hrj: (doll)
Being sick right after getting back from my trip, in combination with the respiratory aspect meaning I’ve skipped the gym this week, has meant I haven’t completed reading anything new to review. (My current gym read is the lesbian historical romance anthology Through the Hourglass that my Margaret & Laudomia story is in. For professional reasons I won’t be doing a formal review of it--and nothing I’d post on Amazon or Goodreads--but I’ll probably say something about it when I’m done.)

So how about a “book intake post” covering both Chicago and Kalamazoo? I've added Amazon links when available for those who might want to look further.

Lauri and I went to the Art Institute of Chicago, which has a permanent display of a set of miniature period rooms, designed and commissioned by Chicago socialite Mrs. James Ward Thorne. There was a lovely catalog covering all the displays and it felt like a useful visual reference for historic room settings. (It also got me thinking about making miniature models of some Alpennian locations, but I was easily able to deflect that into “projects I will never do in this lifetime.”)

Weingartner, Fannia and Bruce Hatton Boyer. 2004. Miniature Rooms: The Thorne Rooms at the Art Institute of Chicago. Art Institute of Chicago, Chicago. ISBN 978-0300141597

The bookstore had a number of tempting sale items, but the only one I succumbed to was a thick volume of alchemical symbolism in art. I’m investing so much in alchemy books, it’s clear that a future novel will need to come back to the subject in a major way.

Roob, Alexander. 2014. Alchemy and Mysticism. Taschen, Köln. ISBN 978-3836549363

In the book rooms at Kalamazoo I’ve discovered the convenience of simply having the publishers ship rather than stuffing my suitcase for the trip home. So I only brought three purchases back with me. One is a gift, the other two are just for general background reference and inspiration.

McIver, Katherine A. 2014. Cooking and Eating in Renaissance Italy: From Kitchen to Table (Rowman & Littlefield Studies in Food and Gastronomy). Rowman & Littlefield Publishers, Lanham. ISBN 978-1442227187

It looks like a serious but general-audience survey of the topic of Renaisance Italian food. This isn’t deeply technical or detailed. You could probably read it through in a single evening (which I have yet to do).

Jackson, Deirdre. 2015. Medieval Women. British Library Publishing, London. ISBN 978-0-7123-5865-1

I’m a sucker for glossy collections of visual references on particular themes, especially women's lives. This is a selection of illustrations from medieval manuscripts showing a wide variety of aspects of women’s lives. Generally I use this sort of work to research details of material culture that often are incidental to the overt subject of the scenes. For example, one depiction of a woman being beaten shows her headdress having fallen off and therefore shows aspects of its construction that wouldn't be visible in place.

The fun part of having books shipped is that it means you get a series of packages in the mail over the next month or two. Like having an extended birthday party. I got the first one yesterday -- part of my Penn State University Press purchase, once more on the theme of alchemy, this time looking at the social, philosophical, and religious context in which serious thinkers such as Roger Bacon turned their thoughts and pens to the topic. Penn State's Magic in History series is a great resource in general.

Janacek, Bruce. 2015. Alchemical Belief: Occultism in the Religious Culture of Early Modern England (Magic in History). Penn State University Press, Pennsylvania. ISBN 978-0271050140

For some reason, although they were shipped at the same time, the second book I bought from this press was sent separately. This book analyzes the inventory taken of Il Magnifico’s posessions at the time of his death. Just in case one wanted to know how to outfit at opulent Italian villa or two...

Stapleford, Richard. 2014. Lorenzo de' Medici at Home: The Inventory of the Palazzo Medici in 1492. Penn State University Press, Pennsylvania. ISBN 978-0271056425

Yet to be shipped are the following books from Boydell & Brewer. They’re usually good for a variety of topics, especially including textiles, clothing, food and cookery, and the occasional other topic of interest. (And, as always, the annual Medieval Clothing and Textiles volume.)

Medieval Clothing and Textiles #12 (advance purchase, as it wasn’t released yet at the conference)

The Medieval Clothing and Textiles volumes have the same broad mix of topics as the DISTAFF sessions at Kalamazoo and Leeds, although only an occasional paper specifically comes from those sessions. Like a box of mixed chocolates, you never know what you're going to get, but overall it will be delicious.

Hyer, Maren Clegg & Jill Frederick (eds.). 2016. Textiles, Text, Intertext: Essays in Honour of Gale R. Owen-Crocker. Boydell Press. ISBN 9781783270736

I haven't looked at the contents list of this yet, but bought it for sentimental reasons. Gale is such a lovely gracious presence within the DISTAFF group, and so very supportive of researchers of all types.

Chapman, Adam. 2015. Welsh Soldiers in the Later Middle Ages, 1282-1422. Boydell Press. ISBN 9781783270316

Despite the new and interesting places my writing-related research interests have drifted to, I haven't entirely abandoned medieval Wales. I have a specific future writing project that this might be useful for...

I bought something at the University of Chicago Press booth, now where did I put that slip? I have the credit card receipt, but not a copy of the order form, so I guess I’ll just have to wait until they show up to remember what I bought!

And then here are a variety of books on culinary topics that looked interesting enough to snap pix of, but that I didn’t buy. In some cases, the contents looked either too elementary or too literary-oriented to be of specific interest to me. In other cases I may decide to order them on further consideration.

Nadeau, Carolyn A. 2016. Food Matters: Alonso Quijano's Diet and the Discourse of Food in Early Modern Spain. University of Toronto Press, Toronto. ISBN 978-1442637306

This one was on the "a bit too literary-oriented" side, exploring food references in Don Quixote, but for those who specialize in Iberian cuisine, it's worth a further look.

Salloum, Habeeb. 2013. Scheherazade's Feasts: Foods of the Medieval Arab World. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0812244779

I left this one on the shelf when I saw the line in the description, "The recipes are translated from medieval sources and adapted for the modern cook." But for those who are completists in historic Arabic culinary books (or who want to keep track of the pop culture versions that other people may be using for historic purposes), it's a beautiful little book and is probably useful for general background.

