Archive for ‘Best of the First Five Years’


“I heard telephones, opera house, favorite melodies…”

Five years ago, I tinkered with a template, raised this blog’s roof-beams, and wrote a hasty first post promising “a place to ponder books, writing, teaching, and medievalism.”

To my ever-renewing amazement, people continue to read this site, leave comments, and email me about gargoyles or curiously unignorable Charlemagne ephemera. Amid the mass stampede to social media, blogs are still valuable places to explore untrendy cultural niches or stretch a notion beyond the epigrammatic—so even if I update this site unpredictably, I’m in it for the long haul.

Thanks to all of you whose eyeballs make “QP?” a pleasure to write! I hope you’ll continue to find it worth your time. For now, here’s a sort of “greatest hits” anthology from the half-decade that was.

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Every day, new readers find the blog through these posts:

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Poems inspired by the National Cathedral gargoyles have lately dominated this blog. The poems will end soon, but this summer I’ll collect them in a small book to raise funds for post-earthquake repairs. Stay tuned.

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Meet some medievalists who left their mark on the world:

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We found that Robert E. Howard, creator of Conan, was a prolific poet, while one of the great female voices in science fiction has been disowned by her alma mater.

In 2008, I started reading all of Lloyd Alexander’s non-Prydain books and writing capsule reviews. (Five more to go!)

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The lighter side of medievalism:

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Applied paleobromatology:

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When you visit the Cathedral of St. John the Divine, what sex are the angels?

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In Louisiana, my family and I found medieval saints in the Lower Ninth Ward, explored the castle Mark Twain loathed, chased monsters in New Orleans, found medievalism by Lake Pontchartrain, and tailgated at a Cajun ring-joust.

Of course, medievalism abounds in the South. Just look for a Gothic synagogue in Georgia.

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Amid Ren Faires and the umpteenth Arthurian novel, we may forget that medievalism is often grim stuff. Remember the Balkans, where medieval nostalgia stirs unnerving memories of the Battle of Kosovo and puts the capture of Radovan Karadzic in context.

Likewise, the 2008 war the Caucasus meant rediscovering the medievalist nationalism of South Ossetia and muddling through the baffling history of Georgia.

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In 2008, the credit crunch reminded us that financial derivatives have medieval roots.

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 Of course, anything Charlemagne-themed is blog-fodder here:

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Is The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao not only a Dominican-American story, but also a New Jersey novel?

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What are we losing, perhaps, in the rush to digitize?

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Can filmmaker Oscar Micheaux teach us something about the Middle Ages?

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Which medieval poem was translated by Langston Hughes and T.S. Eliot?

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The late Christopher Logue, adapter of The Iliad, knew how poetry sounds with a mouth full of blood.