A list of Things To Do
Not been doing much reading of late, but a chance e-mail from someone using a small part of my research on barnacle geese got me moving again.
(1) The essential Welshness of Castle Rock Edinburgh.
Waiting for delivery of of a collection of conference papers on the importance of Goddodin, an early poem set on the 6th century fort on castle rock and its importance for the establishment of the notion of Welsh ethnicity in the later medieval period.
The poem has never become the ‘Scottish Beowulf’ and is largely unknown and unloved in Scotland due to the tangled nature of identity in 6th century Britain, where the movement from tribe to ethnic group is really just starting.
Northern Britain formed the historical horizon for a later Welsh Aristocracy and a fictive kinship with this past formed the basis of what it was to be Welsh.
(2) Biological Myth And The Reproduction of Kinds of things.
Some serious digging to do on the barnacle goose. Barnacle goose is often presented historically as being a single species. Its not, various different species of water fowl were depending on local environment identified as a barnacle goose. Classification was based on biological myth, the notion that they were the same kind of thing because they reproduced in the same manner by spontaneous generation.
Barnacle goose like the idea of species is a somewhat fluid concept. As it could be eaten at lent and classified as a fish, local communities identified numerous species as a potential lent food source dependent on local environment and cultural factors.
An entirely abstract species concept that had developed over time and subject to local environmental variation due to cultural and ideological factors, using reproduction as the key element of the classification of kinds of things.
Poses some issues for the establishment of species definitions and the notion of biology in the late 17th century I suspect.
I have a third thing. Having to look at the emergence of neo- stoicism in the late Renaissance, not a subject I would choose out of choice and its driving me slightly insane, hence the need to revert to subjects I am more comfortable with.
Its important to understand a later very conservative thinker I am interest in so I have no choice in the matter.
Coming form an earlier period of history that’s something of a bastard mix using a lot of social science based subjects notable anthropology and archeology, questions you want answered are different to the interests of later historians and for some reason Scottish history in this period has always bored me to death. Happy reading source material but find the secondary stuff takes some motivation.
Looking at the idea of barnacle geese and the essential Welshness of Edinburgh castle should keep me sane as I confront more later historians and their very strange interests and inclinations.
I suppose I have an overlap with the barnacle goose and Neo Stoic Renaissance belief as after doing the grunt work on the late Renaissance got to see how far these elite beliefs may be influencing the two fictive creatures I am interested in wider popular culture the wild man and the later 17th century orangutang (again like the goose at this period its not a single species but a generic term for a range of ‘man like’ species).
The classification of unusual and memorable creatures draws in all cultural ranks into debate and argument. Means by which social differences can be displayed differences can be drawn or agreement and compromise can be made. Wondering about such things plays a role in how competitive social groups form wider identities and maintain social distinction.
Messy fluid subject, the ordering of the natural world is a seriously social processes and a point of exchange between elite and popular culture. Its in these spaces that wider human identities are given form and substance.