Last week we promised you bloody cucumbers, and we’ve done our best to deliver. Danielle Bishop, who recently finished her MPhil in Medieval Spanish Literature, joined us to talk about ways of besmirching honour in medieval Spanish epic narratives, one of which was to fill a hollowed out cucumber with old pig’s blood and throw it at someone who has insulted you or your family. The stain it creates is a stain on your honour.
In particular we focused on Los Siete Infantes de Lara, or the seven princes of Lara. This is one of the earliest Spanish epics or cantares de gesta, and traces the legendary history of the Lara family. As you can see from this illustration, things don’t end well for the eponymous characters:
Illustration of Los Siete Infantes de Lara. Engraving by Otto van Veen (17th century)
This week we were joined by Rowan Nicholson, a Ph.D student working on a thesis in international law at the University of Cambridge. Listen here:
Rowan told us about the exchange between Innocent IV and Güyük Khan in 1246. Here is an illustration showing Pope Innocent sending the Dominican and Franciscan monks on their dangerous mission:
Illumination from Le Miroir Historial, vol.4 by Vincent of Beauvais (c.1400-10), now in the Koninklijke Bibliotheek (National Library of the Netherlands)
For our third podcast we were lucky enough to be joined by Adam Ward, who is writing a thesis on state legislatures in the United States. Today Adam turned his mind to an even more complex political scene: the Eurovision Song Contest. You can listen here.
This article discusses the controversal flag ban at this year’s contest. Banned flags include those of Wales, Palestine, the Basque country, Northern Cyprus, Crimea and Isis. The rainbow flag can still be waved, but not in a ‘political’ way…
Here is Ukraine’s potentially controversial entry, Jamala’s ‘1944’:
You can read another take on the politics of the Eurovision Song Contest here, including a terrifying story about voters within Azerbaijan who had voted for Armenia (with whom Azerbaijan disputes the Nagorno-Karabakh region) being tracked down by their country’s secret police.
We hope you enjoyed our second podcast! We started with mosaics, detoured via nineteenth-century cannibalism, and ended up with a dog-headed saint, and a mythical race of headless men.
First, Rachael’s favourite mosaic, which illustrates an episode in Homer’s Odyssey. The Sirens lure men onto the rocks with their song; to avoid this fate, Odysseus orders the crew of his ship to stop up their ears with wax, while he is tied to the mast, so that he alone can hear the song without danger. The mosaic, from the collection of the Bardo Museum in Tunis, shows Odysseus with his hands bound, while alluring sirens beckoning on his right. The mosaic is usually cropped, and shows only Odysseus with the sirens, like this:
Mosaic of Ulysses and the Sirens, second century AD, Bardo Museum, Tunis