Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Writing in Place

I'm planning a post about the New York Medieval Festival that I attended along with a couple of medievalist colleagues this Sunday.

However, I wanted to write first about a snap teaching decision I made this past week. My students, not entirely happy with the choices of texts I gave them, asked me if there would be any more texts for this assignment, since they didn't quite know how to use what I'd given them.

Now, we've been focusing rather broadly throughout the semester on issues of identity construction and the like -- it's a writing course, so I figure what better to write about than things liable to give a freshman an existential crisis? Those were the things I loved to read at that age. Anyway, they've been doing a great job with some tough texts. We've moved into issues of place, and the way in which places -- particularly home, but also wilderness and frontier -- are not simply facts, but constructed places -- and that our observations of them are necessarily colored by those constructions.

So when they asked me for more to read about place, and about home -- I knew immediately what I would assign them.

As with many of my medievalist colleagues, I was immensely saddened by news of the death of Nicholas Howe a couple of weeks ago. I've decided that this semester I'll give my students the option of writing on something of his, from Across an Inland Sea. I'm going to take some time over the end of the semester to try and work something of his writing into the course as I've mapped it out for next semester. Nick gave a talk here in New York last year for the ASSC, and I will never forget how much I learned from it. His writing has always been inspiring for me, though I know it half as well as I would like to. I suppose I'll be learning from him for a long time yet -- but it's still strange to think that a professor I knew had passed into the ranks of the professors whose words I've read so many years after their deaths.

Next time -- Medieval Festival 2006, NYC

In the meantime, check out JKW's site for information about his participation in a conference taking place this weekend, sponsored by Columbia University's Medieval Guild. With Alastair Minnis on Margery Kempe and a varied cast of other medievalists from around New York City and across the country, Medieval Instabilities looks to be a pretty fascinating event. I know I'm looking forward to it.