Words from the ’80s (the 1580s)

Two of my scholarly notes have been accepted for publication in Notes & Queries: “Antedatings of ‘the Dark Ages’” and “The First Recorded References to ‘Blank Verse’.”

Milton Of Reformation

John Milton, Of Reformation (1641)

These notes discuss the earliest instances of these phrases known to me, in both cases from the 1580s and in both cases predating the earliest quotation given in the corresponding Oxford English Dictionary entry. The notes go on to discuss the historical significance of the terms.

These lexicographical studies grew out of research for my second book project, tentatively titled Meter and Modernity in English Verse, 1350-1650. I became interested in the history of technical terms for historical periods and metrical forms, especially when the emergence of the terms is belated in comparison with what they describe.

Kzoo 2019 cfp: Periodization

A call for papers for a Special Session at the 54th International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, MI (May 9-12, 2019). E-mail 250-word abstracts to eric.weiskott@bc.edu by September 15, 2018. This paper panel is in sequence with Katie Little‘s roundtable, “Periodization I: Do We Need It?”

Periodization II: What Can We Do about It?

No one in the Middle Ages thought they were living in ‘the Middle Ages,’ of course. The middle of what? By the very nature of their research area, medievalists are well aware of the traps and ironies of historical periodization. When we become conscious of the marginalization of medieval studies in our institutions, we join periodization’s discontents. Since 2000, widely discussed books and collections by James Simpson (Reform and Cultural Revolution, 2002), Jennifer Summit and David Wallace (“Medieval/Renaissance: After Periodization,” 2007), and Kathleen Davis (Periodization and Sovereignty, 2008) have criticized the institutional status quo and pointed ahead to new periodizations or even to the end of historical periods as we know them.

This panel provides a timely forum for reconsidering the question of periodization and directing it to new research problems. For example, all the work mentioned in the previous paragraph concerns the medieval/modern periodization, but scholars within individual disciplines must grapple with other periodizations: late antique / medieval; Old English / Middle English within medieval English studies; high medieval / late medieval within continental European medieval studies.

Moreover, Davis asserts that medieval studies must build bridges with postcolonial studies if medieval studies is to avoid Eurocentrism even as it attacks presentism. That is, the issue of time and temporality has been bound up, in Western historiography, with the issue of space and spatiality. To question the medieval/modern divide may also amount to questioning the European/non-European divide. A clutch of edited volumes since 2000 attests that this transdisciplinary synthesis is already under way (The Postcolonial Middle Ages, ed. Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, 2000; Postcolonial Moves: Medieval through Modern, ed. Patricia Clare Ingham and Michelle R. Warren, 2003; Medievalisms in the Postcolonial World, ed. Davis and Nadia Altschul, 2009).

This panel seeks submissions that could address a variety of questions from any disciplinary perspective, including:

  • How have our scholarly predecessors divided historical time?
  • Who has, historically, decided how to divide time, and why?
  • What are the negative or positive implications of those divisions for a particular subfield, approach, author, or text?
  • What is the relation between temporality and spatiality, ‘medieval’ and ‘Europe’?
  • What role do, or should, programs or institutes of medieval studies play in addressing periodization?
  • If periodization is an institutional and/or intellectual problem, what can be done about it?

Commencement 2018

I attended my first Boston College Commencement this morning. I served as a faculty marshal, which meant I arrived early to Alumni Stadium and was able to greet most of the class of 2018 as they processed in for the ceremony.


the view from aisle D, before the procession

I was glad to be invited to serve as a marshal. This was a meaningful year for me to attend Commencement, because I’ve been at BC the same number of years as the graduating seniors. I’ve gotten to know many of them from my courses. One student, C., wrote a stellar honors thesis on medieval literature under my supervision this year. Another student, O., is off to law school and gave me the incredibly thoughtful thank-you gift of personalized stationery, which I discovered in my office this morning.

It was an appropriately celebratory event, on a warm sunny day. At the Provost’s reception this afternoon, I had the chance to catch up with some English Department colleagues outside of the grind of the semester. It’s been a good year. Now I’m looking forward to the summer.