Friday, 26 November 2010

Why Medieval...?

So it's the day after Turkey Day, and now that the L-Tryptophan- & carbohydrate-induced coma has passed, I'm making good on a pre-Thanksgiving promise: explain to the world why I'm a medievalist.

I'm a little shocked that I haven't done this before, really. And maybe I have and I just can't locate the post. But either way here it is. It's not really the story of how I chose to be a medievalist; it's more like how medievalism chose me. I just stumbled into really -- as, I think, do many of us. We don't really have conferences. We have support groups. :)

When I started undergrad, I wanted to be an English teacher. High-school level would have suited me just fine. I enjoyed high school English, enjoyed seeing the way the kids learned. I was the guy the other kids turned to to explain what Shakespeare meant, I tutored younger kids in how to spell phonetically. Anyway, I figured I could make a positive contribution that way (not to mention have a great pension plan under the OSSTF, which I will now at some point envy considerably). So the plan was to go to undergrad, get a BA in English, minoring in history, and then apply to teachers' colleges.

The plan was going just fine until third year, when I took a course on Old English. I've always been a fan of other languages, and at the time I was taking my second year of Mandarin (which I can only assume that I passed solely by the grace of an instructor who felt great pity for me, on account of what I then called my unbearable whiteness of being). I'd been taking courses on English history for the previous few years, too, because of the aforesaid history minor and an interest in England.

So I suppose that's where it started. A love of languages and a historical bent for the country my parents came from. I didn't really register it at the time though. I just drifted on in.

The next year, my fourth at undergrad at Northern Megalithic, I enrolled in first-year Latin, and tried to come up with another medieval English course to take. There weren't any, so on the advice of my Old English instructor (now known as @Alliterative) I approached Eminent Beowulf Scholar about supervising my senior essay on what I now realize was an incredibly tired and overdone topic: Beowulf and Christianity. I know.

So that was fourth year. And because of a mixture of things (a masochistic desire to do at least second-year Latin, as well as a missing elective from my course totals) I ended up doing a fifth year of undergrad before applying to one (yes, that's right, only one) MA program. That year I took a brilliant course of the history and development of the English language, and it was at that point that I think I really got it. Getting from "Eyren" to "Eggs" because of the vikings? Yeah, I guess that's when I was hooked.

So, Highly Organized Sister of Mine will attest to what is now becoming my habit of flying by the seat of my pants without backup plans, as not only did I get into the one program I applied to for my MA, I also got into the one program I applied to for my PhD. But I'm getting ahead of myself.

Said MA program was actually an MA in Medieval Studies. Not incidentally, this is where I met Vaulting and, not long thereafter began this blog. Longtime readers will know the rest: a couple of years in Shakerland and a false start or two and here we are. I'm doing a PhD in English at Gothic Revival U and fretting (fretting, I tell you) about the workload. Which still isn't enough to get me to do that work instead of posting this.

So that's it. There to here. As I said, it's not really a post about why I chose Medieval Studies as more about how Medieval Studies ended up choosing me. But there it is. And I can't wait until the next support group meeting -- Kalamazoo 2011. You should come.

Anyhow, I think now Vaulting and I are going to go decorate a Christmas tree over in Shakerland. There are more stories of how people became medievalists over at

Have a happy rest-of-Thanksgiving if you've got it. And a Happy Friday either way.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Today I'm thankful for...

I know tomorrow's thanksgiving, but awesome doesn't last on the interwebs forever. So today I'm thankful for the fact that I don't go sunbathing: because two square metres of sunlight can melt rock.

Have yourselves a happy thanksgiving, even if, like me, you're only borrowing the holiday :)

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Places not to go.

So the UN just voted to remove sexual orientation from a list of reasons not to summarily kill people. Well, strictly speaking, it was a list of things deemed "arbitrary" reasons to kill people that member states pledge to investigate and prosecute. For ten years it's been on the list, but this year it's been removed on a 79-70 vote thanks to Benin and the African group at the UN.

Here's the complete article, but for those of you wondering who is and isn't against preventing the arbitrary killing of LGBTQ people, here are the for and against:

In favour of removing sexual orientation from the list:

Afghanistan, Algeria, Angola, Azerbaijan, Bahamas, Bahrain, Bangladesh, Belize, Benin, Botswana, Brunei Dar-Sala, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Cameroon, China, Comoros, Congo, Cote d’Ivoire, Cuba, Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Democratic Republic of Congo, Djibouti, Egypt, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Ghana, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Indonesia, Iran, Iraq, Jamaica, Jordan, Kazakhstan, Kenya, Kuwait, Lebanon, Lesotho, Liberia, Libya, Madagascar, Malawi, Malaysia, Maldives, Mali, Morocco, Mozambique, Myanmar, Namibia, Niger, Nigeria, Oman, Pakistan, Qatar, Russian Federation, Rwanda, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Saudi Arabia, Senegal, Sierra Leone, Somalia, South Africa, Sudan, Suriname, Swaziland, Syrian Arab Republic, Tajikistan, Tunisia, Uganda, United Arab Emirates, United Republic of Tanzania, Uzbekistan, Viet Nam, Yemen, Zambia, Zimbabwe

