Oh hey, a resource

I may be the last person on the internet to read Notorius How To Write Your (Undergrad) Paper In Seven Days. But in case I’m not, have a link!

I’m intrigued. I’m not sure anyone had ever told me to write topic sentences first – but I’m pretty sure that I do, for the most part. Or days on which I do that are days when I write well. Intriguing.  I may print out this list (with credit) and add it to the arsenal of writing-tips with which I berate my students. Thoughts, O former-students-who-read-this?

Notice to students

This semester, I happen to be tutoring on a course that involves the Song of Roland, and some Chrétien. Given that I’m the top google return for ‘Marvels Song of Roland’, and this search string turns up with great regularity, it’s highly likely that my students are going to find me.

This is a notice for students of Medieval Studies at the University of Sydney, fourth-year French at same, and indeed elsewhere:

1. Blogs do not constitute academic sources, because they have not been through peer review.
2. Yes, some of my undergraduate work is up here. Feel free to chase up my footnotes; replicating my argument would be foolish in the extreme.

Advice, and, eventually, a running list of resources for students can be found on

A post of stuff!

Stuff, it’s happening! On the internets.

For example, archaeologists in Iran have discovered a thirteenth-century observatory.

And RicaManuscript image - a piperrdo Chao created (and uploaded) a new computer font based on 12-th century Spanish chancery script. It’s shiny. Probably too shiny for anything but headings, and not all headings at that. But shiny. [This link and the preceding came via News for Medievalists]

U. Michigan have an online exhibition on Late Antique magical doodads: amulets, gems, recipes, aggressive magics, and something called a Demon Bowl.I <3 nerds

Here are a stack of pictures of medieval and renaissance dancers. Sadly, some of the links are borked.

Wickedday, in a laudable exercise of linguistic geekery, created an Old English scrabble set – and has instructions on how to build your own.

And [I think this was also via News for Medievalists]: renovations on a church in Berkshire have uncovered Britains’ oldest working window. It’s tiny. And adorable.

A week or so ago, Lesboprof posted a handy-dandy list of practical, professional advice for administrators and teachers (at tertiary level, although possibly applicable at other levels) on how to be actively queer-friendly on campus. I I'm in ur history - emphasizin your queerzassume by now you’ve all seen the flurry of blogging and social networking arising from the recent spate of well-reported suicides by queer youth in the US, and carrying on into (US-based) National Coming Out Day. I read a lot of the resulting material, and Lesboprof’s advice is that which I found ‘best’, by the arbitrary standards of ‘things Highly likes’. I urge you to read the post and consider applying some of her suggestions if you are in a position to do so.

Finally, in case you missed it, historians admit to inventing Ancient Greece.

Nifty things post: BiblioLife

Having discovered that the USyd library either doesn’t have a copy of Chrétien’s Philomena, or haven’t entered it into the catalogue database1, I recently embarked upon a quest to buy Cornelius de Boer’s 1909 edition of same.

I can’t remember which seller I bought it through – I use abebooks.com.au, betterworldbooks.com and bookdepository.co.uk pretty much indiscriminately. The book turns out to come, though, from a printing company called BiblioLife, who digitise out-of-print books and then print and sell them as paperbacks. So my copy of Philomena turned up in a flimsy paperback form, looking like a (very nice) self-published book. Inside, though, is a complete scan of the 1909 original – blown up just slightly, and on bright white paper, which makes for a much easier reading experience than one would have with the now-discoloured original. The margins are very wide, which is great for my compulsive annotating-and-scrawling habit.

Also – and I find this adorable – here and there, in very tiny ink pen, you can see neat annotations made by someone onto the page of the original which had been scanned. They look like useful annotations – one emends “queres” to “qu’elle”, which, sure enough, makes more sense – which beats the bubble-writing twit who carefully made utterly wrong notes on my second-hand copy of Cliges.

The Bibliolife website says they use the profits from their paperback sales to fund further digitisation projects. Sounds pretty spiffy to me!

On the other hand, let it be stated now that if Cornelius de Boer weren’t already dead I would inhume him myself. Extremely meticulous edition, with copious notes and even a complete index, but no glossary. Why, if you’re listing every instance of a given word in your text, would you not give a definition of it at the same time? Oh, right, because it’s 1909 and you’re allowed to assume everyone knows as much as you do. HOWEVER, I’ve just remembered that one of my several (why do I have several???) translations of Cliges has an English translation of Philomena in it, so at least I can cross-reference something.


