Category Archives: Professional stuff

This Rough Magic: “Teaching the Crusades in a World Literature Survey Course Using Interactive Media”

Just a note (okay, shameless plug) for my article in the latest issue of the This Rough Magic (A Peer-Reviewed, Academic, Online Journal Dedicated to the Teaching of Medieval and Renaissance Literature). It is an overview of my approach to teaching the Crusades in a World Literature survey course. Enjoy!

“Teaching the Crusades in a World Literature Survey Course Using Interactive Media: An Overview”


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Filed under History, Professional stuff, Scholar, Teaching

MassMedieval in the HMML Illuminations

It is very exciting that a revised version of a previous post here on MassMedieval has been published in the Hill Museum and Manuscript Library‘s Spring 2013 edition of their magazine Illuminations!


Click to enlarge

To see the entire magazine, click here.

Also, we are grateful to a Fitchburg State English Studies colleague, Ben Railton, for including us in a list of  teaching blogs he follows in his post “June 10, 2013: AmericanStudier Blogroll: Teaching Blogs” on AmericanStudier.


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In Appreciation

We (I’m willing to speak for John here, even without explicit permission!) are very honored to be mentioned by our friend and colleague Josh Eyler in his thoughtful blog “A Lifetime’s Training: Thoughts on Teaching and Learning in Higher Education.” Check it out!

“Academic Friendships”


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CFP: Journal Issue on Teaching the Middle Ages and Renaissance with New Techniques and Technologies

Following in the illustrious footsteps of my fellow blogger and the New England Saga Society (NESS), I am looking to put together a special journal issue for  Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching (SMART). The focus of this special issue will be on the teaching of medieval and Renaissance texts, courses, and/or assignments through new pedagogical technologies. I am defining this concept rather broadly, especially as I hear about the ideas of those interested. If you are interested, please consider sending me a description of your idea.

Please contact me by August 1, 2013, with a short abstract (approximately 250 words). Send to:

I am hoping to gather completed articles by December 15th, 2013, though this may change depending on the abstracts submitted.

A bit about SMART (from their site): “Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching (SMART) is a journal of essays designed to assist teachers in communicating an understanding of the Middle Ages and Renaissance. Since we believe that excellent research and inspired teaching are dual aspects of a revived medieval/Renaissance curriculum, SMART essays are scholarly and pedagogical, informative and practical…Authors are held to high standards of accuracy, currency, and relevance to the field of medieval studies. All papers are judged by at least two peer reviewers….Papers vary greatly in length but typically are at least seven double-spaced pages, or about 2,500 words.”

Given my own approaches to teaching such courses, I am looking forward to hearing from others! I personally am considering contributing my work with wikis. There are so many resources available to us these days, and I am intrigued by the possibilities for teaching medieval and Renaissance curriculum. I think such a special journal issue could be a valuable resource.


PS Need some ideas? This is an interesting Prezi designed by Derek Bruff on Social Pedagogies. These are BY FAR not the only techniques/technologies relevant to this journal issue, but it might get the creative juices flowing.

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Filed under Call for Papers, Professional stuff, Teaching

Shameless Plug: CFP for Special Journal Issue on Teaching Old Norse Literature

So, one of my other professional personae is organizer and co-founder of the New England Saga Society (NESS), a group started ten years ago to promote the study of Old Norse literature and, more broadly, the medieval Anglo-Scandinavian world. In keeping with that goal, I am excited to announce plans for a special issue of Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching (SMART). This issue will address the subject of Teaching Old Norse Literature. The full announcement and CFP can be found here, but the upshot is that we’re going to be putting this together over the next year or so, and we welcome proposals from anyone interested and/or experienced in the topic. Proposals of c.250 words are due by August 31, 2013, and can be submitted to me ( or to Andrew Pfrenger (

To be a bit bloggier (does “blog” have an adjectival form? And does it take a comparative? So many things I don’t know) about this for a moment, I’d like to add that this issue represents, in a very direct way, the goals that Andy Pfrenger and I set out to accomplish ten years ago when we put NESS together. I’m really looking forward to reading the submissions and getting this into print…but I promise to try to keep the updates about it on MassMedieval to a minimum.

