Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Two Years Down...

Four more to go, assuming all goes according to schedule (riiiiiiiight). As of yesterday at 6 pm, classes are officially over for the year, bringing my second year of graduate school to a close. It was a fitting way to end it, too. A wonderful class, a wonderful topic, two wonderful professors...and the paper was even done. To top it all off, by the time I got to class, I'd been up for nearly 36 hours.

Yes, I have officially pulled my first graduate school all-nighter.

Back in college, this would have been highly unsurprising. I pulled fairly regular all-nighters in those days. But I've found that sleeping makes me saner, and so lost the habit once I graduated. Who knew that the graduate school edition would be so...less stressful. I know that must sound mad. But I think it's that in college I pulled an all nighter because I didn't have a choice in the matter -- the paper had to get done by tomorrow, the test was at 9 AM, whatever. This time it was so calm. I didn't have to stay up -- I could have turned in the paper today, finished it up yesterday and last night. But for some reason -- I really just wanted to keep working on the paper, finish it before I lost track of the threads that held together my analysis. I was really into the research I did for it, and really enjoyed the text I was working with.

Actually, I'm still a little taken aback at how much fun I had writing this paper. To be honest, I never thought I'd start being interested in religious writing. Or at least not the really religious stuff, like Saints' Lives and the ilk. Give me troubadours, Marie de France, the Wanderer, Beowulf. How, given that for years now I've tried to avoid texts that were explicitly religious, I ever managed to become a medievalist is a good question. This semester has been different though. I can track it back to a paper I was required to write on Judith. After that short paper, sacred texts were suddenly interesting. The Visio Pauli. Exodus and Daniel. The Dream of the Rood (ok, so I already loved that poem). The Voyage of Brendan. It was all fascinating.

But for this class I realized I simply couldn't write another paper on Old Provencal -- after two semesters of Troubadours I really needed to focus in on something I hadn't done, and doing a different anonymous trobairitz poem didn't quite cut it. And so I discovered Clemence of Barking's Life of Saint Catherine. What a complex...and moreover really, really cool!!...text. Catherine of Alexandria is an educated woman -- the first conversion she performs that is shown in the text is a result of a debate she has with 50 of the most learned philosophers in the world. She has a sense of her own status intellectually, too, which makes her even more interesting. Add that to the fact that she's funny in a rather sarcastic way at times -- when offered a marble statue of herself by the emperor Maxentius, who promises it shall be in the temple to be worshipped by all, she asks him how he will convince the birds not to land on her. She also has a wonderful line about what offering dogs might make. She's resourceful and intelligent -- I heard in her voice the same resolution I always find in Castelloza. That sense of "I know what's right for me, regardless of what you have to say about it" (note to self: need to write a post about the trobairitz. Absolutely necessary.) And the connections between Catherine's intellectual status and that of her author Clemence were great too. Clemence is a talented poet -- she has several passages in which the sheer word play is fascinating -- her command of language is impressive. Who ever knew Saints Lives could be so amazing? I'm so glad I've discovered this.

For a great collection of links to resources on Clemence, you can go here. And I'd have to highly recommend Jocelyn Wogan-Browne's work on her, particularly “‘Clerc u lai, muïne u dame’: women and Anglo-Norman hagiography in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries” in Women and Literature in Britain, 1150-1500 ed. Carol M. Meale. Such a great piece. She also has a book, Saints' Lives and Women's Literary Culture 1150-1300 which is a great resource.

In other news...I'm leaving for Kalamazoo tonight. Well, actually I'm just going to a friend's house, and we're leaving at 6 AM to make the trek. This will be only the second time I've driven to Michigan -- last time was two years ago, and though it was a blast, 14 hours in the car was a little much. I don't know what it is, but somehow 11 hours just seems friendlier. I could fill pages about my love for this conference (and upon my return may well do so) -- but for now I'll just say I'm looking forward to it. And I love giving my paper on Thursday -- afterwards, I have the whole conference to relax and enjoy being surrounded by medieval studies! There's so much energy there -- I always return home ready to get back to my work, with a renewed sense of excitement that somehow only Kalamazoo can provide...not to mention the new books!!

Oh, and one more thing: many thanks to JJC, Dr. Virago and King Alfred for the warm welcome to the world of academic blogs. I think this phenomenon is really exciting -- not to mention really important -- so I'm excited to be a part of it!


Just Another Traveler said...

Wes thu hal! Welcome to the blog world, glad to see another Anglo-Saxonist in the mix (I'm not one officially, but there ought to be more!). I look forward to reading.

PS- Say hello to the swans at Zoo for me, I'll miss them this year ;-)

LeVostreGC said...

Be verye welcome to the blogosphere medievale! Ich shal rede of thy poostes wyth grete intereste.

Those archaic olde englysshe textes certaynly are inaccessible, are they nat? Much unlyk my up-to-the-minvte werke, the whiche ys hippe and all the kidz aren lovynge yt.

Le Vostre

JJC said...

The ultimate blessing upon a blog; Chaucer appears.

anhaga said...

Indeed -- many thanks, GC, for your visit! Apologies for my dialect -- I'm afraid too many hours spent learning English pre-Conquest has ruined my ability to speak (or more accurately type!) in propre Englysshe. Perhaps with a little practice I'll improve...

Just Another Traveler> Thanks for visiting! The swans were lovely as always. As was the weather, incidentally. A very nice weekend, weatherwise, which was a relief.

Karl Steel said...

Could you quote the Clem. of Bark. (harh) dog line(s)? Or just indicate the line #'s?

It's of use for my work, you know.

anhaga said...

Karl -- apparently my memory was substituting something one of the profs said about the dogs for what Catherine says, but there is a bit about birds:

"King, I do not care for such honour, for praise like that is really blame. Emperor, as long as you live, you will be able to force your men to do this honour to me, either from fear or love of you, but tell me what the birds which fly over me will do? Will they spare me on your account, so as not to alight on me? In no time at all they will have pecked out my eyes and sullied my shining face. Even your dogs will abuse me. Such, king, is your praise."

It's on page 23 of the Burgess/Wogan-Browne translation, and the paragraph it's in is lines 1302-70. There's a link to an online copy of MacBain on the page that the link in the post goes to.