Wall, Wendy. 2015. Recipes for Thought: Knowledge and Taste in the Early Modern English Kitchen. University of Pennsylvania Press. ISBN 978-0812247589

A study, not of cookery, but of culinary literature as a genre. The blurb suggests that this may focus more on philosophical analysis than some may be interested in. Sample quote: Recipe exchange, we discover, invited early modern housewives to contemplate the complex components of being a Renaissance "maker" and thus to reflect on lofty concepts such as figuration, natural philosophy, national identity, status, mortality, memory, epistemology, truth-telling, and matter itself. Kitchen work, recipes tell us, engaged vital creative and intellectual labors.

Marty-Dufaut, Josy. 2015. La Cuisine Normande au XIIIe Siècle. Bayeux: Heimdal. ISBN 978-2-84048-422-6

In French. I may be sorry for not picking this up when it was in front of me, as it looks like it might be difficult to order in the US. (It doesn't have an Amazon listing.) My recollection is that it looked like a glossy "some history and some adapted recipes" work. Here's the catalog description from the above link.

La cuisine du XIIIe siècle a été longtemps méconnue, occultée par les ouvrages emblématiques, Le Viandier de Taillevent et Le Mesnagier de Paris, parus au XIVe siècle. Le XIIIe siècle est une époque d’extension, de commerce intense, d’échanges culturels. C’est l’âge d’or pour les Normands qui s’implantent dans de nombreux pays. L’Europe occidentale présente une unité et une communauté jamais connues jusque-là. La cuisine est un témoignage de cette cohésion européenne. Cet ouvrage s’intéresse aux recettes présentées dans les manuscrits anglo-normands et scandinaves. Ils sont la copie de textes antérieurs issus de la France, de la Sicile, eux-mêmes copiés à partir d’autres textes ou trouvant leurs sources d’inspiration dans la culture gréco-latine et la cuisine de l’Orient. Les plats emblématiques qui feront la réputation de la cuisine de Taillevent y apparaissent déjà. Les bases de la cuisine médiévale y sont données. L’art culinaire est en constante évolution.

Woolgar, C. M. 2016. The Culture of Food in England, 1200-1500. Yale University Press. ISBN 978-0300181913

A general social history of food in England. Probably very like all the general social histories of food in England that have been published before.

Montanari, Massimo. 2015. A Cultural History of Food in the Medieval Age. Bloomsbury Academic. ISBN 978-1474269919

And, similarly to the preceding, a general survey work, aimed at non-specialists. It looks like this series is intended for college survey classes and the like. Books of this sort may or may not be written by specialists in the field, with all the potential weaknesses that can bring. (Based on my own experience, it's not uncommon for publishers with this sort of series to approach a potential author on the basis of hearing a single paper in the field. I got approached about writing a survey of medieval clothing volume for a similar series once and was a bit flabbergasted that that was all it took. I declined, noting that the project would be of more professional benefit to an academic who needed material for their cv.)
hrj: (doll)
DISTAFF, the textiles group, had both 8:30 and 10:30 sessions scheduled this morning, but two of the three papers in the 8:30 session cancelled, so Lauri (the third) got moved into the 10:30 which will potentially slop over (being the last time-slot of the Congress).

Session 514: Dress and Textiles II: Codes, Classification, Camouflage

Sponsor: DISTAFF
Organizer: Robin Netherton
Presider: Gale R. Owen-Crocker

Dressing Up and Dressing Down: The Uses of Livery in the Fourteenth Century - Laurel Ann Wilson, Independent Scholar

Traces the evolution of livery from its origins as a type of "payment in kind" of clothing, in addition to wages, to its modern sense of "a type of highly standardized identifying clothing, a uniform".

Earlier livery allotments were often highly stratified and distinguished by the role and position among the recipients, not only in terms of the quality and amount of cloth, but differentiating colors and what proportion of solid or striped fabric, as well as furs for higher status recipients. The giving of livery was restricted to high status individuals, such that it was considered a transgression for someone not of sufficient rank to distribute it to his followers. The receipt of livery was considered a right, and in some cases the failure to be given livery relieved a person of obligations to the lord.

The wearing of livery displayed the lord's wealth and status, and it was important for recipients to wear it, especially on public occasions, so as not to imply their lord was stingy or poor. But receiving livery also gave status to the recipient, and so the distribution could be used as a tool to require the physical presence of the recipients in order to receive it.

The detailed specifications of exactly what cloth people receive include a curious reference to late additions to a livery roll receiving an allotment of the "secta" [Latin] of a particular occupational class--a term that may possibly refer to the specific color/pattern in which it was to be used to identify that class of recipient.

It is a later development for all recipients of livery in a household to receive clothing with a uniform appearance (though perhaps different quality), where the garments as well as the colors and decorations are identical. This created the "uniform appearance" (in both senses) that is associated with the term "livery" today.

Livery distributions to royal households could include hundreds of individuals. This could easily have had a massive economic influence on cloth/clothing markets, though it's hard to tell whether the market's ability to provide hundreds of identical outfits drove the distribution, or whether the desire to distribute hundreds of identical outfits drove the market to keep up and supply them.

[Cancelled papers: Dressing, Undressing, and Cros-dressing in Early Modern Accounts of the Holy Land - Emily Price; A Man in an Otter Suit: Echoes of Norse Magic in the Nibelungenlied - M. A. Nordtorp-Madson]

Session 542: Dress and Textiles III: Working with Textiles

Sponsor: DISTAFF
Organizer: Robin Netherton
Presider: Robin Netherton

Gender and Textile Production in Thirteenth-Century Paris - Janice M. Archer, Independent Scholar

Survey of gendered aspects of the structured textile industry, which controlled who profited from the trade and who was stuck in low-paying manual jobs. Identifying women's economic contributions via tax records can be difficult in "intact" households, as legal records normally only list male head-of-household. But singlewomen, widows, and occasionally a married woman with a separate business are listed on their own. Women may be grouped with others (adult children, groups of beguines, etc.) for tax purposes, but typically women stand alone in these records. Men's assessments will silently incorporate the productivity of wives and children.

