Norman origins: or why it’s more complicated than DNA

A friend linked to this piece of news from Norway (in translation; French report here): specialists in DNA analysis have opened the tombs of Dukes Richard I and Richard II of Normandy in order to determine their origins. The reason the specialists feel this needs to be done lies in the differing traditions of how Rollo (grandfather of Richard I) arrived in what is now Normandy in the first place: at its simplest, as recorded in the newspaper, was Rollo Danish or Norwegian? The actual questions should be does this change our understanding of history? Is it good history? Is it good science?

Continue reading “Norman origins: or why it’s more complicated than DNA”

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Transitional places and women who walk

Today saw the first synchronised walk for the ‘Women Who Walk‘ network, tagline ‘walking, making, thinking’. This network, curated by Sonia Overall, is designed to allow women who use walking in academic and creative practice to share experiences, ideas, methods and so on. In terms of synchronicity I fell down twice by not managing to fit the walk into the allotted hours (quite) and also because I am not mobile tweeting enabled. This post therefore represents a paradox: a fixed account of something that happened in the past dealing with fluidity and transitions.

Continue reading “Transitional places and women who walk”

The monks of Bec-Hellouin and the importance of place vs space

One of the things I am working on at the moment is an essay for A Companion to the Abbey of Le Bec in the Middle Ages edited by Benjamin Pohl and Laura Gathagan to be published by Brill. This is an exciting project as it brings together different approaches to understand the significance of this important Anglo-Norman abbey from a wide variety of scholars. My piece, as you might expect, is on the use of space. It’s a welcome return for me to the study of monasticism and also to pick up some of the challenges of studying space, place and landscape in the middle ages. Continue reading “The monks of Bec-Hellouin and the importance of place vs space”

Into the wilderness

Originally posted at ‘On Boundaries’ (now defunct). The thoughts presented in the original paper have been published as ‘Monastic Authority, Landscape, and Place in the Ecclesiastical History of Orderic Vitalis’, Gender and Authority in Medieval and Renaissance Chronicles, eds J. Dresvina and N. Sparkes (Newcastle-upon-Tyne, 2012), pp. 102-120. I’ve reposted it here as it has some bearing on an article I’m currently writing about the abbey of Bec-Hellouin.

What is a wilderness? How did medieval chroniclers and other writers describe it? What is the significance of the wilderness? These and other questions were the subject of my most recent paper at a workshop on monasticism held to launch three books (mine and two of my colleagues’). Continue reading “Into the wilderness”

New Year, New Blog

During the coming term, I will be on research leave and hopefully making headway with my new book provisionally titled Landscapes of the Normans: Ways of Seeing. The aim of this blog is to act as a virtual notebook of ideas, thoughts and musings relating to that. Some content will be reused from my previous blog ‘On Boundaries’ (now deleted) where I blogged as ‘gesta’. This will be clearly flagged and acknowledged.