Postcard from Qasid Arabic Institute!

Amanda Racine, a PhD student in Medieval History, sent this postcard about her experience this past summer in Jordan studying Classical Arabic.

With the support of the GSAS Student Support Grant and the Joseph R. Leahey Fellowship both from Fordham, I traveled to Amman, Jordan this summer to study Classical Arabic at Qasid Arabic Institute. In addition to the grants from Fordham, I received a CARA Summer Tuition Grant from the Medieval Academy of America.

View from outside of my flat in Amman

 Amman is an amazing city and Jordanians are extremely friendly and welcoming. Exploring Amman was really enjoyable (especially after learning how to navigate the taxi system.) My lessons at Qasid consisted of four hours of grammar lessons a day (Sunday-Thursday) and additional lessons focused on pronunciation. It was a really intensive course but my classmates and teachers made it a joy to attend. My teachers had lived in Jordan their whole lives and were wonderful resources not only for Arabic, but also for where to find the best food in Amman!

Qasid: My class with our ustadhas (teachers)

When I was not in class, I was able to spend some time traveling around Jordan. Although not a major hub of crusader settlements in the twelfth and thirteenth century, there are a number of castles built during the crusades that now lie within Jordan’s borders. I visited Ajloun (one of the few Muslim fortresses), Shoubak, and Kerak. There were a number of Roman ruins located in right in the heart of Amman as well. I also visited one of Jordan’s most famous sites, Petra. The most famous part of Petra, the Treasury, was certainly awesome, but I most enjoyed exploring the narrow passageways and the views from the high cliffs.

The view from قلعة عجلون (Ajloun Castle) a twelfth-century Muslim fortress in Jordan

Arabic script on the ruins of  قلعة شوبك  (Shoubak Castle)

Inside قلعة كرك (Kerak Castle) a twelfth-century crusader castle in Jordan

Built c. 4th century BCE, Petra is Jordan’s most famous site

I was also able to make one short trip to Jerusalem. In Jerusalem I met with some crusade scholars who live in the region and walked around the Old City. It was an exciting combination of being able to hear about some of the research being done in the area and then actually be able to visit the places that we discussed.

View of the Old City from the Mount of Olives

Overall, my summer in Amman was a valuable experience. This was my first time in the Middle East and as someone who studies the Latin East in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries it was amazing to get a better sense of the landscape (soo many hills!) and culture of the region. I was able to not only build a solid foundation in Arabic but also meet some really wonderful people. I look forward to continuing my studies in Arabic and hope to return to to Jordan again soon. إن شاء الله.

 

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Graduate Students: Recent Publication

Ronald Braasch

Ronald Braasch recently published an article titled: “The Skirmish: A Statistical Analysis of Minor Combats During the Hundred Years’ War, 1337-1453”in the Journal of Medieval Military History XVI (June, 2018). Ron is seeking to shed light on a neglected aspect of medieval warfare and discover what impact these smaller fights had on the conduct of warfare during the Hundred Years’ War. Skirmishes existed somewhere between a battle and duel, occurred during all varieties of  locations and environments, and formed an integral martial function between medieval combatants. Moreover, skirmishes were a common feature during the Hundred Years’ War as the chroniclers wrote so much about them. As a case study, Ron’s work examines the chronicles of Jean le Bel, Jean Froissart, Enguerrand de Monstrelet, and Matthieu d’Escouchy, whose narratives collectively span the entirety of the conflict. By examining chronicles quantitatively, Ron’s research indicates that the outcomes of skirmishes could influence the strategies of military leaders and that indiscipline was a key component in French military losses against English, Burgundian, and various other opponents. Ron is entering the first year of his PhD in History, where he is studying the roles of combat support personnel in the armies of Edward III.

Full Citation: “The Skirmish: A Statistical Analysis of Minor Combats During the Hundred Years’ War, 1337-1453.”Journal of Medieval Military History XVI,  (June, 2018): 123-157.

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Letter on Teaching, from one of our Recent Alumnus of History

History Department Friends,

On a rainy Friday afternoon in January 2017, I had quite the decision to make: to accept a position teaching Asian and European history at The Derryfield School (DS)—an independent college preparatory school in Manchester, New Hampshire—or fly to Florida (on Monday!) for a campus interview for an assistant professorship at a state college.  I chose Derryfield that evening and moved to Concord, NH with my family that summer.  A year and a half later, I cannot emphasize enough how excited I am about my decision. In this regard, I want to share my experience with the History Department and encourage current doctoral students who are falling in love with teaching to consider pursuing positions at both the prep school and university level.

Throughout the course of my time at Fordham, I was very fortunate to have had the opportunity to teach extensively at the Rose Hill and Westchester campuses.  In the process, I came to realize just how much I love being in the classroom and engaging with driven young people.  I felt gratified by my academic success in publishing peer-reviewed articles and giving talks on my scholarship (I am still proud of my presentation at The Korea Society!) But increasingly, what excited me the most was how I felt after leaving the classroom each day—the electric buzz of debates about ethical dilemmas in history, of competing views about the significance of personal subjectivity in analyzing ordinary and extraordinary times.

