Suburban Academic

Musings of a domesticated scholar

Category: teaching (Page 1 of 2)

Teaching Epics and Speaking Greatness

I began the first unit of “How Literature Happens” with Gilgamesh— perhaps the oldest complete poem known to humanity. And despite this honorific, we know that the words carved out in cuneiform on those ancient tablets had been cobbled together from  fragmentary poem cycles written centuries before. And the subject of those poems was a historical king of Uruk, who had lived centuries before they had been written down. So the oldest story humans have is one that already possessed almost 1000 years of transmission history– a divine, beguiling wink at the editors of today from the earliest poets of our species.

My students loved Mitchell’s “version” of the ancient epic, in part because his poetry is so relatable and fluid. But some were frustrated by the fact that he made no indication to the reader where he had rearranged the order of the original tablets and manuscripts, or when he made something up to fill in longer passages lost to the torments of time. An unannotated text made for smooth reading, of course, but it was cumbersome to handle the endnotes without so much as a corresponding asterisk in the main text.

For a short assignment I asked each of them to type out their favorite and least favorite passages, and explain what they liked or objected to. Then I checked out George’s scholarly edition and translation of the tablets– a two volume set that runs around $400 and weighs more than all of the Beowulfs put together. With considerable effort, I managed to find each of their least favorite passages in this massive work, and I brought in copies of the “official” transcription, translation, and notes so they could compare the philological project with the creative one. Then they did something really, really cool: they each rewrote their least favorite bits in a shared Google document. By the end of the hour, they had re-written a majority of the text, and in doing so had participated in the grand and noble process of making literature their own [NB: the site crashed a million times and it was wildly frustrating for everyone, but I do think they had a good time, and the end product is really, really lovely].

From there we went to Fulk’s prose edition and translation of the Beowulf Manuscript– one of two codices in Cotton Vitellius A xv. Including the entirety of the codex’s contents– an incomplete Life of St Christopher, The Wonders of the East, Letter from Alexander to Aristotle, Beowulf, and Judith– Fulk’s facing-page prose translation seemed dry and distant. Some students eventually warmed up to his Beowulf translation, but the many felt stymied by what they called plotlessness in its predecessors.

Heaney’s illustrated version was met with more enthusiasm, not least because his introductory and prefatory materials showed him to be a *human*– a distinctly different impression from the mechanical and jargon-ridden pages of Fulk (I should say here that I really like and appreciate Fulk’s work, and would love to teach with my favorite translation, by Liuzza). As an early medievalist, I don’t often spend time thinking about authors; the writers and scribes behind of most of what I research are anonymous. As a result, I was particularly struck by how moved my students were by Heaney’s description of how moved he had been in the course of his extraordinary undertaking. By writing about why the project mattered to him, Heaney made his efforts matter to them.

And it is this very notion– the empathetic connection forged by disclosure– that is changing how I feel about these epics, their transmission histories, and my own role as “authority” in the classroom.

That Gilgamesh and Beowulf have been preserved for us is nothing short of miraculous. To be honest, the history of the material survival of these works is far more remarkable and commendable than the Otherworldly adventures and beast-slayings of their protagonists. And I suspect that sharing similar subjects– men who are larger-than-life, these epic heroes– is not quite coincidental. There must be something about the tales of power and pride, fantastical feats of strength and almost unbounded wealth, that appeals to humanity. Yet my students were quick to see that both these stories end ambivalently at best: Gilgamesh fails to procure immortality and returns to his beautiful city with the Greatest Secret for which he has no use; Beowulf’s death leaves his people dispossessed of a ruler, poised precariously on a cliff overlooking their future as a doomed race.

So how have these stories resisted the forgetfulness and folly of humanity, the broker between the productions of the past and posterity of the future?

Epics hold some of our oldest stories; they keep the tales of the “greatest” alive in our minds, and in certain passages (for me: Enkidu’s death; the dragon scene) in our hearts. But we should not neglect the issue of orality: speaking the  names of these figures, the descriptions of their monsters, and the lessons of their deeds– as we do in our classrooms, as we do in our offices, as we do in our homes– allows us to access the past, reuse it for the present, and prepare for our future. Spoken language is more adaptable, fluid, and in many cases more powerful than the written word.

As I reconsider how tales of greatness echo in my own life, I can’t help but wonder what works will be read and discussed by students thousands of years from now. There’s no way to know, of course, but I’d like to think that someone in the far more recent future will hear these names and be moved.

Ælfric and the Rabbit Hole

Welcome back, readers!

I’m working on my  first dissertation chapter–about seafaring saints in Old English hagiography–and I wanted to share my initial experiences. This post is a rant about my frustrations, a suggestion about how others might avoid my pitfalls, and a declaration of my intention to renew the study of Old English by making it–and its contexts– more accessible.

My research strategy was clear: 1) find the Old English saints’ lives that feature boats; 2) close read said texts; 3) find their original Latin sources and compare them; 4) make claims about the seafaring saints’ stories and their analogs.

This is all pretty standard, yes? I’d just go to my editions of hagiography and look at the footnotes. For the Old English Martyrology, this is precisely what I did. Using Christine Rauer‘s “Edition, Translation, and Commentary” I was able to find relevant saints’ tales and their sources. TA-DA!

And then I went back to Ælfric. I have Skeat’s Lives of Saints, whose hagiographic works are  most relevant to my project, and took cursory notes on the Catholic Homilies. Now, Skeat doesn’t give much background on the LS, and the edition is from the late nineteenth century. What followed were days and days and days of fruitless research and of course, all that persistent self-doubt that hitches a ride on these frustrating pursuits.

NationalGeographic

Eventually, though,  I discovered Holy Men and Holy Women: Old English Prose Saints’ Lives and Their Contexts, and it changed everything.  If you want to write on Ælfric, you need this book. 

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Why, you ask?

For the introduction, at the very least. E. Gordon Whatley guides his readers through the Ælfrician canon and the issues attending its many sources in “An Introduction to the Study of Old English Prose Hagiography: Sources and Resources.” His chapter follows “from published Old English  texts to largely unpublished Latin manuscripts” but maintains “its underlying theoretical bias: that English saints’ legends are best read in relation to their individual Latin source texts and in the larger context of Latin hagiography in England and Europe in the early medieval period” (4). Next, he includes a list of “all the texts of individual saints’ lives in OE prose”– a great resource for someone like me who has trouble keeping things straight. The list includes the short title and the text’s id number according to Cameron and Franks’s Plan.

Wait, what plan? “A Plan for the Dictionary of Old English,” which is reviewed here. You might notice that the second paragraph begins by discussing the 280-page “List of Old English Texts” which makes up the third chapter. Is there no better name for this massive document than “Plan”? And why doesn’t every student who’s taken a course in Old English  know about it? Or, even more worrisome, does everyone else know about it? Just how isolated am I?

I didn’t even realize there was a Plan until this week. And this is in part because of how Old English is taught. Once we’ve learned the grammar (and if we do, it’s with no thanks to Bright and Cassidy’s confounding book), we read at first from anthologies. The best of these is Elaine Treharne‘s because it introduces each text within its manuscript context. But of course, the leap from introduction to advanced research is a big one to make, and especially difficult to do on one’s own. It seems to me that  Old English courses should begin in the library, and move out from there. Explain first the bibliographic information, then the manuscript record, and then get to the texts.

Whatley’s explanation of his list illustrates just how complex the field is, even when only pertaining to Ælfric: 

“For reasons of space and redundancy, I have not given manuscript information or, in most cases, citations of printed editions; both are supplied at the appropriate place in the PlanI (which does not, however, include references to Godden’s later edition of ÆCH II). Editions printed since the publication of the Plan may be located in the bibliography of Luke Reinsma for Ælfrician texts and that of Karen Quinn and Kenneth Quinn for non-Ælfrician texts (see second edition), but I have included references (in the Notes) to important editions not mentioned in the Plan, Reinsma, or Quinn and Quinn” (4). 

