Wednesday, September 26, 2007

ASSC Call For Papers

As of Monday, the CFP is officially out for the fourth annual ASSC graduate student conference. This year, ASSC is "on the road" -- the conference is to take place in New Haven Connecticut, and will be hosted by the intrepid Anglo-Saxon grad students there. The topic? "Pleasure in Anglo-Saxon England" -- the conference is to take place the 16th of February, with abstracts due November 26th.

Looks like it will be a fantastic event. Last year, two of the organizers presented at the conference here at Columbia -- both had fascinating papers. From the grad student side, I know our interactions with our Yale colleagues are always intellectually productive -- not to mention just downright fun.

Click "read more" to expand the post for the CFP (as it was sent to the ASSC listserv yesterday). Visit the ASSC website for further details, and other events.

Hope to see many of you there!

The Anglo-Saxon Studies Colloquium
is pleased to announce
a call for papers:

Pleasure in Anglo-Saxon England

the 4th annual Anglo-Saxon Studies Colloquium
Graduate Student Conference

Saturday, February 16th 2008

Yale University

Yale University, in partnership with the Anglo-Saxon Studies Colloquium (Columbia, Rutgers, Princeton, NYU), invites submissions for the fourth annual graduate student conference sponsored by the Colloquium.

The theme of this year’s conference is “Pleasure in Anglo-Saxon England.” We invite submissions addressing any and all manifestations of pleasure in Old English or Anglo-Latin texts, Anglo-Saxon history, art, religion, or archaeology. We welcome a variety of methodologies, being equally pleased by the philological delight of a word study as by a wide-ranging treatment of emotions in Anglo-Saxon society. We also invite papers on the particular pleasures that the Anglo-Saxon world offers post-medieval scholars, artists, and armchair antiquarians. In the tradition of the Colloquium, we will be having respondents for the paper presentations, which should be no longer than ten minutes.

Possible topics include:
- emotions in Anglo-Saxon England
- pleasure and religion
- word-play and language play
- the joy of objects
- Anglo-Saxon recreation
- food and feasting
- Anglo-Saxon music
- reception of Anglo-Saxon literature and culture
- Anglo-Saxon aesthetics
- pleasure of the exotic
- personal relationships
- depictions of heaven
- definition of the good
- luxury goods
- desire and appetite
- the senses
- the regulation of pleasure
- dreams

Please submit an abstract of no more than 250 words by November 26, 2007. Include your contact information, including active email address, street address, and phone number, and any requests for audio-visual equipment. You may submit abstracts via email to, or send paper submissions to P.O. Box 208302, New Haven, CT 06520. (Paper submissions should arrive by the deadline.)

Conference organizers: Irina Dumitrescu, Denis Ferhatovic, Jordan Zweck.


Thursday, September 20, 2007

Endangered Languages, Dying Wor(l)ds

I was browsing the New York Times online this evening and stumbled across an article I found interesting, which for once intersects in very specific ways with my own interests.

In "Languages Die but Not Their Last Words", journalist John Noble Wiliford talks about the endangered languages in the world today, noting that an endangered language falls out of use approximately every two weeks. An excerpt:

Some languages vanish in an instant, at the death of the sole surviving speaker. Others are lost gradually in bilingual cultures, as indigenous tongues are overwhelmed by the dominant language at school, in the marketplace and on television.

New research, reported yesterday, has found the five regions where languages are disappearing most rapidly: northern Australia, central South America, North America’s upper Pacific coastal zone, eastern Siberia, and Oklahoma and the southwestern United States. All have indigenous people speaking diverse languages, in falling numbers.
It's a bit disconcerting to see the language in which so much of the article is couched. I'm much more used to "endangered species" than "endangered languages." However, there's something about the urgency in the article that touched me:
In a teleconference with reporters yesterday, K. David Harrison, an associate professor of linguistics at Swarthmore, said that more than half the languages had no written form and were “vulnerable to loss and being forgotten.” Their loss leaves no dictionary, no text, no record of the accumulated knowledge and history of a vanished culture.
It seems like a part of what's at stake in the article isn't simply the languages that are threatened; rather, there's a very specific, human cost in their loss. I'm inclined to think that there's a degree to which this shares some focus with other recent posts and comment threads here. The idea of a "deep past" that precedes written history is transformed in this article about languages, leaving open the possibility that there is, increasingly, access to entire histories and peoples lost with the passing of the spoken languages that preserved them.

