Archive for ‘Best of 2014’


“Shuffling your memories, dealing your doodles in margins…”

I won’t be sorry to see 2014 sink silently into its grave. It was a year of too much work, too little good health, and almost no time at all for the writing I’d hoped to do.

Even so, when I look back at the year that was, I’m satisfied with the quality of what I posted on this blog, if not the quantity. As you recover from feasting and holiday travel, I hope you’ll enjoy this recap and discover a post or two you otherwise missed.

Thanks for checking in! I’m grateful for your occasional eyeballs; in the year ahead I’ll do my best to make this blog worthy of their ongoing attention.

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The “Quid Plura?” year in medieval-ish books:

We learned at last how J.R.R. Tolkien translated Beowulf into Tolkienese.

I loved Need-Fire, a book-length poem by Becky Gould Gibson about the women who ran the double monastery at Whitby during the 7th century.

Why do people throw themselves into medieval reenactment? Novelist Tod Wodicka offered some answers in his delightfully titled All Shall Be Well, and All Shall Be Well, and All Manner of Things Shall Be Well.

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The “Quid Plura?” year in medievalism, American-style:

Traveling in Colorado invited musings on medieval traces in the Old West; the debate rolls ever on.

It’s been a while since Flannery O’Connor was seen only as a “Southern Gothic” writer; she should also be remembered as a committed American medievalist.

This year, I learned that taking pictures with a 50-year-old Polaroid is like composing verse in strict poetic forms, but I went out anyway and sought scenes from medieval-ish America—a project very much in progress.

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The “Quid Plura?” year in creepy international medievalism:

The name of the al-Qaeda group “Khorasan” reminds us of Tom Shippey’s dictum that “[t]here are . . . many medievalisms in the world, and some of them are as safe as William Morris wallpaper: but not all of them.”

Likewise, why did Gavrilo Princip choose June 28 for the assassination that ignited World War I? He had medieval Serbia in mind.

The Sochi Olympics prompted a look back at W.E.D. Allen’s remarkable History of the Georgian People, which reads like a Robert E. Howard yarn.

As a disinterested observer, I had no opinion on the outcome of the Scottish independence referendum except to note that the Scots themselves set a worthy and decent precedent: keeping their medieval forefathers silent and snug in their graves.

Still, you never know where medievalism and nationalism might intertwine. In Baltimore, I stumbled onto a memorial that uses medieval Poland to sanctify modern heroes.

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The “Quid Plura?” year in translation:

For the 1,200th anniversary of Charlemagne’s death, I translated Walafrid’s account of Charlemagne in purgatory into metrical, alliterative verse.

I did the same with a poem about the month of November by a ninth-century monk, but I translated part of Alcuin’s “The Debate Between Spring and Winter” into a rather earthier idiom.

To my surprise, my English version of a lament on the death of Charlemagne’s infant daughter was accepted for publication in the summer translation issue of Able Muse.

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The “Quid Plura?” year in academia:

By now, anyone who enters grad school in the humanities must know that the prospects are bleak, but in the 1980s and 1990s at least two medievalists saw this crisis coming.

That said, when journalists summarize academic research, the scholars in question often deserve better—so no, there weren’t as many female Viking warriors as there were men.