Monday, June 30, 2008

Constable New Acting Director of Medieval Institute

With great pleasure, I am posting the e-mail message below from John McGreevy, incoming dean of the College of Arts and Letters, to the Medieval Institute faculty and students:

Dear Colleagues:

I'm delighted to announce that Remie Constable has agreed to step in for a two-year term as Acting Director of the Medieval Institute. As all of you know, Remie's record is an unusually distinguished  one. She has published two major monographs and edited a third. Her revised dissertation, "Trade and Traders in Muslim Spain" (Cambridge, 1994) received the John Nicholas Brown prize from the Medieval Academy of America. Her fellowship record is equally stellar, with major awards from the American Council of Learned Societies and the NEH.  At the same time, she has successfully taught  at all levels of the curriculum, from university seminar to graduate student reading courses, and is this year slated for a College Seminar. I can personally attest to her gifts as an administrator, and her six-year stint as Director of Graduate Studies in History was marked by significant advances in the organization and coherence of History's graduate program.

I will look forward to further conversations with medievalists on campus about the long-term future of the Medieval Institute. But your thoughtful, measured responses to Mark's call for suggestions, and your enthusiasm for Remie as a possible leader, were most helpful.  Please join me in thanking Remie and congratulating her for taking on this new role

Best, John

As all of you know

John T. McGreevy
Department of History
University of Notre Dame
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0368
Fax: (574)631-4717

Wednesday, June 25, 2008

Movies for Medievalists

Back in the days when I worked at the University of Chicago, I took a whole series of film classes through the Continuing Education program. I really became interested in movies and we got to see a lot of first-rate films and hear them critiqued by an extremely keen mind and hysterically funny raconteur, Chicago Sun-Times movie reviewer Roger Ebert. See the left margin of the blog for my in-progress list of "movies for medievalists." Nominees for the list are welcome.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Medieval Studies Syllabi

In two separate instances recently, I've heard faculty mention that they would like to see syllabi from courses like their own (see the comment posted on this blog by Robin Vose of St. Thomas University (Nova Scotia) about medieval movie courses) or in areas of personal interest (as suggested to me by Danielle Joyner, one of our Notre Dame art historians).

I became curious about the availability of such resources and found a few places to start by Googling "medieval syllabi":

Sample Syllabi from ORB (On-line Reference Book for Medieval Studies)

Medieval Literature from Prof. Jack Lynch at Rutgers

Medieval Military History and the Crusades from De Re Militari.

History of Magic and the Occult from the Societas Magica's Syllabus Project

Medieval Era Jewish History from Hebrew University of Jerusalem

Syllabi Finder from the Center for History and New Media, George Mason University (described as: "Searching 1,046,372 syllabi at the Center for History and New Media and over 500,000 syllabi via Google"); putting in "medieval" as a keyword brought up an estimated 31,600 matches

Anyone else have some suggestions?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

The Times, They Are a-Changin'

With mixed emotions of congratulations and sadness, let me share an announcement made this morning by Notre Dame's Dean of the College of Arts and Letters, Mark Roche. He wrote to the faculty of the Medieval Institute as follows:

I have just appointed Tom Noble as Chairperson of History. We have many reasons to be grateful for Tom's wonderful leadership of the Medieval Institute. Tom has done a superb job as Director, continuing to advance our premier graduate program, taking the lead on a major investment in Byzantine studies, and enhancing our undergraduate program, lifting it in the past three years from 5 undergraduate minors to 22 majors, including 1 honors major, 5 supplementary majors, and 29 minors. Even as Tom has invested his time in administration, he often taught an overload, and he received a Joyce Award for Undergraduate Teaching this past year. Tom has also remained very active as a scholar: his most recent book Images and the Carolingians: Tradition, Order, and Worship is forthcoming from the University of Pennsylvania Press; his edited volume, Early Medieval Christianities, 600-1100, Volume 3 of the Cambridge History of Christianity, will appear later this year; and his volume of translations, Charlemagne and Louis the Pious: Five Lives, will appear next year with Penn State University Press. The 5th edition of his co-authored textbook, Western Civilization, appeared last year. While we will miss Tom's leadership in the Institute, he will continue to be involved as a Faculty Fellow, and the College will greatly benefit from his new role.

