Friday, May 12, 2006

outrage, french roves, and the australian gothic

The panther, from the Aberdeen bestiary. Why? Because it's cool.

I have turned in the finals I was grading. No more school, no more books, no more students' dirty looks. Next year I have funding without teaching and I can spend all my time dissertating. Ole.

Filius imperatricis pulcherrimae Africae occidentalis is celebrating his First Communion tomorrow and I have to go downtown and get a bow for his arm (odd). First, a couple of information tidbits:

The United States, though the wealthiest country in the world, is at the bottom of the list of industrialized nations for infant mortality. This is obscene. Why is there not an outcry? Where are the family values here? Where are all the patriots? I demand anyone who claims to be patriotic to stop worrying about flags and which language the national anthem is sung in and to do something to make this a major issue. Would it not show greater love for our country to be concerned about the health of our infants? For God's sake, children are dying when they don't have to.

For those of you out there who believe there is no longer racism in our country, African-American babies are twice as likely to die as white babies.

Enough of my soapbox (the title of my blog does mean "opinions and shouts"). Other subjects: I don't believe in reincarnation, but some things make me wonder. Karl Rove, for example, appears to reoccur throughout history. At the beginning of the fourteenth century he was an advisor of the King Philip IV "the Fair" of France under the name of Guillaume de Nogaret. Nogaret was a specialist at inventing charges to attack the King's enemies. He was instrumental in Philip's purely mercenary suppression of the Knights Templar, and left his mark in the trumped-up charges against them (sodomy, witchcraft). He accused Pope Boniface VIII of keeping a mistress in order to cover-up his homosexuality. He was also a master of the vindictive political gesture -- after Boniface had died, he wanted to dig up the pope's body and put it on trial for heresy (something that actually had happened in the tenth-century trial of the dead pope Formosus at the famous cadaver synod). Hmmm... Perhaps it does take more than one life to make a Rove.

Last thing: For a long time now I have been a great fan of the Australian singer Nick Cave. His music is dark and powerful, his lyrics gothicly exaggerated but evocative and intelligent. Again and again he returns to religious themes (for example, his eerie portrayal of John the Baptist in the song Mercy or his spare portrait of the twelfth-century mystic Christina the Astonishing). He also sings about sex and violence, so I was never quite sure how much his interest in religion was purely aesthetic. The other day, however, I found something he wrote on the Gospel of Mark, and it seems he is, in his own way, a believer. Oh, the many ways to approach the Gospel.


crystal said...

Best wishes for you Filius' first communion ... what is the bow for?

I read a little about the supression of the Templars, the burning at the stake of the last grand master. The story reminds me of the suppression of the Jesuits in Portugal, the Tavora affair.

About Nick Cave, it seems everyone has a different Jesus, which I find encouraging :-)

Jeff said...


Not to get too far off topic, but as a medieval historian living in New York, do you happen to know Norman Cantor? Whether you know him or not, I'd be interested in knowing what your take on him is. He seems to be the guy who is somewhat in vogue now for writing about medieval history for the popular mass market.

Speaking for myself, I find that he gets under my skin a little bit. I read In the Wake of the Plague last year, and I thought he was really going out on a limb by claiming that the mortality associated with the Black Death may actually have been largely attributable to anthrax rather than the bubonic plague. This sounded a little trendy to me... like he was trying a little bit too hard to draw modern-day parallels with what was in the news at the time. How do other scholars feel about that? Also, in the intro to one of his books (can't remember which one off-hand), he seemed to be taking a strong anti-Church stance, and was giving an indication that he was trying to issue a corrective to the pro-church bias that had been taken by Irish-sympathetic medieval historians in the previous generation.


Liam said...

I think he's mainly considered a writer of popular books using recycled information. The anthrax idea has been advanced by medical historians and I think the jury is still out on it, but it is an idea that is taken seriously.

He wrote a very catty book about 20th-century medievalists called "Inventing the Middle Ages." It's a fascinating read, but I do think he's unfair to a number of people. One would think after reading it, for example, that Ernst Kantorowitz and Percy Schramm are not worth reading, and in fact they are much more worth reading than, say, Norman Cantor.