How NOT to Attract Future Medievalists

Dr Nokes has an eloquent post on ‘outreach’ Medievalism which you should all trundle off and read. I’ll get around to posting a response to it once I’ve finished my essay. Suffice to say, the only problem with Nokes’ post is that his picture of the medieval nerd is male-focused. I know, by personal experience and the Internet, that there are a lot of twitty female medieval fantasy nerds out there, and even sub-genres of fantasy lit aimed specifically at them. Also, witness the good deal of medieval/early modern historical romance books out there.

I will, building on my comments to his post, talk a bit about ways of appealing specifically to that audience. However, right now in my procrastination, may I advise you on something which does NOT draw interest in Medieval Studies?

As Nokes points out, many people are interested in the medieval origins of modern institutions and traditions. Stephanie Trigg’s work on the Order of the Garter is one good example. People also like to know about medieval things because it seems romantic, or adventurous: I remember JP telling us that he was suddenly fielding calls from radio stations across the country when Kingdom of Heaven came out, asking him ‘if the Crusades were really like that’. (Short answer: No.)

One thing people are NOT interested in, despite its usefulness and medieval origins, is double-entry bookkeeping. Despite the fact that JP, in the context of 12th/13th century Florentine trade, managed to explain to me a concept my mother, a trained bookkeeper, has never managed to get through my head, the appropriate response to ‘so, do you understand about double-entry bookkeeping’, when asked by an employer, is not ‘oh, yes, it’s a respectable 12th century Florentine invention!’. This will earn you only funny looks and a VERY DETAILED demonstration of the charges and payments on the computer.

Having said that, I have not stuffed up charges or payments yet, and no one has had to spend hours explaining why the same transaction has to be entered twice. I guess next time someone asks if I learnt anything useful at university, I shall say yes, I did. My Medieval Studies course has made me a more efficient receptionist.

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2 Responses to “How NOT to Attract Future Medievalists”

  1. kishnevi Says:

    Another potential use is the ability to realize the amount of BS in popular books.
    I’m saying this after having, earlier today, thrown a book on the floor–would have thrown it across the room, but that would have resulted in hitting either my mother or the TV set, neither of which is a good idea–after coming across a page that contained so many inaccuracies I believe that there were only two sentences which were matched actual facts, and one of those was merely continuing a sentence begun on the previous page. And since this was page 14, that was not a good sign.
    PHILO HAD NOTHING TO DO WITH KABBALAH!
    THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS ALEXANDRIAN KABBALAH!
    [calming breath]
    However, every cloud has a silver lining. I’m going to read the rest of it–it’s about Michelangelo and claims he put in a lot of symbols of Kabbalah and esoteric signals about peace, gay love and brotherhood in the Sistine Chapel paintings–for the sole purpose of writing a devastating review which, when posted on my blog, will terminate the careers of at least one co-author at once–I wish. And since I took out of the public library, I at least don’t have to be mad at myself for wasted money.

  2. highlyeccentric Says:

    Another potential use is the ability to realize the amount of BS in popular books.

    oh, if only more people recognised BS when they saw it…


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