Saturday, February 21, 2009

Today in the Middle Ages

21 February, 1173 -- Thomas Becket is canonized...

... see, it isn't hard to get ahead (*rimshot*)

Saturday, February 14, 2009

It's reading break! Hurray!

Hello everyone!

We don't know about you, but we're pumped to have some time off! By that we mean, of course, we're excited to pour over our notes, scrutinize the CMD and write prolific essays! However, should you speedily finish all of your work, or are looking for a short escape, why not consider some of these fine activities?

1. Viking Worlds -- the Maritime Museum of Victoria has a viking exhibit on display now. Come to the Maritime Museum on Sunday February 15th as veteran undersea archaeologist Rob Rondeau uncovers the story of the Vikings, some of the finest mariners and explorers of any era.
Over the past 20 years Rondeau has dived to many shipwrecks all over the world . His review of Viking seafaring is based on research gathered from the Old and New worlds, including recent projects in the coastal waters off Norway. Rondeau, who has been profiled in many magazines and on television will speak at 2 p.m. The cost is $8 for students.
If you are interested in attending this event there will likely be several MSCU members there to take in the experience. For more information or directions please visit the following website:

2. Commune with Nature -- Each reading break the MSCU likes to organize a event in the great outdoors. On Wednesday February 18th the MSCU is taking a trip to French Beach in Sooke. This will be a great chance to get outside and enjoy some fresh air and beautiful scenery. If you would like a ride please RSVP by the evening of Monday Feb. 16th at the latest, space is limited. We will meet in front of the computer labs in Clearihue at 9:50 am and departing at 10:00, arriving at French Beach around 11:30. Please pack a lunch. Dress for the weather because Frisbee may be involved.

Also, remember that the week after reading break is the 1st Annual Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Conference (February 27-28). This conference will showcase the work of your fellow peers on the Mediterranean region, so be sure to come out and support them! There is a Facebook group for the conference as well, so be sure to check it out! Since it will help our ability to organize could you send a quick RSVP if you intend to come.

Thanks and we hope to see you soon!


Today in the Middle Ages

14th February, 1076 -- Pope Gregory VII excommunicates King Henry IV

And thus one of history's most epic bromance is born...

St Valentine

The first thing you need to know about the real St. Valentine is that not much is known about him. Including whether there was one, two or three St. Valentines, or one guy with more than one name, or whether he existed at all.

Even the Vatican can't make up its mind on that one.

But other than that, there are lots of good stories that play nicely into our modern sense of what Feb. 14 is about. Which, for scholar Giulio Silano, is all the more reason to be skeptical.

"As far as I can tell, the stories have nothing to do with the saint," says Silano, a professor of medieval studies at the University of Toronto's St. Michael's College.

Silano is convinced that St. Valentine is largely a medieval invention. In fact, you can pretty much blame poet Geoffrey Chaucer for the whole thing.

"There's no evidence of Valentine before Chaucer," Silano says.

In 1381, Chaucer composed The Parliament of Fowls to honour the engagement of teenaged King Richard II to Anne of Bohemia. Silano says it was customary at the time to associate such occasions with a saint's feast day, but there were fewer saints to choose from in the 14th century.

So Chaucer picked Valentine.

"For this was on St. Valentine's Day," Chaucer wrote, "when every fowl cometh there to choose his mate."

Coincidentally, Richard is believed to have died on Feb. 14, 1400, in the Tower of London.
To modern Canadian sensibilities, the idea of picking mates and declaring young love on a spring-like day in February seems odd, at best, but made some sense in the 14th century, Silano says.

England is a more temperate place, for one thing, and the weather on Feb. 14 in Chaucer's time was more like today's late February or early March. The calendar was changed in the 16th century.

Spring, says Silano, is a poetically perfect time to declare young love. Flowers bloom in spring, but it's impossible to tell which ones will make it to summer. The same, he says, can be said of a new love.

"The love you declare in spring is different from the one you declare in summer. It's more fragile, more uncertain of how well it will survive."

Which makes it all the more romantic, he says.

As well, for centuries a pagan festival had been held in mid-February called Lupercalia that, among other things, celebrated fertility. Silano agrees with other scholars that, like other Christian holidays, St. Valentine's Day came to supplant earlier pagan traditions.

