In 1914 Europe's troops marched off to war expecting to be home by Christmas. When the holiday came and they found themselves stuck in the trenches for the foreseeable future many of them decided to take some time off and to fraternize with the enemy in what became known as the Christmas Truce.
Music by Kevin MacLeod (www.incompetech.com)
For much of the Middle Ages, King Arthur was Europe’s model king. His court could be a space for heroism, for romance, and also for the uncanny. Often drawing on oral tradition, written for elite audiences, the Arthurian romances of the 13th and 14th centuries can be surprisingly revealing about cultural values and cultural debates. This week we'll be looking at Christmas feasts, sun-god figures, and complex debates about the morality of flirting.
Nennius, Historia Brittonum
Geoffrey of Monmouth, History of the Kings of Britain
Thomas Malory, Le Morte D’Arthur (Vol 1) (Vol 2)
Anon., "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight"
Leslie Alcock, Arthur’s Britain. Penguin Books, 2002.
Nicholas J. Higham, King Arthur: Myth-Making and History. Routledge, 2002.
Fun Arthurian novels exploring religious pluralism in 5th- and 6th-century Britain:
Mary Stewart, The Crystal Cave; The Hollow Hills; The Last Enchantment; The Wicked Day
Rosemary Sutcliff, Sword at Sunset (1963)
We kick off the Christmas season and celebrate the Feast of St. Nicholas (Dec. 6th) with a look at the history of Santa Claus, from his origins as a Late Antique bishop to the creation of Rudolph in the 20th century.
Stephen Nissenbaum, The Battle for Christmas. Vintage, 1997.
Gerry Bowler, Santa Claus: A Biography. McClelland & Stewart, 2005.
Adam C. English, The Saint Who Would Be Santa Claus: The True LIfe and Trials of Nicholas of Myra. Baylor University Press, 2012.
Bruce Forbes, Christmas: A Candid History. University of California Press: 2007.
Ildar Garipzanov, "The Cult of St. Nicholas in the Early Christian North," Scandinavian Journal of History 35, no. 3 (2010): 229-246
Author and humorist David Sedaris' essay on the phenomenon of Zwarte Piet, "Six to Eight Black Men."
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