Friday, January 30, 2009

Today's agenda

Well. I opted not to go to this week's job talk. I was persuaded by the several commenters who feared causing discomfort--for the candidate, for the department, or for myself. Take note that this is a small enough institution that my presence would be fairly obvious. There are two more talks next week, so I may revisit that decision.

Frankly, what finally made the decision for me is that I had way too much to do. Being sick last week has left me running to catch up all week, and that hour right before class turned out to be essential prep time.

Today is not a teaching day. Bliss to sleep later than 7 am and to have the day to work on other things. First and foremost, I have to give my own job talk in a few weeks--30-45 minutes, should be accessible to undergraduates (the job is at a small liberal arts college). This requires some planning.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Reader poll!

I am teaching at a certain college. Said college is hiring someone in my field. I applied for the job, but was not interviewed.

Now the finalists are making their visits to campus.

Do I go to the job talks, or not?

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Not how I planned it

Oh, it has not been a good week. Well, it had good parts--had some friends over on Monday since we had the day off--but right after that I developed a Horrible Plague which has laid me low for days. I am just now emerging from days of lying about miserable and blowing my nose, and tomorrow classes start. Fortunately my first class is in the afternoon, so I can go into the office tomorrow morning to get things ready. But this is so not how I planned to start the semester.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Further research

To follow up from yesterday's search of liturgical texts in CANTUS, I took a look at Late Medieval Liturgical Offices. LMLO is potentially a great resource compliling complete offices for a wide variety of saints, all from the later part of the Middle Ages. It has some drawbacks, however. One is that it uses a somewhat complex system of ascii codes for the information. The text accompanying the data files argues that this is not hard to learn, but it does constitute something of a barrier to using the materials. Even more problematic, just now, is that it was published in 1994, and its data files come on...3.5" floppy disks. My computer is an aged beast, and still has a floppy drive, but I know most newer computers don't. I'll see if I can actually read the files this afternoon.

At any rate, I was interested to discover from LMLO that the office for Saint C I'm looking at also appears (or at least a very similar one appears) in a single 15th-century manuscript from Barcelona, not so far from the monastery I'm studying. So I would guess I'm looking at some regional office for the saint. My ms. evidence is earlier, though, so I still wonder whether the office originated at this monastery or elsewhere...

Wednesday, January 14, 2009


So I am revising this article on liturgy that I seem to have been working on forever. I am looking at the feasts of several saints to see how they are presented in the liturgy of a particular nunnery. At the suggestion of a reader, I plugged the texts for these saints into the CANTUS database. To camouflage the project a little, I'm going to call these saints A, B, and C.

Saint A was wildly popular in the Middle Ages, and the results show it. Exactly the same texts appear in over a dozen different manuscripts, from totally different parts of Europe. So the monastery I'm studying probably got their office for Saint A from some commonly available materials.

Saint B was also quite popular. The texts I entered only appear in a few manuscripts, though. Both of those manuscripts are from monasteries of the same order, so perhaps this office was one composed at, and circulated among, monasteries of this order.

Saint C was another popular saint. But the texts used at the monastery I am studying don't appear in the database at all. Not a one of them. I checked them all. Admittedly the database is not comprehensive, but it does include a large number of manuscripts, and I did get hits for the other feasts. I am especially intrigued by this, because the celebration of Saint C is unusually prominent at this monastery. Other monasteries of the order did not observe her in the same way. So the fact that the texts are more obscure is extra interesting.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Getting unblocked

I have so many things to do this month it has been a little paralyzing. I came back from the AHA (via train) last Monday and spent the afternoon totally zoned out. I took a nap, which I almost never do. Then I spent a couple of days catching up on correspondence and finishing my grades and such.

As I puttered away at one thing and another, I realized I was reluctant to get back to my research. I need to finish revisions on an article and resubmit it, and then I need to dig back into the book manuscript. And I felt blocked. I wasn't totally sure how to address the comments of one reader, who seemed most interested in some points I felt were tangential to my major argument. I hadn't worked on it since probably early December, what with all the mess of finals. Prep for the spring semester seemed more pressing. And so on.

But today I may have gotten unblocked. I allotted two hours to work on the article. I sat down and read through it, made notes on things to do, fixed up some footnotes, added some brief explanatory material, explored the sources suggested by the reader. I think things are coming together. It may not even take that much more work. I'd be delighted to send this off by the end of the month.

I also allotted two hours to work on course prep. That was good, too; I made some progress, and the two-hour time period kept the prep from sprawling over into the rest of the day. I hope I can keep this up for the rest of the week.

Wednesday, January 7, 2009

AHA report 3

The other session I attended was a really delightful one titled "Women and Community in the Middle Ages." I made a special point of going as it promised discussion of nuns. As it turned out, all three of the papers were very good, and all three posed some worthwhile challenges to common tropes of discussion medieval women.

Fiona Griffiths, in the midst of some interesting work on relations between male and female religious in the twelfth century, argued that we need to pay more attention to money. She suggested that financial issues underlie a number of criticisms of nuns, and that financial considerations contributed to concerns about purity on questions of separating male and female religious. While this was definitely a work-in-progress kind of paper, the general point seems potentially very important.

Anne Lester discussed how, in northern France, women following informal religious lives tended to be organized into Cistercian nunneries rather than Franciscan or Dominican ones. According to her, bishops in this region took an active role in encouraging/requiring such women's communities to adopt Cistercian customs, including lobbying the Cistercian General Chapter for inclusion; such houses, however, continued to be visited by bishops rather than Cistercian abbots, and modified their customs somewhat to allow practices of apostolic poverty. Overall Lester indicates that we shouldn't assume older orders like the Cistercians have nothing to do with the apostolic poverty movements of the twelfth century.

Katherine French finished up, building on her work on medieval English parishes to situate Margery Kempe in her parish. French pointed out that Margery is often discussed as an anomaly, eccentric, utterly unique, and that in fact she was very active in her parish church and shared similar concerns with many other women and men of her parish. This was also a really interesting paper.

The following discussion was good, although most of it blurs together for me; but I found all of the papers to be quite thought-provoking, potentially having ramifications for my own research.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

AHA report 2

As I reported yesterday, I attended just two sessions.

The first session I attended, on Friday afternoon, was on "Old and New Classics." It was a continuation of similarly-themed sessions at previous AHAs. I had attended the one last year, I think it was, which had a huge crowd. By comparison, attendance at this one seemed a little sparse. Still, the conversation was fairly lively. Each member of the panel proposed a classic work of medieval history (admittedly two of them dealt with a classic theme, instead). Daniel Bornstein's classic was Robert Brentano's Two Churches, and he raised the possibility that a classic may forestall rather than inspire imitation. Ruth Mazo Karras discussed classics of medieval women's history, focusing on the essay collection Women in Medieval Society edited by Susan Mosher Stuard. Carol Lansing instead talked about integrating heresy into broader histories, discussing Herbert Grundmann and Lester Little's work, among others; John Van Engen focused on Haskins's Renaissance of the Twelfth Century and how the idea has become a fairly standard part of most medievalists' thinking. Session chair Dan Smail--making a last-minute entrance--said he'd like to see a future session focusing on classic articles rather than monographs, which seems a worthy idea.

The discussion was wide-ranging enough that I won't attempt to convey my sketchy notes: it included specific responses to all of the speakers, as well as a broader conversation about undergraduate and graduate teaching. I hope this series of sessions continues; I think it has sparked some very interesting conversations, especially useful for younger medievalists. Since I work on neither England nor Italy, I wasn't familiar with Brentano's book, for example, but it sounds well worth a look.

Monday, January 5, 2009

AHA report 1

Fresh year, fresh post.

I am back from AHA. I succeeded in my plan of abandoning the conference for significant periods to see some of the city, with the able assistance of Dr. Notorious and others. I had two job interviews, both of which seemed to go well (at least from my point of view). I had useful conversations with a number of people and was able to catch up with some friends.

I also managed to see some sessions--just two, but both good. More on those later after I've had a little time to process my thoughts.