twisted Lines: Genealogical Prophecy and Historiography in Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur,” put forward that Malory’s famous “Month of May” passage portrays both his hopes for the future return of the chivalric ideal and his resignation that there is no certainty in the future. While royal lineage was often used to present history as stable and predictable enough to provide a more certain view of the future, Malory’s genealogy of Arthur depicts a less certain view, as Arthur left no effective heir, nor did he, himself, legitimate, questioning the supposed stability of royal lineage and its ability to maintain a more stable future. Anna Lukyanova’s “Consecracio Regis: The Making of Kings, Political Liturgy, and Cross Cultural Exchange in the Medieval Latin East” explored possible influences or sources for the development of the ceremony of the coronation of the Latin kings of Jerusalem. Looking at the similarities between the oaths sworn by the king of Jerusalem and those sworn by the Byzantine emperor upon his own crowning and the fact that kings of Jerusalem were anointed, which was a common practice in Western Europe but not done in Constantinople, Anna sees the ceremony in Jerusalem as a hybrid of Byzantine and Western European rituals, displaying a level of cultural interaction between the Kingdom of Jerusalem and its Greek Orthodox neighbour. The final presentation of the first panel was that given by Scotland Long, “Medieval Authorship in 15th Century Castilian Romance,” in which he examined the variances between manuscripts and printed editions of the Cronica Saracina, a Spanish retelling of the 711 Islamic invasion of Iberia. One of the numerous differences between copies of the two versions he compared was a greater emphasis on the aspect of holy war in the printed editions, corresponding with the Reconquista.

The second panel began with Heather Hill presenting, “Exploring Place in the French of Italy: Mid-Range Reading as a Model for Digital Medieval Mapping,” in which she explained the process and methodology employed behind the creation of a digital map for the French of Italy website. She introduced the concept of mid-range reading, which, contrary to close or distant reading, requiring critical analysis and a macrocosmic discussion of text types, respectively, looks at individual works, words, and place descriptions, but also for over-arching trends in source material. This method of research, Heather related, was the ideal method for preparing a digital map based on medieval sources. The second presentation was Alexa Amore’s “Animated by Pious Zeal: The Cult of Carts and the Oxen of Laon Cathedral,” introducing not only what the concept of the cult of carts was to non-art historians, but also the far-ranging impact this practice had on forms of pilgrimage in Laon, Amiens, and Chartres. Inspired by a miraculous bovine having appeared just as it was needed to aid in hauling stone from a quarry to Laon cathedral after it was destroyed in a communal uprising, the cult of carts was a pilgrimage practice that had pilgrims seeking penance by pulling carts loaded with stone. The cathedral of Laon is decorated with a number of statues of oxen, remarkably accurate in their presentation, looking down upon the crowds from the cathedral spires, marking this miraculous event and linking it intrinsically with the continued existence of the cathedral of Laon. The final presentation was delivered by Alexandra Wright titled, “’I feel but hunger and thirst for you,’ Spiritual Food, Eroticism, and Queer Desire in Augustine’s Confessions.” Exploring Augustine’s presentation of his own desire, Alexandra showed how, as Augustine aged, his desires were never truly fulfilled. This tension is carried out through his childhood, in which he desired food even when he did not need it, through his adolescence and early adult life, when he desired sex but was never satisfied by it. These desires are, in his later years, transferred to a love of God, and the absolution he finds replaces the fulfilling of his desire.

Congratulations to the class of 2016 for their excellent contributions to their fields and to the Centre. Well done!

Conference Program:

Session I: 11:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
Chair: Nicholas Paul

  • Alexander Profaci (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the PhD program in History at Johns Hopkins University):
    “Old French and the Tragedy of Norman Historiography”
  • David Smigen-Rothkopf (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the PhD program in English at Fordham University):
    “Twisted Lines: Genealogical Prophecy and Historiography in Sir Thomas Malory’s Morte Darthur”
  • Anna Luykanova (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the PhD program in History, UNC Chapel Hill):
    “Consecracio Regis: The Making of Kings, Political Liturgy, and Cross Cultural Exchange in the Medieval Latin East”
  • Scotland Long (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the PhD program in Spanish, University of Pennsylvania):
    “Medieval Authorship in 15th century Castilian Romance”

Saturday Brunch: 1:00 p.m. – 2:00 p.m.

Session II: 2:00 p.m. – 3:30 p.m.
Chair: Alex Novikoff

  • Heather Hill (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the MS program in Library and Information Science at the Pratt Institute):
    “Exploring Place in the French of Italy: Mid-Range Reading as a Model for Digital Medieval Mapping”
  • Alexa Amore (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the MA program in Art History, Case Western Reserve University):
    “Animated by Pious Zeal: The Cult of Carts and the Oxen of Laon Cathedral”
  • Alexandra Wright (MVST MA ’16, moving on to the MS program in Library Science at the University of North Texas):
    “‘I feel but hunger and thirst for you’: Spiritual Food, Eroticism, and Queer Desire in Augustine’s Confessions”

Cake and Champagne Reception: 3:30 p.m. – 5:00 p.m.

This conference is dedicated to the memory of three wonderful teachers:

Astrid O’Brien
Louis Pascoe SJ
Maureen Tilley

The Center for Medieval Studies thanks the Graduate Student Association for their contribution to this conference.

9 April Oxford Outremer Map Colloquium

IMG_3507

From the left: Asa Mittman (CSU Chico), P.D.A. Harvey (Durham), and Evelyn Edson (Piedmont Virginia)

This past 9 April, the Centre for Medieval Studies hosted the Oxford Outremer Map Colloquium at the Lincoln Centre campus. This colloquium, showcasing the work the Centre has done for the digitization project of Corpus Christi College MS 2*, a unique and somewhat baffling map of Outremer dating to the mid 13th century, served as an informal unveiling of the digitized map’s website and an introduction to the debates surrounding the map and its curious composition. Broken into two parts, the colloquium addressed the authorship of the map and the use and application of a digitized text as opposed to physical interaction with a manuscript itself. Pre-circulated papers were presented and responded to by Evelyn Edson (Piedmont Virginia), P.D.A. Harvey (Durham), Asa Mittman (C.S.U. Chico), David Pedersen (Fordham), Nicholas Paul (Fordham, presenting on behalf of Sarit Kattan Gribetz, Fordham), and Abigail Sargent (Princeton, MA Fordham 2015), and Tobias Hrynick (Fordham), both of whom worked on the website itself. Two computers were provided during the colloquium for attendees and participants to interact with the new website and the digitized map.

The first portion of the colloquium, discussing the authorship of the map, had Evelyn Edson presenting her views on why the map was likely produced by Matthew Paris, a controversial writer and prolific cartographer of 13th century England. While this map, Edson related, did differ dramatically from Matthew Paris’ other works, he had source material in the form of pilgrim and crusader accounts, early developing sea charts, and other world maps upon which he could have drawn to produce a unique, politically-aware representation of the Holy Land. P.D.A. Harvey, in response, contested that the map is too dissimilar to Matthew Paris’ earlier maps (“Acre maps,” as he referred to them, for their emphasis on the city of Acre over Jerusalem or any other city of the Levant), but he agreed that sea charts and other such sources as those Edson theorized may have inspired the map’s style and presentation. Saying that Corpus Christi MS 2* is missing Paris’ attention to detail, Harvey believes it to be a hasty copy of a larger, no longer extant, map, and, if Paris did indeed create it, it was by no means meant to be publically presented. Asa Mittman looked to the seemingly apocalyptic nature of the map, with the presentation of the tribes of Gog and Magog walled-off from, but very near to, the Holy Land and the city of Jerusalem, itself labeled and described in Latin, as opposed to Old French, in which the rest of the map is labeled. If Old French is used to convey the state of the Levant in the mid 13th century, Mittman presented, than the use of Latin for Jerusalem indicated the hope that the city will be returned to Christian control upon the completion of the Apocalypse, which Paris believed to have been in motion since the appearance of the Mongols in the Holy Land, themselves represented by the tribes of Gog and Magog on the map. The rhetoric of the map compares well to the portion of Matthew Paris’ chronicle in which he says he was going to stop writing, as the end of the world was imminent, before beginning the next section when the apocalypse didn’t quite materialize.

IMG_3528

From the left: Asa Mittman (CSU Chico), Tobias Hrynick (PhD, Fordham), Abigail Sargent (PhD Princeton, MA Fordham 2015)

The second portion of the colloquium spoke to the use and value of the digitized map, and, indeed, of digitizing manuscripts generally. Asa Mittman presented both his reservations and his hopes for a project such as the digitization of Corpus Christi MS 2*. While nothing can replace actual physical contact with a manuscript (itself becoming more difficult as different methods of preservation hinder interaction with the texts), the digitization process allows for the content of a text to be paired with modern translations, bibliographies, glosses, and essays within a single website and made available to any and all across the globe. Digitization, Mittman believes, can never transmit the fullest meaning of a text to a researcher or student, as it deprives one of the physical interaction with which the text was made in mind, but it can allow for a significant measure of study of a text without having to pursue funding to go halfway across the world to enter into a secure library, itself requiring a lengthy request which may be denied, to access the material for a limited period of time. The lack of physicality in digitization is both a positive and a negative, as the text in digital form is a fragment of its true self, but is also no longer bound by space and time. Tobias Hrynick and Abigail Sargent responded to Mittman, saying that the stated intention of the Oxford Outremer Map Project was not to replace physical contact, but to allow a level of interaction with the text that one cannot have with it now, due to the need for the text to be jealously preserved for future study. The map is a text, and a digital copy of the text allows for a scholar to write upon it what notes and glosses he or she may need to aid in his or her own study, just as would have been done at the time of the map’s creation. Perfectly capturing the spirit of the project was Tobias’ closing statement, “The Lewis Chessmen were meant to play chess, and Corpus Christi MS 2* was meant to be doodled on.”

IMG_3535 (1)

From the left: David Pedersen (PhD, Fordham), Nicholas Paul (Fordham)

Closing the colloquium were two presentations, one delivered by David Pedersen and the other by Nicholas Paul on the behalf of Sarit Kattan Gribetz, who could not attend. Both presentations displayed the possible use of the digitized map in a classroom environment, with David Pedersen showcasing online modules that could be used with class lectures to introduce undergraduate students to the use of maps as rhetorical devices and the symbolism of medieval cartography. Nicholas Paul presented on the use of the map in Gribetz’s class, “Medieval Jerusalem,” which provided students with a visual representation of the physical and metaphysical views of Jerusalem in Western Europe. Students who actually used the map in their classes attended the colloquium and provided valuable feedback about the online modules and expressed their satisfaction with the direction the modules were taking in their approach to using the map as lesson material.

The Centre would like to thank Evelyn Edson, P.D.A. Harvey, Asa Mittman, David Pedersen, and Sarit Kattan Gribetz for their excellent papers and presentations and for taking part in this valuable discussion. We would also like to extend our most hearty congratulations to Nicholas Paul, Tobias Hyrnick, Abigail Sargent, and all who worked on the Oxford Outremer Map Project for their own remarkable work in putting the website together and providing a creative and eminently approachable way of accessing the map for students and professional scholars alike to take the developing discussion further.

Jeffrey Doolittle and David Pedersen Present at the IUDC

Jeff Doolittle (PhD Program, History) Presents at the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium, April 2016

Jeff Doolittle (PhD Program, History) Presents at the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium, April 2016.

This past 1 April, the 2016 Interuniversity Doctoral Consortium Medieval Conference was hosted by CUNY in the Graduate Centre’s Segal Theatre. To this conference of doctoral candidates presenting their research to professors and students alike came chosen representatives from members of the Consortium: SUNY Stony Brook, NYU, Princeton, Rutgers, Colombia, from CUNY itself, and two students from Fordham, Jeffrey Doolittle and David Pedersen.

Alex Novikoff (Dept. of History) moderates a panel at the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium, April 2016.

Alex Novikoff (Dept. of History) moderates a panel at the Inter-University Doctoral Consortium, April 2016.

