Sunday, December 24, 2006

Happy Holidays

I am off to homebase for some niece and nephew face-time, puppy-snuggling and cookies.

Have a great holiday!

Saturday, December 23, 2006

Does This Come With a Tiara?

As seen at the fine blogs of Ancrene Wiseass and Bardiac

My Peculiar Aristocratic Title is:
Venerable Lady Heo the Laconic of Much Leering
Get your Peculiar Aristocratic Title

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Winter Break To Do List

Count this list as a combination public-accountability statement, and an opening to make suggestions.

[Update: I have no idea what happened to the formatting here, and I can't fix it. Sorry.]


- Call/write Professor who sent out that CFP for 5-7 *minute* papers, and make sure that wasn't a typo. 'Cause, geez!

- Work on abstracts for 1) that 5-7 minute thing that I'm really hoping will be 5-7
pages, 2) Heroic Age CFPs for June and January, and 3) no holds-barred grad
conference at my alma mater.

- Speak to substitute-wranglers at local public schools. Travel takes money, ya

Less time-sensitive:

- Finish up Wheelock and get started on the Oxford Latin Reader.

- Find a person Fluent in German. Bribe him/her to speak with me for a couple of
hours a week. (Don't want to lose my German)

- Get a grip on theory.
- Read Eagleton's book.
- Swipe undergrad Intro to theory syllabus from friend who TAs that course.
- Using syllabus as a guide, read selected bits in the Norton anthology.
- Go on a quest for any other "Idiot's guide to literary theory" I can find.
- I suppose Said and Foucault will have to be a part of this, but Derrida makes
me queasy and Spivak makes me cry. So, starter theory then.

- Swipe area exam reading lists from other universities (people who do the PhD here
make their own), begin compiling the Medieval and Renaissance stuff I need to
read for eventual quals and/or simple self-respect as a medievalist. (I've
already read many of the things on the lists I can find, but there are still

Actually, I'd be happy to get about 1/2 of that done. Eh, we'll see.

Saturday, December 16, 2006


Well, this is hard. Might as well jump right in, right?

This coming May, I will become -- probably temporarily -- one of those people who suffers from the most dreadful of academic illnesses: Terminal MA. My grades so far are good; this is not the university handing me my hat and suggesting I open a coffee shop or take secretarial courses.

Rather, I know for certain that I do not wish to continue at Microburg. I love my work. Good lord, I got all tingly just a few weeks ago when Ansaxnet had a discussion of the meaning of -sceaft. I am seriously hooked on OE studies. And I genuinely like most of my professors and colleagues. But somehow the mix just isn't working. I shouldn't be this angry while doing work that I love among people I (mostly)like.

However, I also don't know where I want to go from here. I admit that I didn't properly investigate Microburg when I decided to come here. It has a good reputation, some very good medievalists, and is close enough for me to reasonably consider visiting my family often-ish. But, man-o-man, do I ever hate it here.

So, rather than sending out a bunch of applications to places I can't possibly a) afford to visit, and b)properly investigate before the applications are due, I decided to take a year and think about where I want to be next. It might also help to be a member of my family again for a minute, and work off some of this ridiculous debt I've acquired.

So, there you have it. I will be an industry outsider for a bit. Unless, of course, I get all CC adjuncty in the interim period, which may yet happen.

Thursday, December 14, 2006

We Now Return to Our Regularly Scheduled Blogging.

Alright. I'm no Persephone, and Spring will not arrive now -- although I have spent most of the last couple of weeks underground, and it is unseasonably warm today. Just sayin' -- but I really like the melodrama of Victorian art. And I wanted to look at something pretty.

Things I have learned this semester:

- I have NO Business in a theory-based class. This is the third time I've done this to myself, and the third time my thesis completely unravelled before my very eyes less than a week before the paper was due. The scrambling and editing and huddling on the couch clutching a pillow that then occur all conspire to make me believe I'm just an idiot w/r/t theory. Which is weird, because I really like philosophy, and I really like literature, but when you mix the two...blargh.

- If I never read the phrases "Throughout History," or "Since the beginning of time" again, that'd be swell.

- While I am sympathetic to writers who explore the ways in which their own masculinities were constructed by the societies in which they live, and use their art to 'consider alternative ways of being and knowing,' I'm unwilling to accept that blatant misogyny is an acceptable means of working those isssues out. So, I really don't want to hear about all the 'radical' things X author said in Y work, when his big, 'radical' contribution can be summed up thusly; "See? I can put my boot on a bitch's neck just like you! Let me in the Man Club already! C'mon!" Seriously, dude, misogyny is not an alternative way of either 'being' or 'knowing,' so knock it the hell off.

- The more education I get, the more likely I am to say very bad words in regular conversation. Counter-intuitive, no?

Now, what's been going on in the world since I tuned out for navel-contemplation?

Monday, December 04, 2006

Gone Fishin'

Somewhere in the deep, there is a thought swimming around. I aim to find it.

Regular blogging to resume around the middle of next week.

Good luck with the late-semester craziness to all of you!

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Great Moments in Irony

A Mercedes-driving student, whose outfit (with accessories) must be worth more than any car I have ever owned, has just informed me that I disagree with her proposed thesis not on the grounds that I think she won't be able to find enough evidence to make a good paper of it, as I stated, but rather because I'm one of the 'liberal elite' trying to keep 'people like her' from success.

You know, that was so good that I'm not even offended by the fact that she accused me of being petty and unprofessional.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Pretty Dream

... to get me through the paper-writing/presenting/editing/grading season.

This May, I drop off the last of my paperwork at the department and administrative offices, luggage in hand. From campus, I take some form of public transport to the nearest city that counts as an actual, you know, city. From there, I catch a plane to a major European city, where I have rented a furnished apartment for the next month or two. I drop off my luggage, go to the local grocery store and try my hand at buying things that are exotic, but aren't too foreign to the American palate (trying to avoid the ick factor here). I then go to the bakery and vintner and buy EVERYTHING I can carry. I read only popular literature for the duration of my stay, and call it scholarship because it's in a foreign language. I flirt outrageously with well-built morons, because 1)who cares if they're interesting when you don't know what the hell they're saying? and 2)a lady may do anything she pleases and remain a lady, provided she doesn't get caught.

1-2 months of fat, drunk, and stupid to follow.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

Promoted to the Level of My Incompetence

I'm in charge of dinner Thursday, and I have begun preparations for the annual over-feeding of the barbarian hordes. (I have to start early because I wouldn't know a frappe from a puree if it hit me.)

If you're stuck for stuff to be thankful for, be thankful you haven't been sentenced to dinner at my house. Now, where the hell did I put that thing? No, not that thing; I saw that. The scary looking spikey thing that the book says I need. Oh, nevermind.

Happy Thanksgiving Everybody!

Monday, November 20, 2006


Ever notice that, when you're reading 18th and 19th century literature, and you look around your department at all the internecine warfare, 'cutting,' constant threat of utter ruin at the slightest misstep, and desperation to be among the 'right set', you know precisely what the author must have had in mind? And you can tell who's at which level of the new aristocracy?

He's new, but he knew Said personally. Um, Viscount.
That other new guy -- he met Bloom once. Baronet.
Her? She knows everybody, and has angered them all. Impoverished Marchioness; you might as well have a conversation with a milkmaid.

It's fun.

[Update: Ever notice that you write something, and then publish it, and then read it and think, "D'oh! Not what I wanted to convey at all!"? Ah, the difficulties of having a 'raw' blog. Anyway, I don't actually court the 'right people.' In fact, with my foot-shooting tendencies (did it again this week) I'm most likely to become some sort of impoverished and/or 'fallen' milkmaid. The fun part is deciding who is which character, and which character they should aspire to become. As for me, I'd like to become Eliza Bennett -- minus the love of difficult men -- but chances are that I'm Kitty. Elizabeth wouldn't have to update a post. ]

Saturday, November 18, 2006


Upon learning that one of my part-time academic jobs is compensated at a much lower rate than the same job in another department, I wrote to the dean to ask for an explanation of the logic behind that choice. The response: Disciplines pay differently all over the world. This University's pay rates are in line with national averages.

So, is it true that it is nationally accepted practice to pay English graduate students at approximately 1/9 the rate of other graduate students? Because when I checked The Chronicle of Higher Education, as was suggested to me by the dean, I didn't find such ratios among faculty. I didn't even find a 2:1 ratio, though some came close. Certainly I didn't find other disciplines within the humanities/social sciences that were paid 9 times as much as their English student peers, as is the case here at Microburg.

I'm now even more convinced that the administrators of this university should be arrested.

Friday, November 17, 2006

University of California at Los Angeles Police: Merging Brutality and Cluelessness

(hat tip Amanda)

In the God-I-Wish-It-Were-Unbelievable File:

University Police at UCLA repeatedly used a taser on a student Tuesday night. Several times after he was already handcuffed, in fact. The student was in the library after 11pm, and didn't produce his ID when asked.

The police have stated the student was belligerent, and trying to incite a crowd. Um, yeah, from what I see in the student videos, the student was in fact belligerent, but the crowd was incited not by the student's actions, but by those of the police.

The kid was told to leave the library, and was either being obnoxiously slow about it, or needed a minute to get his crap together. That's not clear. The police went to take him into custody as he was leaving, and he screamed 'don't touch me.' That's where the student videos pick up.

