A Podcast Exploring the Wit and Weirdness of Medieval Texts

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MDT Ep. 81: Concerning More Descriptions of the Plague

Figure of a bubo being treated from the Bristol City Library MS of Guy de Chauliac's Chirugia Magna.

As life under quarantine begins to enter a new phase, we continue our survey of plague texts, with a grab-bag of selections ranging from Petrarch baring his soul to a surgeon listing failed remedies to some Paris professors issuing pandemic guidelines to keep the country safe, which include by no means consuming olive oil.

Today’s Texts

  • Capgrave, John. The Chronicle of England. Edited by Francis Charles Hingeston, Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, 1858. Google Books.
  • Dobson, Susanna, translator. The Life of Petrarch. Collected from Memoires pour la vie de Petrarch by Jacques-Francois-Paul-Aldonce De Sade, vol. 2, 7th ed., W. Wilson, 1807. Google Books.
  • Guy de Chauliac, Grand Chirurgie. “Description of the Plague.” Tr.  by Anna M. Campbell. Reprinted from Campbell, The Black Death and Men of Learning, pp. 2-3, 1931.
  • Guy de Chauliac, Grand Chirurgie. “Description of the Plague.” Tr.  by William A. Guy. Public Health: A Popular Introduction to Sanitary Science, Henry Renshaw, 1870, pp. 48-50. Google Books.
  • Petrarch, “Letter to Gherard, May 1349.” Translated by Francis Aidan Gasquet in The Black Death of 1348 and 1349, 2nd ed., George Bell and Sons, 1908, pp. 33-34. Google Books.
  • “Statement of the Faculty of the College of Physicians of Paris.” In The Epidemics of the Middle Ages, by J.F.C. Hecker, translated by B.G. Babington, 3rd ed., Trübner & Co., 1859, pp. 47-49. Google Books.

References

  • Hecker, J.F.C. The Epidemics of the Middle Ages. Translated by B.G. Babington, 3rd ed., Trübner & Co., 1859. Google Books.
  • “May You Live in Interesting Times.” Quote Investigator, 18 Dec. 2015, quoteinvestigator.com/2015/12/18/live/. Accessed 21 May 2020.

Image: Figure of a bubo being treated from the Bristol City Library MS of Guy de Chauliac’s Chirugia Magna. In Singer, Charles. “The Figures of the Bristol Guy de Chauliac MS. (circa 1430).” Proceedings of the Royal Society of Medicine, 10, pp. 71–90, doi.org/10.1177/003591571701001504.

MDT Ep. 80: Concerning Boccaccio’s Description of the Plague

Detail from a 15th-century French manuscript of the Decameron (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Français 239, fol. 1r.)

We return at last for our first episode of 2020 in the midst of the covid-19 global pandemic. As such, our text for today is the famous description of the bubonic plague as it appeared in Florence in 1348 with which Boccaccio frames his tale collection, the Decameron.

Today’s Text

  • Boccaccio, Giovanni. Stories of Boccaccio (The Decameron). Translated by Léopold Flameng, G. Barrie, 1881. Google Books.

References

  • Keys, Thomas E. “The Plague in Literature.” Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, vol. 32, 1944, pp. 35–56. europepmc.org/backend/ptpmcrender.fcgi?accid=PMC194297&blobtype=pdf.
  • Kowalski, Todd J., and William A. Agger. “Art Supports New Plague Science.” Clinical Infectious Diseases, vol. 48, no. 1, Jan. 2009, pp. 137-138. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40309557.
  • Marafiotio, Martin. “Post-Decameron Plague Treatises and the Boccaccian Innovation of Narrative Prophylaxis.” Annali d’Italianistica, vol. 23, 2005, pp. 69-87. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/24009628.
  • Martin, Paul M.V., and Estelle Martin-Granel. “2,500-Year Evolution of the Term Epidemic.” Emerging Infectious Diseases, vol. 12, no. 6, pp. 976-980, doi:10.3201/eid1206.051263.
  • “Mortality Frequency Measures.” Centers for Disease Control, Principles of Epidemiology in Public Health Practice, 3rd ed., 12 May 2012, www.cdc.gov/csels/dsepd/ss1978/lesson3/section3.html.
  • “Plague.” Centers for Disease Control, 19 Nov. 2019, www.cdc.gov/plague/index.html.