Overall (all textile trades), female tax entries are more skewed toward the lowest tax bracket (but this may be due to the men subsuming other incomes?). Men are 78% of listed taxpayers, women 21%. Wool workers are generally better off than average but the gender distribution is similar. Silk workers show an even greater skewing to higher tax bracket, but still with women lagging. Looking at silk producers (e.g., silk throwers, as opposed to mercers), all men are in the lowest tax bracket, while women have the typical tailed distribution. Numerically, this role was primarily filled by women. Silk mercers show a very different pattern. with men having more of a curve distribution for both men and women, peaking in the middle tax bracket. Hemp and linen workers have a typical tailed distribution but needleworkers are badly skewed to the bottom.

Looking at the median tax for various wool jobs, the higher paid professions generally show men paying a higher tax than women. The highest taxes were paid by drapers, but male drapers paid much higher taxes than women, as a rule, perhaps due to access to higher status markets.

Example of one family's assessment shows the head of household plus 2 servants, 2 nephews, a son and a daughter, where only the daughter is left unnamed, despite being taxed at the same rate as her brother.

Female fullers and shearers had a median tax higher than men, but in each case this is based on a single individual. She may be part of the household of a named man (though taxed separately) or the widow of a man who had the same profession, and these assessments may reflect and inherited clientele.

As a general rule, the smaller percentage of women in a profession, the higher the tax assessment; the larger the percentage of women, the lower the tax assessment (and therefore the lower the income). But "family matters" -- women have higher incomes when family connections gain them access to elite markets.

"A Verie Good Way to Take Out Spottes": Modern Experimentation with Sixteenth-Century Textile Stain Cleaning Recipies - Cassandra Chambers Wagner, Independent Scholar

Examines "spot-cleaning" techniques, used for stains on outer garments that would not normally be wash completely. Looks at four texts from Germany, England, and France from the mid to later 16th century. This is an experimental history project to test the recipes for efficacy. White pre-washed linen were used as the test fabric, stained with Olive oil, red wine, mustard sauce, green sauce, blood, mud, beeswax (cloth not pre-washed), and oak gall & iron ink.

Sample 1: control, not treated
Sample 2: Water only (30 min pre-soak and water only hand wash)
Sample 3 & 4 modern stain treatments (detergent, Shout spray + detergent)

Samples 5-14 are from historic recipes: soap ball, lye-based cleaners, plant-based cleaners, fullers earth, milk, for the wax only: tallow & hot iron.

5. Soap ball: very poor result.
6. Cold lye (pH 13-14) worked well on stains 1-5 but poorly on mud & ink.
7. Lye + Alum (intended for wool, lower pH): not as good as lye alone
8. Salt, orange, lye: worked similarly to cold lye, but better on the mud
9. Lemon juice: worked on ink very well, but much less well on others.
10. Pea water (from boiling peas): worked well on blood and mud, not so well on others.
11. Strawberry water: not only doesn't remove stains, but dyes the linen pink.
12. Fullers earth: worked well on blood, mud, not so much for others.
13. Cow's milk (intended for wine stains): WOrked well on red wine, not so much on others.
14. Tallow & hot iron (for wax only): Tried with and without tallow, and the tallow does take more wax out.

Put It to the Log: Exploring the Mechanics of a Late Medieval Dyeing Technique - Jennifer Ratcliffe, Independent Scholar

A very general survey of the medieval dye industry and trade, the chemical processes, and lots of pretty pictures of colored cloth and thread. [The problem with survey papers like this is that there's too much detail to include and no real overall conclusions. Sorry!]
hrj: (doll)
Sure enough, the three sessions I thought were most interesting in the whole conference were all scheduled in the same time-slot. Saturday, 3:30-5:00. This time I leaned in the direction of topics potentially relevant to deep-background research on mystical topics for future books. (I think I'm going to need to do some more serious alchemy to make use of all the background research I've done.)

Session 450: Rolls and Scrolls after the Codex: New Approaches to an Old Technology

Sponsor: Beinecke Rare Book & Manuscript Library
Organizer: Hindley, Adair, Hurley
Presider: Raymond Clemens

Praying in Gold: Luxury Scrolls of the Office of Holy Communion - Stefanos Alexopoulos, Catholic Univ. of America & Robert S. Nelson, Yale Univ.

Begins with a physical description of the scroll (a Greek text, I assume Orthodox in origin), especially decorative elements. (This scroll was acquired by the sponsoring institution.) Discusses various dating possibilities based on paleographical grounds, with comparative texts. Focus on the decorated capitals, similar styles appear in outline only two centuries earlier, but this ms uses the decorative style as a revival and has the primary lines in gold, with color highlights. Other dating elements come from the structure and number of the prayers included.

This type of scroll of prayers began in monastic settings but then was adopted for private use, taking communion using pre-consecrated elements. From the 13-15th c. 30-35 scrolls of this type survive, nearly all of them unique in structure. But there is a small number of luxury scrolls like the present object, distinguished by the quality of the materials, the excellence of the hand, the presence of gold, and significant amounts of unused parchment (margins and end). Typically have ornamented head-pieces (missing in the present item). There are 5-6 of these luxury scrolls that are textually identical, a strong contrast to the typical examples. There is no introductory material (canon, psalms, hymns, Lord have mercy, etc.) and the sequence and nature of the prayers is nearly identical.

Alexopoulos proposes that these elements indicate that these luxury scrolls represent the earliest and original text of the Office of Communion scroll of this type. [I believe this is: not that the objects are the oldest, but that the preserve the original format.]

Further provenance information is suggested by the near-identity of certain decorative elements to manuscripts from the "Atelier of Palaiologina". (These comparative items include both manuscripts and rolls.) OK, I must have missed something because now I think they're saying that the decorative elements of the scroll being studied are similar to the "Atelier" group but that the hand is significantly different. I think I'm catching up: the Beineke scroll (the one the paper is about) is not part of this 'very early identical luxury scroll" group because it has additional content, despite being otherwise similar in structure. So the identical scrolls provide a context but aren't a direct comparison.

Nor thunder nor lightnyng, slepynge ne waking, ne wyndys ne blastys on londe ne water: Separating Birth Girdles, Charms, and Prayer Rolls - Katherine Hindley, Yale Univ.

