Thursday, June 29, 2006

"Everything in this book was meticulously researched. However...

...any time I found that the actual facts didn't fit my story, I ignored them."

Just found out about this today (though if I kept up with my listservs, I would already know about it!). Check out The Da Vinci Barcode: A Parody, by Judith P. Shoaf (you may know her as the Arthurnet moderator). How exciting is this?

Also check it out on the publisher's page.

This looks to be something worth the reading.

Granted, as we all know, I never did manage to read The Da Vinci Code, my promise to do so not withstanding. Granted, I also didn't see the movie, so I think I'm off the hook on that count. However -- if I am going to treat myself to this as a reward for the Latin work I'll do in July....I think I'll have to revisit the possibility of being one of the last people I know to read DVC.


Sunday, June 25, 2006

Beowulf comes to Appalachia

As readers of this blog might have noticed, one of the things I find absolutely fascinating is re-interpretations of Anglo-Saxon literature. At the moment, my interest is (and for good reason) focused on renditions of Beowulf. There are any number of operas (rock or no), plays and movies out right now about everybody's favorite doomed warrior-hero-king. However, when my artistically minded younger sister mentioned this play today during lunch, I was honestly completely taken aback. Theatre-Sis is way more informed concerning not only the stage but also the arts more generally in our area than I am -- she's the one who pointed out to me that a movie everyone thought I'd like because it was set in North Carolina was actually filmed in our hometown, and with a lot of people who we both used to do theatre with (it's called Junebug, and I'd highly recommend it!). Theatre isn't just a hobby for her -- it's part of her job, which she does in her "spare" time as she studies toward a degree in Music Education. It's a pretty awesome course she's taking, actually.

But anyway, back to the Old English connection. This past spring, the Greensboro Theatre -- Triad Stage -- put on a play called Brother Wolf, by Preston Lane. Set in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, this play tells the story of Brother Wolf, an "itinerant preacher, demon slayer and Blue Ridge Legend" (See the Charlotte Observer review for a review by Julie Coppens) who faces such fiends as Grin Dell (I'm not making this up), Grin Dell's Maw, and Rattler Man (who stands in for the dragon, it would seem, as a "preacher" who says true faith comes from picking up a poisonous snake and trusting it will not harm you (see the quote in this linked article). One of the things most interesting about the piece seems to be the way Lane figures "wyrd" -- reading further down in the Coppens review linked above, Lane "illustrates the concept of "wyrd," or fate, with four silent, black-suited players who move set pieces and characters through space and join Rattler Man in sealing the preacher's doom." A fascinating thought on how to put "wyrd" to work, I think. Or at least, how to put it up on stage for all to see.

I'm not quite sure how to take this play, and given that I've never seen it, I can only react to the information I've gathered on the internet(which is mostly from the articles above -- I'm still looking to see if there's a version of the play available in print...). My first thought is "Oh dear" -- a Beowulf made to be far more religious than the Anglo-Saxon one, and set in the North Carolina mountains to boot. A part of me wants to run away -- how could they do this to the poem that takes up so much of my time and attention, when there is no way this play could really be anything but distressing. To top it all off, Lane's inspiration is Seamus Heaney's translation -- which, although certainly the most readable, is one I've never been able to really enjoy. I usually go with Liuzza or Chickering, if I need a translation -- though when, wyrd willing, I teach the poem in literature classes, I will probably decide to use Heaney just for the students' enjoyment-level, since it seems most undergraduates react more favorably to his translation of the poem.

But as usually happens with such things, something stops me. In this case, its a line that is quoted relatively near the beginning of another Julie Coppens article on the play. From the opening scene, then:

Maybe there's a power in a story told and told and told over and over down through the years. Maybe there's a magic. My pa told me about Brother Wolf. And I tell you. Maybe the telling makes him real.

Maybe the telling makes him real. This line stopped me in my tracks, and lured me back to the fascinating possibilities of folklore and legend. Mythologies are shaped by -- and shape -- the cultures which tell them. Beowulf is no different. Maybe the spirit of the Geatish warrior is something we're all trying to "make real," in some sense -- to ourselves, to others, every time we write an article on the poem, every time we write a book. These lines render vividly the power of stories -- stories that are saved from fate and fires -- stories written in a metrical form literally made to be remembered.

And so I withold judgement on Brother Wolf. An Appalachian Beowulf set to the country sounds of bluegrass music may not seem like the Beowulf I find when I turn the pages of Klaeber, or click through the electronic edition of the manuscript by Kiernan. It may not be the Beowulf I hear in Heaney's Irish tones, or in Gardener's Grendel.

But maybe, for this time, for this place -- for North Carolina and Appalachia, it's a way to make Beowulf real again.

And yes, if it's ever out again -- in NC or elsewhere -- I will be travelling to see it.


Thursday, June 22, 2006

Things to think about...

Because I'm still chewing on a couple of blog entries I don't think are really complete/coherent enough to post (writer's block in all quarters, I fear), I'll post instead some things I'm thinking about while I'm supposed to be writing papers. I know -- terrible of me to delay even further the delayed. But I'm finding my writing of late to be a bit like those stars you can't quite see when you look straight at them -- it's like being afraid to pursue things too intently. If I can just see the ideas from a bit of a different angle, coming at it slant-wise, perhaps, it'll all resolve into focus and I'll see the things that I can't see head on. Thus there must be a logic to my current contemplation, but I've yet to figure out what it is:

1. Ron Silliman's current blogs about Proprioception, by Charles Olson. I'm not familiar with the work...but it's a fascinating discussion. Particularly check out the June 20 section, which talks about a section called "GRAMMAR -- a book". And there's some Old English in it.

2. bp Nichol's The Martyrology. There are a thousand reasons I became fascinated with Nichol and his work -- however, the most important for me is the way he plays with words in a game that oscillates between lighthearted fun and shocking gravity in a mere moment. Words are saints (you'll see what I mean), and saints become mere words, like Saint And, who was "made a saint / for lack of any other way of praising you." An excerpt, from book II:

as there are words i haven't written
things i haven't seen
so this poem continues
a kind of despair takes over
the poem is written in spite of

all the words i once believed were saints
language the holy place of consecration
gradually took flesh
becoming real

scraptures behind me
i am written free
so many people saying to me they do not understand
the poem they can't get into
i misplace it three times

this is not a spell
it is an act of desperation
the poem dictated to me by another will
a kind of being writing is
opposite myself i recognize these hands
smash the keys in
the necessary assertion of reality...

It's more than a bit post-modern, of course -- perhaps too much so to draw comparisons, but there seems to be in some kind of echo with Byron here, in his Childe Harold, Canto III, with his wish for "words which are things." I find the "continuity" of literary preoccupations in these lines (I use the quotes because I know there technically isn't one) astounding. Something happens in these "scraptures" of lines where dream and reality can meet, albeit briefly, perhaps a kind of place where "goodness is no name, and happiness no dream." A place where one can admit that "there are no myths we have not created / ripped whole from our lived long days" without that being the end. I'm not sure that Nichol thought that was possible -- but then again, "a kind of being writing is." However, I'm often accused of being too romantic about these things. I have a Stoppard quote for that, but I'll spare you (hint: from The Real Thing and dreadfully out of context).

3. The last lines of the Metamorphoses. It's readily available on Perseus. I've been reading through some of the stuff in the Mandelbaum collection and keeps reminding me how much I adore Ovid...and I just like the sound of it all in the latin:

parte tamen meliore mei super alta perennis
astra ferar, nomenque erit indelebile nostrum,
quaque patet domitis Romana potentia terris,
ore legar populi, perque omnia saecula fama,
siquid habent veri vatum praesagia, vivam.

Above the stars, indeed.

4. This article. Asking the age old question, "Can Humanists Talk to Postmodernists?" A question it seems I'll be asking myself my whole career. There must be a way, right?

Edit, and mere moments after the original post...
5. This post over at JJC's blog -- and the conversation that's coming out of it.

Ok, back to work with me.


Tuesday, June 20, 2006

It must be the Apocalypse...

Yeah. Just...Click here for insanity.

This has little to do with medieval literature -- but this may just be the strangest thing to happen since...well...I'm not quite sure since when. Carolina. Beat Edmonton. In Ice Hockey. As a native Carolinian, I think that merits a mention, medieval or no.

Returning to a subject in medieval literature, next time.


Monday, June 19, 2006

"A Vision of Conflicted Viking Charisma"

Over Ansaxnet this weekend (while I was getting a tan while reading Wonders of the East on Hilton Head -- yeah, a little counterintuitive, I know) -- two reviews of "Beowulf and Grendel" which is, apparently, finally being released in the US. 'Bout time.

Both of these are from Seattle, where the film opened. The Seattle Post-Intelligencer thought the dialogue left a little to be desired, and the Stranger chose to make fun of the beards of all things...

But both agreed it was not the best of movies, though Gerard Butler was rather well treated (see above -- I have to work this out as a paper title, someday!). I'm reserving judgement until I see it. It can't be worse than many of the other recent movies of medieval texts.

And besides -- who doesn't love Stellan Skarsgård?


Thursday, June 15, 2006

Moments with the Mandelbaum Collection

Another excerpt from my manuscript collection processing labors at Wake Forest ZSR Library Special Collections :

As I was digging through another couple of accordion folders of stuff yesterday (well, Monday -- so now it's two days ago), I came across a folder of materials from Mandelbaum's translation of The Odyssey. Part of that folder was a near final draft of the published afterword of the book, the opening of which contains some wonderfully meditative lines on translation:

Translation exacts and invites much micro-labor, many days in the burrows. (Though the frequency of controversy in questions Homeric often makes the burrows seem more like trenches.) Emerging at work's end, one hopes the labyrinthine time will, in its result, be informed by--and shed--light. One blinks--and feels compelled to chart the works that accompanied the burrowing.

I like the image of the labyrinth that Mandelbaum evokes here. I'd say more -- but I think I'll just let his words stand.

In other attempting to finish a paper on Bede and Chaucer as well as get both re-started and finished on something about The Wonders of the East. And all of this -- is for a deadline that seems now to be earlier than I'd anticipated. Yikes! So that's where I'll be over the next week or so. With the brief exception of what looks to be my only beach trip this year, to Hilton Head, this weekend. So with a little luck, I'll relax at least a bit. My beach reading -- two books that are non-academic:

1. The Cryptonomicon, by Neal Stephenson. Recommended by a friend earlier in the year -- am finally picking it up now (am 50 pages in already in fact!).

2. Airman's Odyssey by Antoine de Saint-Exupery. I've loved St-Ex since I was a child. Reading Le Petit Prince is a yearly event for me, and I stole my mother's French copy for that express purpose. I've avoided his other works for fear of being disappointed, but another friend recommended this, and as his last recommendation turned out wonderfully, I decided to pick it up. Reading the Introduction, I was taken by these words that Richard Bach writes about St-Ex:

Adventure and reflection -- that's how he makes lifelong friends of kids with polishing rags. He invites communication, and he stays around to talk in spite of what happened that last day of July, 1944.

The world, he said, it isn't Us and Them, it's only Us!

Once set afire, ideas burn until they're quenched in action. Twenty years from now, in the night cockpits and passenger cabins of our hypersonic transports, on the soft-lit decks of our space colonies, will a lot of kids turned friends of his ideas be seeing them for truth, watching the planet turn safely beneath their wings?

What would he say if they told him that he hadn't died in the war?

If the stories hold a mere half of the promise Bach finds in them, they will be stunning. But somehow, I think it's a safe bet they'll hold far more than that -- and will outstrip even the wildest of those promises.


Tuesday, June 13, 2006

The one thing...***

...that no academic should ever forget:

Never, ever forget to back up your files.

(corollary -- don't "lose" your jump drive, only to find it in the top of your closet, gathering dust. Jump drives are more convenient, and thus more likely to be used, than normal methods of backing up files.)
Following this simple rule will help you to avoid the frightening moment where you have to scour your memory in a dead panic -- did I save that crucial file to a disk?

And because, it seems, computers only crash when it's absolutely irreplaceable information you'll need in approximately 24 hours that you have not backed up in any useful format...this might also be the secret to a computer that never dies. Time alone will tell.

***This post is related to the medieval only in so far as both my files for working in Rare and my paper on Catherine of Alexandria were saved onto a jump drive mere hours before my computer returned to its suicidal state. Thanks to a very tech savvy sister, I am able to breathe again. So I thought I would share the fruits of my panic, in the hope of averting similar near-death-experiences in others who might find themselves as dependent on their computers as I am on mine...


Monday, June 12, 2006


So I've finally found something to help me learn pronunciation of Old English (five years on, it's probably time, no?). Follow the link for Robert Stevick's second chapter from A Firstbook of Old English.


Sunday, June 11, 2006

WVU Summer Seminar, Part Two

Finally, the ending of my post about the summer seminar...

Saturday the focus was on Beowulf and Judith, then on Beowulf and Cuthbert. The session about Beowulf and Judith was a fascinating one, particularly given the focus we had -- sound. Prof. Lees described Judith as a "noisy" poem, and so we started to chart out what noise meant -- i.e., how to conceive of it, if there was or was not a way to chart out a continuum on which one could plot such concepts as speech, poetry, noise, sound, white noise, pink noise. Theoretically speaking, it was a really crucial point, although the attempt itself was a bit scattered (many different ideas in the room, not really agreeing with the others, as we clearly all had our own ways of conceptualizing sound and silence). Particularly intriguing for me was the question of noise vis a vis silence. I also got to turn around and ask a question about the poem that I'd been asked in London this past spring at a conference, which was nice. One Eminent Scholar asked me what had to be the best question anyone had asked me about Judith to that point in time. Granted, I only started working on Judith this past fall, so...haven't had a lot of questions. But this one was just breathtaking in its ability to completely confound me -- and bring a room to immediate silence. "Is there something queer about Judith?" I still don't know how to answer that question -- as do many people when first asked, I end up stuttering ("yes...but there's this...and so maybe not...but still...there must be...unless there isn't..."). Edit: Thinking more clearly a bit earlier in the day (which is a scary thought in itself) -- come to think of it, Karma Lochrie and Heide Estes have great articles on Judith, that I think partially address this question, if not directly. The Lochrie article is "Gender, Sexual Violence, and the Politics of War in the Old English Judith" and Estes is "Feasting with Holofernes: Digesting Judith in Anglo-Saxon England."

As you can guess, this lively conversation didn't leave much room to talk about Beowulf, so we got back to Beowulf in the afternoon, in addition to talking a bit about Cuthbert. The Beowulf discussion was amazing -- get a group of Anglo-Saxonists that large together and the energy is sure to be high. One of the questions I found most compelling was "where is the place of poetry in Beowulf?" one of the professors in attendance had an immediate response I found stunning: "Not here." This distancing effect of the poetry reminds me of that beautiful section from "The Monsters and the Critics":

When new Beowulf was already antiquarian, in a good sense, and it now produces a singular effect. For it is now to us itself ancient; and yet its maker was telling of things already old and weighted with regret, and he expended his art in making keen that touch upon the heart which sorrows have that are both poignant and remote. If the funeral of Beowulf moved once like the echo of an ancient dirge, far-off and hopeless, it is to us as a memory brought over the hills, and echo of an echo. There is not much poetry in the world like this...

Prof. Lees left us with a profoundly intriguing last thought, something we never got to in the discussion but that lay just under the surface of discussion (particularly as it related to Hildeburh earlier) -- Grendel's mother as an even more profoundly silent figure than her son.

Sunday we spoke about poets who use Anglo-Saxon as a part of their poetry. We focused on three main figures -- Edwin Morgan, Seamus Heaney and Basil Bunting. Amazing all three. I wish I could formulate something coherent about them...but I fear I cannot.

So general reaction -- what a fantastic experience. Seeing the excitement of other Anglo-Saxonists, some of whom I've read multiple articles by (like Roy Liuzza and Patrick Conner), was a fantastic moment. It gave me the energy to go back to my own work and invest seriously in it. Suddenly I could see a light at the end of the massive end-of-term tunnel -- it's official, the future looks bright again from where I'm standing. And of course, one can't avoid saying the obvious -- getting to work with Professor Lees was a real treat.

So overall, an amazing experience -- I must highly recommend it. And Morgantown isn't bad at all -- I didn't know what to expect, given that it's in upper West Virginia, and I'd never ( to my knowledge, at least) gone through there. That was also a calming factor to the trip -- I think I could live somewhere like Morgantown. NYC may be amazing and exciting and all, but in the end, I'm a Southern girl whatever my family roots are (and they are very New York), I'll always opt for a forest over a concrete jungle. It was good to see a place to remind me of that.


Saturday, June 10, 2006


Meg, over at Xoom, posted a review of the Grendel opera -- with some great pictures, too!


Friday, June 09, 2006

an intervening post

[Which of course means that Summer Seminar Part II is still in progress. What can I say -- I appear to be learning to procrastinate even from my procrastination.]

So I finally remembered to ask my boss if it's ok to blog about what I've been doing at work. As she's given me the go-ahead, I've decided there is no time like the present. As I may have mentioned before, I'm spending the summer working at the library of the small southern university I attended as an undergrad -- Wake Forest (see the picture above -- and yes, I'm an incredibly lucky person to have attended someplace so gorgeous. That picture was taken in DECEMBER). My job, more specifically, is in the Rare Books Room and I'm currently doing the physical processing for a new manuscript collection that was donated by one of our professors.