He recommends other bibliographic resources and clearly articulates particular elements of the  Plan. Then, bless him, he takes us through the many steps of researching an Ælfrician life. Below is a summary of the steps, with my reactions/objections in italics:

  1. Pick a saint
  2. Find the source (passio, probably)
  3. Check an encyclopedia such as Bibliotheca Sanctorum
  4. Consult Books Known to the English, Sources of Anglo-Saxon Literary Culture-What happened to SASLC? Is it ongoing? Why can’t I find much about it on their website?
  5. Recall 19th century groundwork: Forster for Legends in CH; Ott for Skeat’s first volume of LS
  6. Consult Acta Sanctorum, a compilation by Bollandists, of “vitae  or passiones of nearly all the known saints of the Christian Middle Ages whose feast days occur from January through November” (10).  What about December?   “Although Acta Sanctorum remains the greatest single collection of hagiographic texts, it is also, like J.-P. Migne’s more familiar library of patristic texts, Patrologia Latina, out of date and deficient by modern scholary standards…[Its] editions of late classical and early medieval texts…are not usually representative of the sort of texts that Anglo-Saxons such as Aldhelm or Ælfric used in their own hagiography” (10-11).Great.
  7. Look for your specific saint in Analecta Bollondiana,another 19th c Bolandist publication, which “publishes articles in the whole field of hagiography…” Although “working through copious indices of notices of one’s chosen saint, text, or manuscript can be tedius,” it is nevertheless “necessary and invariably rewarding…for anyone in the early stages of a hagiographic project” (11). EARLY STAGES? I’M AT STEP 7! 
  8. Find the Bollandists’ monograph series, Subsidia Hagiographica, which “includes editions of longer texts, special studies, and catalogues of hagiographic texts in medieval mss in the larger and smaller libraries of Europe”.  For my purposes, “catalogues of the libraries of Paris, Brussels, and Rome, which include manuscripts of insular origin, some of the most significant of which, for hagiorgaphy in ASE, have only recently begun to be recognized as insular” (11).
  9. Read this against a) Delehaye’s “classic popular introduction to hagiographic literature” and b) Bibliotheca Hagiographica Latina (BHL), an alphabetical listing of all the Christian saints, Eastern as well as Western, whose lives are preserved in Latin” (11, 12). But once I find the number, how do I find the actual source? Am I using their database all wrong?
  10. Check the Bollandists’ 2 supplements, which relate recensions, new printed editions, studies, and issues in numbering.
  11. Backtrack: Many saints’ lives come from Greek anyway. Look at Siegmund and Berschin. Footnote reveals that Siegmund writes (not surprisingly) in German. Thankfully, Berschin translated by Frakes: Greek Letters and the Latin middle Ages from Jerome to Nicholas of Cusa).
  12. Ooops! Early MSs of England are rare and Bollandists aren’t cataloguing English libraries anyway. Damnit!
  13. Retrieve Zettel’s unpublished dissertation from library (in my case, I asked my cousin at UVA to send me their copy, since no schools in North Carolina had one).  Zettel finds that the Cotton-Corpus Legendary was actually written after Aelfric, but “appears to derive from a collection of saints’ lives, a legendary in effect, in use in late tenth-century England, which in turn derived from a ninth-century continental collection” (14). Why am I doing this? What’s the point? We’ll never figure any of this out. This is stupid. I’m stupid. Arrrgghhh.
  14. Take courage from Whately’s tip to look at Cotton-Corpus Legendary, Harley 3020, Paris BN Lat. 5574, ff.1-39, BN Lat 10861.

So these are the steps one takes to track down an Ælfrician source. I wish there were a more streamlined way to go about this research, but as of now, I rely on this book, my dissertation director, and my fellow medievalists.

In related news, I will be updating and reformatting the Taxonomic Chart of Medieval Research Tools next week, in hopes of contributing a solution to the problem I have raised here. I welcome all recommendations for websites, databases, and even BOOKS you think should be included.

Until then, wishing you each success in discovering the light at the end of your tunnel.

Baby rabbit

Anglo-Saxon Chronicle Map, v 2.0

I recently had the pleasure of presenting my mapping project at SHARP‘s Digital Projects Showcase. I’m in the middle of writing a reflection/call-to-arms on my experience there, but wanted to share my materials sooner. So here they are: images from my handouts and the newest version of the map.

