Douglass Hamilton is one of fifteen faculty and advanced graduate students at U.S. and Canadian colleges awarded a grant by the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to participate in a three-week Mellon Summer Institute in French Paleography program at the Newberry Library in Chicago. The course covers the history of French handwriting and will emphasize hands-on training with facsimiles and manuscripts of the late medieval and early modern periods. This training will allow Douglass to gain critical experience with archival material and manuscripts written in the French language, which will be essential for my research on Old French literature of the twelfth and thirteenth centuries. Because of the coronavirus, the seminar has been moved to the summer of 2021.
You can follow Douglass Hamilton on Twitter at @SacreDoog.
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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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