So, for the moment at least, the theme of my summer is Metamorphoses. I italicize that not for effect – at the moment, my life is caught up in a translation of the Metamorphoses of Ovid, published in 1995 by poet and translator Allen Mandelbaum. It's liable to be a name that seems familiar -- after all, he translated The Divine Comedy, The Aeneid, The Odyssey. My job this summer? To sort everything out, beginning to create a workable structure so that other scholars can go through the materials and see what's what, be able to find what they're looking for. There's a great deal of material, mostly related to his many publications.

Needless to say, when my boss offered me my old job back for the summer I was thrilled -- this is a pretty stunning opportunity for a medievalist, as Allen Mandelbaum is one of the most erudite professors I've met, and an incredibly talented translator. I'd meant to take his Dante class while in undergrad -- I didn't try for it my sophomore year, and though it was to be offered again when I was a senior, the class was cancelled. I was disappointed, and figured my chance to work with Dr. Mandelbaum was over.

And then my boss asked me to work on the physical processing of Mandelbaum's papers. I've been consistently amazed by the sheer size of the collection, from the first time I laid eyes on it last August. Shelves of brown expanding files, filled with materials and labelled by project and content. I managed to fill an entire book truck with only folders related to the Ovid translation. Much has been done to organize it already, and that's a good thing -- even with the most preliminary organization done, there's still a great deal to work through, sort out, and archive properly. And I know there's more to come, too -- there's still a lot in Dr. Mandelbaum's office that I haven't even looked at, aside from a casual glance when I met with him late last summer.

As I've gone through the papers related to Ovid, I've been overwhelmed by the work that went into both translating the work and to documenting it. Xeroxes of every notebook. Everything preserved, and written, more importantly, by hand. Dr. Mandelbaum is of another school of work -- he doesn't type. Everything is done in handwriting, and his is exquisite.

I've seen multiple drafts of several pieces, ranging from preliminary notes to final galley proofs. From the Afterword, there's a part where he describes his invocation of Ovid in his own poetry, The Savantasse of Montparnasse, and seeing the way this develops, from handwritten copies (strewn with marked out sections, and notes Mandelbaum wrote to himself), through a couple typed versions with annotations where things were to be changed, to the proof phase and finally to the book has been really interesting. The meticulousness is remarkable, and I think it's a rewarding precision -- for example, an excerpt from the final version, which you can find in a copy of the book:

"Finally, it was the author of the Matmorphoses whom I had invoked as benevolent, confederate spirit for my own Savantasse of Montparnasse, where my prelude saw him as:
The-Copious, the Ever-Swift,
and Sad-Seigneur-of-Scrutinists,
calling on his 'fraternal breath' in the hope that he would 'sustain, support, be staff and stead / for both The-Reader and The-Read.'"

There's something in these lines that sends my thoughts in all sorts of directions -- I love the emphasis he's putting on the distinction (or perhaps connection?) between "The-Reader" and "The-Read." It seems to imply a reciprocity in the relationship between reader and text that I think is really interesting. Or perhaps I want to see it more as a veiled illusion to the role of translator...and writer, of course, since this is Mandelbaum's own poetry.

Well, in lieu of the long thought process that used to go here (it was relatively incomprehensible and involved Benjamin and many thoughts about translation that I should really think through more before attempting to write down at 2 AM -- the blogspot gods were kind enough to delete them, however, so we're all saved my ramblings for the moment...but only for the moment) I will point you in the direction of Wake Forest's ZSR Library.

The Mandelbaum Collection is not ready to be put on the website yet -- eventually it will include an online finding aid, which I am preparing the preliminary notes for even now. However, the Special Collections website does include a variety of materials from collections that are already accessible in the Digital Collections. I've had the pleasure (and, frankly, honor) to be a part of the initial phases and sorting of many of these collections, so here are a few of the highlights of projects that I've played a small part in:

*The Dolmen Collection -- Liam Miller's Irish press, which was founded in 1951 and continued until his death in 1987. Wake Forest's Special Collections are home to the full archives of the Dolmen. Online, you can see a finding aid (which lists all the materials in the collection) as well as images of the printing blocks used in publishing, which are quite lovely.

*The Confederate Broadsides -- Fascinating poetry from the Civil War era.

*The Ronald Watkins Collection -- A wonderfully diverse collection from the former school teacher at Harrow-on-the-Hill, whose work on the performance of Shakespeare advocated the view that the language itself was enough to substitute for any "special effects" one might be compelled to add to the plays. This was the first collection I did the physical processing for in Rare, and it was certainly a treat!