Jeffrey Doolittle, a PhD candidate in the History Department, delivered his presentation, “Reframing the Works of Pliny in the Early Middle Ages: Montecassino and Monastic Medical Culture,” on his work studying two copies of the Physica Plinii, the Early Medieval compilations of the sections on medicine in Pliny’s Historia Naturalis. Likening it to entries from the Catholic Encyclopedia making their way into undergraduate papers, Jeffrey presented the Historia Naturalis as a text from which scribes took material for their own codices and works, copying only what they needed. Comparing the Physica Plinii copies of Montecassino’s Archivio dell’Abbazia codex 69 and Bamberg codex Med. 2, Jeffrey seeks to explore the differences between two roughly contemporary recipe collections and show that the monks of Montecassino had a very different approach to organization and the idea of “completeness” in regard to the Physica Plinii. While both manuscripts he is studying seem to agree with each other to a remarkable extent (accounting, of course, for the ubiquitous problem of missing pages) in both the list of treatments and the steps provided, they also display some levels of regional adaptation, as Pliny’s original list has been added onto in both medieval copies.

IMG_3503

Speakers Joy Partridge (PhD Program, Art History-CUNY) and David Pedersen (PhD Program, English-Fordham) take questions after their presentations at the IUDC (April 2016).

David Pedersen, of the English Department, delivered his presentation, “Old English Apologetics: The Search for Epistemological Certainty in The Old English Boethius,” based on the first chapter of his book. Contrary to some interpretations of The Old English Boethius, the English adaptor of the text (who had an audience for his works, of which the Exeter Book, David believes, likely was one) did not fail in his ability to follow the logic of Boethius, but, rather, consciously modified the text to more accurately reflect his own questions of why evil persists in a world created and governed by God. In effect, the Old English adaptor of Boethius modified the original text to incorporate the Augustinian belief that creation is, fundamentally, good, though currently exists in a fallen state. The adaptor’s refusal to come to a conclusion is not a failure of logic, but, rather, a refusal to allow anything beyond his own logic to serve as a basis of inquiry. He disallows his faith to serve as the underlying assumption that would allow his logic to carry him through to the end. David contests the adaptor’s failure is not one of logic, but of the employ of logic alone. The second chapter of David’s book will be published later this summer by Studies in Philology.

Between these two presentations was the roundtable session, “Trigger Warnings and Free Speech: The Politics of Teaching the Middle Ages,” during which the issue of whether trigger warnings should or should not be used in a classroom environment was discussed by Steven F. Kruger (Queens College and CUNY), Sara Lipton (Stony Brook), Andrew Romig (NYU), and Jill Stevenson (Marymount Manhattan). The discussion spotlighted how divisive the topic is, with instructors and professors of varying levels of experience, but with ample examples drawn upon from their personal experiences, weighing in on whether a trigger warning may ruin the shock value of a text or image, losing a valuable pedagogical resource and sterilizing medieval history, or whether they can allow a student to psychologically prepare him or herself to more readily accept the lesson material. The discussion also highlighted how the term “trigger warning” is itself largely misunderstood or stands in need of further clarification, as some believed it to be an allowance for a student to refuse interaction with particular subjects or ideas. This debate will continue to grow in prominence, and, undoubtedly, in enthusiasm in the years to come.

The Centre for Medieval Studies would like to congratulate Jeffrey and David for their excellent presentations and contributions.

 

By Kevin Vogelaar

Review: Manuscript as Medium: 36th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies

IMG_0622

Sarah Kam-Gordon (MA Program, Medieval Studies) and Zara Burford (University of York) working at the registration desk on Saturday morning.

The 36th Annual Conference of the Center for Medieval Studies took place this past 5-6 March in the Lincoln Center Campus. The aim of the conference this year was to explore the employ, design, intended use, and, most of all, the physicality of the manuscript as a medium. While studies of English and French manuscript use and culture formed the majority of the presentations, this year’s conference saw also presentations on German and Irish texts, the interplay between Byzantine Greek and medieval Latin, Jewish and Arabic texts and languages and Buddhist texts in translation between Korean and Japanese texts. Aside from analyses of textual content, promising new methodologies of manuscript research and study were also brought up that look at illuminations, the social context in which a text was produced, and the material composition of a manuscript with the intention of showing how the field of manuscript study is rapidly expanding.

IMG_0673

Heather Hill (MA Program, Medieval Studies) and Rebecca Weiss-Horowitz (MA Program, Medieval Studies).