In a talk with friend (and sometime commenter on this blog) LJS this afternoon over coffee, the subject turned to translation. I've been studying, and attempting to produce, literary translations of Old English poetry over the past year -- a side-effect of participating in two translation workshops, as well as the presence of the new Center for Literary Translation here. I've come to explain my difficulties with literary translation as a problem with poetics: I can be a very good writer, but only of a specific genre (literary criticism). I will, in short, never be a poet.

LJS's response was interesting. He discounted genre as a factor -- rather, he explained my problems with translation as a function of loving language. More precisely, a function of loving Old English more than I'll ever be able to love modern English. I'd never really thought the problem through in those terms, but it makes some sense. I nearly always go for the too-close-to-the-original in my translations. I think it's because I'm worried what my inability to be truly faithful to the original language I'll lose something vital. Or worse yet -- something still living in the dead language.

The end of the article suggests that a large part of the loss of these languages is due to languages that, like modern English, have acheived global use:
Another measure of the threat to many relatively unknown languages, Dr. Harrison said, is that 83 languages with “global” influence are spoken and written by 80 percent of the world population. Most of the others face extinction at a rate, the researchers said, that exceeds that of birds, mammals, fish and plants.
I spend a lot of time with dead languages. In fact, I probably spend too much time with them, given that I prefer to think of them as languages not currently in use. Thinking about my difficulty with translation and Old English, I can't help but wonder if my ambivalence with translation of late is a part of the larger problem: I don't know if the necessity of translation helps or hurts these dying languages, particularly when there is no way to keep them from being pushed out of linguistic currency by the 83 global languages.

In some sense, I think I'm feeling the sadness of losing access to the worlds these languages point to -- the histories that will never be told, the stories that won't be passed down. The worlds that will be left behind, forgotten, because the voices that could speak them fell silent. Preserving the languages is important, and these linguists are performing a service to future study, but how much can they really preserve?

I can't help wondering -- with no hope of even a (silent) fossilized remnant to be interpreted (correctly or incorrectly) afterwards, what happens to stories that aren't passed down? And when these languages die what happens to the worlds and peoples they -- however partially and fragmentedly -- represent?

File that under questions I'm not sure how to even begin answering.

Cross posted at In the Middle


Thursday, September 13, 2007

Same Old Blog, Spiffy New Subtitle

Yes, it's time to update OEinNY to note my newest "change in status."

The box on my little grad school to-do list next to "Pass Oral Exams" has been ticked off as of last Thursday.

Now things can get back to a semblance of normalcy around here. For example: I can start filing all of the file folders I accumulated during this process. I may need a bigger filing cabinet.

Please note the new Subtitle of the blog -- comments? Thoughts? Anything more poetic?

Also -- the best line of congratulations on my survival of last Thursday's exams came from my best friend's husband who noted in part:

We will now, of course, begin referring to you as "Master of Phil." Just exactly who Phil is, and how he's going to take this new role of servitude, I'm not sure.

May you rule justly over him.

Something more substantial tomorrow. For now, I'm just glad I already planned my nine AM class. Meaning: more time to be properly caffeinated before I show up to teach.


Thursday, September 06, 2007

We'll miss you, Luciano

I woke up this morning to sad news: Luciano Pavarotti has lost his battle with pancreatic cancer.

It's strange -- in a lot of ways, I grew up with Pavarotti's music in the background. The Three Tenors concerts were something my whole family sat down to watch together -- more than once. I nearly got kicked out of my family when I said there were moments I like Jose Carreras' voice just a little more than Pavarotti's. Christmas music was always Pavarotti.

I guess I know what I need to download for my orals "soundtrack," don't I. His Nessun Dorma was my first true love in terms of music from opera. I hadn't seen or listened to Pavarotti in a while as of this morning -- but on a day like today, I guess it makes sense that the songs that I listened to for so much of my childhood will be on my iPod today. It's funny -- though clearly there's no personal connection with Pavarotti, the music forged its own kind of connection, to the point that at one time in my family, we spoke of "The Three Tenors" as though they were people we know -- as though they were our friends too. Silly -- but also says something about music, I think.

We'll miss you, Luciano.


Hoping to do a more orals-centric post before the test -- but we'll see. For now, off to teach.