These are just a few of the holdings, and I'd encourage those looking for even more "legitimate procrastination" to check it out. It's an incredibly valuable resource to have around. Of course, I'll be updating about the Mandelbaum Collection as the project moves along this summer. My work in Rare has taught me a lot about what scholarship involves, and how much work goes into making resources available. It's a fascinating process, and one I'm grateful to get to be a part of in my academic life.


Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Summer Seminar, Part One

So I’ve been back from West Virginia since Sunday night – unfortunately, due to exhaustion, I was kept from the computer. In fact, I was also kept from the computer for the entirety of my time at WVU – although my computer picked up, at varying moments, an unencrypted wireless signal, I never quite managed to connect. Le sigh. Living for two days without email is difficult for me. I’m a shameless wireless addict. If I don’t see my laptop for 24 hours I start getting nervous.

However, as I had my laptop with me, and managed to find a public library in Morgantown where I could check my email on Friday, I was able to continue breathing for the duration of my trip.

At about midnight on Wednesday I realized two things about my upcoming trip. The first was that I wasn’t sure what time I needed to leave (do I leave at 6 in case I need to pick up one of my colleagues somewhere? or do I leave at 8 and have a proverbial snowball’s chance in hell that I’ll be conscious through the mountains?). The second was that I had nothing to do in the car. I made it to Kzoo and back because I was with my NJ colleague and we chatted the whole way (when we weren’t singing along with the CDs…). So I used the power of iTunes to download David Sedaris’ Dress Your Family in Corduroy and Denim. And I have to say – if you haven’t read Sedaris, or better yet listened to him, I must highly recommend it. He’s brilliant, for one thing. For the other, he describes life in North Carolina in a way that never fails to amuse me. It's also frighteningly accurate at times. Accurate in that it hasn't changed much since he lived here.

But yes. So Thursday evening, after my 6 hour drive and a short but sorely needed nap, I went across the street to Prof. Lees’ public lecture, which was on the Dream of the Rood and the Ruthwell monument. I was, once again and as always, amazed and inspired by what she had to say. A lot of it was picking up on the critical history of the poem. For example, I’d never thought twice about the Dream of the Rood being connected with Ruthwell. In fact, in a recent paper I gave, I definitely made the elision between the two, when I made a point of saying that both the poem and the Ruthwell Cross are “preaching crosses,” à la Michael Swanton’s introduction when he turns to Ruthwell. Yet there was a time before the two were inseparable. She spoke a lot about the runes on the monument, and the different languages that are represented on it, too. I’d highly recommend the book that she, Ian Wood and Fred Orton are completing even now – it’s sure to be just as wonderful as the talk.

I woke up early on Friday morning to finish some of the readings for the day. We were beginning with the riddles – a subject I’ve treated several times in the past two years. I’m sad to say that the riddles still annoy me. I like them, sure. They’re fascinating. But trying to solve them is frustrating. I think that’s why I like the idea that searching for their answers is not necessarily the point. I much prefer to think of how they work. However, Prof. Lees set us to work with really good questions – for example, how do the senses figure in OE poetry? When does a poem become a poem?

Friday afternoon’s session focused on The Dream of the Rood and Ruthwell Monument. Monument because it may or may not have always been a cross (go figure!). We discussed many things – including the question of why the monument is what it is, and what purposes it might have had. A fascinating fact that I learned – although there were no religious communities as Ruthwell, there are, below the site, the remains of a Roman fortress. Political reasons for the monument, then? The mystery of the runes came up too – how do they figure, what do they do, why are they there? When were they added? I formulate all these as questions – but I certainly don’t have answers. They are mysterious – and, if you look in the Bosworth Toller online mysterious is, in fact, one of its meanings. Run can mean mystery, or secret – or even speech not intending to be overheard. Runes are powerful (as divination by runes might suggest). More interestingly, of course, Oðin hung on Yggdrasil to learn their secrets. Who wæs on rode? And when does a tree become a cross, or become a Cross? So much to think about.

I have more to say, of course (about Saturday and Sunday) but I’m short on time at the moment and so will end here for now. Although one last thing – I think the most wonderful part of the seminar was the sheer enthusiasm of the participants. There was a range of people in attendance – from an undergrad all the way up to senior professors. But we were all passionate about this poetry, and all ready to stretch ourselves as far as we could. And stretch we certainly did!

Coming soon – Saturday, Sunday, and final reflections on WVU, the seminar – and Morgantown!