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Featured Member: Lori Jones (University of Ottawa)

11 Aug 2015 1:16 PM | Andrew Klein

Welcome to our new series, Medievalist of the Month! Every month a new medievalist will tell us a bit about their research and their involvement in the society. Up first is Lori Jones, who tells us...

I have an MA in International Affairs from Carleton University, and a second MA in History (Medieval and Renaissance Studies Specialization) from the University of Ottawa. One might wonder how I moved from one field to the other, but it really isn't that far of a jump: it's all about studying how people in different cultures and in different time periods experience life. I'm now a PhD Candidate in History at the University of Ottawa.

You're arriving at an airport for a research trip and the border control agent asks what you do. How do you answer?

I actually just experienced that exact question at a couple of border crossings this spring and summer. It is sometimes a tricky one to answer, because you have to gauge what kind of reception your answer is likely to get and tailor it accordingly. I usually say that I'm researching the plague (which is true), and after getting a horrified glance from the border agent, I soften my answer by saying that I'm doing library research and teaching classes on the history of disease. Sometimes the agent shows some interest, but usually I get passed through pretty quickly after that. Guess no one wants to think about disease.

What projects are you currently working on?

My PhD research looks at how people's perceptions of where the plague came from (geographically and historically) changed over time. It includes a detailed look at the changing textual contents of two plague treatises that had a very long life in manuscript and print in England and France. I'm also involved in a side project that identifies and tracks cropped medieval manuscript images that circulate on the internet (and in publications, documentaries, etc.) with captions that incorrectly identify them as images of the plague. It's quite amazing how quickly some of these mislabelled images go viral and spread misinformation; at the same time, I'm quite pleased to see how many people are willing to 'fix' the error once they've been notified about it. I am also the moderator of the University of Ottawa-Carleton University medieval/early modern email group. 

What do you think is the best part of being a medievalist?

I think the best part is simply that it is fun. Medievalists tend to be rather quirky sometimes, which makes them really interesting people to meet. That plus studying a time period that feels both familiar and oddly unfamiliar at the same time. 

Why did you join the CSM? What other societies do you belong to?

I joined the CSM so that I could be part of a supportive local community. The medievalist community in Canada isn't huge, so being a member of CSM makes you feel like you are part of a family. I also belong to the Medieval Academy of America, la Société des études médiévales du Québec, la Groupe de recherche sur les pouvoirs et les sociétés de l'Occident médiéval et moderne, the Early Book Society, and several history of medicine societies. 

Where can we find/read some of your work?

I have an page, where I've posted an article, a blog post, some book reviews, and a number of conference abstracts. I have several articles being considered for publication at the moment, so hopefully there will be more on the Academia site soon!

Any final thoughts?

Being a medievalist in an era of sustained political pressure to produce 'saleable' commodities is tough, but it becomes all the more rewarding when we can show that we are working on topics that have 'present' relevance.  Being human means that studying the past is relevant!

Thanks, Lori!

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