The student stated that he had a medical condition, and the police continued to use their tasers on him. (I'm pretty sure that's a second reason this assault was against the law. The first being that the student did not present a clear and present danger to the police or his fellow students.)

I'm not a law enforcement officer, but as far as I can tell, being a dick is not cause for using force. I'm also not a neurologist or a psychologist, but I'm pretty sure I would become pretty damned non-compliant after being assaulted. When a student who was explaining to the police that electrical shock makes people unable to comply with physical commands, he was threatened with tasing. So, that's illegal act number three. The police cannot threaten you for asking for their identifying information.

Use of force is meant to be the LAST RESORT of the police. "I don't like your attitude" is NEVER a constitutionally-supported reason to use force, or to threaten the use of force.

The Video

UCLA Interim Chancellor Norm Abrams Contact Information:
Telephone: 310-825-2151
Fax: 310-206-6030

Address (U.S. Mail):
Box 951405, Murphy Hall 2147
Los Angeles, CA 90095-1405

Address (Campus Mail):
Murphy Hall 2147
Campus: 140501

E-mail (

Friday, November 10, 2006

Picking Your Brains

I have an unusually high number of Educational Opportunity and Study Abroad students under my teeny little wings this semester.* For the most part, things have been going fairly well. Their papers are getting better each time, anyway, so my comments must help somewhat. More people are contributing to discussion. In other words, life in the classroom is fairly good.

However, some of the kids are missing work or missing entirely too much class. I've spoken to them -- as a group -- about it, and a few people have handed in late work and/or started coming more regularly to class. But many have not changed their habits/made up the work.

Here's what Ive done so far:
- encouraged the students to come see me at office hours in class and in comments on their papers.
- written directions to my office on the board multiple times.
- changed the attendance sheets to put little stars next to the names of people I'd like to speak with, and added a giant note that a star means it's your turn to conference with me.
- offered email conferences, and have written my email address on the board numerous times.

All to no effect. And they absolutely know that I want them to succeed, and will do whatever I can to help them succeed, but I will not give them a passing grade if they haven't done all the work. Now, if I thought these kids were just lazy and uninterested in their education, I wouldn't care either. I don't get that impression, though. Frankly, I think that being proactive about their education is a skill they haven't learned. Middle-class and upper-class kids always come to speak to me about their work. All the time. Can't shake 'em. But the kids who are here from elsewhere, or are first generation college students, will not come to speak with me. This will absolutely negatively affect their marks if it continues. I can't set a standard, and then tell them they've met it when they haven't. That wouldn't be fair. But, I also know that the stakes are much higher for them than for their peers. They are taking loans, or here on scholarships, and bad grades could make them lose their funding.

Other folks have this answer: "They're adults now, they have to take responsibility for themselves. Let it go." But, I have yet to meet an 18 year-old adult. And these other folks with authority/experience are all middle/upper-class people from Anglophone countries. They were never taught helplessness in the face of authority. Many of my kids were taught just that. "Be silent. Accept the teacher's ruling without complaint or questioning. Know your place."

So, how do I get these kids to understand that the teacher is not some weird other life-form? That it's absolutely necessary for them to work with me to make a plan for their success? That it's not disrespectful to ask questions, and education is not something that happens to you without your consent?

*In some ways, this makes a nice change from having too many over-entitled little snots who can't believe a mere know-nothing grad student would have the unmitigated gall to give them a grade below an A, ever.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Excuse Me,

but what are you doing reading a blog when you should be out voting?

[Update: I woke up early and voted with the elderly this morning. Since that time, I've been stressing about the election returns in between trying to read very dark and brooding prose. Aargh! Stressful voting plus Victorian Novels: bad. Next time, I'm going to do the final hour voting run, or at least read something light and peppy on election day. And now, I should return to reading the works of George Eliot, if that IS his real name.]

Friday, November 03, 2006

A Question of Philosophy: Grad School Theater

It's Friday night. Even as we speak, I could and should be at a party with my graduate student peers. We should be discussing literature, and philosophy, and art, and science, and the quasi-local opera's craven choice to provide bowdlerized supertitles to their productions this season, and the cheap things you can buy to turn frozen left-over pizza into a delicious meal that doesn't feel like the seventh time you've had left-over pizza this week, and whatever the hell the mathematicians are talking about while the rest of us smile and nod, as one does with mathematicians and lunatics.

But I'm not there. After the week I've had, I could use a drink and a lovely conversation. But, here's the thing: these people are the cause of my uncharacteristic thirst. Well, I'm the cause of my uncharacteristic thirst. However,
interacting with them has really helped the process along. Frankly, I'm hating the hell out of the majority of my graduate student peers right now. No doubt that'll change back to normal in the week ahead, but for today I'm content to hate them.

For some reason, the number of people willing to perform the role of 'intellectual superior' among our cohort has spiked dramatically this week. You know these people, I'm sure. The ones who seek out peers who are feeling stupid, and try to convince them they're right. For instance, I was having trouble with a paper. My thesis was falling apart, actually, and I needed to go back and revise my entire reading of the problem at hand. Well, I made the mistake of saying that in a conversation about these papers, and I was told, 'Hey, not everyone can be a scholar. It's good that you found that out now.' Nice, right? I won't tell you what was said to a friend of mine, who's having some trouble grasping literary theory. I actually can't tell you that story without wanting to shoot my keyboard, it makes me so mad. (We'll get back to the broader 'theory question' later.)

It scares me that such unsupportive people are teaching post-adolescents away from home for the first time in their lives. But, I digress.

I recognize this behavior as the coping mechanism that it is. Being a student is extremely humbling. Having people evaluate your thoughts all the time is extremely stressful, and makes for some pretty powerful neuroses. I get all that. As I've said before, I'm working on a full complement of all codified neuroses myself. Besides that, I've seen this behavior before in the special needs children I used to teach. They get so tired of being the ones to make errors that they revel in the errors of others, being sure to be as loudly derisive as possible when the mistake is not theirs. It's actually very tough as a teacher to learn to recognize that behavior as normal and indicative of personal insecurities, and then react accordingly, while still supporting the child who has made the mistake currently being ridiculed. It's even more difficult to recognize the same unattractive tendency in yourself. I'm less patient with adults than with children, though, and I include myself among the adults. Even though I know the psychological triggers and behaviors are the same, it's just harder to take from someone old enough to vote, ya know? It took all the energy I had not to say something like, "You're right. She and I have some issues with this one class that stands within your major area of interest. Now, tell me, what are your thoughts about this stuff that stands within our major areas of interest?" It would have been a fair but ugly response, and I'm trying to avoid that whole ugliness thing. Whether momentary ugliness would have been better than this prolonged and repressed anger is probably something else I should consider.

Now, this class is theory-heavy. Which means that the theory drives the literature, rather than the other way around. Which means that there are many many 'theory people' in the class, and they often introduce theories into discussion that others of us have no access to, because we don't study them. It gets a little tiring to be perpetually saying, 'Well, that sounds like a great phrase. What does it mean?'

Anyway, I'm not exactly sure I agree with the theory-driven formulation, but it seems to be the way things often go in my department. This argument gets sticky quickly, I know. Sometimes, I want to just read the damned book and come up with my own ideas about which theory will be most effective in understanding it. But there's never really a time when we read completely free of a philosophical frame, and shouldn't we at least be aware of what that frame is? I know that as an undergrad I did some feminist readings of novels, without knowing that I was employing feminist philosophy. The professor had to tell me. "OK, Heo, that's a good feminist reading. Now, how would you read this same novel from this other viewpoint?" To which I often responded, "Huh?" So, I get the whole 'be aware of your ideological frame as you read' thing. I just don't always want to adopt someone else's frame. My best example of this is the professor who's frame leads him to believe that all literature is oedipal. That gets really creepy, really quickly. I mean, what does this guy's mom look like, anyway?

**Before the conservative reader decides to make the following his proof that liberalism reigns supreme in the humanities, he should know that there are conservative theorists who are just as determined as their liberal counter-parts that theory is all-important. They all think I'm an idiot, too. **

Back to the point I intended to make a while ago, there seems to be a deep philosophical divide between me and those who self-identify as 'theory people.' We can't talk to one another. And I mean that literally. Attempts at communication leave everyone slightly confused and irritated. (The following are two actual conversations, fused into one for blogular presentation purposes.)
Me: "What do you study?"
Them: "Theory."
Me: "OK, which theory?"
Them: "No, theory."
Me: "OK. So, what type/time frame of literature are you applying theory to, most often?"
Them: "Not literature, literary theory."
Me: "But the term 'literary theory' suggests that there will be some 'literary' mixed in with all that theory."
Them: "Hm. Not really."
Me: "So then, what do you do with the theory?"
Them: "We study it."
Me: "So that eventually you can apply it to a broader range of literature?"
Them: "Look, idiot, we're theorists."
Me: "Is it like comparative theory, or the history of theory, or what?"
Them: "Yes, all of that."
Me: "But....what role does the literature play?"
Them: "Theory is the literature."
Me: "I'm not much interested in meta-theoretical stuff, I'm afraid. I'm studying medieval literature."
Them: "How can you possibly teach literature without theory? I mean, how do you contextualize the literature?"
Me: "By contextualizing the literature. Time, place, form, intended audience, current audience, that sort of thing."
Them: "But, what theory do you apply to the literature?"
Me: "Whichever theory seems best supported by the literature."
Them: "So, you let the literature decide what theory you'll introduce?"
Me: "Yup."
Them: "But, that's insane. What is your point in teaching literature? What do you want to accomplish?"
Me: "I want my students to be able to read this literature in an informed way."
Them: "But how are they being informed? You haven't given them a way of reading that informs them."
Me: "Sure I have. They can think of the time and culture in which the literature was produced, the traditions that the literature works from and with, language choices, imagery, medium, etc."
Them: "Why aren't you in the history department where you belong?"
Me:"Why aren't you in the philosophy department, where YOU belong?"

end scene

And the point of all that above is this: There are more of them than there are of me, and I think I might really be a dinosaur. Perhaps literary scholarship no longer seeks people who have what I have to offer it.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

OKCupid Does it Again!

Behsdids! They're totally e-skeered of me, that's what all this unpleasantness is about.

33% Extroversion, 100% Intuition, 100% Emotiveness, 42% Perceptiveness
You are a normally quiet person with very strong convictions and a marked activist streak. You have a clearly defined sense of right and wrong, and you like seeing people punished for their transgressions. You are Nemesis, goddess of punishment. You are a champion for the defenseless, you love poetic justice and, if karmic retribution doesn't have its say, then you'll have yours. You are astute, rarely fooled, and idealistic.

Your defining characteristic is your internal and inflexible system of morals. Because of your highly intuitive nature, you possess the theoretical nature required to define those morals, but you sometimes lack the ability to verbalize and expound on them, especially on the more nuanced parts of your worldview. Regardless, you have strong instincts which often prove to be correct, and rather than preaching, you act on them. You don't compromise -- ever.

You can sometimes be a person of great internal stress. You don't have double standards, and so you expect the same of yourself as you expect of others. You might find, sometimes, that you have just as hard of a time in living up to those expectations as the people around you. As a result, you are rarely at peace with yourself, but you're also likely to think of this in a positive light -- you're always forcing yourself to improve, and you avoid making mistakes.

You tend to be a private person, and don't like to talk much about those staunch morals of yours until, that is, they become violated. Once that happens, everyone is going to know exactly where you stand. You have a distaste of nihilism and intellectual relativism that will make you naturally compatible with scientists and certain kinds of philosophers, even if they don't share your activist streak.

Famous People like you: Goethe, Voltaire, Susan B. Anthony, Robert Burns
Similar Personality Types: Prometheus, The Oracle, Hermes, Orpheus
Avoid: Icarus, Dionysus, Agamemnon, Atlas
You may or may not be able to get along with an Odysseus -- it will depend on his/her upbringing.

Happy Samhain! Now with Shakespeare

I'm fully prepared for the chocolate beggars, finally. Although several of the lines in this bit of Billy's verse are problematic, I really do love this scene. If nothing else, the line "by the pricking of my thumbs, something wicked this way comes" is extremely useful in announcing the arrival of certain folks to a group. The realization that I passed maid quite a bit ago, and am now firmly in mother territory is not pleasant but then neither is the dark season of winter following the harvest that Samhain welcomes. At least I have a minute before crone sets in.

MACBETH: ACT IV, SCENE I. A cavern. In the middle, a boiling cauldron.

Thunder. Enter the three Witches
First Witch
Thrice the brinded cat hath mew'd.

Second Witch
Thrice and once the hedge-pig whined.

Third Witch
Harpier cries 'Tis time, 'tis time.

First Witch
Round about the cauldron go;
In the poison'd entrails throw.
Toad, that under cold stone
Days and nights has thirty-one
Swelter'd venom sleeping got,
Boil thou first i' the charmed pot.


Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn, and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch
Fillet of a fenny snake,
In the cauldron boil and bake;
Eye of newt and toe of frog,
Wool of bat and tongue of dog,
Adder's fork and blind-worm's sting,
Lizard's leg and owlet's wing,
For a charm of powerful trouble,
Like a hell-broth boil and bubble.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Third Witch
Scale of dragon, tooth of wolf,
Witches' mummy, maw and gulf
Of the ravin'd salt-sea shark,
Root of hemlock digg'd i' the dark,
Liver of blaspheming Jew,
Gall of goat, and slips of yew
Silver'd in the moon's eclipse,
Nose of Turk and Tartar's lips,
Finger of birth-strangled babe
Ditch-deliver'd by a drab,
Make the gruel thick and slab:
Add thereto a tiger's chaudron,
For the ingredients of our cauldron.

Double, double toil and trouble;
Fire burn and cauldron bubble.

Second Witch
Cool it with a baboon's blood,
Then the charm is firm and good.

Enter HECATE to the other three Witches

O well done! I commend your pains;
And every one shall share i' the gains;
And now about the cauldron sing,
Live elves and fairies in a ring,
Enchanting all that you put in.

Music and a song: 'Black spirits,' & c

HECATE retires

Second Witch
By the pricking of my thumbs,
Something wicked this way comes.
Open, locks,
Whoever knocks!

Saturday, October 28, 2006

Farewell, Good King!

Well, hell, as long as I'm pillaging for post ideas, King Alfred -- later styled 'the Great' -- died on 26 October, 899. He fought off some rather persistent feral blondes, built some great defensive systems, and united much of Great Britain under one rule. All that is quite impressive, but I owe him a more personal debt. Without his commitment to scholarship in the native English language, I'd be quite without paper topics.


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

October 25th, A Medieval Date Which Will Live in Infamy.

Bardiac was absolutely right. I may have forgotten to blog the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, but I must not forget to blog this anniversary. Even if King Harold Godwineson isn't involved, and I kinda wub him. ( I have got to stop crushing on the very dead! Do they have pills for this?)And even if I'm unconscionably late doing it.

If I can trust the post-structuralists to give me a break on this construction, I give you -- in chronological order -- the stuff we're commemorating today:

The Death of Stephen of Blois, Last Norman King of England (1154)

Stephen was the son of William II, Rufus (A redhead and a hothead) and the Grandson of William the Bastard, aka "the Conqueror." After the 'hunting accident' (wink, wink) that killed William II, Stephen was brought into the household of his Uncle Henry I, Beauclerc and raised as a favorite among Henry's children. Henry, however, did not consider Stephen the heir to the British throne, and in fact demanded oaths of loyalty from his barons (including Stephen) in favor of his daughter Matilda (aka Maud -- British people talk funny) in 1127, and again when she produced a male heir in 1133.

Then Henry went and died while both Matilda and Stephen were in Normandy. Stephen enlisted the help of his brother Henry of Blois, the Bishop of Winchester, to get papal support for his ascension to the throne, and easily convinced the Norman barons that a man's claim to the throne was better than a woman's any day. (Because the kids these days, they don't consider a man's word an honorable contract. Cretins!) Plus, Stephen got back to London first. He was crowned King in London on 22 December, 1135.

Stephen was a big softy, and people knew it. Matilda and her followers came to British soil to fight for her rights, and those of her son. These battles went on for years, until eventually Stephen and Matilda signed an agreement whereby Stephen could remain king until his death, after which Henry of Anjou would rule. Stephen had no intention of honoring that contract, but his son up and died on him, and he didn't have another. So, the crown went to the Angevin brat by default anyway. (This is a very interesting story, unpardonably misrepresented through simplification here. I recommend you read up on it.)

The Death of Geoffrey Chaucer (1400)

A well-connected beaurocrat, diplomat and world travelling bean-counter, this guy also wrote a bit in his spare time. Most critics believe he showed some promise as a writer, and would have accomplished great things had that nasty mid-1380's Parliament not been determined to impoverish him. His last work, though unfinished, is still taught in many English literature programs even now. Imagine if he'd had the time he needed to finish it. Faith, Geoffrey we hardly knew ye! (In addition to being quite a promising little poet, Geoffrey was related by marriage to John of Gaunt. HAWT!)

The Battle of Agincourt (1415)

Yet another King Henry managed to defeat the French forces at Agincourt, and secured a marriage arrangement with Catherine of Valois,i.e., the King of France's daughter. Part of this marriage arrangement should have made Henry VI king of France on his grandfather's death, and ended the Hundred Year's War for good. But Henry V died while the boy was just a wee bairn, and you can't trust a contract with royalty nohow. So, more aggression, and Henry VI had to settle for the crown of Britain alone, poor thing.

Shakespeare reported Henry V's words on the field at Agincourt a few years later, and you'll be happy to know that old Henry was quite gifted with the blank verse.

I quote:
If we are mark'd to die, we are enow
To do our country loss; and if to live,
The fewer men, the greater share of honour.
God's will! I pray thee, wish not one man more.
By Jove, I am not covetous for gold,
Nor care I who doth feed upon my cost;
It yearns me not if men my garments wear;
Such outward things dwell not in my desires.
But if it be a sin to covet honour,
I am the most offending soul alive.
No, faith, my coz, wish not a man from England.
God's peace! I would not lose so great an honour
As one man more methinks would share from me
For the best hope I have. O, do not wish one more!
Rather proclaim it, Westmoreland, through my host,
That he which hath no stomach to this fight,
Let him depart; his passport shall be made,
And crowns for convoy put into his purse;
We would not die in that man's company
That fears his fellowship to die with us.
This day is call'd the feast of Crispian.
He that outlives this day, and comes safe home,
Will stand a tip-toe when this day is nam'd,
And rouse him at the name of Crispian.
He that shall live this day, and see old age,
Will yearly on the vigil feast his neighbours,
And say 'To-morrow is Saint Crispian.'
Then will he strip his sleeve and show his scars,
And say 'These wounds I had on Crispian's day.'
Old men forget; yet all shall be forgot,
But he'll remember, with advantages,
What feats he did that day. Then shall our names,
Familiar in his mouth as household words-
Harry the King, Bedford and Exeter,
Warwick and Talbot, Salisbury and Gloucester-
Be in their flowing cups freshly rememb'red.
This story shall the good man teach his son;
And Crispin Crispian shall ne'er go by,
From this day to the ending of the world,
But we in it shall be remembered-
We few, we happy few, we band of brothers;
For he to-day that sheds his blood with me
Shall be my brother; be he ne'er so vile,
This day shall gentle his condition;
And gentlemen in England now-a-bed
Shall think themselves accurs'd they were not here,
And hold their manhoods cheap whiles any speaks
That fought with us upon Saint Crispin's day.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Hey! What's With the Pseudonym?

Hugo Schwyzer has invited pseudonymous bloggers to explain their choice to write under a Nom de Blog on a thread at his site. I've commented at Hugo's site occasionally, but this time I thought I'd answer the question over here. Seems like you guys would like to know my reasons more than Hugo's readers would. Besides, there's been a whole anonymous/pseudonymous brouhaha on the internet that I'd like to address a little, too.

So, here are Hugo's questions: If you blog or comment under your full name, why? First name only? If you use a pseudonym, how did you choose it? What impression do you imagine your "handle" gives to others?

Choice of Pseudonym:
1) I am an Old English dork. I thoroughly embrace my dorkishness, as many of you have already ascertained from reading my posts. There was never a question that I'd want my pseudonym to be in Old English.

2) I've never been a huge fan of post-modern fiction, but I really found Joyce Carol Oates' short story "& Answers" quite powerful. I knew that if I ever were to write something public yet informal I'd want to do what Oates did. I'd want an interlocutor implied even if not present (though I've been lucky enough to have great interlocutors), and I'd want the words to be the means of transmitting personality. I'm not a generative writer, and so the only personality I have to convey with these words is mine.

3) There's an awful lot of 'he said' going on in the world. There's certainly a lot of 'he said' in the literature I read. I am not a 'he.' Ergo, 'She Said' translated into Old English. I am she.

Impression my Pseudonym Gives:
I really don't know. I've explained the meaning in the blurb at the top there, so I know that anyone who drops by knows what the words mean. I've also given basic ideas of who I am. People could be thinking "what an obnoxious woman, to pick a name in a dead form of the language" or "hey, cool" or any number of things in between. Eh, somebody else will have to answer this for me.

Why a Pseudonym at All?:
1) I'm a grad student. That means that my professors can basically end my career if they don't like my shoes.
2) My story is not exclusively mine. There are many other people (family, friends, professors, colleagues, lady who sells me coffee in the morning)involved in almost all my stories, and they'd probably prefer not to have their business on the interwebs.
3) I'm a teacher. I need to be able to be impartial in the classroom, and even though I do that, open partiality on the interwebs that is attached to my name would be a pain. I'll bet you $20 my students would immediately start writing to either agree with or oppose my views, rather than considering their own. That would make grading papers deadly dull for me.
4) I do not want to invite stalkers and other unsavory types into my life.

The Honesty Question (Raised elsewhere):
In the aforementioned brouhaha, it was suggested that pseudonymous bloggers could be dishonest. Well, sure. We could be. I could be. You have only my word that I am a woman and a graduate student. You have only my word that I'm a feminist and an American. I could be a 15 year-old boy from a patriarchy-first cult in Eastern Timor for all you know. You'll have to use your judgement.

My experience is that I'm at least as honest on the blog as I am in person. Part of that is my total lack of the patience required to be dishonest. I generally remain silent when I know I can't say what I think without shooting myself in the foot. Or else, I go ahead and shoot that foot. Depends on the day. (Extra bit of information: Today, I shot my foot. Badly. Tomorrow, I'll be trying to do damage control.) The other part is my ability to say what I think is true about my life as I write. That opinion could change, it often has in the past. There may be serious inconsistencies in my blog, because there are serious inconsistencies in me. Very often my take on certain things will change with the mood I'm in, the kind of week I've had, whether I have chocolate in the house... ad infinitum. You may choose to see that as evidence of my dishonesty if you please, I don't mind. You'd find the same evidence if you knew me personally.

Walt Whitman had some thoughts on just that, I think.
Do I contradict myself?
Very well then I contradict myself,
(I am large, I contain multitudes.)
"Song of Myself"

Hey, free poetry bits in a general blogging post. I'm pretty good to you, after all.

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Heo Abealg

I know, I know. Some of you read that title and said, “How is THAT news? I thought that vexed was your default emotion.” There’s no need for the guilty start; I’m glad you said that. Now I have the opportunity to respond to you in the time-honored tradition of those who have had a comment intended to be charming – and possibly self-deprecating – agreed with a little too enthusiastically by their (admittedly imaginary) interlocutor. To wit: “Don’t be a wiseass!”

That was fun, wasn’t it?

And now I give you our regularly scheduled rant:

In conversation with me last week, a man who isn’t more than 25 years old said in explanation of a literary reference he was making: “This was back in the 70’s, before you had to be all PC with women.”

I really hate it when people who weren’t yet born in the 70’s describe the ethos of the decade to me, but that’s not the largest issue here. To be frank, I’m not exactly sure what the largest issue is with this statement. There are so very many issues to choose from.

Let’s start with the fact that he was speaking in a group that included me. I am a feminist. People who are not my students know this for a fact, because I tell them.* In fact, I know I told this guy, because he made a crack about the ‘insanity’ of 70’s feminism to me when I did. I actually ended up teaching Feminism 101 in that conversation. Apparently, I’m a very bad Feminism 101 teacher. I also know that the comment was made with at least minor hostility to my opinion about it because I got the sideways-glance/eye-roll thing as he said it. At minimum, we’re talking about rudely injecting deliberately inflammatory commentary that had approximately fuck-all to do with the piece he was talking about. That’s a manners issue, not a political one.

And that look says much that underscores the whole problem with his construction. (I’m hostile because I may have to defend what I’m saying here, because you’re a bitch.) To paraphrase Chris of Mixing Memory, the translation of that mindset is, “It’s not because it’s wrong, it’s because it’s not PC.”

Let’s make what I consider to be the fair assumption that he thinks the behavior he was describing is not wrong at all. There are still some problems with his framing of his problem.

The nostalgia this man was experiencing for a time that pre-dates his life was based on the idea that one** could – in some magical past that has since gone – treat an entire group of people contemptuously, with impunity, when they had not earned one’s contempt. As it stands, there really is no law against being a braying ass unless you’re using public funds to buy your megaphone. Hell, if you’re an elected official, you can be a braying ass with a publicly-funded megaphone. So, the impunity he wants is social impunity, not freedom from the interference of the police state. What he laments is the lost ability to be a braying ass in social interactions without the threat of hearing a voice of dissent. Especially not dissent that comes from the group he is attacking, and is therefore a sort of verbal self-defense. And somehow, I’m supposed to feel bad for the terribly oppressed situation he finds himself in. Sadly, though, the first amendment doesn’t grant Americans the right to universal approval. So, the whole woe-is-me-I’m-being-picked-upon thing doesn’t really work here.

Someone will now think about labor laws. That someone might be thinking, “Hey, he could maybe get fired for saying or doing certain things that aren’t ‘PC.’” Right, he could. So, Someone, are you suggesting that he should be able to fight for the right to behave unprofessionally at work? May I do that, too? ‘Cause this whole 8:30 in the morning, showered and fed and ready to deal with people in a professional manner thing is not really working for me, either. I would love to demand the right to stroll in 2 hours late, disgruntled, munching on a bagel, wearing wrinkly clothes, and sporting bed-head and possible underarm funk. (Depending on my desire to shower, and/or the anti-perspirant I wore the day before.) You wouldn’t like that, Someone, now would you? At work, one behaves professionally if one would like to keep one’s job. Save the keg-stands and questionable personality traits for evenings and weekends, and we can all get our work done efficiently and go home to the people we like.

The next issue is one of emotional development. He doesn’t think certain behavior is wrong, but he (erroneously) thinks he eschews this behavior. And he thinks he does this to avoid getting shit from other people. If I do X, it will be unpleasant for me. Better not do X. This is a child’s ethical reasoning coming from an adult. Adults say things like “I don’t do X because I think it’s wrong,” or “…because it’s not the image I want to present to the world.” Now look, there’s plenty of stuff I do because doing the work is easier than dealing with the shit that comes of not doing the work. We all do that stuff. We don’t all advertise it as we do it. Like, I can’t go to Academic Stah’s event and introduce myself to her with, “Yeah, I really hate all your work, and I’m pretty sure you’re a bad person, but Herr Professor Doktor Department Chair would kick my ass if I weren’t here. That would be an even bigger drag than having to be in your demonic and intellectually challenged presence for a few hours. Sucks to be me.” And the reason for my choice not to do that is not that HPD D. Chair would get mad at me for it, but rather that I’m a fucking adult. I made a choice between unpleasant options, chose what I considered to be the lesser of the two evils, and that’s my business.

To summarize: If you have a problem with being asked to behave like a damned professional adult at work, start your own non-service industry business or marry rich or something. If you find dissent that oppressive, start a dictatorship or hang out with mutes. Just genug schon mit dem Manners-are-the-debbil whining. And quit sassing your elders, too. We get cranky.

