Archive for ‘miscellaneous’


“…in the churches and houses, in the townships and mines…”

Faced with an unsavory world, what can one do? For starters, we can promote and share the best work of other souls. Here’s an assortment of links I’ve been collecting for a while—some medieval, others poetic, all of them earnest, engaging, and good.

At his blog “The Winds of War,” Daniel Franke offers a long, rational, and rather contrarian take on the connections between medievalism, the humanities, ISIS, and politicians.

Where can you find medieval buildings brought piece by piece to the United States? This remarkably well-researched Atlas Obscura article will tell you. (Well done, Brianna Nofil and Jake Purcell!)

A Clerk of Oxford ponders winter in Middle English poetry and “the power of the untranslatable negatives.”

With neither piety nor snark, Dale Favier pens the rare topical poem I like: “Standing With France.”

“But I’m still lonely for him”: Flavia collaborates with a long-gone scholar she knows only through his work.

Jake Seliger checks out Excellent Sheep by William Deresiewicz.

Novelist and poet Marly Youmans pens a personal reflection on motherhood and a life in the arts.

Cynthia Haven makes the case for Rossetti’s “In the Bleak Midwinter” as the “best Christmas carol ever.”

Levi Stahl finds a fine passage on freedom and thinking from a book about Montaigne.

First Known When Lost mingles poems with art to make sense of acceptance in autumn.

“You hear the playback, and it seems so long ago…”

Eight years ago today, after learning PHP and tinkering with a template, I published the first modest post on this blog, which promised “a place to ponder books, writing, teaching, and medievalism.” Blogs were a thriving medium then, and virtual strangers sent new readers here.

Free to tinker, I found projects that suited this format: From 2008 to 2012, I read everything by young-adult writer Lloyd Alexander and posted reviews of each book. In 2009, I posted a bit of light verse that turned, fifty-some poems later, into a book of poems inspired by the National Cathedral gargoyles. You’ll now find occasional posts about such recent fixations as gardening and taking pictures with antique Polaroids, but medievalism and poetry remain the twin caryatids that prop up this slouching facade.

When Facebook and Twitter prompted an exodus that made the blogosphere feel as empty as Iceland’s interior, I stuck with it. The culture craves pithier social media—photo memes, five-second movies—but I like long-form writing, even if some days I feel like a ham radio operator or a shut-in dialing into the Internet with a screeching modem and a Commodore 64.

So why do it? Well, I like interacting with those of you who still write or read blogs, since you don’t care to chase the cool kids. I also love having a site of my own. Because I do plenty of paid writing elsewhere, I don’t need to please editors, chase trends, or julienne my thoughts to fit someone else’s word count. You don’t have to monetize your writing for people to find it.

And they do find it. Every day, someone new discovers my two most popular posts: a 2007 piece about a line in an Indiana Jones movie that represents the best thing Charlemagne never said, and a 2013 defense of the real professor behind the much-maligned textbook from Dead Poets Society. Those posts have attracted tens of thousands of readers; my page-view stats tell me that many others land here because of books I’ve reviewed, historical recipes I’ve tried, or gargoyle-festooned churches I’ve written about. Once in a while, they buy my books.

Eight years on, “Quid Plura?” has the same design template it had on day one. As always, I struggle to find time to post, and I’m delighted when people stop by. Whatever brings you here, no matter how long you stay, whether you lurk in peace or leave thoughtful comments: thank you! I appreciate your eyeballs. As this blog lurches forward, however sporadic, I hope what you find here is still worth your time.

“Success or failure will not alter it…”

“A thousand skeptic hands won’t keep us from the things we plan,” Alcuin wrote to Theodulf of Orleans at the dawn of the ninth century, “unless we’re clinging to the things we prize.” Despite Alcuin’s optimism, a thorny new translation project has kept me from writing substantive blog posts, but I can share this enlightening array of mid-winter links.

What did a Tolkien expert think of the final Hobbit movie? Michael Drout weighs in.

Steven Muhlberger ponders what it means to be both a historian of the Middle Ages and a medieval reenactor.

Steve Donoghue appreciates Longfellow’s poetry: “the sheer unembarrassed power of it has undimmed power to work if readers drop their cynicism and let it.”

How is Michael Moorcock’s new fantasy novel? Steve Donoghue will tell you that, too.

At New York theaters, Paul Elie discovers Southern Gothic.

In France, Lucy sees smoke, and hears a bell tolling softly for another.

Dale Favier finds joy in the driveway of Copernicus.

Diane Seneschal concludes that in teaching, “the remedy is the poem itself.”

Chris at Hats and Rabbits sticks up for Rocky Balboa.

Flavia ponders Facebook taboos and “the pleasures of the private.”

Prof Mondo advises a student not to sweat those youthful fumbles.

Jake asks: What incentivizes professors to grade honestly?

It’s like the raft of the Medusa, only less cheerful: economists analyze the job market for English Ph.Ds.