WHAT IS THE ANGLO-SAXON CHRONICLE?


A group of annalistic texts begun in the 9th century and, in one case, extending until the 12th.

It includes a variety of events: birth of Christ; natural and supernatural phenomena; royal births, coronations, deaths, and burials; consecrations; invasions; laws; property endowments; international and inter-family drama; the building (and burning) of towns.

A: the earliest surviving manuscript of the Chronicle; end date 1001; significant interest in Winchester

B: irregular annal numbers; end date 977; updated regnal list from A

C: “chronicle of chronicles” because of its sources; ends in the middle of 1066

D: integrates/conflates sources incorporated by C as one chunk; ends 1079; northern interest

E: longest chronicle version; end date 1154; begins in Old English and ends in Middle English

F: Bilingual

G: Copy of A

WHY MAP THE ANGLO-SAXON CHRONICLE?

In content alone, the Chronicle is an important part of early English history and literature (listory? histerature?) And unlike its contemporary chronicles on the European continent, it is uniquely vernacular. Some versions contain important regnal lists; some include poetry; they all tell a different story of England, documenting in varied narratives of the arrival of Brutus, Angles, Saxons, Vikings, Normans, missionaries, and bishops. Version D has the longest treatment of a woman in it, describing (and perhaps defending?) Margaret of Scotland’s marriage. The same version (D) actually ends mid-word in the annal entry for 1079; version C ends halfway through the entry for 1066—on the Stamford Bridge—and before the Battle of Hastings.

Although annals seem to be primarily focused on time, these are actually just as preoccupied by space. Indeed, location is so important to these texts that until recently, most were referred to as the chronicle of a place name: Winchester Chronicle, Abingdon Chronicle, Worcester Chronicle, and Peterborough Chronicle.  But these names didn’t only show the onomastic interest of the chronicles’ contents; they more accurately reflect the scholarly effort to trace their transmission history—multi-layered narrative.

TEACHING WITH THE CHRONICLE MAP


PROBLEMS WITH MAPPING?
There are plenty of issues surrounding the cartography of complex texts. Here are some that I dealt with in Google Earth: 
1) The map of Anglo-Saxon “England” changes over the course of these texts:



 2) The transmission histories are complicated, at best:
3) There are practical issues of data selection and entry when not all annals have traceable place-names:

So, 


But Google Maps Engine has just come out, and that’s allowed me to sort and change displays. 

BEHOLD, THE ANGLO-SAXON CHRONICLE MAP 2.0!
It sorts data by date and label by event (or vice versa):
It layers multiple versions (10th century A and E shown here, labels hidden):
It allows me to build a database within the mapping program itself:
Still, there are some kinks to work out before I move forward. Consider, for example, what happens when I try to map regions like Wessex and Mercia:
It’s not a pretty sight! Nevertheless, I’ve gotten great help from the UNC librarians and fellow SHARPists. More on both very, very soon.

Til then, 
Map on!

So you want to be a medievalist…

…that’s awesome! Congrats, and welcome. 
I’m about to take exams, and I’d like to share with you some resources that I knew nothing about until I found out I’d be tested on them. In a perfect world I’d have time to explain them all to you. For now, here’s a rough sketch of what they do. And please forgive the strange formatting errors. I’ve spent far too much time trying to html my way out of them already.
Until soon, stay savvy, friends!
Primary Sources: What do you want to find?*
                                   Old English                                                        Middle English
                                          |                                                                             |
Prose                Poetry               MS            Drama                            Verse             Prose                 ?
|                           |                          |                      |                                   |             |                           /
                                                             Record of Early English                                  Manual of Writing
|                           |                          |                   Drama                            /             |      in Middle Eng.           
             Online Corpus of Old                                            (Digital) Index of                      
             English Poetry;                                                      Middle English Verse                                                             

             Anglo-Saxon Poetic                                                                                           

|            Records                             |                                                                        |

