As a playful end to our sneak peeks, and because listicles appear to be all the rage these days, here are 21 moments when the Roman de Fauvel strikingly depicted what student life can be like.
1. When the teacher asks for a volunteer but no one wants to:
2. The look on your faces when you and your classmates pretend you love a certain theory because your tutor claims it is awesome:
3. That feeling you get when it’s late in the semester and all your deadlines are catching up to you:
4. That awkward moment when your friend catches you making selfies during class:
5. When the teacher finds out you didn’t do the required readings for their seminar:
6. When you obtain your driver’s license and your parents finally allow you to drive their car for the first time:
7. When you’re going to order pizza, but none of your friends can agree on what they want:
8. That moment when you realise it’s been too long since you last went out for drinks and now you can’t hold your liquor anymore:
9. When the teacher is basically just reading their powerpoint out loud and you start to wonder why you pay so much tuition every year:
10. When you’re trying to fall asleep, but then you suddenly get visited by a feeling of guilt for not finishing that one deadline yet:
11. When the class doesn't know what to do, but no one wants to ask the teacher for information:
12. When you finally find the time to go to a party and everyone goes crazy:
13. … but then you and your friends get so drunk you need a taxi to get back home:
14. That feeling when you sold your soul to write the perfect essay, but your teacher still thought it wasn’t all that great:
15. When you try to catch up on course readings but your friends won’t stop asking you to go for drinks:
16. When you’re wondering if maybe you should give up higher education and sell your body instead:
17. Trying to balance sleep, academia, and a healthy social life:
18. When, after the exam, you discuss your answers with your classmates and you start questioning everything you wrote:
19. When you’re trying to convince your teacher that the death of your favourite fictional character warrants an extension of your deadline:
20. When you’ve been locked inside for days trying to find a good angle for your research paper and suddenly you get blessed with inspiration:
21. And finally (hopefully), when you present your early findings at a conference and get unexpected approval from all the scholars present:
This post marks the end of our regular sneak peeks. We hope that you have enjoyed them, and that they have persuaded you to attend our conference this Thursday. If you would like to come but haven't registered yet, you can still do so here.
“The creatures outside looked from pig to man, and from man to pig, and from pig to man again; but already it was impossible to say which was which.”
― George Orwell, Animal Farm (1945)
These are remarkable times indeed. If George Orwell could see some of the unfortunate events transpiring in the world today, he might facepalm before rolling over in his grave. Interestingly, there appears to be something persistently animalistic about politics.
However, this is not the first time that politics has become so ‘beastly’. I’d like to draw your attention to a remarkable manuscript from the early fourteenth century, the Roman de Fauvel (1316). The volume satirises the French king Philip IV ‘the Fair’, and it serves as an admonishment to king Philip V who inherited the Crown in 1317. In the first book of Fauvel, Lady Fortune decides to take the horse Fauvel (whose name is an acronym referring to the Vices Flattery, Avarice, Vileness, Variability, Envy, and Laxity) from his stable, and she places him in charge of the royal palace, similar to how the Roman emperor Caligula supposedly made his horse a minister. Unlike Caligula’s horse, Fauvel uses this power to upend the balance of the nation, heralding even the very Apocalypse. Yet the people who have the power to stop him (such as royalty, nobility, the clergy, etc.) want nothing more than to… pet him? For, as the story goes, “there was not a person who was not preparing to gently curry Fauvel" (N'i a nul qui ne s'appareille / De torchier Fauvel doucement).
Would you like Sven Gins to reveal more about his ongoing research into the curious manuscript that is the Roman de Fauvel? Please register here to secure your seat.
These rhymes are translated from a Dutch pamphlet titled De Nederlandsche Nijptang (The Dutch Pincher, 1653). The anonymous author builds on a five-century long tradition of the slander of the “English tail”. This most curious stereotype was apparently so widespread that John Bale declared that an honest English trader could not travel abroad without being bothered by it. At one time, a French nobleman even dared to attach fake tails to the behinds of fellow guests at the English court. This practical joke was not well received.
Words can be deadly weapons, sometimes even more lethal than your average gunshot or stab. Words directed at an entire group of people may have a huge impact, and their echoes can resonate in the hearts and minds of those against whom they are directed for a long time. When in March 2014 Geert Wilders made his hurtful remark against Moroccans and people of Moroccan descent living in the Netherlands, both national and international politicians and members of the press reacted vehemently against his statement, with some of them drawing a parallel between Wilders's attitude towards Moroccans and Hitler's stance on Jews.
In May 1593, 'The Dutch Church Libel' appeared on the walls of the Dutch churchyard in London. This vicious and spiteful piece of writing was directed against the Dutch and French strangers in the city of London, most of whom had come to England to find a safe haven against economic hardship, war, and religious prosecution. The libel warned the refugees to to 'Fly, Flye, & never returne', threatening them with harsh repercussions if they dared to stay. At the time, unemployment was widespread, inflation was rising, the theatres of an overcrowded London were closed due to an outbreak of the plague, and fear of a Spanish invasion haunted the streets. A looming economic crisis, worries about health, safety, and livelihood, and a large number of strangers: all the ingredients for anti-immigrant sentiments were present. Sounds familiar?
There is a proverb that says, 'sticks and stones can break your bones, but words can break your heart'. Personally, I would rather have a simple, clear-cut fracture than being verbally abused as, overall, broken bones heal quicker than a broken heart. Words in the sixteenth century quite possible sounded different, were distributed through different media, and may have had a different meaning from today's terms and phrases. Yet, their underlying intentions and motivations do not necessarily differ all that much, despite all the good resolutions that so many of us have at the beginning of each new year.
Would you like to learn more about this 'Dutch Church Libel'? Bianca Seinen will be happy to tell you all about her research during the conference next week. Please register here to secure your seat.
One source in particular offers a very 'revealing' view on Turks in sixteenth-century Lyon. In Les quatre premiers livres des navigations et pérégrinations orientales, published in 1568, Nicolas de Nicolay, French soldier and geographer, dedicates two chapters to the bathing practices of the Turks [read: Ottomans].
In the twenty-first chapter of the second book, the practices of Turkish males are outlined. While the bathhouse’s servant took it upon himself to shave both the beard and the hair under the armpits of the guests, “[...] for the secret parts they hand you [the guest] a razor, or a depilatory (which they call Rusma) which is a cream that, if applied to the hairy parts, instantaneously makes all the hair fall out.” According to Nicolay, Turkish men and women often made use of this cream, because they were disgusted by hair in “such places”.
Furthermore Nicolay explains that the law of Islam commands all Muslims to wash themselves properly and purify themselves before entering a mosque. He expresses indignation at the fact that “these brutal Barbarians who wash their body on the outside” are allowed to enter, while those who wash the inside of their soul – probably a reference to Christians – must stay outside.
In short, while describing Turkish bathing practices, Nicolas de Nicolay succeeded in emasculating and feminising Turkish men, while simultaneously portraying their female counterparts as promiscuous and unreliable beings. At the conference 29 June, a set of other sources, also printed in Lyon some twenty to thirty years earlier than Nicolay’s text, will be discussed. By reconstructing past perceptions of the Turks (Ottomans), and by drawing comparisons between these various views, my research will uncover the discourse(s) surrounding these 'strangers' in sixteenth century Lyon.
Would you like Giel Maan to reveal more about the various French perceptions of Turks that he is currently researching? Please register here to secure your seat.
In the year 38 AD there was a massive pogrom in the Egyptian city of Alexandria, directed against the Jewish residents of the city. People were killed, synagogues were burnt and Jewish leaders were tortured in front of the masses in the theatre. While the Jews enjoyed several civic privileges which were given to them by the Romans, many other Alexandrians rejected the idea that they were equal and loyal citizens. The Jews refused to participate in the worship of the urban deities and the emperor because of their own religious laws. While the Jews were living side by side with their fellow Alexandrians in public life, their abstention from the Alexandrian religious life caused them to be seen as strangers who were not fully loyal to the interests of the city in which they had lived for decades.