A look at how increasing literacy affected attitudes toward written charms and prayer rolls. Believe that the term "birth girdle" is often mis-applied to some scrolls, and that objects might shift between this category might and that of prayer roll. The "birth girdle" refers to objects referencing the relic of the girdle of the Virgin Mary, which could be borrowed by women in labor and wrapped around them for protection. Surviving examples cover the period up to printing.

These objects are long scrolls with prayers and illuminations and symbols. One that is confirmed as a birth girdle (based on instructions written on the object itself) is well-worn and includes symbols of the passion as well as prayers. Another has decoration around the instructions written on the back that resembles the decorative studs and bands seen on actual belts.

Medieval charms often "collapse" the distance between the biblical text and the immediate ailment being treated. Various examples are presented of charms that substitute the patient's name for the holy person being referenced in the text.

The instructive texts are oriented lengthwise on the scroll, thus being readable only when oriented horizontally as a belt. But the major prayers are written across the width of the scroll, so if they are not readable when used as a girdle, is it really (or only) a girdle charm? Furthermore, some of the "birth girdle" rolls address a grammatically male user. Other scrolls provide lists of the hazards they guard against. But some that explicitly note protection in childbirth are not physically possible to use as a belt, and don't specifically refer to wearing it as such, only to "bearing it". So, although they ware elongated scrolls of protection, that doesn't make them prototypical "birth girdles".

In addition, some of the scrolls include references to owners, and all of the listed owners are male. As context, other non-scroll protective texts do include references to female owners or intended female users.

Conclusion: there's a continuum of usage, from purely amuletic to purely devotional. The label of "birth girdle" is misleading and inaccurate as a description of intended use, in most cases.

Unrolling the 'Ripley scrolls': Alchemy, Art, and Patronage in Fifteenth-Century England - Jennifer M. Rampling, Princeton Univ.

Survey of alchemical literature and imagery through a tour of the famous "Ripley scrolls". Earliest: late 15th c., latest ca. 19th, many appear to be intended as exact copies of earlier scrolls while some add new elements. Artistic skill varies enormously.

Who made them and for whom? Why were they hand-copied well past the point when printing was common? And why scrolls rather than codexes, when codexes were the norm?

Was this format relevant to how they were used? One scroll used as illustrative shows a sequence of individual symbolic scenes, oriented vertically (i.e., with the text across the width of the scroll) as if they were a sequence of pages head-to-tail. Evidently technically this makes them "rolls" rather than "scrolls". The texts are specifically intended to be obscure, requiring knowledge and understanding to interpret correctly. The attribution to the 16th c. alchemist George Ripley is false, thus making the "Ripley scrolls" neither Ripley's nor scrolls.

(The paper summarizes the general process of the alchemical production of the philosopher's stone.) Alchemy was a complex, expensive, and detailed process. But the symbolism and description on the rolls varied greatly in detail.

English alchemical texts of the later medieval/early modern period were in both English and Latin. Henry VIII licensed alchemists. Alchemy texts were of interest to scientists/philosophers, courtiers, as well as clerical scholars. Later texts were often "presentation texts" given by an alchemist to a prospective patron to demonstrate his knowledge and ability. These presentation texts date later than the earliest "Ripley scrolls". Were they perhaps an early version of "presentation text" intended as a symbol of the knowledge offered by the alchemist to his patron? One scroll concludes with a human figure who appears to represent the author (carrying a spear-sized pen, wrapped about with a scroll. In some early versions, this "authorial" figure stands to one side and faces an empty space, or in a few cases, a royal figure. Might this represent the alchemist-author and his prospective royal patron? There is a similar image in an alchemy codex that explicitly addresses a royal patron. IT is similar in content in some ways to the rolls, but the imagery is disrupted and rearranged due to the context format. Instead of vertical connection between the various images, they are now disjoint on separate (codex) pages.

So the answer "why a codex" may be "due to the ability to connect the imagery in a continuous process" (the alchemical process). Other genres of rolls, e.g., genealogies, take advantage of the layout to organize the contents in ways that wouldn't work in a codex. But another motivation for alchemy in particular may be due to the way one can conceal all but the specific content being viewed, tying in to the air of secrecy surrounding the practice of alchemy.
hrj: (doll)
Ok, so the actual session title invokes only Sidney, but I'm here for the paper on Cavendish. Evidently the theme of my session choices so far is "topics potentially relevant to the LHMP." Listening to the opening remarks of the session, it sounds like the Sidney Society is a fairly tight-knit group where everyone knows each other. It's quite possible that I'm the only "outsider" attending this session. It makes me wonder how many essentially independent communities gather here.

For relevant background, see Arcadia, Mary Wroth, Margaret Cavendish.

Session 352: New Circles/ New Voices
Sponsor: International Sidney Society
Organizer: Nandra Perry
Presider: Kathryn DeZur

Affectionate Judgment: Gender and Forgiveness in Philip Sidney's Old Arcadia - Tommy Pfannkoch, Texas A&M Univ.

Sidney's work as a "blend" of genres and themes that challenge contrasting binaries. This paper looks at what this approaches accomplishes, rather than what it consists of. Reader's uncertainty of characters' motivations and actions requires generosity and forgiveness. Pyrocles' friend advises him against the cross-dressing strategem as it will turn him womanish and he will become the thing he desires (and emulates). Pyrocles argues he's not inspired by carnal passion, but by Philoclea's virtues as depicted in the portrait he fell in love with. When Pyrocles challenges his friend on this he demands understanding and a more charitable view of his desires and actions. This is the first incident where a superficial understanding that gives rise to a negative judgment is challenged and a more generous understanding gives rise to forgiveness and a more positive spin.

Pfannkoch makes a connection with early modern Protestant philosophy and the nature of Christ's forgiveness and charity toward sinful man. Contrasts two types of immature attitude toward the wrongs other people do: those who see everything in the worst possible light; those who view their own sins as minimal because they can identify much worse actions done by others. Pyrocles' friend follows the first, putting the worst plausible spin on Pyrocles' plans. There is no doubt that Pyrocles' cross-dressing is "wrong", but the question is whether it does or does not deserve a charitable interpretation.

