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parergon30-1coverI’m happy to announce that my article “Words as Weapons in the Correspondence of Edward I with Llywelyn ap Gruffydd” has just appeared in the most recent edition of Parergon. You can get it through Project Muse here if your library has a subscription.1 Here’s the abstract to whet your appetite:

The correspondence exchanged by Edward I of England and Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales in the late thirteenth century has traditionally been read for its legal and jurisdictional implications. However, as Rees Davies noted, language was itself a weapon in medieval Anglo-Welsh conflict. From this assumption, I examine a single letter exchange to investigate the construction and function of royal epistolary language. I suggest that traditional and formulaic elements were adapted to strategic expression of the authority and longevity of royal power, and that silences were equally intentional and rhetorically forceful weapons in the campaign to dominate Wales.

[1] I know it’s all about open access these days, but I’m a member of the august association that publishes this journal, and the income that this online access generates keeps it afloat, and able to do fabulous things like offer student essay prizes, subsidized conference registrations, professional training seminars and travel bursaries. All of these activities are things I have benefited from in my own (albeit, so far, short ) career, and are in my humble opinion Good Things. So, despite the fact that I’m all for people being able to read my work (the more the merrier!) you won’t find me putting illicit copies of this online because I think it would be genuinely counter productive and mean spirited of me to deny opportunities like this to others by diverting such an important funding stream away from the good work of the Australian and New Zealand Association for Medieval and Early Modern Studies. On the other hand, if you are an independent scholar without access or means you can contact me privately for a copy for your own use if you are interested, because I do care about information accessibility even if I don’t want it to be at the expense of small scholarly societies. End rant.

I’m the kind of reader who tends to have the OED Online open in another tab whenever I’m working through a book or article, and I try to keep a note of the interesting words I find for future reference. So it seems appropriate to instigate a series of mini posts here in which I share my most recent ‘new word’, its definition, and the context in which I encountered it.

Map of Wales c. 1200, a fissiparous entity if ever there was one. From A. G. Little’s “Mediæval Wales, Chiefly in the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries” (1902).

Today’s Word of the Day is fissiparous (adj.). The OED gives:

a. Of organisms: Producing new individuals by fission.

b. Of or pertaining to the process of reproduction by fission.[1]

In other words, this is a marvellous word for describing things which have a tendency to split apart into many, fragmented units.

This interesting new piece of vocabulary came to my attention in reading Simon Meecham-Jones’ introduction to the book he co-edited with Ruth Kennedy for Palgrave Macmillan’s The New Middle Ages series: Authority and Subjugation in Writing of Medieval Wales (2008). It crops up in Meecham-Jones’ discussion of the distinction between Wales and the English Crown’s other, later, imperial projects, namely, a pre-existing textual tradition and documentary culture. He reminds us that “it was far from the truth to imagine that Wales was a land without textual resources of its own. England’s first colonial wars were aimed at subduing a people who, however fractious and fissiparous their political culture, nonetheless enjoyed both a highly developed and long-standing legal code… and a prolific and sophisticated literary culture…”[2]

Nice phrase, isn’t it? I’m reading this in the final stages of development of an essay I hope will appear somewhere or other reasonably soon which examines the particular rhetorical construction of kingship that emerged from the correspondence of Edward I with Llywelyn ap Gruffydd, Prince of Wales, between the two Welsh Wars. I’ll let you know when I’m done… Meanwhile, try to use fissiparous in a sentence at least once this week.

[1] “fissiparous, adj.” OED Online (Oxford:Oxford University Press, 2012). <; [accessed October 31, 2012].

[2] Simon Meecham-Jones, ‘Introduction’, in Authority and Subjugation in Writing of Medieval Wales, ed. by Ruth Kennedy and Simon Meecham-Jones (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2008), pp. 1-11 (p. 4).

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I teach and research at the Centre for Medieval & Renaissance Studies in the School of Philosophical, Historial and International Studies, Monash University (Australia). Views expressed here are my own and not representative of the CMRS, SOPHIS or Monash.

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