At any rate, Silano says, Chaucer had a rich tradition to draw on when he began to write about love and Valentine in the middle of February. There are, after all, three who share Feb. 14 as their feast day: St. Valentine of Rome, St. Valentine of Terni and a saint who was martyred in Africa.

Some scholars have argued that Rome's and Terni's were the same man. All that is known about the third is where he died: somewhere in Africa.

The Valentine of Rome is believed to have been a priest during the reign of Claudius II. The emperor, worried that young men with families would not want to leave Rome for extended periods to fight his wars, banned marriage.

Valentine responded by marrying couples in secret. Very romantic, but it got him arrested.
One legend says that, while awaiting his execution, Valentine restored the sight of his jailer's blind daughter, with whom he had fallen in love.

Another legend has it that on the eve of his execution, he penned a farewell note to the daughter, signing it, "From your Valentine."

Making it, of course, the first Valentine.

This Valentine was martyred around 269 (1,100 years before Chaucer wrote about him) in Rome and was buried on the Flaminian Way, just outside the city.

Valentine of Terni was a bishop and also lived during the reign of Claudius II. This, and the fact that he was also buried on the Flaminian Way after his martyrdom, have led to speculation that he and the Roman Valentine might be the same man.

The Terni Valentine is linked to love because he is believed to have performed the first marriage between a pagan and a Christian.

Before the name Valentine was removed from the official list of saints' feast days in 1969 (for lack of evidence he ever existed), he was the patron saint of engaged couples, bee keepers, greetings, happy marriages, love, lovers, travellers and young people and was also invoked to help with epilepsy, fainting and plague.

In the middle of a discussion about whether Valentine existed, or did any of the things associated with him, Silano pulls out a heavy volume from a top shelf behind his desk and starts leafing though it.

It's the 1962 edition of the Catholic Missal, outlining the prayers to be used during Mass, and, he says, it shows what the church thought of Valentine.

"There is no mention of love here. He was a saint who saved us from evil. It's a very generic prayer to be made on the feast of the saint."

Today, Valentine's Day has largely lost its religious significance and, in many ways, has morphed into a children's holiday filled with school-made hearts for mom and dad, and Disney-themed cards for classmates.

"That's probably fine," Silano says.

"It was never a real holiday, anyway."

I'm trying to think of a good Dante reference, but I can't

From: Penny

Sunday, February 8, 2009

The Hour of the Pig (1993)

Part 1 of 10

Obscure Latin Word of the Week

This week's word: grunnio (grundio), -ire

def. to grunt (or squeal) like a pig

How to use this word in everyday speech:

1. As a command: "Grunni like a pig, boy!"

2. As an intimidation: "If you grunnatis to the cops, you'll sleep with the fishes."

3. As part of a song: "And the pigs on the farm go grunnio, grunnio, grunnio."

Saturday, February 7, 2009

James Purefoy goes medieval

He’ll star in action thriller Ironclad

Now that film has found its financing James Purefoy can star in 13th century-set thriller Ironclad.

He’ll play a Knight Templar who, along with his heroic band of seven warriors, defends Rochester Castle against the tyrannical King John. Paul Giamatti has signed on to play the king, and the cast now includes Bob Hoskins, Richard Attenborough, Pete Postlethwaite, Colm Meany, Angus McFadyen and Narnia’s William Moseley. The film had been gearing up to shoot late last year when the money to make it fell through.

But now, with rights company ContentFilm International pushing at the Berlinale market, the movie is back on track for a summer start. Our concern is that the frenzy for swords ‘n’ sandals action epics has been past for a while – even Ridley Scott couldn't make Kingdom Of Heaven (above) win at the box office.

Can Ironclad succeed?

From: Total

The Medieval Studies Workshop

Hey everyone!

Today's the day! Make sure you come out for all or part of the Medieval Studies Workshop: The Medieval Mediterranean! It's sure to be a blast! The fun begins at 9 and lasts until 4 in the new Earth and Ocean Sciences Building (Bob Wright Centre). Hope to see you all there!