1. One day I will learn how to use a card catalogue. Again. Primary school library lessons were a long time ago! I can use the card catalogue in Rare Book, but only if I’m looking for one specific book – I’ve no idea how I’d fare looking up a general topic without the ability to keyword search. Perhaps I should ask a librarian.

Today is link day!

My friend Kari has just launched her own academic blog. Strange Student is (going to be!) full of resources for self-directed learning. Kari plans to lend some help and advice to students who come to higher education through non-traditional pathways (such as homeschooled young people or mature-age students), provide resources for those who want to learn more outside of the classroom, and to provide links to the best online education materials (with a history-specific bent).

On Mondays she’ll be posting about college (university), and she’s started off with a clear, concise post entitled Is College Right For You. I don’t know if I’ve got any followers who are debating their possible university career, but if you are, you might want to check out Kari’s post – you’ll get a lot more in the way of balanced advice from her than from me (pssst UNIVERSITY IS AWESOME). Dean Dad, Kari’s series might interest you; likewise anyone who’s in a student-advisory type capacity in academic administration.

To the Students of “Myths, Legends and Heroes”:

I assume you’re responsible for the sudden spate of AElfric-related search strings which have been bringing people to this blog, particularly the ‘aelfric cult of saints’ string and the ‘St Eadmund’ string.

For those wanting to know about English attitudes to the Vikings- there are some half-decent sources out there on that, but not much (that I know of) in the way of scholarly sources online. Sadly, almost everything which is of use to you in book form is currently either loaned out to me or to K (which is why I know about your assignment, as she is in MLH with you), and as your essay is due on Tuesday you’re not going to get hold of it by then.

When it comes to St Edmund, you might as well give up- K tells me there is one article out there on the depiction of the Vikings in the St Edmund homily, but I don’t know the citation for it since I didn’t look at Vikings when I worked on Edmund. Best to work from your lecture notes or come up with your own interpretation.

Instead of googling, I recommend you use the Old English Bibliography Database to find articles which you can use for your essay. You will need to register- put down your university as your affiliation, and then you’ll need to read their ‘how to search’ instructions as the search function is a bit complicated. But that will find you everything written on Old English lit or history up to 2004.

If you are going to research using google, can I please encourage you to consider some principles for using online sources before doing so? I know all of your teachers: your lecturer is my supervisor; one of the tutors is my mentor and the other two I like to consider friends. (“Some Principles” was vetted by said mentor, so you can trust it as a reliable guide to reliability). They are none of them silly people; they will notice if you’ve plagiarised or used unreliable sources. For the love of Bede, do not use anything from this blog- don’t plagiarise, they can all use google, and don’t cite me, they all know who I am. Finally, if you do use any online source, please consider the example citation which I gave in “Some Principles”. Your markers will feel less like strangling you if you have all the appropriate details in your citation.

Yours Sincerely,


P.S. If any of you are doing the ‘decay and destruction’ question, can I recommend the Sermo Lupi ad Anglos? I think it’s not a text about Viking invasion so much as about social decay. One day, I will write a paper or a thesis or a book about this, but for now, consider it a free idea and I’ll be glad to have influenced young minds.

Introductory Resources For Anglo-Saxon Studies (Again)

In response to the Goblin’s desire for some background reading recommendations, may I recommend these five books:


* Frank Stenton, Anglo Saxon England. This is *the* book.  It’s about fifty years old, is a veritable brick (better for bashing people with than most bibles), covers names and dates in meticulous detail. If you have trouble staying awake while reading Lord of the Rings, this book is not for you.

* Edward James, Britain in the First Millenium (also covers the later Celtic period). A relatively new book, and not a Canonical Great by any means. However, it’s engaging, clearly laid out, and in accessible language. I road-tested it on my father and he found it good, ergo, it will probably not put noobs to sleep. One caveat: his ideas about the dating of Beowulf are very unconventional.