As I approached graduating with my Ph.D. in May 2016, this passion drove me to pursue positions at prep schools and colleges as I considered how to best make teaching the centerpiece of my academic career.

As I now teach at Derryfield, my days are filled with endless historical debates with thoughtful and enthusiastic young people.  The youth of high school students—quite different from teaching college juniors and seniors!—fosters an exciting classroom environment.  At the dawn of their formative years, my students prove unusually open to taking risks with their ideas; they lack an intellectual self-consciousness that sometimes constrains debates in higher education.  With this appreciation, I have found the energy of adolescents inspiring; the pot boils, so to speak.  I use diverse primary sources (period music, memoirs, films etc.) and frequent debates (mock U.S.-DPRK nuclear negotiations!) to encourage that vibrant environment.  I take pride as teenagers learn to think critically, but also to feel history and empathize with the humanity of individuals in the past and present.

In terms of scholarship, I am enjoying the opportunity this summer to read and write on topics related and unrelated to my area of expertise in US-DPRK relations.  I have, for example, been writing on US foreign policy with Iran and North Korea in my local newspaper, the Concord Monitor, in an effort to shape such conversations at a grassroots level.  (Links to my most recent pieces below.)  I have two forthcoming book reviews coming out with the Journal of American-East Asian Relations.  In addition, I am currently beginning a book project, focusing on key historical events in the early personal lives of deplorable dictators (See the short story “Genesis and Catastrophe: A True Story” by Roald Dahl, and you’ll understand).

Fordham and the History Department (as well as Beth Knobel in the communications department!) enabled me to gain indispensable teaching experience and allowed me to discover my passion for teaching.  I remain thankful, moreover, for having had the opportunity to learn from a master pedagogue like Elaine Crane.  (I’ll never forget Dr. Crane’s admonishment in the “Teaching History” course when I used the word “plethora.”  “Use straightforward language! No one is impressed with your GRE vocabulary!” Dr. Crane stated in her oh-so-gentle manner of speaking for which she is deservedly celebrated.)

As doctoral students move towards the completion of their programs and begin to pursue professorships at the university level, I strongly encourage them—if teaching is a true passion—to consider positions at the prep school level as well.  I would be happy to discuss such a path with anyone who is interested.

 

With appreciation,

Brandon K. Gauthier, Ph.D.

 

“A win for Kim,” Concord Monitor, June 15, 2018

http://www.concordmonitor.com/A-win-for-North-Korea-and-perhaps-peace-18192740

“North Korea’s games,” Concord Monitor, June 4, 2018

http://www.concordmonitor.com/US-and-North-Korea-17936206

“Why would anyone trust the US?” Concord Monitor, May 12, 2018

http://www.concordmonitor.com/Why-would-anyone-sign-a-deal-with-the-US-17447195

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Translations of Crusade Texts by Graduate Students

History PhD student Patrick DeBrosse has recently made his translation of The Song of the Siege of Acre available on crusaderstates.org. Patrick translated this Latin poetic account of the Third Crusade as part of his MA thesis at the University of East Anglia. His thesis sought to challenge previous scholarship on the poem’s composition and to elaborate upon the poem’s historical and literary significance. For the Crusader States website, Patrick has revised his translation, written an introduction that explains his views on the poem’s origins and significance, and added footnotes to guide readers through the narrative action.

The poem is of particular importance to scholars of the crusades, since it was composed by an eyewitness who completed it in 1190, prior to the surrender of Acre. The Song thus reveals the attitudes of a Christian crusader who was unaware of events to come, and gripped by feelings of loss, fear, hope, and uncertainty. The poet offers many unique details about the conflict, and his desire to write in verse illustrates the uses of poetry within twelfth-century society. Patrick has attempted to translate the original elegiac couplets as literally as possible, proceeding couplet-by-couplet and retaining the poet’s original idioms.

The translation is available for free at www.crusaderstates.org where it is hoped that it can reach a wide audience of both scholars and non-scholars.

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Graduate Student Publications

Christine Kelly, a PhD candidate in History, recently published an article titled “Folk as the Sound of Self-Liberation: The Career and Performance Identity of Odetta,” based on her dissertation research. Christine shared with us the abstract for the article:

 

