Sunday, September 4, 2016

Letters... we get letters...

A few people in the Shire asked about calligraphy, so we moved our regular Research Night to Sunday afternoon and had a little workshop. I used PowerPoint to demonstrate a little bit of the history of lettering styles in SCA period, and then we tried writing a few lines.  We took the opportunity to write with different instruments (reeds, quills, metal, and nylon  tip).
I didn't know that the word "calligraphy" was coined post 1600.  Guess what, scribes. You need a new job description.
I hope the shire folk have a new appreciation of the work that is put into the scrolls that are presented with their awards.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Man's Speech Must Exceed his Grasp, Else What's a Meta For?

Normally, my classes tend to explain some aspect of the medieval mind. Sometimes they are even taught in persona, from the point of view of a 13th-century woman who has no knowledge of the modern world.
In my last class for a Bardic Madness (at least for a while) I broke with that trend, and used cable TV and 1940s radio to encourage bards to more interesting speech. My plan was to demolish trite phrases, cliché expressions, weasel words, and pleonasms by encouraging more engaging metaphors.
Aristotle suggests how to do this in On Poetics XXII, so I'm not making stuff up. He says that the poet must see the scene portrayed with "utmost vividness". Metaphors, which both deviate from normal language (thus being distinctive) and conform partially to normal language (bringing it clarity) aid in that portrayal.
Old time radio programs depended on language alone to draw the scene. For some examples, I recommend listening to "Pat Novak for Hire", a radio program that shot smart similes like a nervous gangster with a tommy gun.
Period examples of metaphoric scene-painting include Norse kennings, Chaucer's Prologue, and even Dante's Divine Comedy.
I brought some objects, pictures, and scenes for the class to describe in metaphor. (Look at the object on your left. Describe it as a skald or a Pat Novak writer might.)

Thursday, November 12, 2015

Knowing the Known World

Bute Psalter
Had I known that I was going to buy a house during the preparation time for this class, I might have considered something smaller. However, this was the Stellar University of Northshield, so I had free rein to be as geeky as possible in a two-hour session!

Knowing the Known World is an overview of many of the differences in perspective between the modern world and the medieval/renaissance world.  Time, space, nutrition, politics, art, philosophy... lots of stuff.  Some of the subjects, such as the post-period seven-color rainbow, the realist/nominalist debates, and the theory of the four humors were discussed in previous classes. Other topics, such as the heirarchy of minerals, and Charlemagne's observation on bilingualism were new.  Some, such as the changing role of the individual were barely touched on... stay tuned for further developments.

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Happy 800th Birthday

This June we celebrate the 800th Anniversary of the "Articles of the Barons", a document which, with considerable editing, became the "Magna Carta" or "Great Charter".  Since the theme of Hvitskogar's "Over the River - Part Fork" event was the Magna Carta, I thought an introductory class on this great document might be in order. Beginning with the 1066 death of King Edward the Confessor I reviewed some of the issues that beset the English Crown and people, such as legitimacy of rule, ballooning taxes to pay for foreign occupations and wars, complete disregard for the lower classes, and the notion that the English Crown would bow to no other authority, sacred or secular.

I'm glad things aren't like that today, thanks to this charter and its successors.

Monday, March 30, 2015

Gnomes - Short and to the Point

A challenge was issued at Bardic Madness XXV to present a work that used proverbs to prove a point. I had been playing around in psalters, trying to see if the marginal illustrations had any connection to the text.

What did I discover?  Aesop's fables!

Apparently, from around the 11th through the 14th centuries, there were books of sermon illustrations written to help priests put a little more punch in their sermons. They drew from many sources, which included popular sayings and proverbs, the legendary lives of the saints, and the fables that are usually attributed to Aesop.

I tried to give an overview of how some of this material (some of which had roots in ancient Egypt, Sumeria, and India) had come to be in Psalters and books of hours, and how proverbs could indeed be used to prove a point.

I must say, this project was overwhelming in the best possible way. Every rock I turned over provided loads of little critters proclaiming earthy wisdom.  I'm so glad I had a deadline, or my bill at Amazon would have been enormous.

I put the text of my PowerPoint talk on a page here on Blogger. I haven't formatted a true bibliography yet.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Officers' Day

Officers Day in Northshield is a semi-event, intended to help officers learn their job, or decide if they want to hold a local or kingdom office. We don't do any re-creation of the middle ages -- we wear street clothes, and eat pizza rather than feast. But we tackle the mundane work of making the Society work.

I taught two classes. One was "Autocratting 101".  I've got several events under my belt -- from little one-day localish events with a pie as the site fee, to half of a Known World event in August 2014.  I shared a few tips, especially about calendaring and publicizing the event. I also compiled ALL the expected reports, and where to send them, or where to fill them out online. Since a piece of paper full of hyperlinks was rather silly, I posted the list on my group's web page with live links.

I sort of fell into leading "How to avoid burnout in small groups".  We started by filling out the seneschal's Domesday report, answering the questions with "Cards Against Burnout" -- yet one more adaptation of "Cards Against Humanity".  After playing with these cards for a few minutes, nobody was reluctant to share their experience and insight. I don't know if any flames were put out, but we had some good laughs, and that, in my opinion, is one of the best medicines against burnout.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

Gods and Mortals

Bardic Madness had a theme of "Gods and Mortals" this year, so Kudrun presented an overview of some of the Christian saints who help us (meaning 13th-century folk) bridge the gap between ourselves and the Divine Mystery. It was my intention to help people find the right saint to intercede for them, since some show a particular affinity to certain occupations (like Sts Crispin and Crispinian, patrons of shoemakers), or locations (such as Cuthbert, who insisted that his bones be interred at Durham), or diseases (such as St Fiacre... you can look it up).  I was able to introduce some of the saintly stories that Tertullian considered to be "old wives' tales" (like St Thecla, who baptised herself in a pool filled with vicious seals who were supposed to kill her). I also pointed out some of the scholarly saints, such as St Bede, who reformed the calendar and charted the tides, and St Isidore, who wrote a 20-volume encyclopedia. There was a little skepticism expressed over St Adalbert's two skulls (one claimed by Prague, another by Gniezno) and over St Wilgifortis' instant growth of a beard.  (Wilgifortis' father had her crucified because she refused to marry a rich heathen man.) 
Despite the PowerPoint slides shown behind my head, the class was taught in persona, except for two saints whose cultus didn't grow until after Kudrun's time. (How can one resist St Wilgifortis?)