The Penn Gazette, my alumni magazine, has a cool article about “the immeasurable curiosity of Edward Peters,” a medievalist at Penn. It has a particularly cool discussion of Peters’ work on the history of curiositas, the medieval equivalent of curiosity. The interesting thing is that we think of “curiosity” as a good thing (unless you’re, say, a cat), but medieval thinkers considered it dangerous, and potentially heretical.

It’s a good example of how you can use the changing meaning of “keywords” (to use Raymond Williams’ term) as markers for the evolution of ideas. When I was teaching, I found that tracing the evolution of keywords was almost always something that the students liked– the engaged ones, anyway.

I never had a class with Peters– I was in an anti-pre 19th-century history phase for, oh, about eight years– but once when visiting Trinidad, a friend of mine who was working on 10th-century Arabic poetry and I gave a lift to a woman who turned out to be named Ettie Peters. She was very nice.