English                                      Catalogue of MSs                                      Index of Printed
Historical                                   Containing Anglo-Saxon;                          Middle Eng Prose;
Documents;                               Early English MSs in                                 Index of Middle
Die Gesetze der                         Facsimile                                                    English Prose
Angelsachsen;
Rolls Series;
PASE database
              
            Patrologia Latina
            /
*Latin? —Repertorium Biblium Medii Aevi
            \
                  Acta Sanctorum

Secondary Sources: What kind of question do you have?*      
                        About sources                                                About influence or interpretation
                                |                                                                                       |
Fontes Anglo-Saxonici;                                                                                Anglo-Saxon England; Year’s Work in English
Sources of Anglo-Saxon Literary Culture;                                                Studies; Studies in the Age of Chaucer; Variorum
Sources and Analogues of Chaucer’s Canterbury Tales                         Edition (Chaucer); Arthurian Lit in the Middle Ages
*Old English Newsletter Online and Digital Medievalist are also great sources for sources

Tertiary Sources, etc.: For the very specific, or very general search
Bibliographies: 
International Medieval Bibliography; Bibliography of Publications on Old English through 1972; Bulletin Bibliografique (Societe Internationale Arthurienne)
Indices (indexes?), Surveys, Concordances, etc:
Motif Index of English Metrical Romances; Survey of English Place-Names; Index of Arthurian Names in Middle English; Biographical Register of University of Oxford to AD 1500; Medieval Libraries of Great Britain; Monumenta Germaniae Historica; Dictionary of National Biography; Dictionary of the Middle Ages

Linguistic Aides:
Cambridge History of the English Language, Grammar of Old English (Hogg), Handbook of Middle English Grammar;  A Middle English Syntax; Linguistic Atlas of Late Medieval English, Microfiche Concordance to Old English, Historical Outlines of English Sounds and Inflections; Bosworth-Toller Anglo-Saxon Dictionary; Dictionary of Old English (Toronto)


A manifesto

I’ve recently contributed to HASTAC’S Future of Higher Education Forum, “inspired by a recent workshop called Rethinking Humanities Graduate Education, which was organized by the Scholarly Communication Institute (SCI) and the Consortium of Humanities Centers and Institutes (CHCI)” (hastac.org).

We were asked, 

“If you could change one component about your own academic program, what would it be, and why?”  

You can bet your next holiday Starbucks drink that I was (and have been for some time) quite ready to answer. 

via Debra Rae Cohen


Here’s a brief run-down of my experiences, disappointments, and minor miracles over the past few years. At the end you’ll find my mini-manifesto on graduate education. 

What do you think? What would you change? I open these questions to those within and outside of academia because I think it’s an important question to raise about one’s professional development track, no matter what the profession is. 

Answer: coursework/exams

 had a great two years in my master’s program, but found my PhD program difficult from the very start. I’ve spent the past two and a half years taking courses of no interest to me or relation to what I’d like to study. Perhaps I should have spent that time trying to publish something that didn’t matter to my future work, but frankly I was so disheartened that I spent most of my energy just convincing myself to stay in the program. With little faculty support and a massive, hard-to-navigate administration (who three years later still has my last name wrong), I passed these years in social and academic isolation. 

If the emotional toll that this system has on us is extraordinary, the anxiety is made even more accute by the exam process.
I don’t mind that PhD exams exist, of course. But I do mind that I’m responsible for the equivalent of 2 years of coursework in material that I’ve had to read on my own, outside of my classes. If courses don’t matter to my exams,  I shouldn’t have had to take them– or not four semesters’ worth, anyway. And now that I’m interested in pursuing digital humanities, I feel that I’ve run out of time to commit to classes on programming or other interdiciplinary integrations to my field.
The members of my exam committee have been extraordinarilly understanding about my situation, and I’m quite grateful for their support. Still, in a conversation about funding by, support in, and general funcitonality of higher education, my case illustrates the too-frequently ignored example of an outdated system that costs the university money and the students time– time that is especially precious to those who want to have families, and whose biological clock seems occasionally at odds with our professional plans.
I am not as productive (and by that I mean as published) as those who had the luxury of faculty support during their coursework years. Indeed, of the three medievalists in my cohort, I’m the only one who made it through to the exam stage. And now that I’m here, and now that I have a bit of support, I wonder if it will all be worth it in the end, given what so many people in the third year of their PhDs have already accomplished.
This is not a situation unique to my program or even my school. There needs to be a re-evaluation of what’s expected from PhDs and a re-assesment of how programs can position us to be successful– within and outside of our programs.
I call for a radical streamlining that promotes faculty-student interaction and mentorship, interdisciplinary graduate courses, and a plan of study tailored to students’ scholarly interests and professional goals. Such a system would be inherently and necessarily transparent; it would reduce administrative red tape and demystify the process of applying for fellowships or assistantships. This new system would require and reward mentorship by making it easier for students to participate in professors’ research or teaching. By inspiring and fostering collaboration, this system would make candidates and professors more productive and more valuable. 
Most importantly, a new system would help students spend less but better time in their programs. 

