Tuesday, October 31, 2006

More Questions than Answers

So, after a two day stretch of frantic grading, I've reached a milestone in my academic career. I have officially pulled my first all-nighter grading papers.

As a reward for its brilliant efforts in the struggle, my computer is being sent off to the HP people to get it fixed. Thank goodness for warranties. Given that this thing is only 2 months old, it has no right to break down. Particularly not when I've been treating is so well.

But at any rate -- I spent my long night reading essays on animals rights and the metaphor of "finding the rain in everything." And more than once, I found myself musing on what the point of all this mess is -- all the grading, all the writing, all the reading and talking and interviewing -- and moreover, why I still find it all to be so much fun.

Yes, I do include the grading in that.

I think it must have something to do with my syllabus that I've set for my students. The course is composition -- nothing too difficult, though teaching it can often seem terrible. However, I have managed to compose a syllabus that is, by design, aiming to cause a kind of identity crisis. I think that heightens my interest somewhat. When everything revolves around cultural constructions, self and other, ambiguity, paradox, identity and the construction of "home" -- well, it has inspired some really interesting essays, and I'll be intrigued to see what we get out of our final segment, which will treat animal rights OR an essay by Martha Nussbaum. I'll keep you all posted. This could get interesting.

In the realm of my orals, progress is slow -- however, I have re-done my translation of the first Advent riddle. The comments from the class were fascinating; moreover, they directly contradict what a Very Famous Poet said about translation, i.e., that it should sounds like a coherent, modern, American English poem. My class wanted it to be less in a modern idiom -- the preserve some of its strangeness, its "Germanic wildness" (yes, I quote -- I would never say something like that, but then again, I suppose that's why this whole School of the arts class thing has been so liberating). So I think I may have found a way to preserve the Anglo-Saxon-ness of the poem without sacrificing the important parts of it. I have a lot of thoughts on what I'm trying to pack in here -- mostly the syncretic nature of Anglo Saxon Society, as well as the valence of the walls, and the unspeakable presence of something Other -- but that's another post, for when I've actually slept perhaps.

So, a Halloween Present. A Treat, if you will. Or, if you judge is so -- a terrible, terrible trick. All feedback welcome on this -- I have no idea what I've done or if it's any good to medievalists, so I'd be interested to hear what you think. Try to imagine it arranged on the page as an edited, Old English poem would be. I can't toy around with the HTML any more this morning, and I can't get it to work. Check out my first version here.

Advent Lyric One

for the King
You are the wallstone which the craftsmen
rejected long ago from the work
You sit by right the head of the hall
mend the wide standing walls with
firm fastenings flint unbroken
so throughout the world eyes might see
and all might wonder at world-king’s glory
revealed through art— your own craft—
truth-fast and victory bright
but soon lost wall from walls
Now is the work so difficult that
the master-craftsman comes and the king
he himself shall restore
what now is fallen house under roof
with an earthly radiance— a penance he shaped

Now the Life-lord sets the weary ones
free from evils sorrows of monsters


Dr. Virago said...

"Germanic wildness" made me smile - it reminded me of the Capital One ads. When I read a poem like this -- or like The Dream of the Rood, for instance -- and see the complex and not completely easy combination of cultures and metaphors and values, "wildness" isn't exactly what I think of. And that's especially true here given that the controlling metaphor is about building -- a complex, "civilized" activity!

Anyway, I haven't worked on that text in OE, so I can't speak to the translation itself, but in general I think it preserves the OE tendency towards associative, paratactic logic -- that building up and juxtaposition of images and ideas.

And I have to say, I, too, would be disappointed by a translation of an OE poem into modern idiom.

(And yes, I'm just catching up on a week's worth of the blog world!)