When in the aftermath of the riots the emperor Claudius tried to resolve the dispute, he warned the Alexandrians and Jews to live harmoniously together, but also wrote to the Jews: ‘you live in a city which is not your own’.
Has Yoram Poot also kindled your interest in the full story behind the Alexandrian pogrom of 38AD? Please register here to secure your seat.
Sparta, one of the less documented ancient societies in Greece, was a sparkling and mysterious polis. When comparing Sparta with other city-states - like Athens for example - it becomes clear that Sparta was in many ways exceptional.
Perhaps the most significant feature that differentiated Sparta from Athens was its warrior-class. While the Athenians were enjoying the shade and drinking in the symposium, Spartan men were sprinkling with sweat under the burning sun. When the Athenians were discussing the order of the cosmos, Spartan men were envisioning their next invasion. When Athenian women were confined within the oikos, Spartan women were working on their muscles to compete with mighty cows. To give a slightly out-of-time quote of Napoleon, however, ‘an army marches on its stomach’. You might wonder how Spartan citizens managed not to starve to death if they were busy with physical training all the time. The answer lies in the shadow of Sparta’s warrior society. The lower class of Sparta, collectively named helots, was in charge of agriculture and trade to keep the Spartan society on track.
To avoid the occurrence of such revolts, Spartan young male citizens were trained to slaughter dangerous helots under the cover of the darkness, a practice known as the Krypteia. Allegedly, the Krypteia was the legendary institution aimed to balance and restrain the helots within the Spartan society.
Would you like to learn more about helots, these mysterious strangers in Sparta? Please register here to secure your seat in Shanshan Bai's presentation.
Although the text severely condemns the violence used by the Slavs in this rebellion, it also justifies their cause by laying the ultimate blame on the Duke and other nobles of neighbouring Saxony. By subjecting the population to excessive tribute and ‘grievous oppression’, they had provoked the Slavic peoples to ‘throw of the yoke of servitude, being forced to take up arms in defence of their freedom’.
What this example makes clear is that, whereas the Slavic tribes in the frontier region of the German Empire were politically speaking a subjugated people, the Church in fact considered them as equals in God’s grace. Consequently, the task of bringing the pagan Slavs into the fold of Christianity was eminently more important than short-term gains of political oppression. The Church was therefore quick to denounce ‘the violence inherent in the system’ in case of excessive repression.
Are you curious to hear more about Miente Pietersma's research on the ambivalent position of Slavic tribes in the German Empire during the High Middle Ages? Please register here to secure your seat.
Historically, the records of the Greek refugees who escaped to Northern Italy are extensive, due to their connection to and ultimate influence on the Italian literary world. However, less is known about their peers who immigrated to various locations across Southern Italy in the fifteenth and sixteenth century. It is of great interest and relevance to countries across Europe today to discover what factors influenced these fugitives in their decision to flee to a certain place. Consequently, my research will uncover, through a detailed examination of original documents, what kind of interactions these Greeks had with their new communities, why they fled there, how their culture, language, and traditions were influenced by their new environment, and the effect they, in their turn, had on their Italian hosts.
Has Giulia Biagioni also kindled your interest in the Greek diaspora located in Southern Italy at the dawn of the early modern period? Please register here to secure your seat.
In ancient Rome, slaves had to walk a similarly fine line. Slavery was a harsh institution and lives were at risk since punishment was often severe; from flogging to crucifixion and from fighting wild animals in the arena to molten lead being poured down one’s throat. For a master, it was not a crime to kill his own slave. The slave was property and could be treated any way the master pleased. However, for the slave, there was a good chance of survival and even of gaining freedom. A slave could be physically and psychologically battered, and still hope for a brighter future. The circumstances were perfect for developing a Stockholm syndrome.
Interested in hearing more about Bas Teunissen's work on the Stockholm syndrome among slaves in the Roman empire? Please register here to secure your seat.
This blog is run by the students who organise the CMEMS Conference. Every Monday, Wednesday and Friday, one of the students will post a small sneak preview indicating the content of their conference presentation.