Until next time, stay radical, readers.


On our choices

Mother Sawyer and her devil/dog. 

Reading Arthur F Kinney’s introduction to sixteenth-century The Witch of Edmonton I came across the following line:
“There was inherent in communities like Edmonton a necessity for witches.”
A necessity for witches.

Whoa.

But why did communities need witches, and why did the witches comply?

Evidently, in the early sixteenth century about 80% of England’s population was rural. The manorial system was breaking down, so poverty increased, leading to more desperate times and of course, more desperate measures. When cattle died or crops failed, there needed to be a scapegoat. And what better scapegoat than one who doesn’t fit in– what Kinney calls “unassimilable women”?

This reminded me instantly of the symposium I recently attended at Duke: “Thinking through Death: Corpses and Mortality Strategies in Medieval and Early Modern Europe” [check my twitterfeed for Oct 19]. At the symposium, Diana Presciuti gave a presentation on fifteenth-century Italian paintings of a saint who reassembled and revived a victim of maternal infanticide. Each image illustrated that patriarchal anxieties about infanticide and cannibalism were at once “utterly alien but uncomfortably close to home” for men who feared even the most domestic women. To men frightened by women within the home, women living without the patriarchal buttressing of the “standard” domestic setting must have seemed even more horrifying.

But what about these women? Are they only the victims of social construction? Not in their literary forms, I don’t think. What makes early modern drama so awesomely exciting is the tension between victimization and choice. What complicates this further are the uncomfortable overlaps between necessity and evil, justification and sin, predestination and despair.

Particularly, it’s the very idea of justification– and the horror of its potential realities– that so motivates The Witch of Edmonton.

And guess what?
The witch of Edmonton was real.

Murder pamphlets were popular for generations. This is a late 17th-century example.

Yep. The play was inspired by the real trial and real execution of real woman. The details of these events were published by HER CHAPLAIN– a man in the habit of publishing and profiting from the confessions of the condemned under the auspices of “exempla.” This guy makes Chaucer’s Pardoner look like Santa Claus. 

Here’s a snippet from Sawyer’s “real” interrogation:
Question (paraphrased): “What did you and the devil talk about when he appeared to you? What did he ask of you, and you of him?”
Answer (paraphrased): “He asked how I was, and what he should do for me, and demanded that I give him my soul and body or he would shred me to pieces.”
In what kind of state must someone be in to utter these words?  How is she understanding her own complicity in her witchiness? Does she think she had a choice?

Most importantly, does she know, or can she sense, that her role as a witch was one that the community required of her? If so, is her demonic demise a device of her her own wicked will, or of inevitable fate?

From here, I’ll briefly summarize one of the play’s plots (there are two– the second concerns a pregnant woman, a secret shotgun wedding, her husband’s bigamy and eventual murder of the second wife, and the involvement of a lecherous noble named Arthur) and compare it to Dr Faustus. You’ll have to read to the end to get to the non-academic part 🙂

“Mother Sawyer” has been stealing firewood from her neighbor, who hits her for the theft. We quickly learn that the whole village thinks she’s a witch. Inevitably, she stops fighting it and embraces the label. Ironically, she learns how to be a witch by what she hears from the rumors.

