Next month sees the release of Game of Thrones versus History: Written in Blood in print on 17 April, 2017. Edited by Brian Pavlac and published by Wiley (small world!), it’s a fun collection of pop culture linked with history. I’ve contributed a chapter on what the history of parenting can tell us about the characters and cultures of Westeros and Essos: “Rocking Cradles and Hatching Dragons: Parents in Game of Thrones” A lot of other great scholars have also contributed to this volume: I’m especially excited about Steve Muhlberger’s piece as well as the chapters by Kris Swank and Gillian Polack, all of whom were on board to contribute to the volume I’d planned to edit in 2013. Take a look: there are chapters on the Machiavellian world of Westeros and slave soldiers, along with so many other fascinating topics. I’m pleased this topic is finally getting a chance to be seen by so many, and ahead of season seven!
Here’s an excerpt from my chapter:
Rather than seeing children as expendable pawns, historical fathers and mothers were normally expected to treasure them. Consider a fifteenth‐century story about a young girl badly injured by a fallen tree. Her father rushed to her rescue, “his heart wrung with an agony of grief: yet, lifting the log with some difficulty, he raised her in his hands. Then the fountains of his eyes were loosed.” The tale concludes with the desperate parents restoring their daughter to life and health through the miraculous intervention of the deceased King Henry VI (r. 1421–1471), to whom they prayed in their distress. These medieval parents’ devastation recalls the grief and worry weighing down Ned and Catelyn Stark after Bran’s horrific fall in the first episode. While some historical parents may have felt little or no emotional bond with their offspring, the Starks’ heartfelt love for their injured son would have been widely lauded in the Middle Ages.
Bridget Hussey: surely you’ve heard of her? Likely not. I first stumbled upon her during my doctoral research. She married Richard Morison, a Henrician humanist pamphleteer who was a devout, nay, rabid Protestant as well as a lover of classical and Renaissance literature. At the time, I could little afford to do more than note her existence – their marriage occurred in the waning years of Henry VIII’s reign when Morison was no longer tossing off propaganda pamphlets like fast food burgers. I made a note of her will, proved many years later – in early January of 1601, which reflected her long and varied life in the half century since her first marriage.
Bridget Hussey buried three husbands in her long life: Morison, Henry Manners, the Earl of Rutland, and finally Francis Russell, second Earl of Bedford. Bridget got along poorly with her Russell stepchildren, a situation which was only exacerbated by the marriage she brokered between one of her daughters and a sickly stepson. Bridget remained closely involved in the lives of her children as well as her stepchildren and their progeny, helping to groom a Manners granddaughter, Bridget, to serve as lady-in-waiting to Queen Elizabeth.
For all of this, you don’t find a DNB entry for Bridget. There’s a fairly detailed genealogical discussion at Tudor Place that touches on her marriages and her daughters’ dynastic connections as well. The will (transcribed with Oxfordian commentary above) is an intriguing piece of elite social history – you see Bridget’s keen concern that her household and servants be well-supported after her death as well as specific provisions made for her grandchildren and stepchildren’s families.
I’ve struggled in vain to find a decent photograph of her translated altar tomb (decorated with her many armorial achievements) now extant at Chenies. Next time I’m in the UK, I’m going to see if I can get some pictures and maybe track down something of the family records further to see what else remains of the long-lived and caring countess.
Or at least several hundred. My co-instructor and I wrapped up the latest offering of The History of the Western Occult, HIST 3406, with a discussion about themes, topics and ideas we’ve all been working with over the last three months. It was a lively end to a fun course that teaches a lot of valuable skills for historians all in pursuit of cool topics, obviously!
My favourite part of the wind-up is the use of word clouds (generated over at Wordle). It’s interesting to see what gets emphasized more, or less, in a course. I threw in all the text that had appeared on our course slides – this is the result for my half of the course which runs from antiquity into the seventeenth century. Yes, a very heavy emphasis on magic in my classes. I’m not sure if that’s a weakness or a strength?
This second word cloud comes from my co-instructor, Dr. Dave Leeson, who taught the topics from the seventeenth century to the contemporary era. The contrast and comparison between the two makes for some really intriguing insights both into our different ways of approaching the occult but also into the very different ways that occult history has developed since the Enlightenment era.
Hopefully they’ll also be useful tools to stimulate our students’ minds as they study for the final exam coming next week!
It’s midterm now and – eep! – my how times flies! I’m working through grading in all three of my courses, always a worrisome sign as I endeavour to stagger the workload as much as possible. But I’m making progress, so I can’t really complain too much.
What’s making it possible to work through all of this is the counter-intuitive promise I’ve made to myself of taking time off. I’m not getting the crafting time I’d hoped to eke out – I’m a bit too tired and disconnected most evenings to pull out my stitching and work on that. It’s also not super-easy on my eyes to focus on tiny stitches late at night! But I’m endeavouring to get a little fun reading in every week along with the daily dog walks and the weekly gym workouts (Zumba is our latest experiment). It’s vital to have something besides work, work, work if I’m to be usefully productive all year long.
Lately, it’s a colouring book that’s given me the most fun, even as it’s challenged my vision some evenings. Those teeny little lines! Those swirling organic shapes! Those pencils that need to be sharpened again and again! But how could I resist? And the subject matter is just so “me” – I’ve always loved horses, more than is healthy. These are intricate and interesting but also well-done. So after I mark the next essay, I’ll take a break and either read, do some more colouring or maybe play a game. Maybe all three!
What helps you keep balance in your life?
Do any of you have advice on how to manage an out-of-control book collection? I’m afraid that I have too many books!
