9 April Oxford Outremer Map Colloquium

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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.

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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.”

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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.

Review: Fordham at the Annual Meeting of the Medieval Academy of America

What happens when several hundred medievalists from all different fields gather in one place for a weekend? The Medieval Academy of America meeting – dozens of fascinating panels and papers on a wide variety of topics.

The 2016 MAA meeting kicked off with a call for open data by Will Noel, of the Schoenberg Center for Manuscript Studies at the University of Pennsylvania. Treat digital images as primary sources in and of themselves, not simply surrogates of medieval manuscripts, he said. Call for more information, he exhorted the assembled medievalists, you demand access to the manuscripts, so demand access to metadata about their images!

In Noel’s view, data should be complete, sustainable, promiscuous, re-useable, and communal – and it’s hard to argue against his model, especially as it applies to newly created images and their use by researchers.

The afternoon panels included two contributions from Fordham medievalists: Professor Suzanne M. Yeager (English) presented “En route to Jerusalem: The Transformative Potential of the Medieval Mediterranean” and Lucy Barnhouse (History) presented “Disordered Women? The Hospital Sisters of Mainz and Their Thirteenth-Century Identities.” Both talks were well-attended and well-received.

Friday morning’s CARA Plenary on the Parameters of Premodern Magic discussed astrology, witchcraft, and the “slicing up” of medieval history into magical and non-magical bits, and the morning sessions that followed spurred active and fascinating discussion about disabilities in the medieval period over Twitter.

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Dr. Laura Morreale (Medieval Studies) presenting at the Annual Meeting of the Medieval Academy of America

Alongside more traditional “tracks” of panels on Carolingians, Monasticism and Lyric Transformations, the MAA meeting this year also included a track on Digital Humanities, which included papers by Laura Morreale (Medieval Studies) and David Wrisley (past Medieval Studies Fellow). Laura’s paper on the use of “Italy” as a place name in thirteenth and fourteenth-century chronicles spurred active discussion about understandings of place and national or regional identity.

Late panels included medieval-inspired poetry, digital humanities visualizations of the construction and reconstruction of Romanesque and Gothic churches, and a vibrant discussion of the “ghosts” of the nineteenth century, which, like the debates on disability studies, became a lively Twitter debate and exchange.

The banquet featured period music and traditional Boston foods, including baked beans and Boston Cream Pie.

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Dr. Nicholas Paul (Dept. of History) recieves the John Nicholas Brown Prize

On Saturday, I was delighted to see Dr. Nicholas Paul (History) received the John Nicholas Brown Prize for his book, To Follow In Their Footsteps.

 

Perhaps the most exciting part of Saturday, from a digital humanities perspective, however, was the interactive session chaired by William P. Stoneman, which brought together eight different projects, each of which gave a three-minute pitch and description, followed by the opportunity for the audience to discuss the projects with the makers, which was fascinating and allowed for vigorous discussion

Robin Fleming’s closing plenary, “Vanishing Plants, Animals, and Places: Britain’s Transformation from Roman to Medieval” was an intriguing look at the material evidence for dramatic shifts in diet, use of land, and the consequent changes in lifestyle that followed Rome’s departure from Britain. Among other things, we learned that strawberries were not eaten prior to the Roman’s arrival, and that apple trees are not native to Britain!

The closing reception at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum was a magical backdrop against which to talk with other medievalists, catch up with friends, and see a wide variety of artworks while wrapping up a fantastic conference.

While I was intially a bit daunted by the sheer number of impressive scholars at the MAA meeting, I am delighted to have been able to attend, and look forward to future meetings.

 

By Alisa Beer

Dr. Nicholas Paul wins the Medieval Academy of America’s 2016 John Nicholas Brown Book Prize

Nicholas_Paul_headshotFordham medievalist Nicholas Paul has won the Medieval Academy of America’s 2016 John Nicholas Brown Book Prize, awarded annually for a first book on a medieval subject. His monograph, To Follow in their Footsteps: The Crusades and Family Memory in the High Middle Ages, is based on research first completed for his doctoral dissertation at Cambridge University.  Further research for the book also took him to Spain and France where he examined family histories, archives, and crusader tombs.

According to the Medieval Academy, To Follow in their Footsteps “offers an original investigation into collective memory in the first crusading century.  Paul draws upon widely-ranging sources (texts and material objects) in family history, anthropology, literary theory and sociology to illuminate the historical context and dynastic narratives of the Crusades.”

The Center for Medieval Studies has been fortunate to work with this award-winning author as an instructor in our program and a collaborator on several digital projects. The Oxford Outremer Map Project is based on a map he first encountered while teaching a graduate course on the Crusader States, which was then developed into a digitally-enhanced interactive version, supplemented with geographic, historical, and archaeological data. As a contributing editor to the French of Outremer website, Dr. Paul has taken a leading role in shaping how scholars understand the wide range of French-language texts produced and circulated in the Crusader States. Dr. Paul offered the following observations concerning the connections between his writing, his teaching, and his work on the digital projects at the Center:

footsteps“Since the publication of my book, my research horizons have expanded in ways that I could not have imagined due entirely to the exciting developments in digital humanities at the Center for Medieval Studies. The projects that Medieval Studies have already sponsored, such as the Oxford Outremer Map Project, the project to edit and translate the legal texts of Outremer, and the new project to aggregate and map data related to independent crusaders, demonstrate perfectly of how digital approaches, tools, and platforms are making possible completely new modes of presentation and analysis.”

Dr. Paul has suggested that these digital projects will form an important part of his work going forward, for several reasons:

“Each of these projects represents a piece of a much larger puzzle that I’m taking on in my current research: attitudes to the eastern crusading frontier in Medieval Europe. But aside from the data that they offer, the projects have acted as fantastic platforms for our graduate students to hone skills using digital tools and exercise creativity. They are also nodes around which new scholarly communities, such as the translation group working on the legal texts or the international team who contributed to our digital map, have coalesced. For all of these reasons, I look forward to the future of digital humanities at Fordham, and in particular with my friends, colleagues, and students at the Center for Medieval Studies.”

We congratulate our colleague on winning such a prestigious award, and look forward to working with Dr. Paul on current and future projects here at the Center for Medieval Studies.

 

By Laura Morreale