Hello! I’m interested in early medieval poetry, objects, places, and events, and how they are made present in contemporary arts and cultural practices. Amazingly, the London Arts and Humanities Partnership (LAHP/ AHRC) are funding me to think about these things at King’s College London.
This is where I collect questions, musings, links, and other things usually related to medieval and Old English language and culture and their modern echoes, counterparts, imaginings, and (re)presentations. I use this site to blog, but also to bookmark useful things, so it’s something of a notebook.
Beth Whalley and I recently took a group of excellent kids on a trip around Kent, exploring the myths of Horsa and Hengest. We were commissioned by Crayford Reminiscence and Youth, a local history group – and what a fantastic opportunity it was for some archive delving and deep thinking about the way this particular story has developed over time.
We wrote a blog post about one of our trips, take a look at the link below.
I’d love to hear from anyone who has done, or is thinking about developing, a project concerned with local history / heritage, medievalism, and working with young audiences.
One site we visited provoked questions that link to a research interest important to both of us: how ‘the medieval’ exists in the contemporary moment. Addressing collisions of archaeological enquiry, folk-stories, and over 1,000 years of writing about this place tested the possibilities of fun but critical activities, and asked us to confront the role of emotional responses to histories and spaces.
My friends know that one of my worst habits is procrastinating with other projects when I should be getting into the nitty-gritty of editing my thesis. One of my favourite procrastinating methods is to edit the Wikipedia pages of medieval texts that I use a lot – for instance, the ‘Seafarer’ poem page. I would always forget which folios the text was on, and need to bring up old essays of mine to get the reference… but now I’ve added that info to Wikipedia to save me (and maybe other people!) the trouble! Similarly I love to dip into Caroline Bergvall’s page every now and again and keep it up to date with her exciting projects, so even more people can find out about her.
I recenty got to share this favourite procrastination past time with other people. Is it even procrastination any more if it’s a useful and fun thing to do with others??
The theme got us – me, and collaborator Beth Whalley, that is! – thinking about the ways that our own discipline, medieval studies, intersects with feminist activism, and the ways that medievalists might be able to participate meaningfully in these conversations. And so, on the 28th March, supported by LAHP and King’s Centre for Late Antique and Medieval Studies, we held a two-part event to celebrate medieval women and women in medieval studies.
During the day, we held a wikithon, editing Wikipedia with a feminist medievalist impulse. The evening saw 10 amazing academics sharing their thoughts on what it means to be feminist and a medievalist.
You can read a write up of the day on the King’s English blog, which details what happened at the Wikithon and the feminist round table.
BUT the work doesn’t stop here! For the purposes of posterity and to enable future wikithons, we’ve set up the MedievalWiki Wikipedia Project. A screenshot is just below.
On the MedievalWiki project page, anyone – yes, you there, reading this! – can sign up and take on the editing, amending, or creating of pages about medieval women, the modern women and nb scholars who work on medieval things, and artists who reinvent them. You can find a to-do list on the project page, but please, the page belongs to everyone, so add in your own suggestions for pages to make or edit too!
A HUGE thank you has to go to the Wikipedia Foundation volunteers who came along and helped us on the day. John even made a video to document the event. Their patience at explaining the ‘coding’ of Wikipedia, how best to phrase articles, and where to source images really made the day.
English nationalism is a more slippery concept than might be imagined. As Kumar (2003) persuasively argues, for the English, presiding over an empire, there was no distinction made between being English and being British. In the global world of the British Empire, to be British was sufficient. It also enabled the Scots and Welsh to be co-opted into the British identity and to play key roles in imperial Britain.
But it is clear that until relatively recently (the last 20 years), with the increasing devolution to the Celtic nations, and the rise of a more aggressive Scottish ethno-nationalism, English nationalism has been a subdued affair. The even more recent rise in popularity of UKIP – an essentially right-wing English nationalist party – has drawn attention to demands for an English parliament.
As Kumar suggests – despite UKIP’s appeal in both some suburban and rural middle-class areas and some socially and economically deprived working class enclaves – the vision of Englishness presented is taken from the 1920s:
“It is an England that is rural or small-town, white, male, middle or upper-middle class, and fearful of change and the challenges of a global, multi-cultural world” (Kumar, 2003).
This latter-day, English nationalism appears to be being forged by a challenge from the nationalism in Scotland and, to a lesser extent, Welsh nationalism) and a fear of globalisation. This pressure and tension is exacerbated, for some English nationalists, by the fact of the UK’s membership of the EU, and their antipathy towards it.
Duncan Sayer gave a lecture to close the Sutton Hoo Society AGM this year, and his talk was fascinating: outlining the many different methods used in archaeology today to understand familial, cultural, and socio-political ties or motives that inform burial practice.
Another article of his has been in my ‘open tabs’ on my phone for a while, one that I keep returning to. Would recommend.
The idea that there is a common Anglo-Saxon ancestry based on biology is gaining currency among some right-wing and religious groups in the UK and US.In the UK, the new leader of the UK Independence Party, Henry Bolton, suggested in a radio interview in October that “in certain communities the indigenous Anglo-Saxon population is nowhere to be seen”
In all these instances, academic historians have either been sidelined, or have become the victims of politically motivated onslaughts. Still, the disputes per se are not a late modern phenomenon. Similar debates occur in any society that records its past. They form part of historical culture. Having a past and knowing it was considered to be a mark of civilisation. But where did this need for a past come from?