The Arcadia can be read as taking a similar view on charity in considering a too-great adherence by authority to the details of law as becoming "tyranny". The theme of uncertainty (in motivation and fate) as being a motivating basis for charitable interpretation and forgiveness by the law is another consistent theme.

[Interesting: despite the central theme of Pyrocles' cross-dressed and therefore superficially same-sex courtship, the paper focuses entirely from the male point of view and considerations of that the act means to the men involved.]

Wroth and Ovid: Constancy in a Changing World - Thomasin Bailey, Univ. of Warwick

Mary Wroth wrote sequence of sonnets invoking variety of authorities including Ovid. Mary Wroth was niece of Sidney. The paper looks at how such authority is used to create an image of literary continuity, even in the face of innovation. "In this strange labyrinth, how shall I turn?" Does the poet (in the persona of Pamphilia) identify with Ariadne or with Theseus? Or possibly as the Minotaur? Or is the reference simply to the concept of the labyrinth with no specific character-identification at all? The poem uses repetition of choice-language to evoke the attempt to find a path through the maze.

Wroth's Pamphilia diverges from Theseus as a model in having the virtue of constancy and finding her way through the maze to true and faithful love. In multiple poems, Pamphilia seems to have the role of "correcting" the moral lessons of the Ovidian stories into which she intrudes. E.g., in a poem invoking the story of Io and Echo and Juno's jealous punishment. But Pamphilia takes on the role of Echo and subverts the original role as an empty babbling tale-teller. Pamphilia then moves on to the role of Narcissus and again redeems the original narrative by self-understanding of the nature of the original-reflection relationship. The poet is herself a reflection of Classical sources, and then reflects them back in her work. Poetic imitation becomes a dead-end of reflection, while self-knowledge results in remaking the self and the poetic output. Through all the "metamorphoses", the persona of Pamphilia simultaneously remains constant (in virtue) while transforming.

Margaret Cavendish's The Convent of Pleasure as Parody of Sir Philip Sidney's Countess of Pembroke's Arcadia - Chelsea Franco, Florida International Univ.

Cavendish expressed the opinion that novels such as Sidney's Arcadia led women into unrealistic expectations of love and marriage. This suggests that the parallels between the cross-dressing romance of Pyrocles and Philoclea, and the all-female community of Lady Happy in Cavendish's Convent of Pleasure (which is infiltrated by a cross-dressing suitor in order to win Lady Happy's love) is intended as a satire specifically on the Arcadia. Although the suitor is eventually successful, the process of the courtship is derided. Lady Happy begins as an outspoken separatist, rejecting [heterosexual] marriage and courtship. But when tricked into falling in love with a (disguised) mad, she gradually falls silent, losing her "voice" and becoming a passive marital commodity, acquired by the man.

The two cross-dressing male suitors are treated in roughly parallel fashion, but scholarship rarely looks at the parallels, focusing instead on the differences due to the gender of the authors as reflecting in the portrayals. (There is a survey of various scholarly takes on the Convent of Pleasure and its relationship to the author's religion and the socio-religious context in which it was written.)

Franco spends some time establishing the plausibility that Cavendish was familiar with the Aracdia. And then touches on the possibility that Cavendish's husband may have written the concluding parts (possibly relevant to the erasure of Lady Happy's agency?). In both stories there is a secondary character who first is suspicious of the gender of the cross-dressed character, but where issues of jealousy (either the 2ary character's desire for the infiltrating man, or for the friendship of the female object of the courtship). One contrast (that suggests satire) is the ease with which Pyrocles (portrayed as a youth) passes as a woman, while Lady Happy's suitor notes the implausibility of passing due to his age (voice, etc.) and needs to find another angle. At multiple times during the courtship of Lady Happy, her suitor plays the role of [a woman playing the role of] a man within in-story theatricals. This creates a context for Lady Happy to be vulnerable to a romantic address within a heteronormative script. In both cases, the object of courtship is first persuaded to accept the harmlessness of being in love with a woman, and only later informed that the love she's accepted is that of a man.

Lady Happy's actions and reactions are most consistent if she is viewed as a primarily satirical figure, skewering the model of romance and marriage that women are pressured to accept, as well as the expectations of a successful courtship.
hrj: (doll)
Yes, it's the return of the Kalamazoo Live-Blog! Lauri and I arrived just in time to catch the 1:30 sessions, but I didn't have my brain together enough to blog that one. I may or may not have time to post my regular Friday Review as well. If not, this is what you get.

Session 286 - Hermaphrodites: Genitalia, Gender, and Being Human in the Middle Ages (A Roundtable)

Sponsor: postmedieval: a journal of medieval cultural studies
Organizer: Ruth Evans
Presider: Eileen A. Joy

I picked this session because I've been tracing the theme of hermaphrodites/intersex status as a context/"excuse" for apparently female-female sexual relationships in medieval and early modern texts. So I'm interested to see what other people are saying about the topic. From the material I've been covering in the LHMP, it's clear that claims of being a hermaphrodite were sometimes used as exculpatory evidence against accusations of female sodomy. But given the often peculiar popular notions of what hermaphroditism was at that time, it seems to me that the popular image was sometimes (often?) used as cover for f/f or woman/trans man relationships, while other times possibly reflecting genuine intersex individuals in the process of being recategorized.

Introductory Notes - from Ruth Evans

Today, medical/cultural issue that challenges binary categories. Medieval view similarly challenged categories, not only of gender but of religion and the nature of humanity.

Hermaphroditism and Liberation - David Rollo, Univ. of Southern California

Looks at concepts of "Excess", that sometimes transgression comes not from the nature of an act, but from doing anything to excess. [I'm not quite catching the treatise he's working from because the display has tiny tiny text.] This treatise has been viewed as a polemic against "acts against nature", but Rollo argues that it is not about clear-cut boundaries, but about how "natural" acts, reactions, and attitudes can lead to sin/transgression if followed to excess. E.g., a girl's "natural" obedience to a parent can be sin if the parent demands sexual obedience. Rollo refers to this text as a "hermaphroditic text" but seems to be using h. in a metaphoric sense, rather than biological/categorical.

Sex and Genre: Disorienting the Place of Hermaphrodites in Pilgrimage Narratives - M. W. Bychowski, George Washington Univ.