Odetta Felious Gordon Holmes – commonly known by her stage name, “Odetta” – played an instrumental role in the rise of American folk music as a mouthpiece for dissent during the social movements of the post-war era. She abandoned a life she planned in opera and oratorio for a career as an interpreter of African American slave songs and spirituals, material originally recorded by song collectors John and Alan Lomax in travels through the Mississippi Delta region. Odetta has claimed that while a life in oratorio would have enriched her vocally, its musical lineage had “nothing to do” with her experience. In contrast, a new repertoire of songs she gathered – songs derived from slave laborers, prison chain gangs, longshoremen, and church congregations – allowed her to shape her identity as a performing artist in crucial ways throughout her fifty year career. As a folk singer, Odetta co-constructed a cultural movement which drew inspiration from song writers of the past – composers of “freedom hymns” – to seek liberation in the present. For Odetta, such liberation was, at first, primarily for herself. As an African American woman who suffered the indignities of segregation, she felt she carried a “dragon” inside, one that hated herself and others. With a broad, black body of which she was ashamed, on stage Odetta tried to conceal and neutralize herself as a racial and gendered subject as she donned long, dark clothing, and threw herself fully into the material she performed. Through an act of self-abnegation, she performed the music, often of black men, who insisted on affirming their existence, the validity of their subjectivity, despite the oppressions that came with circumstances they faced involving humiliation and forced confinement. As an arbiter of the folk tradition, Odetta offered her body as bridge to connect a new generation of listeners with marginalized experiences of the past. As such, Odetta became a cultural broker of a folk tradition of dissent. She relied on a common method among performing artists – benefit concerts – to raise substantial funds for civil rights causes. Odetta’s life in music became a site of self-emancipation as she transformed from a suffering artist who often behaved subserviently to one who invented an identity which insisted on her own personal dignity. Furthermore, the exposure she gave her listeners to a nearly forgotten black cultural heritage enabled them to empathize with the experience of past singer-songwriters, seeing injustice in the present as more pressing than before. Odetta’s appeal to the idiom of folk and the benefit concerts she held directly supported the civil rights movement and related social mobilizations through the 1960s and 1970s as she helped to inspire not only political and legal change, but freedom in the arena of culture and emotion.

 

 

 

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Fordham in Saint Louis – Graduates Students and Crusade Studies

From June 18-20, Patrick DeBrosse and Ronald Braasch participated in the Fourth International Symposium on Crusade Studies held at Saint Louis University (SLU). The symposium brought together a broad range of experts on the crusades, from several different disciplines, and featured plenary addresses by prominent crusade historians Dr. Cecilia Gaposchkin and Dr. Jonathan Phillips. Continue reading

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Postcard from Rome and the Jesuit Archives

In another in our continuing series of “Postcards,” Dr. Elizabeth Penry sends news from her research in Rome.

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Class of 2018 History Students Win Awards

Four graduating seniors successfully completed the rigorous requirements for departmental Honors in History. In order to qualify for Honors in History, a student must maintain a 3.5 or better GPA in History, complete an Honors tutorial and thesis or a Mannion Society thesis, and successfully complete a 5000-level graduate course in History. The five students who met these requirements this year were: Agata Sobczak ( Mannion Society 2017), Elizabeth Doty (Mannion Society, 2018), Nicholas Guthammar (Mannion Society, 2017), Giulio Ricciardi (Mannion Society, 2017), and Justin Tramonti (Mannion Society, 2017). Continue reading

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Congrats to Alumnus Dr. Noël Wolfe

Dr. Noël Wolfe (PhD, Fordham, 2015)  recently accepted a tenure-track position at Nazareth College in Rochester, New York as an Assistant Professor of History and the Program Director for the Legal Studies Program. Dr. Wolfe completed her dissertation, “A Community at War: the Bronx and Crack Cocaine” in 2015.

For the past two years, Dr. Wolfe has been the Helen and Agnes Ainsworth Visiting Assistant Professor of American Culture at Randolph College. In this position, she designed a 12-credit semester-long experiential program that examines the intersections of race, gender, sexuality, class and law through the lens of drug cultures in America. Through course work, discussion, travel and guest lectures, students explored the racialization and ethnicization of narcotics in the U.S. and investigated how racial and ethnic bias influenced popular opinion and drug-related public policy and law. You can find more information about Dr. Wolfe’s program at https://rcamericancultureprogram.wordpress.com. Dr. Wolfe also taught courses on incarceration, African-American history, and law while at Randolph.

Dr. Wolfe is very excited to begin her new position at Nazareth College, which will allow her to explore her research and teaching interests in history and law, as well as put to use her practical experience as a trial attorney. At Nazareth, Dr. Wolfe will teach courses in U.S. and African-American history, as well as courses on law, drugs, and incarceration.

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Recent Publication by Graduate Student: Esther Liberman Cuenca

 Esther Liberman Cuenca, PhD candidate in History, recently published an article in Urban History (Cambridge University Press) titled “Town clerks and the authorship of custumals in medieval England”. Below is her abstract and a link to the article.

Abstract

This article examines the expertise and duties of clerks in medieval English towns, particularly their roles in creating custumals, or collections of written customs. Customs could regulate trade, of ce-holding, prostitution and even public nuisance. Many clerks were anonymous, and their contributions to custumals understudied. The careers of relatively well-known clerks, however, do provide insights into how some clerks shaped custumals into civic repositories of customary law. By analysing their oaths and known administrative practices, which involved adapting material from older custumals, this article argues that town clerks played critical roles in transmitting customary law to future generations of administrators.

Link

Town clerks and the authorship of custumals in medieval England

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