In this week's edition, we speak with M. Cecilia Gaposchkin, Professor of History and Assistant Dean of Faculty for PreMajor Advising. She has published many works on the crusades and the Capetians, her most recent of which being Invisible Weapons: Liturgy and the Making of Crusade Ideology (Cornell UP, 2017), that explores how liturgy and church ritual underwrote holy war and crusading.
What is your book about?
The book examines how liturgy and ritual were used to underpin and sacralize the crusades. That is about how the Middle Ages made "holy war" holy.
Where did you get your ideas for this book?
It came out of teaching. After 9/11, I began teaching a course on the crusades. Since I had worked with liturgical material in my book, I naturally wondered about the liturgical footprint of the crusades - mostly as I was looking for sources to help me teach. When I didn't find any, I began digging...
What does research look like for you? What element of research could you not live without?
Medieval manuscripts! Either in holding libraries, or in digitized reproductions, or, when necessary, microfilms or microfiche. Obviously, consulting the real thing is the best!
What do you think the library of the future will look like?
I hope it will include access to very high resolution images of the world's single copy documents (manuscripts, archives), so that every one can do research about everything in any place or time.
What advice would you give to an aspiring scholar or writer?
Good work, and patience, when paired, win out.
And finally, what do you read for fun?
I recently read two books by Amon Towles that I loved and I would recommend to anyone: Rules of Civility: a Novel, and (even better) A Gentleman in Moscow. Gentleman in Moscow I think is the best book I have read this year. I enjoyed the Alice Network (Kate Quinn) a spy/historical novel set in the First and Second World War. I loved Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's Half a Yellow Sun. I'll read anything by John LeCarre. I enjoyed the Magpie Murders (Anthony Horowitz). No academic can not enjoy Julie Schumacher's Dear committee Members. I loved Robert Harris' An Officer and a Spy (a very fine historical novel about the Dreyfus affair). Anne Patchett's Commonwealth was extremely engaging. And, of course, I ate up the Elena Ferrante novels (truth be told, I thought they got better as they went along; I did not love the first one, and am not sure why I picked up the second one, but think the last one is a masterpiece.)