Welcome to another edition of The Once and Future Classroom. This issue features two exciting articles and a very interesting bibliography on “Everyday Life” in the Middle Ages. Learning about the everyday life of another culture or historical moment can be very challenging, since daily activities rarely get recorded for posterity. “Who would care about what I made for dinner,” you might think. And yet, how interesting do we find recipe collections from centuries ago! Indeed, knowing how people lived day to day can tell us much more about a society than the details of a particular battle that made it into the history books. Did medieval people’s experiences confirm what our stereotypes of the period suggest: that life was “nasty, brutish, and short”? You can feel more confident that you will be able to identify and challenge such assumptions in whatever medieval studies you are doing once you’ve checked out the texts Ryan Harper recommends.
Florence Marsal’s article, “Is Dumbledore another disguise? Where to find Merlin in Harry Potter,” is a great contribution by a medievalist to the growing scholarship on the Harry Potter series. Following in the tradition of J.R. Tolkien and C.S. Lewis, to name the most famous examples, J.K. Rowling has created an imaginative world that frequently draws on medieval images and themes. But what is the relationship between the medievalism of Rowling’s wizard world and the well of medieval literature from which it draws? Can educators use Rowling’s books as their own “platform nine and three-quarters,” leading students into the remarkable world of medieval literature? Marsal’s article gives us a wonderful starting point by addressing the figure of Merlin, a character students will recognize in various incarnations in the Potter series, but whose medieval predecessor still has a few tricks up his sleeve!
Our second article, “Teaching Knighthood and the Late Medieval Battlefield Using the Knights of The Messenger,” by Matthieu Tsin, uses a movie about Joan of Arc to get students engaged with medieval military culture. Tsin’s work puts into practice the principle that informs Harper’s “Everyday Life” bibliography: that the experience of the average warrior merits consideration alongside that of the exceptional warrior on whom the spotlight of history has frequently been trained. Given the fact that the image of the mounted knight is synonymous with popular perceptions of the Middle Ages, we may feel that we know what a medieval knight is. But our ideas of knighthood often rely on medieval literary representations of Arthurian knights, which are about as accurate as action movies are in representing contemporary warfare—which is not say, not very much. What did it really mean to be a knight? Tsin’s article provides invaluable information on late medieval close combat and military technology through an examination of the “historical” details employed in The Messenger that will be sure to fascinate both you and your students.
I hope you enjoy this issue. Once again, your comments, recommendations and submissions are always welcome!
Original Citation: The Once and Future Classroom , Volume VII, Issue 1, Spring 2009
NOTE: Links have been corrected and/or deleted. The original “look and feel” of the journal has been preserved as much as possible, but the original logos have also been removed. No editing to the actual texts has been done since their original publication.