Image Credit: Detail from a 15th-century French manuscript of the Decameron (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Département des manuscrits, Français 239, fol. 1r.)

MDT Ep. 79: Concerning Cursed Christmas Carolers and an Unlikely Bishop

Detail of dancers from Bodleian Library MS 264 f. 51v.

This Christmas Eve episode, we return to the Gesta Regum Anglorum of William of Malmesbury, to learn hear some legends of Saxony, including some overly boisterous Christmas revelers cursed to continue their revels for a whole year without rest.

Today’s Text:

  • William of Malmesbury. Chronicle of the Kings of England. Edited by J.A. Giles, translated by John Sharpe and J.A. Giles, George Bell & Sons, 1895. Google Books.

References:

  • Hecker, J.F.C. The Epidemics of the Middle Ages. Translated by B.G. Babington, 3rd ed., Trübner & Co., 1859. Google Books.
  • McDougall, Sara. “Bastard Priests: Illegitimacy and Ordination in Medieval Europe.” Speculum, vol. 94, no. 1, Jan. 2019, pp. 138-172.
  • Thomas, Edith M. “The Christmas Dancers: A Legend of Saxony.” The Century, vol. 59, no. 2, Dec. 1899, pp. 165-173. Google Books.

Music Credit: “Venite, Benedicti” from World of Dante.

Image: detail from Bodleian Library MS 264 f. 51v.

MDT Ep. 78: Concerning the Character of William Rufus and Some Scandalous Shoes

William Rufus as drawn by Matthew Paris

This episode, we explore a character analysis of an unpopular leader, as William of Malmesbury explains how the virtues of William Rufus transformed into his greatest vices. Along the way, we also learn why pointy shoes are indicators of moral degradation.

Today’s Texts:

  • William of Malmesbury. Chronicle of the Kings of England. Edited by J.A. Giles, translated by John Sharpe and J.A. Giles, George Bell & Sons, 1895. Google Books.
  • Orderic Vitalis. The Ecclesiastical History of England and Normandy. Vol. 2. Translated by Thomas Forester, Henry G. Bohn, 1854. Google Books.

References:

  • Barlow, Frank. William Rufus. Yale English Monarchs, Yale UP, 2000. First published by Methuen London, Ltd., 1983.
  • Disraeli, Isaac. Miscellanies of Literature. Revised ed., vol 1, Baudry’s European Library, 1840. Google Books.Gransden, Antonia. Historical Writing in England. Cornell UP, 1974.
  • Jolliffe, J.E.A. Angevin Kingship. Adam and Charles Buck, 1955.
  • Schütt, Marie. “The Literary Form of William of Malmesbury’s ‘Gesta Regum.'” The English Historical Review, vol. 46, no. 182, Apr. 1931, pp. 255-260. JSTOR,https://www.jstor.org/stable/552950.
  • Shapiro, Susan C. “‘Yon Plumed Dandebrat’: Male ‘Effeminancy’ in English Satire and Criticism.” The Review of English Studies, New Series, vol. 39, no. 155, Aug. 1988, pp. 400-412. JSTORwww.jstor.org/stable/516769.

Image: William Rufus, as drawn by Matthew Paris (via Wikimedia Commons)

The Medieval Death Trip Christmas Playlist on Spotify: https://open.spotify.com/playlist/5EmlXCdeLV3HPmspb0I9AX?si=xLAmcPy5T-ORU_5xIvvyzg

MDT Ep. 76: Concerning a Glimpse into 15th-Century School Life

Woodcut of a Tudor Grammar School
XJF265591 Schoolroom scene in Tudor times (litho) (b/w photo) by English School, (16th century); Private Collection; (add.info.: Schoolmaster seated holding a birch, usher (assistant) beating a boy; classroom is divided up in ages and stages of learning;); English, out of copyright

We return from our hiatus with an exploration of life in Tudor grammar school classroom, as described in a compilation of translation exercises composed for his students by a master of the Magdalen School, Oxford.

Today’s Text:

Image: Woodcut of a Tudor grammar school (via https://ninenet.pbslearningmedia.org/resource/xjf265591eng/schoolroom-scene-in-tudor-times-xjf265591-eng/).

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