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Medieval Death Trip

A podcast exploring the wit and weirdness of medieval texts

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MDT Ep. 81: Concerning More Descriptions of the Plague

As life under quarantine begins to enter a new phase, we continue our survey of plague texts, with a grab-bag of selections ranging from Petrarch baring his soul to a surgeon listing failed remedies to some Paris professors issuing pandemic guidelines to keep the country safe, which include by no means consuming olive oil.Today's Texts * Capgrave, John. The Chronicle of England. Edited by Francis Charles Hingeston, Longman, Brown, Green, Longmans, and Roberts, 1858. Google Books. * Dobson, Susanna, translator. The Life of Petrarch. Collected from Memoires pour la vie de Petrarch by Jacques-Francois-Paul-Aldonce De Sade, vol. 2, 7th ed., W. Wilson, 1807. Google Books. * Guy de Chauliac, Grand Chirurgie. "Description of the Plague." Tr. by Anna M. Campbell. Reprinted from Campbell, The Black Death and Men of Learning, pp. 2-3, 1931. * Guy de Chauliac, Grand Chirurgie. "Description of the Plague." Tr. by William A. Guy. Public Health: A Popular Introduction to Sanitary Science, Henry Renshaw, 1870, pp. 48-50. Google Books. * Petrarch, "Letter to Gherard, May 1349." Translated by Francis Aidan Gasquet in The Black Death of 1348 and 1349, 2nd ed., George Bell and Sons, 1908, pp. 33-34. Google Books. * "Statement of the Faculty of the College of Physicians of Paris." In The Epidemics of the Middle Ages, by J.F.C. Hecker, translated by B.G. Babington, 3rd ed., Trübner & Co., 1859, pp. 47-49. Google Books.


26 May 2020

Rank #1

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MDT Episode 02: Concerning Another Cure for Extreme Swelling, a Sinful Clerk, & Some Lightning Bolts

On this episode, we look at an example of the kind of odd incidents you might find preserved in a medieval chronicle -- in this case, the Lanercost Chronicle. We have three short episodes from the account of the year 1288, and then one spectacular lightning strike from 1291.


14 Nov 2014

Rank #2

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MDT Ep. 80: Concerning Boccaccio's Description of the Plague

We return at last for our first episode of 2020 in the midst of the covid-19 global pandemic. As such, our text for today is the famous description of the bubonic plague as it appeared in Florence in 1348 with which Boccaccio frames his tale collection, the Decameron.Today's TextBoccaccio, Giovanni. Stories of Boccaccio (The Decameron). Translated by Léopold Flameng, G. Barrie, 1881. Google Books.ReferencesKeys, Thomas E. “The Plague in Literature.” Bulletin of the Medical Library Association, vol. 32, 1944, pp. 35–56. europepmc.org/backend/ptpmcrender.fcgi?accid=PMC194297&blobtype=pdf.Kowalski, Todd J., and William A. Agger. "Art Supports New Plague Science." Clinical Infectious Diseases, vol. 48, no. 1, Jan. 2009, pp. 137-138. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/40309557.Marafiotio, Martin. "Post-Decameron Plague Treatises and the Boccaccian Innovation of Narrative Prophylaxis." Annali d'Italianistica, vol. 23, 2005, pp. 69-87. JSTOR, www.jstor.org/stable/24009628.Martin, Paul M.V., and Estelle Martin-Granel. "2,500-Year Evolution of the Term Epidemic." Emerging Infectious Diseases, vol. 12, no. 6, pp. 976-980, doi:10.3201/eid1206.051263."Mortality Frequency Measures." Centers for Disease Control, Principles of Epidemiology in Public Health Practice, 3rd ed., 12 May 2012, www.cdc.gov/csels/dsepd/ss1978/lesson3/section3.html."Plague." Centers for Disease Control, 19 Nov. 2019, www.cdc.gov/plague/index.html.


26 Mar 2020

Rank #3

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MDT Episode 03: Concerning a Vision of Heaven and Hell and a Bad Outlook for the Bishop

First episode in a two-parter: we look at story from Symeon of Durham's History of the Church of Durham involving a person who reawakens from apparent death to share a vision of the afterlife that portends bad things for the bishop of Durham.