When I moved into my current office several years ago, I regarded three walls of bookshelves with some satisfaction. Certainly there was room here for all of my books and room for many more! I arranged my shelves in thematic cluster: one massive medieval section, an even larger early modern British area that runs from one wall to another, primary source (in chronological order), and so forth. I even left room here and there for new acquisitions while also leaving the perilous and unreachable top shelves empty.
Fast forward several years and almost all the bookshelves are full. Yet I still keep buying books. While I personally prefer ebooks for pleasure reading and as teaching texts, I can’t lend those to students – one of the major reasons behind my academic book buying! – so I keep an eye out for sales at my favourite presses while also buying must-have books for my many teaching subjects. The result is overfull bookshelves and I’m still a good fifteen years away from retirement.
I essayed a little shelf-cleaning and clearing the other week between class time and a department meeting. I could, with some further work, clear out about four linear feet of books, perhaps six feet, from the office. I’d be culling the books that students won’t really need like 1950s editions of Renaissance texts or that I’m never going to cite in my own research like collections of economic history analyses from the eighties. I’d have to be wildly unsentimental in the process, something with which I usually have no troubles but with books, well, it’s tough. They bring back all the memories, especially if they were a gift or a hand-me-down but even those books chance-gotten at thrift sales or from a pile of discards can become familiar friends just by my seeing their spine on the shelves many years after they were first acquired and read.
We have a bench by the department with a perpetual sign pasted over it: “Free Books!” Usually some prof lays down a few or a few dozen in any given week and they’re all instantly snapped up. I need to remind myself that any books I discard will be soon snatched up by someone else and get to the work of winnowing my collection. Wish me luck!
Over at 11D, Laura asked, Do you Fitbit? My answer could be summed up as “heck, yeah!” I received a Fitbit for my birthday in the spring and promptly fell in love with what it could do for me. Not only did it replace my rather generic watch in functionality and the annoyance of carrying my phone as a step counter, but it does so much more that I find useful.
Who needs an alarm clock when you can program your Fitbit to buzz you awake in the morning as you need? I haven’t used this for naps but this would also be a great way to ensure that if I do fall asleep on the sofa, I don’t let it go on too long!
My Fitbit alerts me to appointments and texts with a buzz followed by a scrolling short text description when I cock my wrist to see what’s up. So if a text comes through while I’m cleaning the kitchen, I don’t have to have my phone on me to know what’s happening. This is helpful as my phone is almost always muted and vibrations are my only alerts to incoming messages. But it’s also great for all of my Google calendar reminders to come through on my Fitbit.
I also love the Fitbit’s reminders to get up and get active every hour. I don’t always make the goals, especially during seminar classes or writing sprints, but my reminders run from 10-6 and I usually achieve at least six hours out of ten.
I know that the Fitbit isn’t a magic tool but it keeps exercise as a priority by giving me the reminders and incentives. It may seem silly to be motivated by a small piece of technology but when it does so much, it works for me!
Filed under personal, tech
As we support Youngest in her transition to university, I’m reminded of how vitally important are all those skills that aren’t only academic, especially the skills of time management. In my own undergraduate days, I wasn’t a paragon of time management prowess. Many essays were typed the Sunday before they were due only by virtue of the fact that it took most of a day to go from handwritten notes on legal pads and a towering stack of books beside my table to typewritten essay. I kept well ahead of readings mostly because I love reading but I lacked the savvy to read efficiently so that the only thing that saved me was my ability to speed-read. I never pulled all-nighters, but I stayed up too late too many times doing too much stuff at the last minute. In short, I wasn’t good at time management but I learned through the school of hard knocks.
I’ve tried to teach time management to my students in university – not as a broad set of academic principles, but in practical requirements for the course that force students to try out some time management principles by scaffolding assignments with proposals, submitting drafts or discussing their progress on a regular basis. I’ve become convinced of the value of planning work ahead, even to the point of assigning myself fictitious due dates (a few weeks or a month ahead of what’s required) to ensure that I’m not, myself, working up against an impossible deadline.
Youngest, who has autism as an additional factor, doesn’t cope at all well with last-minute pressure, wouldn’t work well burning the midnight oil and doesn’t know how or want to BS her way out of undone readings and homework (hallelujah!). But she doesn’t intuitively know how to break down a list of due dates and class schedules into an actual plan of attack. So we’ve been spending time with her these first weeks of term showing her how to identify what needs to be done and then putting that into a plan of attack for the week ahead (as well as, in a general way, the entire term). Here’s what we do:
- Open up her planner agenda for this week (after scanning the month page that lists all major items)
- Review course manuals (syllabus/outline/whatever), learning management systems and class notes for what needs to be done this week (readings, labs, quizzes) as well as what might be good to prepare for further ahead
- Estimate how much time each activity will take – 30 minutes/problem for these questions; 3 hours for this reading, etc.
- Write all that needs to be done in this week’s NOTES section
- Note each individual task on the week day it’s going to be done
- Cross off achievements as they’re completed and don’t forget to submit all completed work (that’s on the list, too)
We’ll see how this goes. So far today she’s done two parts of one big assignment and read through a textbook chapter. I’m off to remind her now that the first two books of The Odyssey (another part of today’s goal) still await before I take a moment to write down and organize my own week’s activities because I’m realizing this level of planning can work for me as well as for her!
Want more time management material? York U’s excellent Time Management Guide and Many Time Management Resources & Links at Dartmouth. Enjoy! It’s time for me to get back to class prep. That’s in my schedule, you see!