The French on Crusade: A Digital Look at a Medieval Narrative

Saturday, January 6, 2018
Atrium (Marriott Wardman Park)
Cory Starman, University of Nebraska at Omaha
This project, an interactive website, aims to make Odo of Deuil's De profectione Ludovici VII in Orientem more accessible to readers unfamiliar with 12th century, medieval Europe. In her essay, “What war looks like: students present moments of historical crisis using primary sources and digital textbooks. Be careful what you ask for,” Laura Moorhead details her attempt to have students expand their knowledge of wartime history through the reading of primary sources and construction of digital pages. She writes, “While the students’ digital chapters often contrast from their textbooks in promising ways, they ultimately share a shallowness” and asks, “How might students come to see that primary sources can be more “real,” authentic, and engaging than a Hollywood effort at made-for-screen history?” (68). Despite the relative modernity of Moorhead’s primary sources, her students still struggled to effectively engage with them. As primary sources age, the issue of student engagement only increases.

Written by Odo of Deuil, a French monk who accompanied King Louis VII on crusade, De profectione is a major source for modern understanding of the Second Crusade; the work spans from the taking of the cross to the king’s departure from Asia Minor. Although there is much to gain by reading history from a contemporary perspective, these authors often assume readers will have a working knowledge of language, systems, and institutions of the time. This project bridges the knowledge gap between Odo’s intended audience and the modern reader by contextualizing information through maps, interactive timelines and street views, annotated photographs, interactive charts, and a tagging system that links related subjects. The site attempts to be a one-stop-shop for anyone hoping to engage with Odo’s text, regardless of prior medieval knowledge.

Odo writes Book Four — the section of De profectione this poster will home in on — through an anti-Byzantine lens. The presentation will emphasize Odo’s use of nationality and religious differences to justify violence. Much like the website, this poster will use mixed media to show disparities between 12th century contemporary thought and modernity, attempting to put the two in conversation with one another. Odo’s original text, written in Latin, is not widely available. The digital medium allows readers to access and actively engage with medieval writing. Through the contextualization of arguments and biases of the time, this website and accompanying poster display hopes to deepen learner understanding of a sometimes forgotten text.

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