This is an odd little pamphlet that sort of falls between two stools. Its title proclaims it to be an introduction, but Huygens emphasises quite earlyThis is an odd little pamphlet that sort of falls between two stools. Its title proclaims it to be an introduction, but Huygens emphasises quite early on that this is not intended for neophytes. You need to be quite proficient in Latin, palaeography, codicology, etc, for this to be even intelligible to you, so probably the phrase "for established medievalists who are only now thinking of producing an edition (and likely of something that exists in multiple manuscript exemplars)" should be appended to the title. As you can see, this narrows down the prospective readership even further. I think having said all that, if you do fall into that category, Huygens will give you not so much practical tips or workflows as push you to take into account several things that will make your edition successful or not. It might be difficult for the reader to take the advice as intended, though, given that the personality that comes through here could be most charitably as full of exuberant confidence in its own expertise. (It's impressive how many times he manages to refer to the work of others as "rubbish" in such a short space.)...more
Thought-provoking, provocative (Garnett begins by drawing explicit parallels between the Norman Conquest and modern-day attempts at "regime change"),Thought-provoking, provocative (Garnett begins by drawing explicit parallels between the Norman Conquest and modern-day attempts at "regime change"), and emphatically not a good fit for the "Very Short Introduction" series. There's no way I could assign this to a class of American first year college students most of whom have never heard of Hastings or 1066 (which was why I was checking it out) without them being rather bewildered. Garnett presumes a certain familiarity with English history, and even with at least the vague outlines of bigger historiographical disputes about the Conquest and its aftermath. The Harrying of the North, for instance, barely gets a look in.
The broad sweep of Garnett's argument—about the all-encompassing and successful nature of the Norman Conquest of England—would make for stimulating fodder for an upper-level undergrad discussion, but only if careful attention was paid to the ways in which Garnett avoids or glosses over some evidence which doesn't bolster his argument. It's possible that the abbreviated VSI format meant that he didn't have the space to address these issues, or to deal more overtly with opposing academic points of view, but they are frustrating lapses nonetheless. An engaging book, but flawed. ...more
This relatively short book is the result of a lifetime's study of the history and historiography of medieval Jewry. Robert Chazan takes as his startinThis relatively short book is the result of a lifetime's study of the history and historiography of medieval Jewry. Robert Chazan takes as his starting point this: if, as is popularly understood, the Middle Ages were a time of unremitting misery for European Jews, then why did Jewish communities not only survive in Europe, but flourish culturally and demographically? Chazan eschews both the "lachrymose" view of Jewish history and the more optimistic arguments in favour of overwhelmingly peaceful co-existence and argues instead for a more nuanced take on the matter. Jews were undoubtedly persecuted, but were creative, resilient, and resourceful in the face of that persecution; while often regarded as outsiders by their Christian neighbours, they remained in northern and western Europe out of a hope for better lives for their families and because they often came to construct identities for themselves which were both Jewish and regional.
In providing a synthesis of many years of historical debate, Chazan has written a book which will find a home in an advanced undergraduate or graduate classroom. Sadly, as Chazan himself acknowledges, while it's a debate which deserves a wider audience, it's unlikely that this book will reach a more general reader—the writing style is perhaps too fast-paced and dense to be broadly appealing. Still, a useful, thoughtful book and well worth a medievalist's time. ...more
Christopher Krebs' book takes a look at the way another has been used and misused over time: Tacitus' Germania, from the period of its composition durChristopher Krebs' book takes a look at the way another has been used and misused over time: Tacitus' Germania, from the period of its composition during the first century CE to its apotheosis as a text naturalising Nazi claims to German racial superiority during the Third Reich. I thought it a useful and informative piece, which gives the general reader a sense of how and why scholars are interested in the history of a text's reception over time. I could see it being useful paired with Tacitus in an undergraduate history course, or the last chapter—on the ways in which the Germania was selectively edited, translated and framed for schoolchildren in 1930s and 40s Germany—used to hone in on the ways in which fascists regimes twist history to suit their own ends.