In favour of keeping it on the list:

Andorra, Argentina, Armenia, Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bhutan, Bosnia-Herzegovina, Brazil, Bulgaria, Canada, Chile, Costa Rica, Croatia, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Estonia, Finland, France, Georgia, Germany, Greece, Guatemala, Hungary, Iceland, India, Ireland, Israel, Italy, Japan, Latvia, Liechtenstein, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Mexico, Micronesia (FS), Monaco, Montenegro, Nepal, Netherlands, New Zealand, Norway, Panama, Paraguay, Peru, Poland, Portugal, Republic of Korea, Republic of Moldova, Romania, Samoa, San Marino, Serbia, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, Switzerland, Former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia, Timor-Leste, Ukraine, United Kingdom, United States, Uruguay, Venezuela

Well, I guess I know where I'm not going on vacation -- not that I was planning a trip to the Democratic Republic of Congo anytime soon, but there are some definite places on that list that might lose tourist dollars because of this.

Wednesday, 17 November 2010

Something Up

I feel like just posting something shiny today to combat the rain in New England Metropolis. So, if you haven't read it before, or even if you have, go check out Hark, A Vagrant. You'll thank me.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

From somewhere beneath the Ivory Tower

I haven't really had time to digest this yet, but here you are if you haven't yet seen it: An article by a ten-year veteran of an essay-writing service, who may or may not call himself The Shadow Scholar. It's both eye-opening and a little sad. He sounds like he's got a lot of talent, and I can't help but wonder why he hasn't gone into teaching. He's obviously clever enough for it.

Go read it. I'll wait.

I suppose I can see the temptation. The amount I get paid to help students rewrite their own essays (arguably harder than doing it yourself, imho) is chump change compared to what he gets for writing one. And I can certainly see the temptation for students with learning/expression challenges and ESL issues to make use of the services.

Not that I think they should, mind you. I just have a talent for empathy. ;)

In defense of Gothic Revival U, we have a fantastic center for helping out students with learning disabilities and ESL issues, and as far as I'm aware, it's covered under tuition, so if they need the help the only drawback is the time it takes. Which makes it the cheaper option, if not the easier one. At which point one can pretty categorically condemn the use of essay-writing services by any student as lazy and self-entitled.

Oh, and as an update to my last post, Dean Dad did, in fact, respond to Tenured Radical's post about running universities like corporations, but mostly it was a defense of the community college rather than an explanation of the ridiculous sums paid to CEOs of private universities in the US. Ah well. Just call me Huey Long (but please, don't shoot).

Monday, 15 November 2010 much?

After reading this article over at Tenured Radical, I found myself asking a question:

Should any university employee make over a million dollars a year?

Now we're not talking a hundred thousand per year, which sum I fully expect never to make in a single year, though certain people also give me hope in this department, even as they voice their concerns over a lack of raises. This is over a million. That's making the amount of money in a single year that a few years ago investment analysts were saying you should optimistically have in the bank when you retire. At my current rate of pay, it would take me nearly 60 years to gross that amount, let alone save it. Now to be fair, I'm on the low-paying but fair "we pay your costs and you get a degree" scheme right now, and if I don't start making more after I get said degree, well, I'll have to find a new line of work.

So, a cool million.

My answer is a simple, categorical no.

The President of the United States of America only makes 400k. Why should the president of a university make more than double that of the so-called leader of the free world?

And the term "make" is really a misnomer. Why should they be given a million dollars in compensation for their labours? Do they work that much harder? Contribute that much more to the value of the institution? If Dean Dad reads this, I'm sure he'll have an at least half-way reasonable answer from an economic perspective, but me? I just can't see it.

Maybe you have to be a university president to understand why they need to be paid so much.

I just don't understand.

Any hints? Let me know in the comments if you have a good idea.

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Aw, Hell.

Spurred on by my curiosity, after reading that Jonathan Jarrett was going to the seventh level of Hell, I decided to check out where I'd be going.

Looks like for me the elevator's going to ding at the second floor: "Desire, Raging Winds, and Helen of Troy".

If only I could cut down on my lust, I'd make it up to Limbo with the virtuous non-believers. Tricky.

The Second Level of Hell

You have come to a place mute of all light, where the wind bellows as the sea does in a tempest. This is the realm where the lustful spend eternity. Here, sinners are blown around endlessly by the unforgiving winds of unquenchable desire as punishment for their transgressions. The infernal hurricane that never rests hurtles the spirits onward in its rapine, whirling them round, and smiting, it molests them. You have betrayed reason at the behest of your appetite for pleasure, and so here you are doomed to remain. Cleopatra and Helen of Troy are two that share in your fate.