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Filed under Call for Papers, Professional stuff, Sagas

…and back again.

The annual conference at Kalamazoo, ably documented by Kisha for this blog, always involves a bit of a shock to the system. Part of it, undeniably, is physical: several days’ worth of sleeping in a dorm bed, eating somewhat less than healthy food (and perhaps just the slightest hint of drink), staying up late, and flying/driving from Boston to Detroit to Kalamazoo and back again takes a certain toll on a body.

There’s the exhilarating shock of hearing all the wonderful work that’s been done in the past year. This year that included hearing about Stephen C. Law’s extended experiment testing the differing theories regarding the “twice-brewed ale” of Anglo-Saxon medicinal fame, a discussion of the innovative ways in which people are teaching the Icelandic sagas at the undergraduate level in North America (about which a bit more information can be found here), Richard Dance’s fascinating recalibration of the evidence for the Danelaw’s influence on Old and Middle English, Jaimin Weets’ work in anthropology with dental evidence that will force a serious reconsideration of early Celtic migrations to Ireland (and whose paper’s concluding lines have already given rise to the term “Kalamazoo mic drop”), and of course an exciting conversation (which I had the privilege of moderating) on blogging as a medievalist. I come back from Kalamazoo every year fired up, with new projects, new ideas, and a much-needed intellectual energy boost. It’s a shame that all that scholarly foment is trapped in a body that is probably in the early stages of scurvy (see above paragraph), but such is the price paid for inspiration.

But probably the largest part is the culture shock–the aftermath of having spent days with some of my favorite people–brilliant friends from grad school who have gone on to successful careers of their own as well as friends old and new from the conference itself–talking about our projects, reading, students, institutions, and travels, all through the lens of unabashed passion for medieval studies. Since I began my job at Bridgewater State, the conference has been my best way to reconnect with my medieval friends, and to re-immerse myself in the work I love. This always comes with a bit of melancholia, as the conference’s end means a year before I can see all those same people in one place again. It also means a return to a world in which few people are terribly interested in a bad St. Swithun joke, an impromptu discussion of mead hall architecture, a comparison of Crispin-Glover-as-Grendel impressions, or an ex tempore lesson on the meaning of Onund Tree-Leg’s missing limb.

There’s no denying that coming home has its rewards–my colleagues and students at BSU (an institution I appreciate more with each passing year, especially after hearing others’ stories of life elsewhere), the comforts of home, the time for a bit of reflection, and (of course) my much-missed family. But somewhere in the back of my mind is that countdown to the next visit to Kalamazoo and to seeing my fellow medievalists en masse once more.


Filed under Conferences, Kalamazoo, Professional stuff

Around the Table: Day 4, Kalamazoo

Day 4: Roundtables on Blogging and Disability Studies

Today was my day of work (well, a little fun by having lunch with a friend). I participated in two roundtables, both of which turned out to have excellent discussion and provided me with much food for thought.

The first – the MassMedieval roundtable, “Blogging the Medieval(ist) World”! I am incredibly pleased with this discussion. There were so many interesting topics brought up that I will never be able to summarize them, but I will try to get to a few. First, a list of the panelists and their sites:

In the initial comments from each panelist, we hit on a few ideas that were discussed in more detail later. Peter and Sandra briefly considered the possibilities of Twitter, particularly in how medieval images are ideal subjects because they are visually appealing, often have an element of the strange, and need little explanation. Meg, a self-described “slow-blogger,” gave the background of her amazing opportunity to recreate the England to Rome journey of Arthur and how her blog is both a travelogue  and a means for writing through the experience. She offered the idea of how a blog can provide the structure to follow a literary story through a geographic space. She also provided the name of a resource that I plan on examining: Blog Theory by Jodi Dean. Beth uses her blog as a way to read a poem a day from Petrarch’s Canzoniere. She, unlike Meg, describes herself as “blogging in haste” by using “Voi che ascoltate” to focus on daily reading and writing exercises. Beth also brought up the idea of how to bridge the gap between medievalists and “civilians,” particularly by making links to contemporary music and art. Jenny does not currently have a site – though she is on board to write a guest post for MassMedieval! – but, through her survey of medievalist blogs, she offered some insightful comments about the choice to remain anonymous or not and how the choice to incorporate personal details into posts can change the representation of the authors. In my remarks, I outlined the reasons John and I decided to start MassMedieval – in particular, as an outlet of expression for medievalists at small institutions and the desire to connect with other medievalists.

After these comments, the discussion was engaging and wide-ranging. Some highlights:

  • Online presence as an academic – The validity of online interactions has changed considerably over the last few years. Whereas, not too long ago, such activity would have been considered in a poor light, now it is more often than not encouraged. Still, the type of online activity and individual profile is still a consideration. We thought about the concept of how having a blog could be a means of raising profile while on the job market. We found that some of us tend to compartmentalize our online work (Facebook separate from other activities or personal vs professional blogs/Twitter accounts) while others seek to integrate their online personas.
  • Collaboration – Two of the blogs on the panel are a collaborative effort, while two others are not. In general, collaboration allows for more activity as well as more diversity in types of posts and more potential for motivation to continue. The bloggers from one author are both highly structured projects with an end point, not to say this always has to be the case.
  • Guest posts – It was generally agreed that guest posts are the way to go. The advantage of a blog is the ability to communicate. Bringing others in to offer different perspectives creates a rich, dynamic site. Many at the roundtable were interested in collaborating in this way with each other.
  • Using the blog to further research – A couple of the panelists are very much already doing this, especially with their specific focus in their sites. It was also mentioned how blogging can provide motivation and inspiration for research projects. It has even been possible for some to turn their blogs themselves into publications.

Other blogs from the audience (if you are a medieval blogger, please feel free to leave a comment with a link):

For those who attended or participated in the roundtable, please fill in anything I have forgotten to add!

Second, I was a panelist on the Society for the Study of Disability in the Middle Ages roundtable on “Incorporating Medieval Disability Studies in the Classroom.” The discussion here too was quite rich. Some of the panelists focused on descriptions and thoughts about specific courses taught, both undergraduate and graduate, as well as American and European. The considerations raised dealt with issues of considering the types of students in these courses, who may or may not have a background in either disability studies or the Middle Ages. I also discussed my own experience teaching a graduate course, mostly comprised of high school teachers, who found the complications and complexities of medieval disability useful in thinking about their students and the state-mandated labels of different types of students. Besides courses with disability topics, it is also important to think about bringing in issues of disability into other courses, such as surveys, thereby giving students an additional lens with which to read texts. It may also be possible to have students consider what makes someone “abled” or “dis-abled” in a particular profession or social sphere (i.e. kings vs. peasants, women, scribes, etc.).

John also brought up a point that we must consider in introducing our students to any critical framework. How can students become well-versed in a vocabulary or in a particular type of critical reading in one semester? Will they simply default to mimicking terminology or critical styles without learning how to apply or how to assess such work? This becomes important when considering how students may fall back on the “diagnosis model” of reading the text – “therefore, this character has this disease/disability – the end.” One specific solution we considered is the possibility that more focused work – looking at one word across texts, for example – might help this particular situation. The work of the Society also may provide a solution, for we are developing a Medieval Disability Glossary, which will offer opportunities for various critical assignments.

Whew! My last Kzoo post! It has been an informative and invigorating conference. As always, I am filled with ideas for projects and teaching experiments. The trick now is to keep up the momentum as I return and grade finals to end out the semester and begin the summer!



Filed under Conferences, Huzzah!, Kalamazoo, Professional stuff, Technology