What is excluded from the debate/narrative of hermaphrodite/transgender discussions as what is discussed. In particular, intersex individuals tend to be excluded and omitted from modern debates on gender categorization. In both modern and historic gender category discussions, intersex tends to be displaced to "other" places and peoples. Looks at the historic roots of modern gender-category debates in medieval pilgrimage narratives. This genre often touches on travel to "exotic" locations where othered individual of many types exist, literally in the margins of civilization. John Mandeville's travel tales discuss just such marginal hermaphrodites who are perceived not simply as distant from humanity, but as something set entirely apart and independent of "ordinary" humanity. [A fair amount of the paper plays with imagery/metaphor of the intersection of "Hermes" and "Aphrodite" in post-modernist ways, and regularly tying the topic back to modern gender-category politics. The main thrust of the presentation focuses very strongly on the contemporary issues.]

Talking Back: Sodomy Laws and Intersex Subjectivity in Medieval Venice - Alexander Baldassano, Graduate Center, CUNY

Opens with context of the N.C. HB2 "bathroom bill", similarly to the previous presentation. Ties the historic legal case into the question of scrutiny of questionable bodies in order to assign appropriate categories. The legal concept of sodomy often addressed the transgression of binary gender categories via "inappropriate" sexual interactions. The defendant was being evaluated as having committed sodomy with a man, which would require categorization as a man. The defendant had been married to a woman at a past point, but the legal case was prompted by a sexual encounter with a man in which the defendant was viewed as having a passive (female) role. After this, the defendant moved to another city and lived as a woman, but was accused of posing as a woman to commit sodomy and condemned as such. Though the defendant throughout claimed female identity, the court refused to accept this defense and insisted on being given "a better truth". The legal context did not allow for an intermediate interpretation in which both the original presentation (as male) and the later one (as female) might have been equally (un)true.

The Hermaphroditic Soul in Medieval Art - Sherry C.M. Lindquist, Western Illinois Univ.

[Once more opens with remarks about current legal controversies.] Survey of hermaphroditic images in medieval art, e.g., as monsters in marginal locations of maps. But also used as positive image, e.g., in alchemical imagery, or representing the biblical passage about "there is neither male nor female in Christ". But these representations existed simultaneously with the "one gender" image of women as imperfect men. Image of the soul as devoid of physical gender cues. In some images, nudity of the soul represents purity, while in other cases, clothed "souls" represent sanctity (souls in heaven) while nudity represents damnation. Sometimes otherwise naked souls wear underpants, for an intermediate message[*], or props within the image conceal the genitalia to avoid the question. Esp. a conventionalized image of angels holding up a naked soul-person in a sort of white cloth hammock which often conceals the genitalia. Similarly, an image of the soul as a winged (angelic?) figure might use the wings to conceal the genitalia. Conversely, because of the grammatically feminine nature of "anima" and the image of the soul as the bride of Christ, there may have been pressure on male viewers to accept identification with imagery of the soul as female. And some representations are clearly female, with notable breasts and feminine hairstyles.

[*] But note that this interpretation seems to assume that underpants are non-gendered, which I would dispute based on my own research on the topic.

"Wikked Wyves" and the "Secrets of Women": The Wife of Bath's Hermaphroditism - Wendy Marie Hoofnagle, Univ. of Northern Iowa

Hermaphrodites represented disorder and strife. This symbolism was particularly framed as misogynistic accusations against women viewed as transgressing against gendered limitations. So, for example, Chaucer's wife of Bath, and her familiarity with "women's secrets" and the Trotula (female-oriented medical manual), is described in terms that often invoke gender-blurring and the appropriation of "male" characteristics. The concept of "women's secrets/wisdom" reveals how female access to knowledge and wisdom was manipulated to exclude women from general knowledge and restrict them to topics specifically relevant to sex/reproduction, but also to frame "women's secrets" as malicious and dangerous to men. This then led to male-oriented texts on "women's secrets" and heightened anxiety about malicious women's knowledge and techniques that imperiled men, especially in sexual contexts. Another way to control women's medical authority was to associate traditions of "women's secrets" with hermaphroditism and sorcery. Chaucer's descriptions of the wife of Bath in masculinized terms includes description of her "shield-like" hat, her wearing of spurs, as well as her sexual dominance and outspokenness.
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The last of the Kalamazoo book-intake reviews is the “miscelaneous” group. (This is assuming I don’t still have books being shipped. But it looks like they all match up with my receipts.) The St. Albans Psalter really should have gone with the previous manuscript art books, but it hadn’t arrived yet.

Collins, Kristen, Peter Kidd, & Nancy K. Turner. 2013. The St. Albans Psalter: Painting and Prayer in Medieval England. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. ISBN 978-1-60606-145-9

A fairly standard single-manuscript study focusing on the illustrations and their textual context, but with basic information about the origin and history of the manuscript as a whole. There’s also a nicely detailed discussion of some of the artistic techniques. I picked it up largely because there is a wealth of human figures in the illustrations and I’m kind of weak on 12th c. English costuming resources. Many many color plates showing a wide variety of the standard Biblical set-pieces common to works of this sort.

Simms, Katharine. 2009. Medieval Gaelic Sources. Four Courts Press, Dublin. ISBN 978-1-84682-138-7

For primary sources for medieval Celtic history, one of the most useful types of tools for the beginner is a resource of this type that lays out exactly what sorts of sources are available, what they contain, and where to find them. This is more in the way of “deep background” than an exhaustive catalog. In contrast to the majority of books on medieval Irish topics, this focuses on history rather than literature.

Duncan, Thomas G. 2013. Medieval English Lyrics and Carols. D. S. Brewer, Cambridge. ISBN 978-1-84384-341-2

Primarily a collection of the texts of carols, with limited glossary notes and brief commentary in an appendix. Organized thematically. This is a very large collection with a high proportion of secular lyrics, but aspiring performers will be disappointed to find essentially no information about tunes.
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I hope to finish up the intake-reviews in two more sessions. This one covers textiles and clothing. The last one will be the “everything else” group. Three of these books aren’t technically Kalamazoo books because I mail-ordered them from David Brown/Oxbow before the ‘Zoo. But I’m counting them here because I would have bought them there if I hadn’t pre-ordered them.

