MAA News – From the Editor’s Desk

Greetings from the editor’s desk at Speculum: A Journal of Medieval Studies. This month we are delighted to highlight the research published in the April 98/2 (2023) issue. The five articles published here admirably fulfill our mission to showcase new work drawn from across the many fields that make up medieval studies. Kyle Harper’s “The First Plague Pandemic in Italy” opens the issue with a contribution to the lively field of plague studies. It is a close examination of the contemporary textual evidence for the Justinianic plague, demonstrating the impact of the pandemic on the Italian peninsula.  Kara Gaston’s interdisciplinary piece, “The Place of Poetry in Sacrobosco’s Sphere: Astronomy and Interpretation,” illuminates Johannes Sacrobosco’s practice of using poetry as interpretation in his Tractatus de sphera, a thirteenth-century astronomy textbook. Mohamad Ballan, an early career scholar, grounds his work firmly in al-Andalus in “Borderland Anxieties: Lisān al-Dīn ibn al-Khatị̄b (d. 1374) and the Politics of Genealogy in Late Medieval Granada.” Contributing to ongoing discussions of race, racialization, and ethnicity in the medieval period, his article analyzes, among other things, how Nasrid elites articulated “Arabness” as a marker of identity in late medieval Granada. “Sacred Shivering,” by Ravinder S. Binning, another early career scholar, examines how the story of the Forty Martyrs of Sebaste sacralized the act of shivering in two tenth-century Byzantine ivories. And finally, Sebastian Sobecki’s “Authorized Realities: The Gesta Romanorum and Thomas Hoccleve’s Poetics of Autobiography” rounds out the issue by arguing that the surviving manuscript evidence supports Thomas Hoccleve’s narrative persona.

From publications we turn to those behind-the-scenes board members who provide the expertise and guidance on which the journal depends. I am pleased to announce Speculum’s newest board members, confirmed in their positions at the MAA annual meeting in Washington, DC in February. We welcome to the Editorial Board: Noah Guynn, Samantha Herrick, Eleanor Johnson, and Ian Wei. On the Review Board we are fortunate to have Nicolino Applauso, Maud Kozody, and Sol Miguel-Prendes join us. The work of these scholars is crucial to the day-to-day functioning of the journal, not only in terms of the articles and book reviews published, but also in regard to process and policy decisions.

One recent decision made by the Editorial Board, inspired by a conversation I had with Lisa Fagin Davis, takes effect this month.  I am proud to announce that in response to the ongoing assault on and censorship of CRS and LGBTQ+ studies in curricula and library collections across the US, the Editorial Board of Speculum, in collaboration with our publisher, the University of Chicago Press, is making five recent articles (and two presidential addresses) free to read on our website. While all embed themselves in the groundwork established by these areas of study, they also seek to open up fresh fields of inquiry and bring new perspectives to venerable topics, thereby immensely enriching our field of medieval studies.

As presidential addresses to the Medieval Academy of America, the articles “The Regulation of ‘Sodomy’ in the Latin East and West” by Ruth Mazo Karras (95/4 [2020]) and “Cultural Encounter, Race, and a Humanist Ideology of Empire in the Art of Trecento Venice” by Thomas E. A. Dale (98/1 [2023]) are already free to read in perpetuity on the Speculum website.  Now also freely available for six months are Pamela A. Patton, “What Did Medieval Slavery Look Like? Color, Race, and Unfreedom in Later Medieval Iberia” (97/3 [2022]); Katharine Breen, “Personification and Gender Fluidity in the Psychomachia and its Early Reception” (97/4 [2022]); Anna Wilson, “Petrarch’s Queer History” (95/3 [2020]); Mohamad Ballan, “Borderland Anxieties: Lisān al-Dīn ibn al-Khatị̄b (d. 1374): the Politics of Genealogy in Late Medieval Granada” (98/2 [2023]); and forthcoming, in the July 98/3 (2023) issue: François·e Charmaille, “Trans Climates of the European Middle Ages: 500–1300.”

The collection can be found here:

And finally, as we turn our attention from the hugely successful in-person Washington, DC meeting of the MAA to the hybrid ICMS (Kalamazoo) meeting later this spring, I would like to invite you to the roundtable session on Friday, 12 May at 10:00 AM: “Surveying Journals and Their Practices across Medieval and Early Modern Studies,” in which I’ll be a panelist. I look forward to seeing you there!

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