“Kindled by the dying embers of another working day…”

According to one Carolingian poet, October was perfect for harvesting grapes and chasing swine into forests to chow down on autumn nuts. Fireside wine and a pig roast can wait; for now, I can offer only this backlog of savory links.

Literary scholar and critic D.G. Myers has died—but his final blog post, “Choosing life in the face of death,” is a worthy memorial.

Another Damned Medievalist explains what should be obvious: that being an adjunct professor is not at all like slavery.

Nancy Marie Brown considers Icelandic volcanoes on the anniversary of Snorri Sturlusson’s killing.

Added to my Christmas list: Medievalism: Key Critical Terms.

Flavia, a college professor, shares what she learned from doing the work she assigns.

At Book and Sword, Sean Manning meets Ötzi, who died in an Alpine pass some 5,300 years ago.

Jake Seliger knows that the best teachers aren’t always the best credentialed.

Scott Bailey offers a fiction-writing lesson from Robert Browning.

Cynthia Haven pays tribute to murdered journalist Steve Sotloff. Did you know he and his loved ones successfully hid his religion from his captors?

The indefatigable Steve Donoghue reads The Oxford Book of Letters.

Pete at Petelit continues to add to his blog post of memorable opening lines.

Recalling his software days, poet Dale Favier notes that “nothing has been built to specs.”

At First Known When Lost, Stephen Pentz links poetry to moments when life “clicks.”

George, the thoughtful fellow at 20011, blogs about coding and cooking, the pleasures of summer, and overuse of the term “iconic.”

Congrats to Tolkien scholar Jason Fisher, whose blog post became a essay in a reference book.

Daniel Franke wonders about Bill Gates and “big history.”

Diane L. Major remembers Harriet Tubman.

“Golden toddy on the mantle, broken gun beneath the bed…”

In an 8th-century poem by Alcuin, an aged shepherd decries winter as rerum prodigus atrox, a “terrible squanderer of wealth,” but spiky-haired, personified Winter defends himself by listing his seasonal pleasures: feasting, resting, and a warm fire at home. To that list, I’d only add: terrific links about books, medievalism, history, and poems.

Cynthia Haven (mostly) likes the BBC’s “Hollow Crown” retelling of Shakespeare.

Tolkien scholar Jason Fisher enjoyed The Desolation of Smaug.

Arrant Pedantry enjoyed the pronunciation of /smaug/.

Nancy Marie Brown is writing a book about the Lewis Chessmen.

Burnable Books debunks words not invented by Shakespeare.

Marly Youmans unveils seven new, myth-infused poems.

Dylan pens a ghazal about coffee.

In light of a Joyce Carol Oates story, Harvard magazine reconsiders Robert Frost.

Stanford hosts a “code poetry slam.”

Diana Seneschal rescues Wordsworth from a Common Core lesson gone wrong.

When it comes to English departments, George notes that today’s liberation may stultify tomorrow.

In Rome, the Cranky Professor finds a lot of scaffolding.

Bill Peschel remembers Peter O’Toole as a writer.

Steve Muhlberger is “ensorcelled” by the study in intimacy (or lack thereof) that is the BBC’s “Sherlock.”

Kevin is ambivalent about Apple’s new Walt Whitman adverts.

Six Words for a Hat reads Dickens with Ruskin in mind.

The Box Elder offers a meditation on the death of trees.

Cancer, baggage, marriage proposals! Asking Anna, a novel by my friend Jake Seliger, is out.

“Silken mist outside the window, frogs and newts slip in the dark…”

Traffic! Leftovers! Organized sports! Whether you’re traveling, relaxing, or getting a jump on Christmastime fretting, enjoy this cornucopia of savory links, all of them worth your time on a chilly autumn weekend.

Steve Muhlberger reads Worlds of Arthur, and likes its author’s skepticism and clarity.

Scouting New York spots the thousand gargoyles and grotesques of City College.

Gargoyle Girl discovers a French gargoyle pop-up book.

My friend Nancy Marie Brown tours saga sites on her 18th visit to Iceland.

A 9th-grade teacher is using hip-hop to teach Latin hexameter.

After a hiatus, Light: A Journal of Light Verse is back online.

First Known When Lost finds poems in praise of idleness.

Levi urges you: read that Mark Twain autobiography!

Bill Peschel wonders whether bad writers can make books that are good for you.

The Book Haven highlights Joseph Brodsky’s Nobel lecture.

Heather Domin is almost pleased that readers are pirating her books.

Pete ponders what Lou Reed meant to his writing.

Chris at Hats & Rabbits is finishing his father’s song.

“The forming of a new connection, to study or to play…”

As rainy gloom descends on D.C., we call the kobolds to come in from the fields. Enjoy what they bring: books, medievalism, and a bit of poetry.

Medievally Speaking reviews Tolkien’s The Fall of Arthur. (Kathy Cawsey recently read it, too.)

Box Elder explores an old church in the French town of Morlaix, both inside and out.

Nancy Marie Brown, author of the recent Song of the Vikings, fondly remembers a teacher, mentor, and friend.

Congrats to Michael Livingston, who’s published a casebook on Owen Glendower.

Steve Muhlberger spots a modern-day stylite living on a (large) pillar in Georgia.

Bibliographing likes and doesn’t like George R.R. Martin.

The Gargoyle Girl unveils a new alchemist-and-gargoyle mystery series.

Open Letters Monthly highlights The Black Spider, a Swiss horror novel from 1842.

Michael Drout announces his audiobook about the liberal arts.

Cynthia Haven hardly minds when American novelists don’t win the Nobel Prize.

With Halloween in mind, I’ve Been Reading Lately seeks out ghost stories in Boswell’s Life of Samuel Johnson.

Laudator Temporis Acti finds books in art.

Chris at Hats & Rabbits defies “the gods of creativity.”

First Known When Lost offers poems of arrival and departure.

“Success or failure will not alter it…”

“A thousand skeptic hands won’t keep us from the things we planned,” Alcuin wrote to Theodulf of Orleans at the dawn of the ninth century, “unless we’re clinging to the things we prize.” Despite Alcuin’s optimism, life keeps me from updating “Quid Plura?” as often as I’d like, but here’s an enlightening array of late-winter links.

Return to Prydain with Jared Crossley’s 69-minute documentary about Lloyd Alexander, now out on DVD. (Disclosure: I did a small amount of unpaid work on this project.)

Looking for a lurid novel in the heavy-metal club scene? Warren Moore’s headbanger noir Broken Glass Waltzes is now out for the Kindle.

Erik Kwakkel looks for the oldest photo of a person with a medieval manuscript—and finds a heck of a shot from Ohio instead.

Speaking of minuscule, the Classical Bookworm finds wonderful tiny libraries (including one built from Lego).

Lingwë delves: Did Tolkien coin the plural “dwarves”?

Nancy Marie Brown turns back to half-forgotten fantasist E.R. Eddison.

So Many Books digs The Canon: A Whirligig Tour of the Beautiful Basics of Science.

Sarah Werner suggests that in the humanities job market, you make your own luck.

Writer and professor Ann Boesky recalls her life as a Sweet Valley High ghostwriter.

Wuthering Expectations cracks open “the most boring and mendacious author in the whole of German literature.”

Jake Seliger reads the urban-planning book Planet of Cities.

Steve Donoghue explores Sir Philip Sidney’s The Countess of Pembroke’s Arcadia.

Cynthia Haven fondly remembers Edna St. Vincent Millay.

First Known When Lost honors four-line poems.

“With a wintry, storm-blown sigh…”

“Sometimes I sleep,” Alcuin wrote to Charlemagne shortly before his imperial coronation. “Sometimes,” he confessed, “it’s not for days.” Plagued by visitors to the shrine of St. Martin, the abbot of Tours wrote wistfully about the transience of earthly pilgrimage. “The people I meet,” he noted, “always go their separate ways.”

Alcuin was a busy man, as am I lately—but I’ve time enough to help you stave off the cold with a bundle of bright, blazing links.

Michael Drout posts a long, spoiler-laden review of The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey.

Jason at Lingwë wonders why Bilbo Baggins “looks more like a grocer than a burglar.”

Nancy Marie Brown, who’s just written the first English-language book in ages about Snorri Sturlusson, looks at Icelandic myth and the Tolkien connection.

A Common Reader ponders the Periplus of the ancient traveler Hanno.

My friend ‘nora points me to a lovely Gothic Revival Jewish mausoleum in Vienna.

The Lost Fort visits St. Isaac’s Cathedral in St. Petersburg.

Is the TV show Arrested Development actually The Brothers Karamazov?

At Hats & Rabbits, Chris acknowledges the hard work that goes into dreams.

First Known When Lost looks at the conceit of life as a work of art.

Levi Stahl has literary thoughts on the death of Dave Brubeck.

A.E. Stallings reads a poem.

Stephanie McCarthy interviews Bill Peschel, annotator of Dorothy Sayers.

Anna Tambour shows you what it’s like to live in the path of an Australian wildfire.

D.G. Myers marvels at how cancer concentrates the mind.

Douglass Shand-Tucci finds Narnia in Copley Square.

What’s with the connection between James Joyce and Trieste?

Dylan pens two quick ghazals.

“Well, I hit the rowdy road, and many kinds I met there…”

The best gifts come wrapped in a bit of mystery. Check out the old wooden box that surprised me this Christmas—and sent me on an art-quest.

This box is 11.75 inches square and 2.75 inches deep. The sides are painted turquoise and golden. It used to have a lock—but who is that royal rider?

After several dead ends and a lucky hunch, I had an epiphany and identified this noble fellow and the larger work he inhabits. If you’re up for a Google challenge, see if you can do the same. Scrutinize a close-up of the box cover, and don’t ignore that rectangle at the bottom.

Happy twelfth day of Christmas!

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(Give up? Here’s a stock photo with identifying information. There’s a Wikipedia entry on the complete work of art, and another site shows the box-cover scene in its full context.)