Thursday, July 07, 2011

following GH

So I suppose I am both happy and semi-annoyed to find what has become an impetus for this paper laid out so clearly on p. 321 ff of Cemeteries and Society in Merovingian Gaul.

I'm in very good company, at least.

The real question is, what are we going to do about it?

5 comments:

Historian on the Edge said...

That is indeed the real question.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

My answer, so far, is that we need to ask different questions that step away from that framework. Or at least, perhaps we should look at what we can find about what women actually *did*, and how those discoveries really should make us revise our ideas of what women *could* do. And then, perhaps we could even take *that* and compare it to what we think was prescriptive, and discuss how, as in so many aspects of the Carolingian world, the prescriptive may have indicated wishful thinking as much as normative behavior.

And THEN, I would like to see this done *not* by people who focus on women's history, but have demonstrated a clear lack of critical reading skills, but by people who are working closely with diplomatic, and made more accessible to non-diplomatists. Because honestly? What is being presented in English at the moment (and in German, from the reviews I've read), is ... well, it's like reading brand-new books on lordship that still discuss the feudal pyramid as the best model, as if Brown and Reynolds had never written, and Duby had never been challenged.

Historian on the Edge said...

I have spent a long time trying to investigate the difference between institutions (what we normally have evidence for, at my end of the EMAs) and practice, the scope for creativity in the interstices of the institutional structure, and the way that practice constitutes structure. Not many people *get* that amongst early medievalists, even now.

The problem is that looking at what people did only gives you some of what they could do, and one angle on what 'could' means anyway.

One needs close consideration of the nature of the sources and their creation and the ways in which that might conceal activity of the non-institutionally-recognised variety.

One issue is that what people are recorded as doing might, in itself, have created what people 'could do' thereafter, but not be able to be retrojected onto previous situations.

That leaves aside all the other variables about class, age, and time and place.

The early middle ages were a much more interesting place than most early medievalists want to make it!

I'm not sure though that I buy your distinction between and preference for diplomatics specialists over people who study gender.

Security word is usnefu, which I'm sure ought to be a GI slang acronym for something... Usual Situation, Now Everything's F*cked Up? Yep, that's Britain: usnefu.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

The US, too --

And I would be very happy to see a women's history person do it -- but I haven't seen anything on early medieval Francia that really takes advantage of a lot of the scholarship out there, I think because it is not specifically about women. I haven't read Valerie Garver's book yet, though.

And yes, this is me putting lots of my paper out on the web...

New Kid on the Hallway said...

It's so funny to me how different your field is from my (former) field. What you call for seems the norm for people working in my region/era. (I guess it just makes a huge difference which sources you use and which traditions you get trained in. I suppose it's not surprising that one of the biggest divides in my grad program was between my DoktorMater and horses-on-ships early medievalist curmudgeon.)