When the pandemic began, friends asked me what insights I could glean from studying and writing about the Middle Ages for as long as I did. “Nothing,” I told them, which remains true. Yet I can’t shake the feeling that we’re living through an apocalypse—not necessarily in the religious, end-of-the-world sense, but in the literal … Continue reading “Night is day, and twilight’s gone away…”
They told me, “You have to watch this interview where Mike Tyson talks about medieval history,” and so I did, and there he was at the New York Public Library in 2013 being interviewed by curator Paul Holdengräber, whose German accent strikes the American ear as both effortlessly intellectual and lightly amusing, and who would … Continue reading “And this world’s a fickle measure…”
I don’t have romantic notions about what writers do—but every so often, our work has profound implications for neighbors and friends. In January 2019, I met two great-granddaughters of the founders of Sugarland, a town established by former slaves immediately after emancipation in rural Montgomery County, Maryland. My new friends were tenacious historians who had … Continue reading I Have Started for Canaan: The Story of the African American Town of Sugarland
It took a few months, but I managed to transfer this blog to a new host. Links to posts from outside sources may no longer work, so if you’ve linked to a book review or favorite post in the past, you’ll need to find it via the search box in the sidebar and re-link to … Continue reading “…and in this town of stops and starts…”
On June 1, 2020, almost thirteen years to the day since it began, this blog will disappear. My hosting service is shutting down, and I don’t have time right now to find an orderly home for hundreds of old posts. In truth, this blog has been held together by pipe cleaners and putty for years. … Continue reading “Check if you can disconnect the effect, and I’ll go after the cause.”
Every December I do a roundup of blog posts from the passing year, mostly as an easy index for my future self. This year has been the least prolific in the thirteen years I’ve been doing this, and I’m okay with that. Since January, I’ve been helping a local organization write a book that’s going … Continue reading “People don’t sing like they used to sing…”
A knight sliced in half like a sesame bagel, a saint tossed down a hillside in a barrel lined with nails—pain is an ageless wellspring of humor, but we were too weirdly willing to laugh. As graduate students, we were honing our sense of which aspects of the Middle Ages were born of certain eras … Continue reading “Break all the windows in the cold, cold ground.”
This blog has been fallow for six months. I regret the silence, but not the reasons. I’ve gotten involved in three local nonprofits, including one whose leadership asked me to help them write a book. Theirs is the sort of worthwhile project a history-writer dreams about, I’m working with good people, and I can’t wait … Continue reading “We’ve tried potions and waxen dolls, and none of us could find any cures…”
Poets pray for remembrance on the pages of an anthology—but whenever I saw Fenton Johnson’s poems in collections of African American verse, the selections were too limited for me to get a real sense of him. Fond of forgotten writers, I tracked down more of Johnson’s work to find out who he was and what … Continue reading “I can’t get unwound, why do I throw myself into the night…”
I hopped the barbed hedge of graduate school more than 20 years ago, but the burrs and brambles of medieval thinking still cling to my life. I never know if they’re brittle twigs, best brushed off and swept away, or green sprigs that can be woven into some new, small, useful thing. Take “Deor,” an … Continue reading “Pharoah’s army, they got drowned in the sea one day…”
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