28 Nov 2014

Rank #4

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MDT Ep. 55: Concerning Good Wine, Bad Ships, and Baked Soldiers

In the second installment of our medieval travelers series, we follow Marco Polo into the deserts of Iran and learn about the hazards of the road, including a lethal wind.


15 Aug 2018

Rank #5

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MDT Ep. 52: Concerning St. Patrick and the Magicians

It's a special Saint Patrick's Day episode, in which we hear about the contests between the saint and some Irish magicians, as related in Muirchu's 7th-century Life of St. Patrick.


17 Mar 2018

Rank #6

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MDT Ep. 79: Concerning Cursed Christmas Carolers and an Unlikely Bishop

This Christmas Eve episode, we return to the Gesta Regum Anglorum of William of Malmesbury, to learn hear some legends of Saxony, including some overly boisterous Christmas revelers cursed to continue their revels for a whole year without rest.Today's Text:William of Malmesbury. Chronicle of the Kings of England. Edited by J.A. Giles, translated by John Sharpe and J.A. Giles, George Bell & Sons, 1895. ReferencesHecker, J.F.C. The Epidemics of the Middle Ages. Translated by B.G. Babington, 3rd ed., Trübner & Co., 1859. McDougall, Sara. "Bastard Priests: Illegitimacy and Ordination in Medieval Europe." Speculum, vol. 94, no. 1, Jan. 2019, pp. 138-172.Thomas, Edith M. "The Christmas Dancers: A Legend of Saxony." The Century, vol. 59, no. 2, Dec. 1899, pp. 165-173.


23 Dec 2019

Rank #7

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MDT Ep. 61: Concerning the Invention of Chess

We kick off a holiday miniseries of chess lore from William Caxton's The Game and the Playe of the Chesse with one version of how chess was invented. We then some historical corrections to this account and also hear one of the earliest written accounts of chess, the Persian Chatrang-namak.


29 Nov 2018

Rank #8

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MDT Ep. 47: Concerning Ragnarok

This episode we tap into the Ragnarok zeitgeist and go back to the medieval Norse sources: Snorri Sturluson's Gylfaginning and the apocalyptic poem Völuspá.


22 Nov 2017

Rank #9

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MDT Episode 04: The Violent Death of Bishop Walcher

Episode 4 continues the story of the murder of Bishop Walcher of Durham foreseen in our previous episode. Text from Simeon of Durham's History of the Church of Durham.


13 Dec 2014

Rank #10

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MDT Ep. 76: Concerning a Glimpse into 15th-Century School Life

We return from our hiatus with an exploration of life in Tudor grammar school classroom, as described in a compilation of translation exercises composed for his students by a master of the Magdalen School, Oxford.Today's Text:Nelson, William, editor. A Fifteenth Century Schoolbook: From a Manuscript in the British Museum (MS. Arundel 249). Oxford, 1956. https://archive.org/details/fifteenthcentury00nelsuoft.


23 Oct 2019

Rank #11

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MDT Ep. 36: Concerning the Depredations of King John

This episode we look at the less than stellar reputation of King John during the First Barons' War, as recounted in the Melrose Chronicle, and consider the relationship of medieval texts to immediate politics.


18 Feb 2017

Rank #12

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MDT Ep. 46: Concerning the Giant of Mont St. Michel

This Halloween marks our third anniversary, and we ring in our fourth year with two versions of King Arthur's famous battle with the man-eating giant of Mont St. Michel.


1 Nov 2017

Rank #13

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MDT Ep. 68: The Confession of St. Patrick (Part 1)