The Dante's Inferno Test has banished you to the Second Level of Hell!
Here is how you matched up against all the levels:
Purgatory (Repenting Believers)Moderate
Level 1 - Limbo (Virtuous Non-Believers)High
Level 2 (Lustful)High
Level 3 (Gluttonous)Very Low
Level 4 (Prodigal and Avaricious)Very Low
Level 5 (Wrathful and Gloomy)Low
Level 6 - The City of Dis (Heretics)Very Low
Level 7 (Violent)Moderate
Level 8- the Malebolge (Fraudulent, Malicious, Panderers)Moderate
Level 9 - Cocytus (Treacherous)Low

Take the Dante's Inferno Test

Friday, 5 November 2010

Move Over Jonathan Swift

Oh Mr. Swift, I'm so sorry to deliver the news: you are no longer the undisputed King of Snark. I must admit, to your credit, sir, that since 1729 and that piece about eating Irish babies you've held a very solid lead, not to mention a special place in my heart. And I'm not certain that you've been entirely dethroned, either, merely that you may need to share.

Behold: The snarkiest thing I've ever read on the internet, a piece by Wendy Molyneux over at the Rumpus.

And so I did that. I tried on all my clothes, and I felt better until I tried on one pair of pants that didn’t fit me anymore. And then I totally started to cry again, because I am so fat. I cried for a little while on the floor while my cats crawled all over me, purring and being symbols of how lonely I am. My cats love to be symbols of my loneliness. Sometimes, I have to be like, “Stop signifying so loudly guys, I’m watching Grey’s Anatomy!”

Oh well, Jon. At least you're being made into a feature film starring Jack Black.

Thursday, 4 November 2010


In other news of the WTF varity, Judith Griggs, editor for Cooks Source magazine, thinks it's okay to steal things off the internet, publish them for profit, and then tell the author to feel grateful for it: check out the blog post over at Smart Bitches, Trashy Books.

Then make a post linking "Judith Griggs" to in order to googlebomb. :)

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

When I grow up, I want to be...

Prompted by this post by Dean Dad, in which he discusses his son's fourth-grade class' goals (boys=rich, girls=married), I thought I'd briefly wax historical on my own goals as a child. I think in the first few grades, most of the boys wanted to be firemen or policemen or astronauts, and most of the girls wanted to be horses. Yeah I don't really understand how that works either, but there was definitely a cadre of young girls at my elementary school who spent every recess pretending to be horses. Not to ride them. Be them.

My best friend was a girl (though not one of the horse-girls) who used to build forts and run around doing stupid sh*t with me. I don't remember what we used to do. Maybe we played house? Well, we probably used our imaginations a lot. All I can really remember of the first three grades is a general feeling of well-being, a few still embarrassing instances of being a temper-tantrum-throwing little freak, reading a stunning quantity of young adult novels (I think I read the entire catalogue of John Bellairs' books, as well as a fantastic number of Famous Five novels), and watching the Van Damme movie Bloodsport when I was over at the house of a friend whose parents were more lenient than mine regarding what he could watch on TV.

When asked what I wanted to be, I think my answer was usually paleontologist. You show a kid one too many shows on dinosaurs and he'll pick up the lingo, even at that age. I specifically wanted to be Jack Horner when I grew up, but anybody who worked with dinosaur bones would've been okay. I might have wanted to be an astronaut, too, because I can remember learning all about the planets and the moon missions and space in general. Now I just love science fiction -- is that just a sign of the times, maybe?

But this whole "be rich" thing? I don't know. I can't remember ever thinking to myself that when I grew up I wanted to be rich. It just wasn't on my radar. I wanted to do cool things, interesting things -- something to do with space(!) or dinosaurs(!!). I'm honestly not surprised by the students in Dead Dad's son's class not thinking about finishing school (high school, college, or otherwise) because I'm pretty sure I had no idea how much schooling was required to do the cool things. I just wanted to do them. But what gets me is the money thing. What kids want, when they grow up, is to be happy and successful. Everything else they say is about what they've internalized about that. So for some of the girls "horses = happy" and for me, "dinosaurs/space = happy" (maybe I wanted to be a dinosaur at one point, rather than someone who studies them?).

DD's son has internalized (probably because of what his dad does) that "university = success"
and so he wants to be successful like his dad. But the other kids have learned to equate money with success, at least the boys, and the girls have learned that having a family is the ticket to happiness or success. Setting aside the disturbing gender divide there (because I can't remember at all what even my best friend wanted to be when she grew up, but I bet it was something cool. I remember her as being pretty cool.) I'm just a little weirded out by the "money = success" thing, I guess. And at such a young age.

So what did you want to be when you grew up? Don't say "medievalist" unless that was actually the case -- wanting to be a knight is something else entirely :D Did you want to be rich? Married? Both?