Vedeler, Marianne. 2014. Silk for the Vikings. Oxbow Books, Havertown. ISBN 978-1-78297-215-0

Marianne Vedeler is rapidly joining my short list of “buy anything this person writes.” This is a relatively short and highly focused book covering all aspects of silk textiles found in Viking contexts. The opening chapters discuss a variety of textile finds from several sites, though the presentation does not appear to be exhaustive. The textiles are fragmentary -- in some cases due to preservation issues, but in others because these precious fabrics were cut into narrow strips to use as decoration. The number of illustrations is a bit disappointing -- only 12 color plates of textiles from Viking sites (though there are additional plates of similar textiles from regions that were on the likely trade routes). However these include several that I haven’t seen before, including some close-ups of embroideries. After a brief practical background on silk production and working, the remainder of the book covers the trade, economic, and social context of how these textiles came to the north.

It is likely that most people will find the $40 price tag a bit much for something this specialized (and, to be honest, this brief). The target audience is likely to include specialists in early medieval textile economics, textile archaeology, and Norse costume history.

Hopkins, Heather (ed.). 2013. Ancient Textiles, Modern Science: Re-creating Techniques through Experiment. Oxbow Books, Oxford. ISBN 978-1-84217-664-1

If you follow Katrin Kania’s blog Togs from Bogs then you’ve probably read bits and pieces about the European Textile Forum conferences and the sort of research that gave rise to this publication. This is a collection of papers from academics and other serious scholars who have taken up the challenge of using the re-creation of historic textile techniques to bring understanding to artifacts of the past. The papers include Kania’s extensive spinning experiments; a sort of “engineer’s guide” to possible tablet weaving structures by Sarah Goslee, as well as other reesarchers’ studies of re-creating specific table-woven artifacts; an extensive catalog of Stone Age textile techniques by Anne Reichert; a reconstruction of the Gunnister man’s outfit; and a concluding article by the editory on the Pompeiian dye industry.

As with the Viking silk book, the combination of the slimness of the volume (133pp) and the hefty price tag ($52) puts this out of impulse-buy territory. It is, however, an extremely professional product and several of the very technical papers (such as the one on spinning) go far beyond simply demonstrating the general value of archaeological re-creation in their contributions to an understanding of historic technologies.

Gleba, Margarita & Judit Pásztókai-Szeöke. 2013. Making Textiles in Pre-Roman and Roman Times: People, Places, Identities. Oxbow Books, Oxford. ISBN 978-1-84217-767-9

One of the types of publications that Oxbow is specializing in these days is collections of conference papers on textile topics such as this one. It comes from a workshop entitled “Work and Identity: The agents of textile production and exchange in the Roman period” and includes thirteen papers on both specialized and general topics related to textile production and trade. Both in topics and presentation the collection has a strong “traditional archaeology” feel to it. My favorites included several papers examining evidence (of various types) for the presence of women in textile production, both individual and commercial.

As with the preceding two books, this is meant for a highly specialized audience (or, more likely, for the library trade).

Netherton, Robin & Gale R. Owen-Crocker eds. 2014. Medieval Clothing and Textiles 10. The Boydell Press, Rochester. ISBN 978-1-84383-907-1

Like clockwork, every year at Kalamazoo there’s a new volume of Netherton and Owen-Crocker’s journal Medieval Clothing and Textiles. (This year, there was a cake celebrating the anniversary of the publication.) Articles that caught my eye this time include Maureen C. Miller’s “The Liturgical Vestments of Castel Sant’Elia”, a collection of garments I’d love to have a closer study of (though this article doesn’t include the detail I want); Christine Meek’s “Clothing Distrained for Debt in the Court of Merchants of Lucca in the Late Fourteenth Century” which details a delightful cross-section of everyday garments; and Elizabeth Coatsworth’s biographical study of “Mrs. Christie” -- the woman behind the mammoth pioneering work English Medieval Embroidery.

Miller, Maureen C. 2014. Clothing the Clergy: Virtue and Power in Medieval Europe, c. 800-1200. Cornell University Press, Ithaa. ISBN 978-0-8014-7943-4

Due to my interest in studying the cut and construction of medieval garments, I’ve ended up with a fascination for ecclesiastical vestments as the represent the largest catetory of deliberate survivals and present an intriguingly continuous record of styles (if one that diverged significantly from that of secular garments). This is an extensive study on the purpose and uses of clothing and clothing display in the medieval Christian church. Other topics include the production and donation of vestments. The book is well illustrated, though art is somewhat more prevalent than physical garments. For someone looking for a solid and detailed grounding in medieval vestments, this will be very useful.
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Today’s book theme will be food and cookery.

Hieatt, Constance B. 2013. The Culinary Recipes of Medieval England. Propect Books, Totnes. ISBN 978-1-909248-30-4

This book has a simple but ambitious premise: to provide a single “basic standard version” for every distinct recipe appearing in the corpus of medieval English cookbooks. Hieatt had a headstart on this project in her previous Concordance of English Recipes: Thirteenth Through Fifteenth Centuries (written with Terry Nutter and Johnna H. Holloway) which indexed the entire corpus and grouped recipes that were variants of each other. The current work then choses from each recipe grouping the one that Hieatt considers to be the most basic, most correct, or most informative version. The recipes are presented in modernized language but without interpretation. The citation is given for the source(s) used but context (e.g., date) must be retrieved from the bibliography. Significant variants are given in footnotes but it isn’t the intent of the work do to a comparative study of the evolution of the dishes over time or to comment in detail on why one version is considered corrupt and another used as the standard. I mention these things not as a criticism, but only to note what the book does and does not aim to achieve.

The great advantage of this work is in the accessibility of the modernized text (and the thematic organization), making it easy to skim for particular recipes and dish types. The intended audience would seem to be the more experienced culinary historian for whom it will be a reference work rather than a practical cookbook. I say this because much context and background knowledge is needed to interpret the recipes, and those with that knowledge are likely to prefer to work from the original texts. However in combination with the Concordance, it could be enormously useful for further study, either of the variety and development of specific dishes, or of the conceptual understanding of recipe categories (e.g., what makes a dish “Saracen” style? or what makes something a “brewet”?).

