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Seer of ghosts & weaver of stories

(You are very much not forgotten)

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Live @ Museum of London: GLBT History Blogging Workshop
Given I've been a London resident for a little over a month at this point and also newly unemployed, taking advantage of all the city has to offer seems the appropriate response to the general malaise I'm experiencing between fits of working on my Ph.D. thesis revisions. Although I've been active in academia for a little over five years now by virtue of postgraduate study, I've been more strongly tilted to the literary than to the historical (as most of you already know, my area of focus is 14th/15th century book production in London; more specifically, I've been working on an early 15th-century Piers Plowman manuscript as a scribal case-study).

As the GLBT-themed tour of the collection here that we've just been given demonstrates, gay histories are, indeed, "hidden in plain sight" (to quote the Write Queer London 2011 brochure), and remarkably difficult to extract. In my particular field of study, they're even more so, although significant in-roads have been made in the past twenty years or so when it comes to fleshing out a queer history of the Middle Ages. In the Museum of London, however, there's a marked absence of evidence between the Roman period and the eighteenth century. Perhaps the curators would do well to focus on filling this gap.

Additionally, as a creative writer, my use of artifacts and historical anecdotes occurs largely in poetry and short fiction. I admire proper history bloggers, as their ability to educate, illuminate, and entertain has perhaps even broader appeal than personal or fictional interpretation of factual events. Although this workshop hasn't converted me to the cause of history blogging, as such, I'll certainly consider posting more in-depth discussions of the texts, artifacts, and personalities that inspire my craft.

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I'm intrigued. And would very much like to read it if you were to write something about these things.

I'm very good at blogging about what's going on, as far as my writing goes, but not so much about the how. This workshop prompted me to ask myself questions about how to change that.

Things that make you ask questions of yourself is always a good thing, I think. Not because you must necessarily change things, but because the why gives insight.

I realise that people are passionate, and sometimes tunnel-blind, towards their own subject. But I've always just found it so hard to understand why the most common complaint I heard about History was that it was so dull. At the end of the day, events, actions, people, places...they're just a story in a different setting. History's never dull - it's how people convey it that can be the problem. And I think, if you have a decent grasp of what it means to write, be it fiction or fact, science or art, you'll be just as effective as any "proper history blogger", as you put it.

Hm. I'm not sure I have any real point here. I just kinda felt compelled to respond somehow to this.

I've never understood the complaint that history is dull, either! As for proper history blogging, seriously, there are some stunning blogs out there that are all history, all the time; I somehow don't think I'm up for that, as working wit and entertainment value into it seem to be such huge aspects of being successful (and I'm neither particularly witty, nor overly entertaining...that is, I suppose, when I'm not writing poetry or fiction). That's more what I mean.

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I've been neglecting this account in a very big way over the past few months; most of it has had to do with a relative drop-off in original writing publications/submissions as I'm wrapping up revisions on my Ph.D. thesis. However, I plan to finish and hand those in very soon, so I need to breathe some new life into this blog!

That sounds really fascinating! I'm always interested in the way people use historical objects in stories, poems, etc. What moves them to write about those specific things?

I can't speak for others, but what moves me to write about specific objects/themes, I suppose, is often wildly irrational. Sometimes an artifact's history will resonate with me, or a text will engage me (whether it's on the basis of style, characterization, plot, what-have-you), and I just can't avoid adding my voice to the dialogue. It's a form of placing oneself within the context of that history, perhaps? The desire to feel like a part of something much greater, the continuity of human narrative?

I think continuity is why I respond to historical objects, at least some of the time: the fact that these objects can still speak to us, even over time and space, and even if we don't hear their "initial" voices.

I would very much like to read discussions of the texts and artefacts that you're working with!

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