Author Spotlight: Siren Çelik

Here is our first Author Spotlight of 2024, featuring Dr. Siren Çelik, a recent author in MWCC.9.

What have you contributed to Medieval World?


I have written an article on the travels of a 15th-century Byzantine emperor, Manuel II Palaiologos, in Europe. As his capital, Constantinople, was blockaded by the Ottomans, he travelled to various Italian cities, France, and England. Besides many other things, Manuel II is famous as the Byzantine emperor who visited Paris and London.


What sparks your initial interest in writing an article? 


I was delighted when Alice Sullivan asked me to contribute to the issue with an article dealing with Manuel II Palaiologos’ travels in Europe. I always love sharing my enthusiasm for all things Manuel not only with academics but also with interested audience members (or victims!). So, this article gave me the opportunity to share Manuel’s stories from Europe with a wider audience.

Tell us a bit about your research and writing process. What research do you usually undertake for your articles? What is the perfect environment/circumstance for you to write?


As a historian, I mostly work with written primary sources such as histories, document collections, letters, poems, orations, and philosophical/theological works. Thus, my research usually consists of reading and close analysis of these sources, which can be carried out anywhere if I have the hard copies or the PDFs with me. Ever since I returned to Istanbul, I usually carry out research and write from home, although I also use my office at the university and libraries such as the ANAMED (Center for Anatolian Civilizations) Library in the Beyoglu area. Previously, I also enjoyed working in coffee shops — I don’t mind the chatter and I like not feeling isolated as I write. Depending on my mood and concentration level that day, I may listen to music with my headphones on (not if I am in a library, obviously!). If my research/writing process is accompanied by nice, fresh coffee, it is always a great bonus!


Do you have a favourite article from the contributions already published in Medieval World? 


This would be very hard for me to choose, but I had really enjoyed Gabrielle Storey’s article on Queenship and Power (issue 3) and The Medieval Kingdom of Kyivan Rus by Christian Raffensperger (issue 2). I should also point out the wonderful articles on medieval cuisine by Manon Henzen that can be found in each issue. I am quite enthusiastic about culinary history, so these pages are the first ones I read when I get my hands on a copy of Medieval World!


What do you find most valuable about this magazine? 


I truly appreciate how accessible and rich the contents are, and that at the same time, they are penned by specialists. I think the magazine must be stimulating further interest among the non-historian readers for medieval history. On a less serious note, I love the illustrations of the magazine.


What book(s) are you currently reading? 


I just finished A Revolution in Taste by Susan Pinkard. It is a great book of culinary history focusing on the transformation of French cuisine around the French Revolution — I am very interested in the history of food. Now, I am about to start Mary Beard’s Emperor of Rome and I cannot wait to flip its pages.


What book(s) on medieval history and culture would you recommend to our readers? Why?


As a Byzantinist, I will promote my field and suggest the recent book by Paul Stephenson, New Rome. It focuses on the early centuries of Byzantium, and instead of offering a mere chronological narrative, the book dives into topics such as pollution due to mining, life spans and illness, popular religion, and family. I think the book would be of interest not only to historians, but could also be read easily by a non-academic audience. I also admire Jacques Le Goff’s work on the notions of time in medieval Europe and would recommend Time, Work and Culture in the Middle Ages.

Tell us about your recent book!

I published a monograph on Manuel II Palaiologos entitled: Manuel II Palaiologos (1350-1425): A Byzantine Emperor in a Time of Tumult (Cambridge University Press, 2021, paperback 2022).

Here is a bit about this book: 

Few Byzantine emperors had a life as rich and as turbulent as Manuel II Palaiologos. A fascinating figure at the crossroads of Byzantine, Western European and Ottoman history, he endured political turmoil, witnessed no less than three sieges by the Ottomans and travelled as far as France and England. He was a prolific writer, producing a vast corpus of literary, theological and philosophical works. Yet, despite his talent, Manuel has largely been ignored as an author. This biography constructs an in-depth picture of him of as a ruler, author and personality, as well as providing insight into his world and times. It offers the first analysis of the emperor's complete oeuvre, focusing on his literary style, self-representation philosophical/theological thought. By focusing not only on political events, but also on the personality, personal life and literary output of Manuel, this biography paints a new portrait of a multifaceted emperor.


impressive! The author seems dedicated.

Yves Martin

Just ordered New Rome, thanks for the recommendation!

John Rooney

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