The first day of the conference began with a plenary lecture, “Medieval Mediations” delivered by Jessica Brantley of Yale University that served as an excellent summary of the purpose of the conference and provided the foundation of what we mean when we say that manuscripts served, and continue to serve, as a medium. Showing, by the presentation of scrolls in medieval art, that medieval peoples were just as keenly aware of the roles codices and parchment rolls played in their societies and private lives as mediums as we are of our own media, Brantley presented the shifts from parchment roll to codex as a more dramatic one than what is heralded as the most dramatic shift in book studies traditionally: the advent of the printing press. From this lecture began the first concurrent session of the conference, with panels split between “Manuscripts in the Digital Age,” “Materiality: Beyond Parchment,” and “Organizing Knowledge.”

IMG_0641

Nina Rowe (Dept. of Art History, Fordham University) introduces Kate Rudy (University of St Andrews).

After lunch began the second plenary lecture by Kathryn Rudy, hailing from the University of St Andrews. Her presentation, “Dirty Books: Approaches to Measuring Reader Response in the Middle Ages,” took a novel approach to seeing what medieval readers were most interested in reading. Many surviving manuscripts are, fundamentally, filthy. They are covered with the dirt and grime of their readers’ hands where they were held open along the edges of each page. By analyzing the reflectivity levels of each page with a device used to measure suntans, Rudy was able to quantify the depth and severity of individual stains on each page. By doing thus, she was able to quantify the interest individual readers took in different parts of books of hours. Relaying a number of examples, including a rather amusing anecdote about a medical text a few

IMG_0654

Kate Rudy (University of St Andrews) delivers her lecture “Dirty Books: Approaches to Measuring Reader Response in the Middle Ages.”

pages of which were stained with varying volumes of blood near glosses saying how some treatment methods didn’t work, Rudy demonstrated that we are able to see what parts of different books appealed the most to their contemporary reader(s). After this lecture, the conference broke again into concurrent sessions. These panels were:”Manuscript as Agent,” “Transmitting the Rule,” “Authors and Scribes: Making Meaning,” and “Format and Meaning.” The first day concluded with a flash session in which six scholars presented in mere minutes their own research ideas roughly relating to the subject matter of the conference, leaving the audience’s minds, already begging for mercy, spinning well into the evening.

IMG_0687

Anna Lukyanova (MA Program, Medieval Studies), Tatum Tullis (MA Program, History) Maryanne Kowaleski (Dept. of History) and Rachel Podd (PhD Program, History) enjoying drinks during the reception on Saturday evening.

The second day began with the final plenary lecture of the conference, delivered by Andrew Taylor of the University of Ottawa. His presentation “Freedom and the Portable Reader: 1992 and 1281” compared the programs we load into our portable digital devices and the book collections of medieval readers to illustrate how much we can learn of an individual person’s psychological state and intellectual interests by looking at what they read. Looking at the book collection of the priest William of Winchester, Taylor constructed a narrative episode of William’s life around the documentary evidence of his having been punished for an affair with a nun and his interests as presented by his book collection, which suggested he was interested in music and the noble pastime of hawking. After this lecture, the final concurrent session unfolded with three panels: “The Body in the Manuscript,” “Compendia,” and “Manuscripts Between Languages: East and West.”

IMG_0706

Richard Gyug (Dept. of History) conversing with students during the reception on Saturday evening.

While the physicality of manuscripts was a common topic of the panels and lectures of the conference, how readers used their manuscripts and new methodologies in how scholars may approach texts as sources of information about their original owners and producers seemed to steal the show. Numerous thought-provoking and innovative ideas were introduced to an audience that was both receptive to new ideas and ever questioning of what we think we know. The Center would like to thank again all those who presented their evocative works and ideas during the conference and those who worked tirelessly behind the scenes for this year’s great success.

 

By Kevin Vogelaar

 

Week in Review: Dee Dyas (University of York) delivers lecture on Medieval Pilgrimage

What was it actually like to be a pilgrim at a shrine in the Middle Ages?

dyasOn February 23rd, Dr. Dee Dyas (Department of History, Director of the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture, University of York) complicated and enriched our understanding of pilgrims’ experience at the shrine by highlighting vivid accounts of tactile and bodily sensation in her lecture entitled The Dynamics of Pilgrimage: Sensory Experience and the Power of Place.