That said, A Most Dangerous Book felt padded at points (the process by which some early modern humanists Latinicised their surnames is rehearsed several times) and yet presumes a little too much at others (I think parts won't be very clear to you if you've not read the Germania first). Krebs was, I suspect, pushed by his publisher to make the book "sexier" by having the book open with Heinrich Himmler's search for the oldest-known manuscript of the Germania at the height of WWII, but that's not really what most of the book is about. It also has the unfortunate effect of making it seem like the book's main historical import is because it somehow sets Germans on a path that ends with a kind of race-based psychosis and genocide, which is just teleology-as-history and the Sonderweg thesis under another name.
There were also a number of points at which the prose was clunky or even difficult to parse—perhaps a function of the fact that Krebs is not a native English speaker, though a good editor should have caught most of them. But then there are some declarations which seem to point to a failure on Krebs' part to define the terms that he was using and to apply them consistently. For instance, when talking about Johann Friedrich Blumenbach as representative of eighteenth- and nineteenth-century racial pan-Germanism, Krebs writes:
“Blumenbach was not a racist. A monogenist, he believed in the unity of human kind; a clearsighted scientist, he saw through allegedly impermeable lines between races and vociferously spoke out against the supposedly innate intellectual deficits of “Negroes.” And yet he regarded the Caucasian race—eponymously named after Mount Caucasus, thought to be its original habitat—not only as the original form of humankind, but also as “the most handsome and becoming.” Elevating Caucasians to aesthetic superiority, Blumenbach implicitly suggested that degeneration was decline and difference deficiency. ” (259, Kindle ed.)
That's racism, sir. It doesn't matter if Blumenbach was the benevolent, paternalist kind of racist or if he critiqued stronger proponents of scientific racism: he was still racist. ...more
A powerful and passionate look at the ways in which society likes to tear down women who buck the norms: women who are "too messy", "too emotional", "A powerful and passionate look at the ways in which society likes to tear down women who buck the norms: women who are "too messy", "too emotional", "too crazy", or "too demanding" in public. Think Lindsay, Whitney, Britney—all of these women and more, Sady Doyle argues, are the pop culture version of the fallen woman. First they are held up as idols; then they are torn down. Doyle traces the evolution of the trainwreck archetype over a period of some two centuries, from Mary Wollstonecraft in the eighteenth century to Miley Cyrus in the twenty-first, and argues persuasively that the trainwreck is held up as a totemic cultural figure, a cautionary tale to dissuade women from being ambitious or demanding attention. Even women of genius and talent—perhaps even especially such women—like Billie Holiday and Charlotte Brontë can be and have been framed in such a way.
Now, Doyle's case studies don't always work. She calls Harriet Jacobs—abolitionist, former slave, and author of the harrowing autobiography Incidents in the Life of a Slave Girl—a trainwreck, but this seems to awkwardly shoehorn the life of an unbowed badass into a mould that doesn't quite fit. I also don't agree with her framing of social and cultural mores in the West as trending consistently towards the left/progressivism in time. That's both a presentist view, and one that perhaps I'm perhaps too pessimistic right now to be able to enter into (oh 2017, you unremitting dumpster fire). Still, as a thought-provoking book—one that's written with vibrancy and a knowledge of when to deploy a well-timed F-bomb—this is well worth picking up.
(I listened to the audiobook version, which I thought was pretty well done but why do some audiobook readers seemingly refuse to invest the time in learning how to pronounce words in other languages? It doesn't take long and it would mean that I wouldn't have to cringe at "monsieur" becoming "mohn-syewer", or spend a long time figuring out that "TUHR-wine" was supposed to be "Théroigne.")...more
A usefully clear-sighted look at how to revise a dissertation for publication as a monograph. Germano gives some straightforward advice about how to sA usefully clear-sighted look at how to revise a dissertation for publication as a monograph. Germano gives some straightforward advice about how to step back from your own writing and how the publishing industry works, some of which I was already aware of, some of which I wasn't. He also helped to put into words some of the things I instinctively knew about my own dissertation, but which my advisor hadn't cared enough to either notice or help remedy. I would have liked some more practical tips, but I suppose in such a short space and in a work aimed at an audience across academic disciplines, that would have been a difficult thing to do. Still, valuable for the inspiration it provides to be ruthless with the scalpel when it comes to attacking the dissertation and turning it into something new. ...more