Dalby, Andrew. 2011. Geoponika: Farm Work. Prospect Books, Totnes. ISBN 978-1-903018-69-9

The subtitle is “A modern translation of the Roma and Byzantine farming handbook.” I am a complete sucker for historic texts detailing this sort of everyday practical knowledge. Topics include weather lore, agricultural personnel, advice on planting and harvesting various crops, weed and pest control, a calendar of seasonal tasks, and sections on viticulture, olives, fruit trees, decorative plants, vegetables, bees, and a surprisingly small section on domestic quadrupeds. There is a great deal of superstition mixed in with practical advice and interesting observations that may or may not have validity. The sections on edible crops have a certain amount of incidental information on consumption, including some recipes though most are medicinal in intent.

Frantzen, Allen J. 2014. Food, Eating and Identity in Early Medieval England. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge. ISBN 978-1-84383-908-8

A book, not so much on food per se but on the equipment, context, nomenclature, and practices around food. This is not a comprehensive and systematic study, but more a series of academic meditations on specific topics: literary descriptions of feasts and the artifcacts that can be associated with them; food vocabulary and word-lists; querns and pots; food in the laws; fasting and fish. The majority of the book has a very practical, material focus and is concerned first with description and only secondarily with interpretation. I wouldn’t consider it a book for the casual amateur, nor is it intended for someone with primarily practical culinary interests. But for someone interested in the larger context of early English foodways, it will have significant value.

Henisch, Bridget Ann. 2009. The Medieval Cook. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge. ISBN 978-1-84383-826-5

When I first saw the publication date I wondered how I’d missed this before, but a closer look indicates that it has only just been issued in paperback in 2013 and it isn’t quite so necessary a book that I would have sprung for a hardback copy.

This is a broad survey of the occupation of cook, across all ranks of society, covering literary as well as literal cooks, and giving examples of the activities, products, and concerns of the job. It’s more of a tasting menu than a hearty meal, and while it’s a very readable and varied text--likely to engage readers of all levels of interest in history--its broad coverage is by necessity superficial. Give this to someone whose interest in culinary history goes one step beyond trying out recipes, and then hand them on to more specialized and comprehensive works.
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Continuing on with the theme of books purchased for research purposes for my novels:

Battistini, Matilde. 2004. Astrology, Magic, and Alchemy in Art. The J. Paul Getty Museum, Los Angeles. ISBN 978-0-89236-907-2

This is part of the “Guide to Imagery” series from this publisher. Something of a “cheat sheet” for art historians to works on a particular theme. (I also have the one on food and dining.) While the astrology and alchemy sections are very solid, I must say I found the “magic” chapter extremely incoherent. It also seemed to consider any sort of pagan imagery to fall under the topic of “magic”. I also ratcheted up my skepticism several notches when I looked at the commentary on Bosch’s verion of The Marriage at Cana which has inexplicably been characterized as “Black Magic”. Whoever wrote the interpretory text is unfamiliar with the roles and paraphernalia of an early 16th century banquet, for an authoritative figure in the background holding a staff is labeled “The warlock holding the magic wand is about to cast a spell” rather than being interpreted as the marshall of the hall with his staff of authority. Similarly a smallish figure presenting a cup to the bride wears a long white sash knotted baldric-style across his torso which is described as “The sash knotted around his waist [sic] is an allusion to heresy.” A more straightforward interpretation would include the conventions of towel-wearing by hall servants that are described clearly in ettiquette manuals of the time. But I digress ....

As a resource of images for alchemy and astrology, it’s quite useful (if you toss a grain of salt over the captions). As a resource of images for magic, it’s slightly better than useless.

Principe, Lawrence M. 2013. The Secrets of Alchemy. The University of Chicago Press, Chicago. ISBN 978-0-226-10379-2

I’ve been whining about “where were all these books on alchemy last year when I was doing the primary research for The Mystic Marriage? In this case, the answer is “not published yet”. There does seem to be a nebulous “interest in alchemy” front passing through, which I can only hope will be positive for the reception of my novel. This is exactly the sort of readable but solidly historical general history of the field that I was searching for. (The best I could find last year was a bit too invested in the mystical aspects for true objectivity.) This goes on my “actually read it through” list.

Kane, Tina. 2010. The Troyes Mémoire: The Making of a Medieval Tapestry. The Boydell Press, Woodbridge. ISBN 978-1-84383-570-7

One of the joys of researching a historic novel is that moment when you accidentally happen on somethign that solves a structural problem you’ve been contemplating for a while. I had an unfilled factual shape in the background information for a story two books out. I needed a profession for a singlewoman woman in 15th century Western Europe that would have given her a respectable living and some status but that she could continue to follow to some degree after “disappearing” socially. (I.e., that she could continue to engage in with someone else providing the public face.) And then I was chatting with Robin Netherton about various projects she’d been involved in lately and she mentioned this book and the idea just clicked in my brain.

This is one of those documentary survivals that is valuable in inverse relationship to the commonness of the genre, in giving us insight into the creative process for an object where normally only the finished product is available. The text is a detailed project description for a set of tapestries from the late 15th century intended for the Church of Sainte-Madeleine of Troyes. That is, the description is from that date -- the tapestries evidently were never created. The heart of the book is the original text and translation of highly specific instructions for the contents of the cartoons from which the tapestries would be woven. It specifies not simply the genres of the scenes but all the specific figures, their appearance, even down to the contents of the speech balloons coming from their mouths. This confirms a bridging profession between the commissioning of tapestries on a particular theme and the work of the artists (and then the weavers) who implemented that theme. The book also includes excerpts from the account books of the church addressing various expenses relating to other tapestries owned by the church.

Although the “author” of the tapestry design here is a man, the nature of the work strikes me as plausible for a woman of the day, particularly if associated with a family in the tapestry business. So now I have a profession for the (as yet unnamed) sister of Tanfrit the philosopher, as well as a clue to one of the industries of late medieval Alpennia. (A question that had been raised by an Interested Reader.)


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