Dr. Dyas’ research focuses on the history, experience, and significance of pilgrimage from late antiquity to the present. She is also interested in the use of technology and interactive resources in teaching. She has edited three substantial interactive resources (on the Bible and Medieval Art, Pilgrimage, and the Parish Church in England) produced by the Centre for the Study of Christianity and Culture in collaboration with an international team of scholars.

deedyasIn her lecture, Dr. Dyas emphasized that an interdisciplinary approach to pilgrimage studies will shed light on the physical and multi-sensory aspects of encountering holy places in the Middle Ages. As pilgrims entered a church or approached a shrine, the sounds, physical contours, sights, and even smells the experienced brought nuance to their encounter with God and the Saints. Dr. Dyas pointed out that recent studies in neuroscience indicate that the act of looking up and down in a vast architectural space might create feelings of light-headedness and euphoria that deepened the gravity of the pilgrims’ perception of the shrine. Beyond the five senses, Dr. Dyas explained that feelings of pressure, temperature, and sensations of pain also may have affected pilgrims. Furthermore, she emphasized the interconnectivity of the senses, noting that vision is partly informed by tactile sensation.

Dr. Dyas showed that both pilgrim and shrine were transformed by contact, as many pilgrims sought to leave pieces of themselves behind or attempted to break off pieces and gather dust from sacred spaces in order to bring them back home with them. By refocusing on the pilgrimage space as the locus of liminal experience for medieval pilgrims, Dr. Dyas demonstrated that holy places were spaces of both revelation and transformation, as the site acted upon the pilgrim and the sensorial landscape fundamentally impacted the nature of revelatory experience at the shrine.

universityOfYork

 

 

 

 

 

 

By Alexa Amore

 

Week in Review: Workshop on Databases for Medievalists with Dr. Maryanne Kowaleski

This past 5 February, Dr. Maryanne Kowaleski took a break from her appointment at Harvard University’s Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study to deliver a presentation and lead a workshop on how individual scholars may develop and prepare a database to assist in their research. While the workshop was specifically meant to aid in the Independent Crusader Database project the Center is currently undertaking, the main points of how to construct a database easily apply to nearly any study or field of research requiring the organization of vast volumes of data. Breaking the entire process down step-by-step, Dr. Kowaleski began with which database software program to use and what each offers the prospective user. Be it Microsoft Access or Filemaker Pro, of paramount importance is that the user spends the time necessary to read through whatever manuals come with the software, including such additional guides as the ubiquitous “For Dummies” series. While this point might seem an obvious one, diving into a database program without knowing what that program is capable of, as, frankly, many people do with many types of programs, will leave you at a severe disadvantage. Like a painter who does not know how to mix his colours effectively, a researcher, working either independently or with a group, who does not know what his or her database program is capable of will only be adding information into a table without being able to do anything with it: the data will be an amorphous mass on a screen.

As Dr. Kowaleski related, it is all too easy, when compiling a database of any kind, to fill it in with as much information as the researcher finds interesting. One must limit a database to a specific type of record (detailing a marriage, an indictment, a person, etc.) to serve as a basis of investigation, and stick to that specific type so that each entry in the database does not stray into areas superfluous to the topic of research. Just because a particular point found in a source is fascinating, that does not mean it must be noted in the database unless it modifies the frame of the research topic, as will inevitably happen over the course of one’s study. Focus and specificity are a database compiler’s greatest allies; time, as in most cases, is not.

Herself using databases she produced and continues to augment and adapt with new discoveries for well over a decade, Dr. Kowaleski showed that a properly assembled database can illuminate mistakes in assumptions made at the beginning of the research endeavour, and can serve as a continuing work in progress as one moves on to further studies in the same general topic, as the database can be adapted as new information comes to light and foci shift direction. Far from set-in-stone, a database is something which can be modified and augmented as time goes on, making it an ideal method of note-taking when working on a long-term project and when relating a process of analysis to a wider audience. This, of course, applies to far more than historical research. We are in constant contact with databases, both appearing before our eyes and employed behind the proverbial scenes. Every time one buys something online, that purchase is catalogued and incorporated into databases displaying your buying patterns both individually and as part of the entirety of a seller’s clientele. Demography relies entirely upon the employ of databases in order to present regional information collected in some coherent, useful way. The ability to chart and organize large quantities of information over a prolonged period of time is vital to any profession or academic discipline what requires the analysis of individual cases in relation to one-another under certain circumstances or within a specific context.

The Center thanks Dr. Kowaleski for her sharing her considerable knowledge and experience with us during her time on leave.

 

By Kevin Vogelaar

Fordham Undergrads Attend Conference in Medieval and Early Modern Studies at Moravian College

moraviangroup

This past 5 December, three Fordham undergraduate students of Dr. Alex Novikoff’s presented their respective papers at the tenth annual Undergraduate Conference in Medieval and Early Modern Studies. Rita Orazi, Kyle Stelzer, and Arthur Mezzo III were driven by Dr. Novikoff to Moravian College in Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, where the conference was held. At this conference, undergraduate students from across the country are invited to present their finest papers pertaining to subjects Medieval and Early Modern on topics ranging from literature, art, and music to history and philosophy. The study and perception of the medieval world in the modern day also holds a prominent place in the topics discussed.

Moravian College professors, Dr. Sandra Bardsley, of the history department, and Dr. John Black, of the English department, founded the annual conference in 2006 for the purpose of nurturing and promoting undergraduate interest in historical studies by highlighting the myriad interdisciplinary methods of approach to those studies, building a bridge between scholars of medieval and early modern history and the musical and performing arts. This year’s plenary lecture was delivered by Dr. Michael Drout of Wheaton College, a scholar of Anglo-Saxon and Middle English literature and the works of J.R.R. Tolkien.

Rita Orazi presented her paper, “The Emperor as Classical Hero in Ana Komnene’s Alexiad,” which demonstrates how Ana Komnene proclaims her Roman identity in the Alexiad in the manner in which she makes her father, Alexios, out to be a hero of a Homeric epic. Rita highlighted that Ana Komnene’s narrative focuses on the main channels of power in Constantinople (an archetypical trait of Roman histories), and her distrust of the barbarian “other,” a role occupied by the Franks. Acting not only as a body of work meant to praise her father, the Alexiad may also have served as a defense or justification for Alexios’ actions during the events of the First Crusade, as a result of which his popularity dwindled. Rita believes the fact that this work is one of only two surviving Byzantine accounts of Alexios’ reign possibly indicates that Ana Komnene wrote of her father fearing none other would care to do so, and wanted to leave a positive view of her father for future generations to inherit. Rita Orazi, having set her sights on medical school, was drawn to the Alexiad because, aside from it being one of the few Byzantine accounts of Alexios’ reign, Ana Komnene herself was a practicing and teaching physician and ran a hospital in Constantinople.

Arthur Mezzo III’s “God and King: Biographies of Medieval Frankish Kings,” explored the biographies of medieval Frankish rulers and the parallels they drew between themselves and stories and contemporary images of Christ. Arthur paid special attention to the works of Gregory of Tours, Einhard’s Life of Charlemagne, and the anonymously authored panegyric Beatus Ludovicus, composed for the canonization of Louis IX.

Kyle Stelzer’s paper, “The Tibyan: One Ruler’s Account of Christian-Muslim Relations in Eleventh-Century Iberia,” focuses on the Tibyan: Memoirs of ‘Abdallah ibn Buluggin, Last Zirid Amir of Granada, an autobiography discovered by Levi Provencal in 1933 and translated into English in 1986. These memoirs provide a firsthand account of the history of the Zirid dynasty of the Ta’ifa of Granada from circa 1013-1095. ‘Abdallah ibn Buluggin’s autobiography is one of a very few accounts of eleventh century Al-Andalus actually written in the eleventh century. ‘Abdallah’s recounting of Andalusian politics, society, and culture provide both historical and personal insight into the era. Kyle presents the Tibyan more specifically as elucidating both the ethno-racial hostilities present amongst Muslim communities and the struggles for power between the various Muslim and Christian states of the Iberian Peninsula. This drastically modifies the common notion of how Muslims, Christians, and Jews related to one-another and lived together, referred to often as “La Convivencia,” or, “The Coexistence,” and the multicultural identity of the Iberian Peninsula.

Our most heartfelt congratulations are extended to the presenters for their excellent work and for their contributions.

 

By Kevin Vogelaar and Andrew O’Sullivan