* Primary Texts: any of the student editions by Elaine Treharne- sometimes in conjunction with others, sometimes not. For an example, Old and Middle English c.890-c.1400 : an anthology ed. Elaine Treharne, some of which is reprinted in Old and Middle English Poetry, ed Duncan Wu (based on the Treharne ed.). Treharne’s editions are lovely, with parallel translations which are broken up into lines but don’t sacrifice accuracy for the sake of modern poetics. They’re also clearly laid out and simply introduced.

* To continue with the Treharne fangirling, I cannot possibly over-recommend Treharne’s introductory guide to Old and Middle English literature- Readings in Medieval Texts: Interpreting Old and Middle English Literature ed Treharne and Johnson (which has a good intro essay on the Gawain poet, incidentally). The essays are simple, clear, and provide broad introductions to the most common scholarly approaches in the field.

* Paul E. Szarmach, Old English Prose: Basic Readings. The level of these essays is considerably more advanced than the Treharne introductions, and they provide original scholarship rather than simply background readings. However, if there’s something awesome in Anglo-Saxon prose that isn’t covered in this book, I have yet to find it.


On a completely unrelated note: OMG SQUEE EMMA OF NORMANDY IS, LYKE, TOTALLY AWESOME. *fangirls a little bit* Since I’ve discovered that the best way for me to internalise Boy History is by writing character-based narratives, expect a special feature on Queen Emma as soon as my sleep cycle rights itself. Today, in the middle of writing a sentence about AEthelred and Thorkell the Tall, I apparently got up or fell off my seat and fell sound asleep, sprawled across the library floor and partly under the table, for around half an hour.

Some principles for using online sources

It was a long time before anyone explained the idea of ‘peer review’ to me. No one ever explained how to tell if an online source was reliable. I had the idea for several years that something only had to be written by an employed academic- which would make most medieval blogs acceptable sources. Obviously, they’re not. As a service to the community of google-using undergraduates, I present to you:

Why Can’t I Use Everything I Find On the Internet?

The *reason* you can’t use a blog or personal website as a source- even if it’s written by a proper academic, even if it contains lots of scholarly information, like this post on Anglo-Saxon archaelogy by Jonathan Jarrett, is that blogs aren’t peer reviewed. Even the best scholars have stupid ideas sometimes. Sometimes the ideas that we air on the internet are the unreliable ideas that we couldn’t prove in a proper article. The process of peer review makes sure that scholarly work is reliable and well argued- even if some scholars think a given article is wrong, peer review makes sure that there some basis for its propositions, and that all the proper referencing and primary sources are used, so that other scholars can see where the argument came from, and can agree or disagree with it on the basis of evidence.

In the sciences, peer review doesn’t stop people falsifying results or just plain getting things wrong- but it drastically decreases the chances of that, and it makes sure that they give all the information so that someone *could* follow along in their footsteps and find out where they went wrong. In the same way, humanities review doesn’t make something ‘right’- but it does make sure that proper academic procedures have been followed, so that the reader can follow up the evidence and see where the author went wrong. Non-scholarly sources don’t do that- pop history doesn’t footnote or dissect primary sources; blogs throw out crazy ideas without backing them up; personal websites can be just a collection of cool trivia.

While we’re at it, there are several reasons that Wikipedia cannot be used as a scholarly source- first and most importantly, you don’t know who the hell wrote it and if they have any idea what they’re talking about. Secondly, because Wikipedia doesn’t allow ‘original research’, it presents the very *opposite* of good scholarly dialogue: for the purposes of Wikipedia what is ‘true’ is what is generally known to be true, not what can be argued from evidence. Some articles have useful bibliographies and they can sometimes provide a great background introduction to a subject, but never, ever, use the Wiki article itself as your source.

What can I use on the Internet? – Finding reliable online sources

The sources I linked to yesterday, from the Online Medieval & Classical Library, are all online copies of peer-reviewed books. The website tells you the publisher and date, so you know it is reliable and you can track down hard copies if you need to.

There are several excellent collections of resources for medieval studies online, like the Labyrinth, hosted by Georgetown University; the Internet Medieval Sourcebook, hosted by Fordham University; and In Parentheses, hosted by York University, Canada. If you’re just starting to learn Anglo-Saxon, I recommend Old English at UVA, which is put together by Peter Baker as an online version of his Introduction to Old English, and includes a grammar book, an anthology of texts, and helpful exercises. All of these sources are hosted by university websites, which is your key to their reliability. The websites usually give full authorial and editorial information somewhere, although it can be hard to find.

Not everything hosted on a university server equally credible. Not everything hosted on a university server is peer-reviewed, or even scholarly work. Student newspapers, for example, can often be found online, and are most definitely not scholarly sources (although you could use them as primary sources for an essay on student unionism…) University websites may also contain theses and other work which hasn’t been produced by a top-notched academic or gone through rigorous review. You can still use these sources, but you will need to exercise some caution before citing them as The Ultimate Authority. A source that I’ve been using lately is The Electronic Sermo Lupi Ad Anglos, an honours thesis from Florida State U. I’ve been using it because it’s the only source out there which provides a complete transcription of the sermon as it stands in my manuscript, but I’ve been checking it against the published editions as I go (and there are a few errors). When looking at a source that has never been published in hard back, you should find out as much as you can about the author (and in the case of a thesis, about the supervisors) and make sure that they are of respectable standing in the field before treating the source as an Authority.

Other websites also contain scholarly resources, although you have to be more careful if it’s not on a university website. Aside from the OMACL, linked above, there is the Catholic Encyclopaedia, hosted by a suspicious looking religious website. The Encyclopaedia itself, however, is an online version of the 1913 edition, which, I’m told, was the last edition of the Catholic Enyclopaedia to be of any use to historians at all, and you can find that information out by digging around a bit in their ‘making of’ section. Also useful is the Sacred Text Archive, likewise not a university website, but individual texts have the details of translators on them, so you can cite them properly, and look up their details if necessary to make sure that the edition was published by a reliable publisher first. (As you go on in Medieval studies you’ll start to recognise the names of reputable academic publishers- there are a handful of University Presses, as well as private companies like Brepols, Routledge, and others. Awesome tells me to beware of Edwin Miller Press- they often publish theses straight to books, so be aware that their books may not be the product of such rigourous scholarship.)

If you’re working on something and need biblical quotations, the only version of the bible to use for Medieval Studies is the Vulgate. No, not your nice NRSV- very accurate for biblical scholars, useless for medievalists. Unfortunately, it is in Latin, and, despite what the silly website I’m about to direct you to says on its front page, you probably can’t translate it. What you *can* use is the Douay-Rheims translation, a 16th century Catholic answer to the Protestant fad for vernacular bibles. A good online version is on another dodgy religious website, which presents Latin, Douay-Rheims and King James texts in parallel.

Thanks for that! Now, how do I cite a reliable online source when I’ve found it?

academia,snark,history,meNot all style guides have set conventions for citing online resources, (apparently MLA and Chicago do) but that doesn’t mean you can just whack down the URL and leave it at that. You should have all the information which you would have in a printed edition. That means:

* Author/ editor/ translator
* Publisher, if known, in the case of a source taken from hard copy
* Host website (eg, ‘In Parentheses’) and host server (eg, ‘York University’). If, as in this case, there could be two severs with that name, specify ‘York University, Canada’ or similar, as you would with a publisher from Cambridge, Mass. If, as with some of the non-university sites, you don’t know the sever, just put the host website.
* Dates: If you can find it out, the date which the source was put online, and the date you accessed the site, in case something changes. (Don’t put down the time. I once meticulously footnoted ’2am, Monday the 30th of Whatever, and this caused nothing but mockery from my teacher.)
* URL of host website and of the page or source you used.

You should arrange this information in a format as close as possible to the format you use for citing books, articles, or electronic resources which you’ve accessed through your university library.

I use MHRA style referencing. Here’s an example I constructed for GoblinPaladin the other day, for a source from the Internet Medieval Sourcebook:

source Author if there is one, Source Title, source translator if there is one, in the Internet Medieval Sourcebook , ed. Paul Hallsal (hosted by Fordham University, SOURCEBOOK URL: 1996, accessed DATE.) TEXT URL.

I think my version may contain more information than is stricly necessary, but better to be safe than sorry. For a shorter example, the MHRA Style Guide gives the following example for an online journal:

Steve Sohmer, ‘The Lunar Calendar of Shakespeare’s King Lear’, Early Modern Literary Studies, 5.2 (1999) [accessed 28 January 2000] (para. 3 of 17)

and this for a poem accessed on a full-text database:

E. E. (Edward Estlin) Cummings, ‘maggie and milly and molly and may’ in Literature Online [accessed 5 June 2001]

What Use Are Blogs and Personal Websites, if No One Can Cite Them?