I am hopeful that an acting director of the Institute will be appointed shortly. Formally, Tom will take over his new duties on July 1, but will continue to be available as we make the transition. I encourage those of you who know Tom as a colleague or teacher to send him a note of congratulations. His e-mail address is:

Wednesday, June 18, 2008


As I began writing entries for this newborn blog, I did what any reasonably curious person with access to the Internet does these days and I "Googled" the term "medieval blog." Poking around in various places unearthed a list of such blogs at That got me sampling around a bit and looking at things like and I feel as if I'm a budding oenophile who is sampling a great many varietals of different vintage and trying to get a handle on my own preferences while developing a knowledge and appreciation of the standard taste benchmarks. I also see that blogs can easily become a near occasion of sin for those of us who fight regularly with the temptation to pontificate. Likewise, I wonder about the impact of blogging on the production of Ph.D. dissertations. My guess is that blogging is moving up quickly to the status of "getting coffee" in terms of its delaying effect on graduate student (and perhaps professorial?) academic productivity. Luckily, those of us who function as low-level administrators can far more easily justify our blogging efforts as job-related. The good news, too, is that some (at least) of what might pass for idle conversation if verbalized around a water cooler or the departmental photocopier is, actually, of some interest/use/amusement to readers. Of course, I'm not sure if any such discerning parties are eyeballing my own pontifications, but it DOES make me feel good to think so. Perhaps pride of authorship is the real key to blogulatory activity. Go figure (or just write a comment on my blog).

Monday, June 16, 2008

Summer Latin and Paleography at ND

Tomorrow is the start of our summer semester at Notre Dame and we have the pleasure of welcoming Frank Mantello, from Catholic University of America, as a visiting professor. This is the twelfth summer that Frank has taught Medieval Latin and Paleography courses in our program. Many of our Medieval Institute graduate students have studied with Frank over the years and they prize their experience in "Latin bootcamp." It's no lie to say that he has "written the book" on medieval Latin; he is coeditor of Medieval Latin: An Introduction and Bibliographical Guide.

Students from around the country come to Notre Dame for the opportunity to take courses that often are not available at their home institutions. Thanks to the generosity of the Medieval Academy's Committe on Centers and Regional Associates (CARA) scholarships, we can fund the tuition of two student members of the Medieval Academy who enroll in either Medieval Latin or Paleography. Our summer program web site ( gives information on the application process.

One of my personal delights is being part of an enterprise that encourages scholarship because it is intrinsically valuable to human society, rather than questions whether it meets a cost-benefit definition of contemporary relevance or practical utility. I really believe in and value this element of the liberal arts tradition. I remember having a rather unpleasant conversation as an undergraduate college student with a well-meaning engineer uncle who wanted to know what I planned to "do" with my history degree. Luckily, my parents never took up this same conversational strand. At this stage of my career, I would probably be a lot better equipped (and a lot more confident in my position) to argue for the validity of my choice of a major. (At least I hope I would be.) I've never regretted that choice of a major, even though virtually all of my professional career has been spent in non-academic editing and marketing communications for institutions of higher education.

So, three cheers for medieval Latin and paleography (and their students and teachers)! Long may you prosper.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Who Loves Yuh, Baby?

One of my summer projects is updating our MI web site and I would really like to add more alumni news. Right now, if you go to you will see that we cover the period from 1996 to 2008 (although not comprehensively). In the past, we've focused on highlighting academic appointment/publication information because we often have prospective students ask about our placement record. It makes it easy to point them to this location and they can see the range of our alumni network in academic institutions throughout the world. Nonetheless, as you might suspect, our updating efforts have been somewhat hit-or-miss. I'd like to correct that by trying to create a contact list of all our living Medieval Institute grads (in and out of academia).

