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.

maa2

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.

maa1

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