March 30, 2004

Tuesday Link Laziness

Posted by Ed

Here are some links that have struck my fancy of late:

  • Do we really understand the Bayeux Tapestry? Graham Robb discusses this question in The Telegraph.
  • Atlantic Unbound interviews the controversial Israeli historian Benny Morris.
  • Howard Dean's pollster describes the collapse of the one-time frontrunner's campaign in The Atlantic.
  • Chinese archivists are struggling to preserve Nushu--"a mysterious ancient language created by, and exclusively for, women." (via ArtsJournal)
  • In Bookforum, Sven Birkerts discusses the art of criticism and Francine Prose discusses the Brontė myth.
  • Brains are really interesting.
  • The New York Times interviews a forensic anthropologist who studies the bones of murder victims found in mass graves.
  • The Sunday Herald discusses the legend of Joseph Campbell. (via Political Theory Daily Review)
  • How original is The Lord of the Rings? A mediocre Globe and Mail article investigates...

I especially enjoyed Robb's article on the Bayeux tapestry, which is a fun read with interesting details on medieval history and on a famous artifact I know very little about. It also makes a nice point about certain history books:

1066: the Hidden History of the Bayeux Tapestry is based on solid research, but it also belongs to the "mists of time" school of history, in which anything unknown (which accounts for almost everything in the 11th century) is presumed to be part of a thrilling mystery. Thus, the bearded dwarf labelled "Turold", who is seen holding his master's horses, just might be the "Turoldus" who wrote or copied out the first masterpiece of French literature, the Chanson de Roland.

"Did he cast himself in a modest cameo role within his own masterpiece," wonders Bridgeford, "much as Alfred Hitchcock was to do in our own times?" However, as he also points out, Turold was a common name, and it may refer not to the dwarf but to the soldier standing next to him, and the dwarf may not be a dwarf at all but a crude attempt at perspective.


This "mystery" approach owes more to TV documentary than to scholarship, which Bridgeford refers to as "the dry journals and dusty tomes of academia". (Never trust a historian who allows himself to be distracted by "dust".) Ironically, speculation about secret codes and previously unsuspected scandals only serves to rub our noses in our ignorance of the period and it weakens otherwise plausible arguments.

I recommend the article as a whole.

Posted by Ed at March 30, 2004 01:48 PM


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Posted by: lolita at January 19, 2005 08:54 PM
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