My goal over the summer is to get some help from the ND Alumni Office to obtain a complete list of our grads and current contact info for them. With that in hand, I'd like to e-mail each of our alumni and ask them to give me a paragraph or two on what they are doing currently. IF YOU ARE A GRADUATE OF THE NOTRE DAME MEDIEVAL INSTITUTE, please feel free to beat me to the punch and shoot me an e-mail with your on-line address, present work status, noteworthy life events, a cv, a reminiscence, or whatever you wouldn't mind sharing with my blog-readers. I reserve the write to edit--after all, it IS my blog--but you might get a kick out of catching up on some of the folks with whom you share memories. I would very much like to get acquainted with more of our MI alumni. They keep turning up and introducing themselves to me at conferences, and I'm starting to feel that becoming our "family" historian would be a very enjoyable addition to my job description.

Thanks to the blog, I've heard from Simone Brosig (Ph.D. 2006), Bonnie Mak (Ph.D. 2004), Mike Waddell (Ph.D. 2000), and Robin Vose (Ph.D. 2004). And I know that there has been an on-campus sighting of Randy Smith (Ph.D. 1998), whom I hope to catch before he leaves South Bend. If any of you blog-readers are visiting Notre Dame, let me know, so I can greet you in person. You might even get one of our Medieval Institute t-shirts--a precious commodity in some circles.

Our "kissing cousin" medievalists who graduated from other ND departments are most welcome to join in the lovefest, too. If you had the entry code to the Reading Room door, then you're plenty good enough to comment on this blog. So, now do you know "who loves YOU, baby?"

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Roman Holiday?

OK, this isn't really about the Audrey Hepburn/Gregory Peck movie, but thinking about Rome when you're writing from South Bend, Indiana does make your mind wander a bit! Here's an FYI on a perennial fellowship opportunity.

Rome Prize 2009
The American Academy in Rome invites applications for the Rome Prize competition. One of the leading overseas centers for independent study and advanced research in the arts and the humanities, the Academy offers up to thirty fellowships for periods ranging from six months to two years.
Rome Prize winners reside at the Academy's eleven-acre center in Rome and receive room and board, a study or studio, and a stipend. Stipends for six-month fellowships are $12,500 and stipends for eleven-month fellowships are $25,000.
Fellowships are awarded in the following related fields:
- Architecture
- Design (including graphic, fashion, industrial, interior, lighting, set, and sound design, engineering, urban planning, and other related design fields)
- Historic Preservation and Conservation (including architectural design, public policy, and the conservation of works of art)
- Landscape Architecture
Fellowships are also awarded in: Literature*; Musical Composition; Visual Arts. In the field of humanities we award fellowships in Ancient Studies; Medieval Studies; Renaissance and Early Modern Studies; and Modern Italian Studies.
*Awarded by nomination through the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

1 November 2008 competition deadline
For further information or to download guidelines and application forms, visit the Academy’s website at or contact the American Academy in Rome, 7 East 60 Street, New York, NY 10022-1001, Attn. Programs. T: (212) 751-7200, ext. 47; F: (212) 751-7220; E: Please state specific field of interest when requesting information.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Fab Five Master Medieval Studies

Per my earlier post (see archive for May 30, 2008), you know we have a special ceremony for our graduates. Here are the smiling faces of our five 2008 Master of Medieval Studies (M.M.S.) grads. They make a charming group (in my humble opinion). Tuh-dah! (Trumpet roll . . . . )

Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Flashes of Light

1. So far, all my postings have been pretty serious. Just for fun, here's a joke (non-medieval to be sure, but something that I enjoyed):

Rene Descartes is drinking with friends in a bar.  At the last call, the bartender asks him if he'd like another drink. Descartes says, "I think not" and disappears.

2. I've been pondering a suitable answer to the question below. Feel free to comment with your own suggestions.

"How many medievalists does it take to screw in a lightbulb?"

