MOOC REVIEW: A Voice of Their Own. Women’s Spirituality in the Middle Ages (Coursera)

While I haven’t posted too much about it on Arcadia Pod, I do occasionally take free MOOC classes, I’ve done a few reviews on my other site Great Odin’s Raven! in the past. To quote that page “For those not “in the know” MOOCs (or Massive Open Online Courses) are a course of study made available over the Internet without charge to a very large number of people. Their value really comes from their ability to deliver high quality higher learning classes for free to places that have no access to such a service. When EDX started, for instance, I was taking classes constantly – ones about epidemics, and space science – just all sorts of random topics.” In the past most of the major MOOC providers were entirely free and came with certificates of completion, now some of them have paywalls to keep everything running. I enjoy Coursera a lot because it still can be enjoyed for free without any features being removed, you basically pay for the credentials now.

A Voice of Their Own. Women’s Spirituality in the Middle Ages is a “sequel” of sorts to another class offered by the University of Barcelona called Magic in the Middle Ages. That class was very well done, and had a lot of information I was unaware of. the only stumbling block for some is that the class is delivered by a group of instructors speaking in thick accents, as Spanish is their native tongue. Some are crystal clear, but others required me to use subtitles on certain things. That said, this is definitely not a deal breaker in any way.

This class is more Christian leaning, as it deals with early Christian mysticism, but it’s interesting because it talks mostly about how women were persecuted and even executed as heretics because of how the church ran things during the times of the Inquisitors. Having a background in Gnosticism, seeing topics covered such as The Cathars, was interesting to me. I know many that read my stuff are Pagan, so if you look at this from the perspective of “look how bad the church was” its an interesting class to take.

Have you ever heard about medieval mysticism or medieval heresies? Have you ever wondered about the particular role women played in medieval spirituality? Do Hildegard of Bingen, Clare of Assisi, Marguerite Porete, the Cathar ladies or Isabel de Villena ring a bell? Have you ever felt like you wanted to know more about them? If your answer to any of these questions was yes, then this MOOC, A voice of their own. Women’s spirituality in the Middle ages is what you were looking for.

A Voice of their own is much more than a course. It is an invitation to follow the paths traced by the spiritual experiences of medieval women. It is a challenge that, should you let it, will take you to places where you will see and hear things that will astonish you. Here you will find medieval women playing a major role in the spiritual transformations of the Middle Ages, founding monastic movements and orders, writing about their experiences, traveling the roads of Europe to spread their ideas, creating spiritual landscapes, as well as both material an intangible architectures. In this MOOC, these women will speak to you from the past, and you’ll see that their voices still hold great validity in the present.

I did have one issue with this course, and that is the assignments. As far as I could tell, two of the quizzes are incorrect, making it basically impossible to score 100%. The oversight is that much more annoying with a limit of 3 retakes per 8 hour period. I eventually had to keep taking the tests and guessing on what they said the correct answer was through trial and error. I eventually did it, but the experience was very frustrating, and the school seems to be fairly hands off on the forums for the class. This is the downside to the classes structured more as a “learn at your own pace” model, as many of these professors obviously can’t sit around and monitor the forums for years down the line. The whole thing becomes somewhat of an archived experience over time.

All-in-all this wasn’t my favorite MOOC I’ve ever taken. While the information was great, having the inability to have a blatant issue resolved was frustrating. Perhaps Coursera needs a “report this” feature that students can utilize. I would recommend taking the first class before this one, and if you enjoyed it, like me, the second is a no-brainer despite the issues. just be prepared for chapter 3, and be sure to use the forums the best you can. If you succeed, $50 will grant you a verified certificate for ultimate bragging rights. If there are any MOOCs out there anyone would recommend, drop me a line.

Queen Emeraldas Volume 1

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I am so glad to finally read this! I’m a big fan of Leiji Matsumoto, so I was pretty disappointed with a now defunct anime company called ADV only releasing half of the OVA animated series that was loosely based on this original 1978 manga. That was like a decade ago, and there wasn’t really a good way to get the rest of the story legally. Flash forward to 2016 and not only can you buy things like a legit copy of Captain Harlock on DVD, but one can also buy this original manga in a beautiful hardcover edition!

If you like space operas, I’d definitely recommend checking out some of Leiji Matsumoto’s works if you are unfamiliar. He is, perhaps, most well-known (by a casual audience) for inspiring the fabulous animated music videos for the French House music duo Daft Punk during their Discovery era. These videos were later collected into a film called Interstella 5555. Older fans may, no doubt, recognize his other works such as Star Blazers (Yamato) or Captain Harlock – it’s all the same guy.

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Matsumoto has woven a fine tapestry of interconnected stories with stoic characters that anyone can love; unfortunately, most younger anime fans ignore classics and he has somewhat fallen out of the mainstream as of late. I was assuming that some of his older comics would never come out here, until I read a recent news article from Publisher’s Weekly, touting VERY strong sales of older comic titles at Anime Expo such as pre-orders for this very book!

“At the Kodansha Comics panel on Saturday, Ben Applegate, director of publishing for Kodansha Comics, cheered the ongoing rebound in manga print sales. “You’re probably seeing all the industry people here smiling, so you know that the manga industry is doing really well,” he said. “This resurgence of manga is allowing us to take chances on different series we wouldn’t usually in the past.” […] An example of a title that, in the past, Kodansha might have thought was too risky to publish in English is Leiji Matsumoto’s Queen Emeraldas, which the publisher is releasing in August. An older, classic SF adventure, the advance hardcovers of the book were sold out by weekend’s end.”

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As for the book itself, the story surrounds a boy named Hiroshi Umino, who strives to be a powerful star captain so that he can live by his own rules and sail the “sea of stars” like his heroes. His run in with Emeraldas changes his life forever, as she slowly becomes his mentor (of sorts). Emeraldas is basically like Xena in this book, a total badass that kicks booty and takes names. You often see supposedly feminist comic characters that end up being some sort of fetishistic dominatrix-style sexual wish-fulfilment trope, but that’s not how Emeraldas rolls. I wouldn’t name my very own cat after a character with skeevy undertones like that! We see Hiroshi and Emeraldas sharing eerily parallel origin stories until they meet again later on.

If you are also a huge fan of Matsumoto’s works, or are familiar with stories like the aforementioned Captain Harlock, Galaxy Express 999, Galaxy Railways, Arcadia of my youth or Maetel legend, you will absolutely love this. This story adds more substance to a somewhat overlooked character that constantly shows up in various shows as a background character. Otherwise, this book stands on it’s own well, and acts as an introduction to a character that thankfully appears in a ton of material. If you become a fan you will want to branch out and see more. And hopefully, if this book ends up selling well Kodansha will release more Matsumoto manga!


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