*With students, I adopt the devil’s advocate position. I found that I learned more and argued better when I had no idea what my instructors thought about issue X, and so I just don’t say what I believe in class. Unless the students are uniformly on the level of holocaust-deniers with false arguments, I just argue whichever position isn’t being covered.

** ‘one’ = a straight, white, man of at least middling economic status.

Friday, October 20, 2006

Friday Poetry: Really a Song Lyric

Yeah, I'm a cheater. But Insta-Winter is currently slapping the hell out of Microburg. Wintry weather makes me cranky, and possibly evil. Especially when it comes during the autumn, ya know? Interestingly, dark and dreary poems/songs/thoughts cheer me up during such times. Plus, I have weaknesses for goofy blondes, breathy tenors, and bibliophiles. The duo responsible for today's offering contains a personage that hits the heo-perv trifecta. (Is it wrong to crush on antique hippies?)

I Am a Rock

A winter's day
In a deep and dark December
I am alone
Gazing from my window
To the streets below
On a freshly fallen silent shroud of snow

I am a rock
I am an island

I've built walls
A fortress deep and mighty
That none may penetrate
I have no need for friendship
Friendship causes pain
It's laughter and it's loving I disdain.

I am a rock
I am an island

Don't talk of love
Well, I've heard the word before
It's sleeping in my memory
I won't disturb the slumber
Of feelings that have died
If I'd never loved,
I never would have cried

I am a rock
I am an island

I have my books
And my poetry to protect me
I am shielded in my armor
Hiding in my room
Safe within my womb
I touch no-one and no-one touches me

I am a rock
I am an island
And the rock feels no pain
And an island never cries

And, for those of you who care, a YouTube offering of the same -- now with music.

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

Sometimes Copycatting is Dangerous

So, I decided to try the OKCupid test that Medieval Woman posted. I fugured I had to be a peach, too, right? I'm peachy. Except OKCupid thinks I'm something else entirely. Bastards.

The Priss
Deliberate Brutal Love Dreamer (DBLDf)

Mature. Responsible. Aristocratic. Excuse me. The Priss.

Prisses are the smartest of all female types. You're highly perceptive, and confident in your judgements. You'd take brutal honesty over superficiality any time--your friends always know where they stand with you. You're completely unfake. Don't tell me that's not a word. You're also excellent at redirecting internal negative energy.

These facts indicate people are often intimidated by you. They also fall for you, hard. You have a distant, composed allure that many find irresistible. If only more of them lived up to your standards.

Your exact opposite:
The Playstation

Random Gentle Sex Master
You were probably the last among your friends to have sex. And the first to pretend that you're pregnant. LOL. Though you're inclined to use sex as weapon, at least it's not as one of mass destruction. You're choosier than most about your partners. A supportive relationship is what you're really after. Whether you know it or not, you need something steady & long-term. And soothing.

ALWAYS AVOID: The Playboy, The Loverboy

CONSIDER: The Manchild

Link: The 32-Type Dating Test by OkCupid - Free Online Dating.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Has it Really Been 1060 Years and Two Days?

In other words, D'oh!

October 14th was the anniversary of the Battle of Hastings, and I didn't blog about it. I mean, really! How many occasions does one have to blog about William the Bastard?

I humbly apologize for dereliction of blogular duties!

Sunday, October 15, 2006

Has It Really Been 617 Years?

Via, although they identify this date as the election of Urban, rather than his death.

[Update: About did in fact list it as the death of Urban. I managed to miss the giant read, bolded "who died" above the explanation. ]

15 October, 1389: The death of Pope Urban VI. This is the guy who was the impetus behind the Western Schism. (Two popes, Clement VII and successors in Avignon and Urban VI and successors in Rome. Ended at the Council of Constance in 1417.)

By all accounts, both Clement and Urban sucked at the whole "Christ's spokesman" aspect of the job. They were both power-mad and vicious men, although Clement seems to have been the more personally charming of the two. How charming one can be while being power-mad and vicious is up for debate, of course. You can click on the links here to read New Advent's accounts of Clement VII and Urban VI, always keeping in mind that a Catholic source takes a Catholic view on things. ( I was raised Catholic, and am now an avowed heretic. Unless there's a snotty Protestant in the room, then I'm Catholic again.)

This late 14th century schism is outside of my time-period, so other people would have more and better things to say about it, I'm sure. I'm more interested in the earlier developments that brought power over the Christian Church to the Bishop of Rome. Early Christianity was not a centralized religion. For the first few centuries, some guy could plant a Church in a city, 'convert' the natives, and then be "called by the people" to be their Bishop. Yes, there are scare quotes in that. The first set, around 'convert,' mean that conversion was not necessarily from paganism to Christianity, but rather from Arianism, or Gnosticism, or Pelagianism, or Donatism, or Celtic Christianity, etc. to the Christianity the converting guy wanted to see. Pick your heresy and refute it at will, then kill anybody who doesn't publicly declare your version of Christianity the best one. (**cough** Colonialism **cough**) The second set, around "called by the people" means that I'm convinced that early bishops were more often called by family wealth and influence, and personal ambition than they were called by the people. Anyway, the official story is that the people -- through God's will -- could recognize sanctity in a man, and called for his elevation to Bishop just as they could demand his recognition as a Saint on his death. (**cough** Tourism, Money, Prestige **cough**)

Each Bishopric was independent of the others, although they often worked together. Most sources credit the seeds of the Papacy as we know it to Gregory I (Bishop of Rome from 590-604), and his sending Augustine of Canterbury to convert Aethelberht of Kent in 597. By the ninth century, Aethelberht is listed in the ASC as 'bretwalda,' or 'ruler of Britain.' Now, seriously, we all know that the King of Kent was hardly the ruler of Britain in the late sixth century. That was a rather convenient bit of anachronism on the part of the monk in charge of that entry. But between the sixth century and the ninth the supremacy of the Roman See was pretty much accepted by most clerics in the West, and especially by British clerics, who'd had a 2-3 century tradition of British bishops reporting directly to Rome. Abbots, however, took some time to get in the Roman groove. It was at the Synod of Whitby (664)that England finally accepted one universal (Roman) date for Easter, and decided that Roman tonsure was better than Celtic tonsure. In short, Augustine the Lesser made Kent Roman Catholic, and Whitby expanded that Roman observance to all of England, at least on paper. [Full disclosure: I hate the smell of incense, I love old books, and I can't see the spiritual benefit of shaving one's head one way rather than another. So, If I had to pick a side, I'd go with Celtic Christianity.]

Now, because England was such a little bishop factory in the early Middle Ages, the view that Rome was the Holy See expanded to (most of) the rest of Europe through Britain.

Frankly, I think both sytems of development were deeply flawed, and I have yet to find any current religious tradition that is less flawed. Hence, heretical me. But, for me, the interesting thing about the Western Schism is its position in history as the "last gasp" of some kind of independence from Rome shown by the college of cardinals.

Best/Funniest Advice I've Gotten as a Graduate Student

Sorry about the delay in posting, folks. Between classwork as student and teacher, volunteer stuff, and "my own work," I've been hopping.

I really have two bits of advice received to share. Each came from a current professor, in somewhat casual conversation. (To the extent that conversation can be casual with a person you work for and/or are assessed by.)

"The danger of the academy is not that it might inspire you to become a caricature of an academic, but rather that it encourages you to become a caricature of yourself."

"It seems that you are experiencing all the neuroses that we expect of graduate students. Good. That means you're doing well. If you were emotionally healthy at this stage of your education, I'd worry about you."

This is kind of conflicting advice for me, but each one made me laugh.

Have I said yet that I really like my professors this semester?

Thursday, October 05, 2006


My department is hosting one of them there academic celebrity speakers this month. Not really news, 'tis the way of the university, I guess. This event comes complete with a reception that is "open to all faculty and graduate students in my department" in a completely command performance sort of way. Fine, wouldn't want the celebrity to be without a fan base.

Here's the dilemma: I find this person thoroughly odious. And I don't use that term lightly at all. Academic Celebrity of the Month is not delightfully challenging, or mildly vexing, or even deeply unpleasant. We're talking odious, here, folks. Think of what would result from a baby-eating troll mating with Satan, then classify the resulting being as deeply unpleasant and you start to get an idea of the level of ick factor I'm dealing with. I'm afraid I'll be engaged against my will in a conversation with the Stah, darling, and feel a sudden urge to commit felonious assault. Now, I've felt that urge before, and suppressed it enough to transfer my rage to a mere verbal smackdown. I know I have the power to be merely sardonic when I see blood. However, stars of the odious variety tend to dislike being thought of as less than stellar. Also, my superiors in the department have no sense of humor when they're busy being charming hosts. So I'm compelled to attend, but I know no good will come of attending.

Anybody know of a nice, 24-48 hour malady I can claim to have?

[Update: OK. I've decided to be an adult and go to the scheduled event with an open mind. I may hate everything Academic Stah stands for, but I may also learn something from her talk. Even if it's just "avoid logical leaps like these," it's worth it. I can't guarantee that I'll ignore egregious factual misrepresentations, but then as far as I'm concerned it's the job of even the most junior academics to say "I'm not convinced of your argument because..." or even "what do you make of X's article, wherein she proves you completely wrong?"]

Friday, September 29, 2006

Friday Poetry Blogging: Rev. Martin Niemöller Edition

In the wake of the recent decisions to suspend habeas corpus indefinitely, and to allow torture in America's name of everyone the government thinks might possibly be against them, like "leftists," I offer you some sage words from someone who has been in our position before. He watched his country descend into fascism in the name of security, as we are seeing in our own country this week.

In the Original German:

Als die Nazis die Kommunisten holten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Kommunist.

Als sie die Sozialdemokraten einsperrten,
habe ich geschwiegen;
ich war ja kein Sozialdemokrat.

Als sie die Gewerkschafter holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Gewerkschafter.

Als sie die Juden holten,
habe ich nicht protestiert;
ich war ja kein Jude.

Als sie mich holten,
gab es keinen mehr,
der protestieren konnte.

And in English:

When the Nazis came for the communists,
I remained silent;
I was not a communist.

When they locked up the social democrats,
I remained silent;
I was not a social democrat.

When they came for the trade unionists,
I did not speak out;
I was not a trade unionist.

When they came for the Jews,
I did not speak out;
I was not a Jew.

When they came for me,
there was no one left to speak out.

I would also like to offer some brave words he spoke to Hitler in 1934 for your consideration: (From here)
"Wir werden nicht aufhören, für unser ganzes Volk wachsam zu sein und niemand, nicht einmal Sie, werden imstande sein, diese Verantwortung uns abzunehmen."
"We will not stop watching over our entire people, and no one, not even you, will be able to take this responsibility from us."

To be honest, I'm not sure what to do at this point. I can write letters to evil or completely ineffectual government asshats. I've done that before, and look where we are.

Like Chris Clarke (who always manages to be one of those whose intelligence stuns), I withdraw my consent.

You who write and support laws that take away the rights of humanity when and how it suits you, I withdraw my consent. You do not govern me.

You who cower cravenly and meekly offer the bodies and lives of humanity as a whole so that you may keep your seat at a table that once met to ensure the rights of all, but has now become a way to eliminate all dissent, I withdraw my consent.

You who sold true American values away to avoid the indignity of being called names, I withdraw my consent. You do not govern me.

You who have suffered torture at the hands of an enemy and seek to promote it in your own government in the hopes of winning the approval of hatemongers, I withdraw my consent. You do not govern me.

I will not stop watching over my entire people, and no one, not even you, will be able to take this responsibility from me.

I withdraw my consent.

An Official Seal

Made for me by Chris, of Mixing Memory fame. Thanks, Chris.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

I, Forrest

Well, call me Captain Obvious, but it never really ocurred to me just how profoundly who we are is informed by the time and place in which we live.

So, yes, I am reviewing existentialism. And that did get me thinking about the moments that defined my life. A "who am I, anyway?" review, if you will. And then I realized that all of those defining moments have a very clear east coast and 70's - present-day stamp on them. Even personal tragedies are linked to the time in which they happened. (And I didn't even get a picture with JFK, though I did meet his son once. Nice guy.) Then I thought about my ancestors from the generations I know enough about, and they have the same deal.

I have no authentic self! And, that lack is apparently a genetic flaw!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Geeky Stuff I Say...

...that makes my non-medievalist, non-language/literature friends laugh at me.
- Of course I hate it, but that usage has infiltrated the lexicon, hasn't it?
- I've found this wonderful passage, and can't wait to share it with my Latin translation group!
- Why, how many languages do you have to learn?
- You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.
- Callipygean
- My other choice isn't the Iron Maiden by any chance, is it?
- No, Shakespeare is a little modern for me. Besides, I haven't yet forgiven him for portraying John of Gaunt as an elderly and weak man. John of Gaunt was hawt, I tell you, H-A-W-T, hawt!
- What is this 'magical realism' of which you speak?
- Look, for all I know 'King Arthur' was the third son of a pig-farmer in Wales!
- In the old days, redheaded children were drowned for their evil. We can't all keep the traditions we like, now can we?
- I don't use too many tag questions, do I?
- Oh, stop. You don't have to monitor your grammar with me. However, if you're interested, you might want to freshen up your subjunctive. Just saying.
- Holy Crap! I can't believe they wrote a ________ (random obscure literary analytical term) into this TV show.
- Doesn't everybody organize their books by country and century of origin?
- No, I am not a scholar, I'm a booker. Ic eom bocere. We'll have none of your new-fangled, Frenchified descriptive nouns here.

(I apologize for the tardiness of my responses to your comments. I'm a dork, with a very busy, dorklike schedule.)

Friday, September 22, 2006

An Idea Proudly Stolen From Michael Berube and Ancrene Wiseass: Random Stuff, on a Friday. Some of it is Fun.

- A colleague of mine here in Microburg (Hey, we teach, hold office hours, and grumble about our paychecks together. That's a colleague to me.), upon learning that I am a native New Yorker, said "I'm so glad I'm not from NY. I'd *hate* to have to say that Hillary Clinton was my senator." This wouldn't be funny at all, except my colleague hails from Santoristan. One Heo, nonplussed.

- The English job openings list for the 2007-8 academic year is out. 242 jobs, 4 include Old English specialization as an acceptable *secondary* skill. One listing for a medievalist states openly that no Irish Old English people need apply. Most listings for medievalists call for a person who can teach everything from HEL to Literary Theory to Renaissance Drama. This indicates that I will somehow need to aqcuire about 4 specializations and develop a "strong publication history" in the next few years if I want to be an academic. One Heo, panicked.

- I'm considering buying this lovely chenille rug. Sort of a sweater for my floor. What do you think?

- I suddenly find myself fascinated by Mappa Mundi. Which is weird. I hate maps, generally, and take pride in being the person who always gets lost while driving. On Long Island, I would drive until I saw water, then turn around and try again. Here in Microburg, I drive until I see cows. One day I'll call my family from Canada or Iowa or someplace equally unlikely, and ask them to help me get back.

- The new crop of grad students is unbelievably beautiful. We're talking possible cover models for GQ and Cosmopolitan here, folks. They've totally ruined the curve. One Heo, new addition to the ugly club. Rats.

- Also, 34 is too young to be a dirty old woman. So, I don't even get to enjoy the new scenery in a lecherous way without feeling tremendously guilty. One Heo, suddenly separated from becoming Volpone only by guilt and the desire NOT to be a caricature of an academic before I get to actually be an academic.

- We have a new professor. He's British, and therefore uses British colloquialisms. I have several British students as well, who also use British colloquialisms. I have a Zelig-level accent/dialect imitation problem. One Heo, struggling not to pull a Madonna. That simply wouldn't be Cricket. Damn!

- While struggling through Wheelock, I often find myself muttering, "Damn you, vocative case!" One Heo, easily amused.

[Update: Someone from my graduating class at very preppy public high school is sending out emails to start organizing the reunion. The 20 year reunion. One Heo, older than she thought and considering weeping.]

Thursday, September 21, 2006


(Alright, so I mixed Old English and Modern German affixes with a Middle English root. Call it artistic license. Nobody bitched when Tolkien did it!)

After the emotional disaster that was the end of last semester, I knew I needed to approach this grad student business in a different way. I decided to alleviate my feelings of helplessness and perpetual confusion by absolutely throwing myself into the grad student experience this semester. I'm running hither and yon attempting to create the grad school experience I want. Often by sheer force of will.

Conversations go something like this:
Me: I want X.
Authority: No.
Me: I'm afraid I will not accept that answer.
Authority: Too bad.
Me: Here's why I want X.
Authority: No.
Me: And here's why I think X will benefit the department/graduate community as a whole.
Authority: Why are you still talking?
Me: I want X.
Authority: No.
Me: And here are the ways in which other graduate programs have implemented X, to their ultimate benefit.
Authority: Will it get you out of my office?
Me: Yep.
Authority: Fine. I hate you.
Me: I'm OK with that.

One subset of the agitprop I'm creating and distributing willy-nilly among fellow students and faculty has to do with professionalization seminars. We want them. Or, rather, we want to know how to get from here in the trenches to the "professional level, publishable work" our professors all SAY they demand from us.

(In a meeting with the director I learned that "I demand professional level, publishable work" is a rhetorical tool that professors in the department use. Presumably, when we have no idea how to accomplish that, can't get anybody to explain it to us in any useful way, and hand in our unprofessional, unpublishable work ... well, that's OK, too. Because it's emphatically NOT unethical pedagogy to set a bar, refuse to teach students how to reach it, then tell them with a lovely grade that they've surpassed it.)

So, I'm designing this here group of professionalization seminars, with the help of an ABD(insisted upon by the dept.), and then we have to go professor wrangling to get it all together. And I need a nap, like, yesterday.

I have a slightly different take on the recent "to professionalize or not to professionalize" debate as seen at In the Middle and Quod She. Without thinking too hard about the job market, it just seems to me that it's asinine that every kind of knowledge we have can be published, catalogued, and used as a basis to create better, new knowledge EXCEPT for professional practices. There should not be a special code you have to be granted by mystical dwarves to unlock the secrets of the profession. Nobody can intuit their way through the exceptionally weird world of academia, and they shouldn't have to do so. Now, the level of emphasis that should be placed on "professionalizing" is beyond my scope at the moment. I don't know. But I do know that some effort to mentor should be in place.

I'm also with Ancrene Wiseass on the "pre-professionalization" nonsense. Since when is teaching at the university level pre-professional work?

Now, if you'll excuse me, there's a young man coming to my office hours today who demands, DEMANDS that I change his grade to reflect work he didn't do. He wants me to tell him the pretty lies my professors tell me. I'm not going to do it, but I have to listen to his arguments anyway. Karmic retribution, I guess. If I can get him to understand that the pretty good grade he got will not ruin his chances at law school, and that demanding much from him now is my way of helping him out in the long run before 3:30, I just might be able to get that nap in before I move on to my next project. Yeah, who the hell am I kidding?

Friday, September 15, 2006

I Want a Haiku Too!

An idea proudly stolen from In the Middle, and Quod She:

Haiku2 for heocwaeth
greedy penitent
knyght as long as i've been told
that nobody cackles
Created by Grahame

Now listen, I know they both outrank me, but I think my haiku is, like, totally cooler than theirs.

Sunday, September 10, 2006

A Verray Parfit, Gentil, (Desperately Poor? Greedy? Penitent?) Knyght

As long as I've been studying Old Geoff, I've been told that the parfit, gentil knyght was clearly "down on his luck." No other interpretation would be permitted. Ever. It was as if the editors of Speculum had met secretly and, using the power only they possess, declared the knyght impecunious. And then they cackled sinisterly, swept their dark capes around them, and disappeared into the aether, as scholarly-journal editors are wont to do. I'm told that nobody cackles more sinisterly than a Speculum editor.

Here's my shameful medievalist secret: I'm not buying it. I know that he could have over-spent on all those crusade battles of his. Many knights did, some ruinously. I know he could have gone on these crusades because he'd heard of all the luxurious wealth of the east, and wanted some for himself. Many knights did that, too. And, perhaps a knight returning from a successful (-ish) crusade into the east would return all dripping with gems and ostentation. It's perfectly possible that medieval people were tacky. Perhaps the motivation for all these voyages out into "heathen lands" was less about religious zeal, and more about attempts to win the conqueror lottery. But does greed presuppose poverty? Does simple clothing presuppose poverty? Couldn't this perfect example of Christian knighthood have been an almost religious figure, showing the gentle humility that only a very powerful man has the freedom to do, and be unequalled in his zeal for Christendom?

I give you the bit of The Prologue that describes the knight, so that you don't have to drag your giant Chaucer book out to consider the issue.

43: A knyght ther was, and that a worthy man,
44: That fro the tyme that he first bigan
45: To riden out, he loved chivalrie,
46: Trouthe and honour, fredom and curteisie.
47: Ful worthy was he in his lordes werre,
48: And therto hadde he riden, no man ferre,
49: As wel in cristendom as in hethenesse,
50: And evere honoured for his worthynesse.
51: At alisaundre he was whan it was wonne.
52: Ful ofte tyme he hadde the bord bigonne
53: Aboven alle nacions in pruce;
54: In lettow hadde he reysed and in ruce,
55: No cristen man so ofte of his degree.
56: In gernade at the seege eek hadde he be
57: Of algezir, and riden in belmarye.
58: At lyeys was he and at satalye,
59: Whan they were wonne; and in the grete see
60: At many a noble armee hadde he be.
61: At mortal batailles hadde he been fiftene,
62: And foughten for oure feith at tramyssene
63: In lystes thries, and ay slayn his foo.
64: This ilke worthy knyght hadde been also
65: Somtyme with the lord of palatye
66: Agayn another hethen in turkye.
67: And everemoore he hadde a sovereyn prys;
68: And though that he were worthy, he was wys,
69: And of his port as meeke as is a mayde.
70: He nevere yet no vileynye ne sayde
71: In al his lyf unto no maner wight.
72: He was a verray, parfit gentil knyght.
73: But, for to tellen yow of his array,
74: His hors were goode, but he was nat gay.
75: Of fustian he wered a gypon
76: Al bismotered with his habergeon,
77: For he was late ycome from his viage,
78: And wente for to doon his pilgrymage.

[Added after publishing, because I hit the wrong button: My take on this is probably less sophisticated than others, but here it is. It seems to me as if the Knight has the accoutrements of a seasoned warrior. No more, no less. A good, solid horse, but not a fancy one. Serviceable clothing that doesn't draw too much attention. He's not overly concerned with personal hygiene. Here is a man's man, fighting in the fields, praying in the church, an no nonsense about him. He has stuff to do, damn it, and no time for foppery. And if we take that image, and contrast it with the young sparks that follow, we find a generational parody that doesn't exactly favor the kids. Which is, I think, Chaucer's point. It's as if he's saying "Here's what a man should be, and has been. Now look at what's coming up behind them. Bunch of flowery-tunic-wearing, slave-of-fashion sissies who are more interested in being pretty and impressing maidens than fighting for God and King. We're doomed!"

79: With hym ther was his sone, a yong squier,
80: A lovyere and a lusty bacheler,
81: With lokkes crulle as they were leyd in presse.
82: Of twenty yeer of age he was, I gesse.
83: Of his stature he was of evene lengthe,
84: And wonderly delyvere, and of greet strengthe.
85: And he hadde been somtyme in chyvachie
86: In flaundres, in artoys, and pycardie,
87: And born hym weel, as of so litel space,
88: In hope to stonden in his lady grace.
89: Embrouded was he, as it were a meede
90: Al ful of fresshe floures, whyte and reede.
91: Syngynge he was, or floytynge, al the day;
92: He was as fressh as is the month of may.
93: Short was his gowne, with sleves longe and wyde.
94: Wel koude he sitte on hors and faire ryde.
95: He koude songes make and wel endite,
96: Juste and eek daunce, and weel purtreye and write.
97: So hoote he lovede that by nyghtertale.
98: He sleep namoore than dooth a nyghtyngale.
99: Curteis he was, lowely, and servysable,
100: And carf biforn his fader at the table.

I'm pretty sure I could kick the Squier around a field a bit. His clothing was decorative, but impaired his ability to hold a weapon. And the little punk was sleep-deprived from all his skirt-chasing. I could totally take him.

101: A yeman hadde he and servantz namo
102: At that tyme, for hym liste ride so,
103: And he was clad in cote and hood of grene.
104: A sheef of pecok arwes, bright and kene,
105: Under his belt he bar ful thriftily,
106: (wel koude he dresse his takel yemanly:
107: His arwes drouped noght with fetheres lowe)
108: And in his hand he baar a myghty bowe.
109: A not heed hadde he, with a broun visage.
110: Of wodecraft wel koude he al the usage.
111: Upon his arm he baar a gay bracer,
112: And by his syde a swerd and a bokeler,
113: And on that oother syde a gay daggere
114: Harneised wel and sharp as point of spere;
115: A cristopher on his brest of silver sheene.
116: An horn he bar, the bawdryk was of grene;
117: A forster was he, soothly, as I gesse.

That last bit, about the Yeoman, is what really works against the "poor Knight" interpretation for me. When was the last time you saw a servant better-dressed than his employer, when the employer dressed poorly out of poverty rather than principle? ]

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

Fun with Irony

OK, many of you have probably seen this already, but I just discovered it. I like it even better than the dinosaur theory of Grendel.

Sunday, September 03, 2006

Books: $$$$; Tuition: $$$$$$; Ego-Trip: Priceless

I wish to begin this post by reminding you all of a scene from the episode entitled Nob & Nobility in the Blackadder the Third series.

Blackadder: Yes, Baldrick, that's the way of the world. The abused always kick downward. I'm annoyed, and so I kick the cat. The cat pounces on the mouse, and the mouse...
Baldrick: (shouts)
Blackadder: ... bites you in the behind.
Baldrick: And what do I do sir ?
Blackadder: Nothing, you are last in God's great chain, Baldrick. Unless there is an earwig around here you want to victimize.

A very funny scene, indeed. And that pretty much *is* the way of the world, isn't it? Well, at the risk of once again playing the Disgruntled Grad Student™, I will say that the academy participates fully in that paradigm. Now, when we hear someone talk of knowing one's place, they are generally either being humble or actively trying to humble another. And that "knowing your place" thing usually means knowing which people are permitted to abuse you with impunity, and which people you may abuse. At least that's what my experience has been. The whole thing is rather distasteful, really, unless Rowan Atkinson does it.

In an unhealthy environment, the victimizer/victimized dichotomy that runs the world seems to make its most obvious, and humorous, appearance in those who have just climbed up a rung in the Great Chain. In the academic world, it goes something like this: Post-docs show disdain for ABDs, ABD's show disdain for first-year PhD students, first-year PhD students show disdain for MA students, and everybody shows disdain for undergrads. High school students and teachers have the questionable peace that comes with being beneath contempt and largely absent from the university setting. As a licensed and experienced secondary school teacher who is now in graduate school, I am a freak who may as well be walking around with a scarlet 'T' on her chest. The assumption is that I must not really be a Scholar, because I'm one of those awful Teacher-types. I knew that prejudice existed going in to grad school, and I accepted that I would have to work harder to prove myself than others in my cohort would have to work. Spite is really a fantastic motivator for me, so the underdog role is one I accepted gleefully. This is not a teacher-scholar planctus, that much I can promise those of you who've managed to read this far.

Microburg is an unhealthy environment, and the dysfunction is the top-down sort. Meaning that those who should now be above proving themselves as victimizer to avoid being classified as victimized are still at it. And despite interventions from the Dean, their ugliness is spreading. I will spare you the long and sordid tale of last year's faculty war, except to say that what started as a minor disagreement erupted into an ego-driven demonstration of "power over" (as distinguished from "power to") among the faculty. Despite the attempts of some professors to maintain decorum in their interactions with students, some shrapnel did manage to fly our way. Hell, some was aimed directly at us as a way to hurt enemy professors who like us without the inconvenience of picking on someone one's own size. When the princes are at war, the peasants suffer. Lots of fun for grad students, as you can imagine. It was frightening, embarrassing, and the greatest example of mock-epic I've ever seen. It also left room for some really grotesque examples of ways to inhabit the role of instructor to come to graduate students from our supervising faculty.

We interrupt this diatribe to bring you a word from our sponsor.

Should there be someone reading this post for examples to use in denigrating the academic community as a whole, or grad students as a sub-group of academics, you may want to find another blog. You see, I spent many years as a pink and/or blue collar worker, and I can tell you that the anti-intellectualism that runs rampant in this country makes it damned difficult for academics to do our jobs well. Yes, I know that everyone is abused to some extent at work, but I also know that even those suffering from mental illnesses are kinder to their care-givers than some students are to their instructors. That's with the excuse of being clinically insane. So don't come here with your "real world" stories, expecting to silence or humble me. It won't work.

And, now, back to our regularly scheduled rant.

Even the most well-respected of the grad students I know don't ascend to what would be Blackadder status from the example above. On good days, the best a grad student can hope for is to be the cat. More often, we're Baldrick. This is the way of the world. While we gripe about it, none of us have grabbed a professor by the lapels and shouted, "Look, did your parents raise you at all, or just throw meat in your cage periodically?" Even though some of the more hot-headed among us might have been REALLY TEMPTED to do just that, we didn't. Let's say these hypothetical temptations happened an average of twice a week. That's twice a week for 28 weeks that we managed to control our inner bitches (I include men in the term 'bitches,' because I believe in equality of unsavory character traits). That's a lot of repressed bitchitude, and it has to come out somewhere. I like to blog it out. Lucky you.

This past week, while in conversations with my peers, I discovered their chosen direction for the release of all that aggression. The legion of Baldricks has discovered that undergrads make fine earwigs. Now, in addition to my real-world cred, I've been an undergrad more than once, a public school teacher, and a graduate instructor. I know that there are students in Microburg and all around the world who think that the letter B doesn't apply to them, regardless of their effort or skill. I know that some students will try to get the department chair to override grades that came 'from some idiot grad student' who hasn't been informed that said student's father is an attorney. I know all about the fine tradition of trying to intimidate a grad student, because they aren't real professors and therefore have no power. I get the frustration that comes when one tries to create a progressive, student-centered learning environment and runs smack up against 1) behavior that should have been trained out of the average ten year-old, and 2)just staggering entitlement issues. I have respect for my fellow grad students, and the struggles they face, because I face them, too.

To sum up the post so far: Professors in open warfare - bad. Post-adolescents - not necessarily innocent cherubs. Grad students - often stuck between two generations of insufferable spoiled brats in mid-tantrum.

Yet I cannot support my colleagues when they tell me that they have practiced stinging barbs to release against those awful things known as students, should the need arise. I know they are recreating the teaching personas their mentors showed them last year. However, I do think that learning the difference between a positive and a negative example should probably be the first skill future teachers are required to master. I am many years older than most of my peers, and so have had some time to develop coping mechanisms that don't involve kicking downward. But, I was also very lucky in my early mentors. Education can be a very humbling experience, and unearned reverence felt like just the salve my broken and battered self-image needed when I first started teaching. I was willing to be intoxicated by the "wow, she knows everything" looks on students' faces. Luckily for me, there were folks around to snap me out of it. When I was packed and ready for my ego-trip to Superiorville, my mentors, people who knew much more than I, sat me down for a rather brusque, one-way 'conversation.'

I pass their advice on to anybody who cares to read it now:

Of course you know more than your students. Why the !@#$%^& would anyone hire you if you didn't? That doesn't make you special, it makes you useful. Get over yourself. A good teacher doesn't focus on how much s/he knows, but rather how much s/he can bring out of her/his students. A student leaves a bad teacher's classroom thinking "Wow, s/he sure is smart," but when that student leaves a good teacher's classroom, the thought is "Wow, I sure am smart to be able to figure all that out." Do you want to be a bad but delusional teacher, or a good one?

Very good advice, that. Every time I'm tempted to think of myself as 'a real scholar,' with all the concomitant nonsense that position seems to bring, I remember it.

The questions I asked my fellow students to consider while they were bragging about learning how to be just as unprofessional and nightmarish as our professors were last year were these: Do you consider intelligence a tool or a weapon? Think of your favorite people, what do you think their answers would be? Now think of your favorite instructor, what would his/her answer be?

So, basically, I've been an insufferable killjoy this week, and not just on my blog.

Saturday, August 26, 2006

What I Did on My Blogging Hiatus

Sorry for the long silence, guys. As many of you already know, August is the cruellest month, whatever that headcase Elliot might have to say about the matter. The good news is that I've had many adventures since last I blogged. Some having to do with the university, like weaselling my way into the very closed course I've had my eye on since April, and formulating syllabi,-boi,-buses ... look, don't let's be pedantic about it, damn you. Where was I? Oh, yes. Employment. I've decided to take the support offered by the department which is not my own, because, well, they pay way more. This is good, but means that I have to brush up on some old knowledge. Good thing I'm one of those folks who likes learning, right?

I managed to injure myself at the Summer Job, and have spent the past few weeks under the influence of some very powerful pharmaceuticals. That sucked. It was especially humiliating when I would try to go grocery shopping and little old women would get pissed off and wheel their walkers around me in the pasta aisle because I was moving so slowly. I'm back at about 98% now, though. (I was at 99%, but I went for a hike and misread the trail marker. So, I wound up on a very demanding five-mile hike rather than the cute little 1/2 mile starter hike I wanted to do.) I considered joining a few friends to adjunct at the local CC to try to earn back the money I lost while hallucinating, but CC adjuncts make about $3 per year, so phooey on them. I will need research time, and that can't be bought for a measly three bucks.

But my life hasn't all been crass materialism and Hippie chic this month. I finally met my new grand-niece. She's very small, and occasionally quite loud, and enjoys listening to the speeches of one Winston Churchill read in an impossibly poor facsimile of a British accent. This is very convenient, because I happen to know some Churchill speeches and do a really bad impression of a Brit. See how things work out? She especially likes the bit about "fighting them on the beaches, and in the air..." For my part, I love to see a good warrior spirit in a bald midget. Sadly, she also enjoys peeing on my couch and spitting up down my shirt. I am told that these hobbies will pass, though.

So, now that I've adjusted to premature great-aunt status, chased away all the paisley elephants, and figured out a way to be financially secure for the next few months, I can get back to the important business of blogging.

Monday, August 07, 2006

This Blogging Mini-Hiatus Brought to You by Simultaneous Northman and Celt Invasions into My Territories

Yup, the whole famdamnily is visiting, en masse. So, last week I was unwilling to start any electrical appliance that generated even half a degree of heat (Character-rich old buildings don't have air conditioning.), and this week I'm entertaining the barbarian hordes from which I acquired my excessive height, weird eye color, and odd personality.

I most humbly apologize for my absence from the 'sphere, and leave you with some moderately good news to ponder. My University, upon learning that I was moving to the private sphere after all the drama of last year, has offered me not one but TWO full-year positions IN WRITING. Each offers tuition support, a stipend, health benefits, free parking, and a full 12% of that old closet that they've made into a Teaching Assistant office. So, on the happy side, I have some degree of security. On the less happy side, they're sucking me back in!

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

The Anecdote Thread

Funny/telling experience at Summer Job just last week:
One of my Supervisors has been refusing to talk to me since I started working, because here in Microburg there seems to be a very clear divide between college-educated and high school-educated folks. (The town-gown tensions are high, too. But honestly, the way some of the students treat the locals is appalling.) Since I'm doing work that doesn't require a college degree, he assumed I was of the untouchable caste. Anyway, somebody asked me why I moved to Microburg in Haughty Supervisor's hearing, and I told the questioner that I'm a grad student. Suddenly, Haughty Supervisor found me an acceptable, even engaging, interlocutor. During the rather animated discussion we had, I learned all about his associate's degree. The evil part of me wanted to say, "Oh, an ASSOCIATE's! I'm sorry, I can't continue this conversation." But I refrained.

Funny/weird dating experience from several years ago, but which I remembered during a conversation with a friend just last week:
I was in a car, making out with my date (I was young, I needed the practice), when I felt his fingers rest on that space between my collar bones. The guy was taking my pulse! I guess the fact that I wasn't in need of a defibrillator upset him, because that was our last date. Well, it was either the lack of dangerous arrhythmia or the howl of laughter that escaped me when I figured out what he was doing. Either way, last date.

Share a fun anecdote yourself, or feel free to comment on mine!

Cool New Find!

Again via Ansaxnet, there's been a very exciting find in a bog in um...Central Nowhere, Ireland. Seems a construction worker found a millenium-old psalter recently. The super-smart bog owner covered the thing with damp soil until he could get archeologists out to claim the thing the next day. Go, bog-owner! This is the first major (textual) find in Ireland in 200 years. FWIW, the book is about 20 pages long, made of very thick vellum, and open to Psalm 83.

I'm half-tempted to get a shovel and head off to boggy countries to start digging. But then, I think about this guy, and how completely freaked out I'd be if I found one of his peers.