Medieval Lists of the Dead: What Are They and Who Reads Them?

by Laura Moncion (University of Toronto)

The premodern period was full of lists, as many of this blog’s previous entries have shown. Medieval monasteries in particular, as the bureaucratic centres of medieval Western Europe, produced and dealt with a large number of lists: the monastic hours of each day, calendars of saints’ days, monastic rules and customaries, charters, profession and patronage records, and many others. Among these types of monastic lists are lists of the dead, including the monastic necrology and liber vitae (book of life), both types of lists intended to memorialize the deceased members of a monastic community. Continue reading “Medieval Lists of the Dead: What Are They and Who Reads Them?”

Lists of names: Santa’s in particular

Sean O’Neill; © Condé Nast

by Martha Rust

In a cartoon by Sean O’Neill published in the New Yorker, Santa Claus stands behind a rope barrier looking decidedly not jolly.[1] On the other side of the rope stands a man holding a clipboard with a sheet of paper showing three columns of text. Above the door behind him, a sign reads “Club.” The cartoon’s caption translates Santa’s dour look as outrage: “Not on the list? I invented the list!” Continue reading “Lists of names: Santa’s in particular”

A Roll Call of Lovers’ Roles in Lydgate’s Temple of Glas

by Amanda Gerber

Eva von Contzen’s previous Listology post about Namwali Serpell’s story “Account” drew our attention to a list whose readers convert it into a narrative by inferring meaning from its items’ juxtaposition and sequencing. This post returns to the idea of the list as a narrative in order to examine the Temple of Glas by John Lydgate, a fifteenth-century poet whom modern scholars often denigrate for being a compiler and list-maker.[1] Continue reading “A Roll Call of Lovers’ Roles in Lydgate’s Temple of Glas”

Lists as/and Artworks

by Eva von Contzen

Can a work of visual art be a list? In The Broad in Los Angeles, there is a painting by the Californian artist John Baldessari (b. 1931) entitled “Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell, 1966–68”. On a white canvas, written in black capital letters, he writes: “Tips for Artists Who Want to Sell”, followed by a list of three such tips, each item introduced by a black bullet point: artists are advised to use light rather than dark colours, choose a subject that sells well (such as still lives – but without any disturbing details – or nudes), and pay attention to the subject matter (bulls and roosters are better than cows and hens). Have a look at the picture here: Continue reading “Lists as/and Artworks”

The Politics of Naming: A List by the Wife of Bath

The Ellesmere Manuscript (EL 26 C 9), f. 72 (detail) The Huntington Library, San Marino, California

by Martha Rust

As she begins her tale, Chaucer’s Wife of Bath waxes nostalgic about the olden days in Britain, when King Arthur reigned, the Elf Queen and her “joly compaignye” danced in “many a grene mede,” and all the land was “fulfild of fayerer” (‘fully filled with fairy’).[1] Continue reading “The Politics of Naming: A List by the Wife of Bath”

List Between the Lines: Teaching Visualization in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Canon. Class. Lat. 70

by Amanda Gerber

In her most recent post on, Martha Rust introduced us to distinctiones, or diagrammatic arrangements of lists into visual shapes, which could then be reconstituted in different arrays for sermons. This post returns to this issue of the diagrammatic list to explore two central questions: Where does one draw the line between list and diagram? Or should a line even be drawn? And does a diagram’s formatting change how a reader conceptualizes or acts upon its itemized information? Continue reading “List Between the Lines: Teaching Visualization in Oxford, Bodleian Library, MS Canon. Class. Lat. 70”

#adorablepets: Why Instagram Loves Lists

by Julia Böckling

In her post about the Ten Essentials of Hiking, Martha Rust asks whether a collection of pictures can still be a list. This post proposes that in the case of Instagram, an app devoted to collections of pictures, the answer is “yes”. As the listicle below will show, even non-traditional (picture) lists, that is, lists that do not aspire to listhood, share the same / similar functions as traditional lists and should therefore be taken into account when analyzing lists online. Continue reading “#adorablepets: Why Instagram Loves Lists”

Friending Thebes

by Amanda Gerber

“Of friends,” one fifteenth-century reader dubs the topic of his list addition to Book 1 of Statius’s Thebaid. As demonstrated in my last blog post about Statius, “Epic Hit List,” readers might more readily associate the Roman’s bloody epic poems with murder victims than friends, but friendship occupies the mind of this Thebaid reader nonetheless, prompting a list of four pairs of famed heroic friends. With each pair of names introduced by a paraph marker and a bracket to connect them, the annotator commemorates some of antiquity’s most renowned heroic couples almost as heroic couplets: Continue reading “Friending Thebes”

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