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Saw this news item from my friends at, and oh boy this is exciting!!  We’re all familiar (or should be) with Emperor Frederick II’s reputation as a multi-lingual man of affairs (though Heng’s description of him as a “Mozarabic emperor” is verrrry…hyperbolic, let’s say).   As a person and a ruler, he elicited wildly varying reactions during his own time, and these have continued to our own times.  Ibn Al-Jawzi thought him a shallow, clever materialist, and physically not a very imposing specimen–“had he been a slave, he would not have been worth two hundred dihram.”  Certainly not his grandfather’s martial image, that’s for sure.  The defining modern study of Frederick, Kantorowicz’s massive volume, portrayed him as an urbane visionary centuries ahead of his time–the “great man” whose dreams were frustrated by fate and malevolent forces.  David Abulafia’s revisionist biography tries so hard to portray Frederick as typical of his times that you start to wonder how he caused such a stir at all–in other words, if he was that typical of a medieval ruler, how did all that trouble with the Papacy, the Italian cities, and even his own German kingdom come about?   The best  biography to date is Wolfgang Sturner’s brilliant 2-volume study, Friedrich II, but unfortunately for many of you (including my students) it’s only in German, so until I translate it you’ll have to wait.

Ah, the exciting news item!   (more…)


Today is the type of day I find both exhilarating and exhausting at the same time–student meeting day!  Exhilarating because face-to-face meetings are probably my favorite part of undergraduate education. You can accomplish so much by going over drafts in person, and it’s very rewarding to see how students are invested in their own work. Exhausting because they happen one after the other, with little or no break.  My style of commenting is more hands-off than others’ styles; I don’t like telling students what to write, or what argument to make, or what interpretation to use.  I’m more concerned that they understand how to use the sources at their disposal to make the argument they want to make, and if there are pitfalls to that argument, I want them to be aware of those as well.  Thus I’ll often get papers that take a position with which I disagree, but that’s fine because, as I tell students, there are scholars who make your particular argument. Just do it well!  Structure and consistency are my emphases, usually.  Sentence structure, grammar, and syntax are important in supporting those functions; I’m not going to tear a paper apart giving minutely detailed instructions just for the heck of it. Not only is that boring for the students, it turns their brains off to the greater possibilities of revision, the purpose of revision, and the positive intention of changing your own prose.  So, I’ll usually give a paragraph or a few select sentences the extended treatment, by way of demonstration, but always tied to larger issues of argument, structure, and thesis.  Just my take on the subject, but it’s worked pretty well for me, and my students, so far.

But it’s time for a small break. In the news, have posted a couple really fascinating stories of late (well, they’re all fascinating, but you get my point):  there’s a new historical novel about Richard the Lionheart, but author Sharon Kay Penman, that looks very intriguing.  They also did an interview with her, which is linked to this page as well.   And archaeologists in Japan have found a shipwreck that is most likely from the Mongol invasion fleet of 1281.  VERY exciting!!!  Apparently it’s in quite good shape, and contains numerous objects preserved in their resting place a meter under the seabed.

I’ve rearranged a few things in the blog’s layout, as you may have noticed; I’m trying to spice things up, keep the side bars interesting. And I’m STILL working on lengthy post that updates my recent activities, and talks about my recent dissertation work–at this point, I started it right after I got back from Baylor on October 2, and it’s still not done.  Let’s shoot for November 1st, shall we?

Have a great day!

In case you hadn’t noticed, the blog has a new look.  It seemed time to give things a facelift. I was initially inspired by a new theme from WordPress, but the inspiration cooled after noticing that said theme was $45, which at the moment isn’t worth it.  In the mean time, I hope that you enjoy the new look–at the very least, that it’s not painful on the eyes.  Please comment and suggest away!   The header image is a snippet from the Liber Ad Honorem Augusti, one of my favorite texts.

My friends at, seeming to not have enough to do, now have  a pretty darned impressive Civil War news website up and running.  Very impressive, and definitely taking its place in my news feed.

Speaking of, they just posted to a short article on the Van Pelt Library‘s digitization of medieval manuscripts, which is now apparently complete.

Another (semi-) digital initiative of note is the Victoria County History project, which I believe I saw via an IHR post the other day.   It’s a good place to keep abreast of county studies in Great Britain, as well as to track down relevant publications from the society.

Ok…as for the CFPs mentioned in the title.  There are a couple conferences of note that have come through my inbox. Here are the CFPs: