Sarah Irving

I do things with words, mainly English and Arabic

Castration and sticky-back plastic

Huge hairy viking, raiding something

Huge hairy viking, raiding something

Now THIS is how you get web impressions, retweets and Facebook shares for an article which is, essentially, about medieval economics. You use a title like “Vikings raided monasteries to feed demand for eunuchs at Abbasid Court and in Byzantium”.

It’s got everything. Sex (or probably a lack thereof, what with an initial vow of chastity followed by having some of the requisite bits chopped off). Huge hairy smelly Norse warriors rising up from the waves in their long-boats to attack abbeys full of quivering Celtic monks. And a big dollop of orientalism as the victims are swept from their chilly northern homes to the harems of the Mysterious East. Someone should write a novel about it…

I don’t know of any novel yet (although my friend Jona has bagsies on the idea). And the actual article (by Mary Valente) that someone clever at DS Brewer presumably press released and which therefore inspired the article on Medievalists.net is probably somewhat drier than the neo-Mary Stewart fiction that could have been seeded by it.

Castration and Culture

Most of us will never know, of course – the damn book (Castration and Culture in the Middle Ages, edited by Larissa Tracy) is an academic hardback-only publication and therefore costs sixty quid. A petty thing, of course, but one of my particular bugbears at the moment – no-one has yet managed to explain to me which these publishers wouldn’t do better to put everything in paperback bindings and pick up some extra sales. I always get the ‘library factor’ quoted at me, to which the appropriate response must be – sticky-back plastic? It was good enough for Janet Ellis and Simon Groom, what are they being so picky about?

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