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.

No comments: