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.
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.
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