Blogs and personal websites, for scholars, are like having a big rambling conversation around a big table. We’re all sitting around, talking about what we’re working on at the moment. I order a round of beverages and announce that I think there are bondage jokes in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. If you were there, listening to me pontificate, you might like my idea. I’d quote a few lines to you and you’d think it sounded pretty good. You wouldn’t take it as a perfect argument, though, without going away and looking closely at the text yourself. And if you wanted to talk about that in your essay, you’d go and read some of the articles about sexuality in Sir Gawain, to make sure I wasn’t just mouthing off. If you were polite, and wanted a reputation for being a nice person, you might say in your essay ‘Ms Eccentric suggested to me at the pub that there are bondage jokes in Sir Gawain, and her hypothesis is borne out by my studies…’ By now the argument would be your own, based on peer reviewed research, but it would be polite to tip your hat to me for giving you the idea. If you were writing an article, rather than a student essay, it would definitely not be polite of you to run with my idea without asking me about it first- for all you know, I could be working on an article myself.
Treat blog posts the same way: not as sources of facts, but as places to pick up neat ideas. If something interests you, you can go away and develop your own argument on the topic, and yes, it would be The Done Thing to put a footnote in saying that you first got the idea from a conversation on In The Middle.

Basic resources for Anglo-Saxon studies

Obviously it’s essay time, somewhere in the world. I keep getting search hits asking interesting questions like ‘Why did the Anglo-Saxons come to England?’ and ‘What happened to the Anglo-Saxons?’. Someone has a cultural relativity task asking them to compare Anglo-Saxon and Australian customs, and they’re clearly not getting very far with it. Because I am a helpful person, I will provide you with these recommendations:

For a basic introduction to Anglo-Saxon history, you want

* Edward James, Britain in the first millennium
*Frank Stenton, Anglo-Saxon England.

history,academia,snarkThese will both tell you why the Anglo-Saxons came to England and what happened to them once they got there. Stenton is more comprehensive, but James is more modern and easier to follow.

If you want to know about daily life, you might try

*David Wilson, The Anglo-Saxons, a nice little book I just picked up yesterday and so can’t swear for its quality. But it has lots of archaelogical information in it.

You won’t find many decent sources online, so I suggest you stop looking. The first chapter of Peter Baker’s Electronic Introduction to Old English is the only secondary source I can recommend, and it won’t have enough information in it to help you write a whole essay.1

For primary sources, there’s an old translation of The Anglo-Saxon Chronicle online, and same for Asser’s Life of King Alfred. If you want to know ‘what happened to the Anglo-Saxons’ or why they came to England, try looking at these and finding out what *they* thought was happening to them.

Good luck!


1. No, I am not a source. Blogs are not sources. Nothing hosted on WordPress, Blogger, Blogspot or Livejournal can be used in an essay. Consider this a friendly warning from a senior student, before your marker strangles you for poor research.
You can’t use blogs because they’re not peer reviewed research. If that doesn’t make sense to you, or you want some advice on how to find reliable resources online, and how to cite them when you find them, I have a post on that here.

In Parentheses: Resources for Literature and Language studies

Courtesy of Dr Nokes, I just discovered In Parentheses, a collection of resources hosted by the University of York, Canada. There, you can find collections of (mostly translated) works in Old and Middle English, Chinese Drama, Ethiopian, Old French, Peruvian, Malayan, Old Norse, Medieval Italian, Medieval Russion, Restoration Drama, and a whole host of other languages.

Furthermore, they offer a volume of Papers In Medieval Studies, in PDF form, and a Linguistics Series, which it seems to me would be better titled ‘Language Learning Series’. They have three sets of wordlists (Irish- German, English to Old Norse, and Romanian-English), plus flash cards for such languages as diverse as Classical Armenian, Old Norse, Old Occitan, Esperanto and Norwegian.
Their Old English flashcards come in two versions: basic, and ‘tenth century script’. The tenth century script one looks simply like this font1, but for those who (like me) have both poor word retention AND a distaste for paelography, it could be a good way to memorise both words and letter-forms.

Happy language-learning, everyone :)


1. The font is actually quite good, and the creator is a very nice man if you email him and ask for it.


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