3. Here are a couple of questions for discussion before you start your next administrative meeting (or at the end of a very long dinner with a guest lecturer who did NOT wow the crowd):

What movie best portrays the reality of life in the Middle Ages?

What is the most unrealistic film portrayal of medieval life, in a drama? (The "drama" qualifier is intended to knock out "Monty Python and the Holy Grail" and "Robin Hood: Men in Tights," among other comic contenders.)

What is your favorite movie about the Middle Ages?


Thursday, June 5, 2008

Ambrosiana Library on Microfilm

This week, the MI welcomed Don Prudlo, assistant professor of history at Jacksonville State University, for a short visit to our Ambrosiana Library microfilm collection. Don was awarded one of our Ambrosiana stipends, a $500 cash award to subsidize research visits to the collection. (Details on the award are available at:

The ND Ambrosiana collection is a wonderful scholarly resource. Based on an agreement between Giovanni Battista Montini, then the cardinal-archbishop of Milan (later Pope Paul VI), and Fr. Theodore M. Hesburgh, then University president, Notre Dame's Medieval Institute holds microfilms and photographic copies of nearly all of the Latin and vernacular materials and many of those in Greek, Hebrew, and Arabic housed in the Biblioteca Ambrosiana in Milan.

The Frank M. Folsom Microfilm and Photographic Collection consists of positive and negative microfilms of over 10,000 Medieval and Renaissance manuscripts belonging to the Biblioteca Ambrosiana, together with about 50,000 photographs of miniatures, illuminated initials, and Old Master drawings supplemented by some 15,000 color slides.

In addition to the microfilm collection, ND Art History Prof. Robert Randolf Coleman is producing an inventory-catalogue of the Ambrosiana's collection of some 12,000 drawings by European artists who were active from the fourteenth through nineteenth centuries. The project database, which includes scanned images of the drawings, may be searched free-of-charge at

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

The Angel and the Muse (Villanova Conference)

ND Medieval Institute alumnus Michael Waddell (Ph.D. 2000, Medieval Philosophy), who is on the planning committee for a conference at Villanova, sent in a call for papers. (Note that the dates overlap with our own SIEPM conference, but I think there are enough medievalists to go around if the recent 3,000-person gathering at Kalamazoo is any indication.) Here are the details.

The organizers of Villanova's Patristic, Medieval, and Renaissance Studies Conference (PMR) invite all Notre Dame medievalists to participate in the 33rd annual PMR (October 10-12, 2008).

The theme of this year's conference will be "The Angel and the Muse: Inspiration, Revelation, Prophecy." Keynote addresses will be delivered by Peter S. Hawkins (Religion and Literature, Yale Divinity School) and Michael Sells (Islamic Studies, University of Chicago Divinity School). While the keynote addresses and several sessions will examine the conference theme, the conference welcomes submissions on all topics in late antiquity/patristics, Byzantine Studies, Medieval Studies, Islamic Studies, Jewish Studies, and Renaissance and Reformation Studies.

For more information, please visit the PMR website at: or click on the heading of this post.

Or, feel free to contact Michael Waddell:

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

SIEPM Conference October 8-10, 2008

I'm very pleased to announce that we've just posted the program and information about local arrangements for the SIEPM Conference being hosted by the Medieval Institute at Notre Dame in fall. The conference will focus on the particularities of the teaching of philosophy and theology in the studia of the mendicant (Augustinian, Carmelite, Dominican, Franciscan) and monastic (Benedictine, Cistercian) orders and at the theological schools at the Papal Court (notably at Avignon) as distinct from instruction in the faculties of the university proper.

There's a full list of speakers, paper titles, and logistical details about travel to South Bend and accommodations for visitors on our web site. There will be 26 papers given over the course of 3 days and the conference participants reflect the international membership of the SIEPM. CLICKING ON THE HEADLINE OF THIS POST WILL TAKE YOU TO THE CONFERENCE WEB PAGE.