This March, we're going back to one of the earliest surviving St. Patrick texts, his own autobiographical Confessio. This episode we'll hear the first half, which covers Patrick's abduction from the coast of 5th-century Britain into slavery in Ireland and continues up to the start of his mission to convert the Irish some thirty years later.Today's Text:Patrick. Confession. St. Patrick: His Writings and Life, edited and translated by Newport J.D. White, Macmillan, 1920, pp. 31-51. Google Books.References:Adams, J.N. An Anthology of Informal Latin, 200 BC - AD 900: Fifty Texts with Translations and Linguistic Commentary. Cambridge UP, 2016.Bieler, Ludwig. "The Place of Saint Patrick in Latin Language and Literature." Vigiliae Christianae, vol. 6, no. 2, Apr. 1952, pp. 65-98. JSTOR, doi:10.2307/1582579.de Paor, Máire B. Patrick: The Pilgrim Apostle of Ireland. Regan Books–HarperCollins, 1998.Gellrich, Jesse M. Discourse and Dominion in the Fourteenth Century: Oral Contexts of Writing, Politics, and Poetry. Princeton UP, 1995.Hood, A.B.E, editor and translator. St. Patrick: His Writings and Muirchu's Life. Phillimore, 1978.Kelly, David. "St Patrick's Writings: Confessio and Epistola." Saint Patrick's Confessio, Royal Irish Academy, 2011, www.confessio.ie/more/article_kelly#.McCaffrey, Carmel, and Leo Eaton. In Search of Ancient Ireland: The Origins of the Irish, from Neolithic Times to the Coming of the English. New Amsterdam Books, 2002.Olden, Thomas, translator. The Confession of St. Patrick. George Drought, 1853. Google Books.Get more info at: http://www.medievaldeathtrip.com


12 Mar 2019

Rank #14

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MDT Ep. 72: An Icelandic Vision of the Afterlife

This episode we take a look at Sólarljóð, an Old Norse poem that mixes a Christian tour of heaven and hell with the stylings of eddic poetry. We also consider what it might have in common with one of the fugues of the Great Revival.Today's Texts:"Song of the Sun." The Elder Eddas of Saemund Sigfusson and the Younger Eddas of Snorre Sturleson, translated by Benjamin Thorpe and I.A. Blackwell, Norrœna Society, 1906, pp. 11-120. Google Books.References:Cobb, Buell E., Jr. The Sacred Harp, A Tradition and Its Music. U of Georgia P, 1978.Larrington, Carolyne, and Peter Robinson. Introduction to "Anonymous, Sólarljóð." Poetry on Christian Subjects, edited by Margaret Clunies Ross, Skaldic Poetry of the Scandinavian Middle Ages 7, Brepols, 2007, pp. 287-357."Sólarljóð -- Anon SólVII." Skaldic Project.Wright, Thomas. St. Patrick's Purgatory: An Essay on the Legends of Purgatory, Hell, and Paradise, Current During the Middle Ages. John Russell Smith, 1844. Google Books.Zaleski, Carol. Otherworld Journeys: Accounts of Near-Death Experience in Medieval and Modern Times. Oxford UP, 1987.Audio Credit: "Greenwich" performed by Cork Sacred Harp, from the first Ireland Sacred Harp Convention, 2011. Used under CC-BY-3.0 license. https://soundcloud.com/corksacredharp/183-greenwich.


9 May 2019

Rank #15

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MDT Episode 18: Concerning the Lai of Bisclavret, the Werewolf

This episode we celebrate our one-year anniversary on Halloween, with the tale of a mistreated werewolf: the Lai of Bisclavret by Marie de France.


1 Nov 2015

Rank #16

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MDT Ep. 35: Concerning Some Astronomical Anomalies and Meteorological Marvels

This episode we celebrate the winter's solstice with a grab-bag of comets, eclipses, and meteors, as well as earthquakes, tempests, and plagues.


21 Dec 2016

Rank #17

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MDT Episode 27: Concerning Another Take on the Love of Edgar and Aelfthryth

On this episode, get a different version of the story of Edgar's love for the married Aelfthryth, this time in a blending of history with courtly romance from Gaimar's L'Estoire des Engleis.


7 Jul 2016

Rank #18

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MDT Ep. 77: Concerning Some Demons of the Lanercost Chronicle (and a Revenant)

This Halloween, we celebrate our fifth anniversary with five terrifying tales of demonic activity from the Lanercost Chronicle.Today's Text:The Chronicle of Lanercost: 1272–1346. Translated by Herbert Maxwell, James Maclehose and Sons, 1913.


1 Nov 2019

Rank #19

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MDT Ep. 40: Fear and Trembling in Durham Cathedral

This episode is the first in our three-part series looking at encounters with the remains of St. Cuthbert, starting in this installment with a quick look at the discovery that his body had not decayed in 698, eleven years after his death, as recounted by the Venerable Bede, and then taking a longer look at the so-called "Anonymous Account" of the inspection of his body during his translation into Durham Cathedral in 1104.


5 Jun 2017

Rank #20