9:00-9:10 Welcome and Opening Remarks

9:10-9:30 Dr Iain Higgins, UVic, Introduction: The Medieval Mediterranean

9:30-10:00 Dr Marcus Milwright, UVic: From Cullet to Ginger: International Trade in the Medieval Mediterranean

10:00-10:15 Questions/Discussion

10:15-10:45 Refreshment Break

10:45-11:30 Dr Alain Touwaide, National Museum of Natural History, Smithsonian Institute: Plants and Medicine in the Medieval Mediterranean

11:30-11:45 Questions/Discussion

11:45-1:15 Lunch on your own, and film presentation: "Pilgrims in Arms" by Terry Jones (from The Crusades and Monty Python!)

1:15-1:45 Dr Lloyd Howard, UVic: Dante's Mediterranean World: Exodus Home and Away from Italy's Shores

1:45-2:30 Dr Karla Mallette, Miami University: The Literatures of Medieval Sicily: Greek, Latin, Arabic and Italian

2:30-2:45 Questions/Discussion

2:45-3:15 Refreshment Break

3:15-3:45 Dr Eva Baboula (Bampoula), UVic: The Holy City of Jerusalem and Constantinople in the Medieval Imagination

3:45-4:00 Questions/Discussion

4:00 Closing Remarks

Tuesday, February 3, 2009

More Medieval Mayhem!!

Greetings fellow medievalists!

February is turning out to be busier than expected! Dr Eva Baboula has invited all interested medieval studies students to join her Medi 305 Workshop class for an informal lecture given by Dr Karla Mallette this Thursday, February 5 from 2:30-3:30 in CLE A206. She will discuss the research and challenges of being a literary historian of the Mediterranean. Dr Mallette's work has focused on the multilingual environment of Norman Sicily, but she has also written on issues such as Mediterranean Orientalism, Islam and Dante.

It's sure to be a great lecture and we'd love to see you there!


Monday, February 2, 2009

A Medieval February

Hello everyone,

February is shaping up to be a very eventful - and medieval - month! Here's a list of must-attend activities for you to enjoy!

1. As mentioned below, the MSCU will be holding another movie night on Feb. 4 at 7:00 PM in CLE A303. Bring along some friends to enjoy a night of laughter with Heath in "A Knight's Tale."

2. On Thursday, February 5, 2009, DSB C126, 7:30 PM, Dr Karla Mallette will be giving a lecture on "Poetry on Paper in Medieval Italy." She is one of the guest lecturers at this weekend's workshop, so be sure to come on out!

3. Speaking of Workshop, the 22nd Annual Medieval Studies Workshop is this Saturday, February 7, 2009. The program starts at 9:00 AM and will run until 4:00 PM. Be sure to stop by the Medieval Studies office to pick up your registration form (CLE D264)! The theme of the workshop this year is the Medieval Mediterranean (Be sure to join the Facebook page for this event!!)

4. Also in February is the 1st Annual Interdisciplinary Undergraduate Conference (February 27-28). This conference will showcase the work of your fellow peers on the Mediterranean region, so be sure to come out and support them! There is a Facebook group for the conference as well, so be sure to check it out! A program for the conference will be posted on the shortly.

5. Have you ever wanted to be more involved with the MSCU? If you answered 'yes' then have we got a proposition for you! We are currently looking for students who are interested in helping run the MSCU. Involvement is a great way to make friends and get to know your professors. On top of all that, extra circular activities look excellent on scholarship and grad school applications. If interested, come and see us after the movie on Wednesday night. If you're interested but cannot make it, please send us a quick email.

6. Very soon, the reading room will be staffed one hour each weekday by a member of the MSCU. We'll be your "peer tutors" should you need to bounce ideas off of us or have someone read over your paper. Come by and say hi! Our schedule will be up soon.

7. If you would like more information about any of the medieval events happening on campus, send us an email at, or join our Facebook group (UVic Medieval Studies Course Union). We hope to see you out at all of these fun events!


P.S. If someone lost a Russian language textbook at our last movie night, we have found it.

Medieval Movie Night: A Knight's Tale

Join us on February 4th for a showing of the 2001 film A Knight's Tale. The film will start at 7:00 PM in Clearihue A303, but feel free to come later if it suits you better! As always, light refreshments will be provided, along with healthy doses of anachronism. We encourage you to bring friends, family, loved ones etc, because the more, the merrier.