The stick-stealing-turned-neighbor-beating is the last straw for her; she  curses her neighbor and declares that she wants revenge. And as soon as this declaration is made, Dog appears (as a dog in name and form, though he is admittedly a devil).
You see, in the early modern theology explored here and by Marlowe in Dr Faustus, a demon appears any time someone disavows God. Indeed, Dog’s first words are, “Ho! Have I found thee cursing? Now thou art mine own” (II.i, 120).
Compare that to the similar explanation Mephistopheles gives to Faustus:

For when we hear one rack the name of God,
Abjure the Scriptures and his Savior Christ, 
We fly in hope to get his glorious soul,
Nor will we come unless he use such means
Whereby he is in danger to be damned.   
            (I.iii, 48-52)

In both plays, then, the devil comes when he’s called.

In Marlowe’s play, there are some pretty intense suggestions that Faustus is already damned. If he isn’t one of God’s elect, there’s nothing he can do about it– his is a hopeless case.

But the tensions of “God’s elect” and “reprobate” are not as pronounced in The Witch. 
The playwrights show her  to be an impoverished victim of her cruel community more than a power-hungry academic driven by boredom and hubris (Faustus). And in a play that opens with a pregnant woman threatening the good name and fortune of two men (the second plot), we know that ladies have more than marginal or superficial roles. 
There are whole scenes dedicated to onlookers and rumor-mongers– to those looking upon, judging, and condemning the “unassimilable woman.” In this sense, The Witch is nearly opposite Faustus. Sawyer is condemned outside her home by her neighbors who point and jeer. Conversely, Faustus calls the devil into his study, to the ignorance of most of his friends. Hers is a public offense; his a tellingly private and personal transgression.  
Still, Sawyer’s character is no mere scapegoat. Like Faustus, she knowingly makes a contract with a devil in her own blood. And as my students have pointed out, a blood oath usually betokens something bad. Surely she knows that she’s involved in an evil act. In the play, the first thing she asks of her demon familiar is that he kill her neighbor. He can’t (or won’t), but we now know that she has violent intentions. 
NB: If you’re about to sign in pen and the second party suggests you sign with blood instead,  RED FLAG.
Sawyer is arrested, tried, and hanged. Her last words are those of regret; she sees that she has not been in power at all: “There is no damned conjuror like the Devil” (V. iii, 51). 
This seems like an admission of guilt. But could it be an indication of her victimhood, too?
If the real Edmonton needed witches, does Sawyer’s conversion suggest that she was more “assimilable” than we thought?
I invite you to reflect on this post about communities, choices, and the legacies of both. 
So close to an election, our choices make all the difference. 
Don’t they?

HASTAC post

Thanks for returning, kind readers!

I’ve been delightfully busy: conference abstracts, baby showers, cross-country birthdays, digital humanities meetings, TEI presentations, Chaucer lectures, Chronicle mapping, and perhaps most importantly, becoming a HASTAC scholar


I’m thrilled to be joining “a network of individuals and institutions inspired by the possibilities that new technologies offer us for shaping how we learn, teach, communicate, create, and organize our local and global communities.”

As a scholar, I will “blog, host online forums, develop new projects and organize events…around rethinking pedagogy, learning, research & academia for the digital age.

Hooray!
I’ve just posted a couple of entries on their website, so I thought I ‘d try cross-posting myself, in the spirit of experimentation and sharing (it’s pasted below). 

Until soon, promising a much-sooner next time!



Pinterest. Instagram. Steampunk. Cosplay. Food trucks. Mumblecore. Anti-perfumes. World of Warcraft. Plus, typography goes shopping; Apple and value; True Blood and queer brand communities; and place-making and food ways at a Filipino restaurant near you (or not).”

What an opener, no?! Julia Lupton continues the blog post about her design and marketing courses here: http://www.digitalrhetoriccollaborative.org/2012/09/29/design-writing-and-marketing-fictions/
She really got me thinking about the connection between how and why I’ve been hoping to integrate new technologies into my own classroom.
I came to medieval literature through medieval architecture (thank you, Annabel Wharton), and I’ve maintained an interest in teaching my students about how we interact with texts as well as in space. In fact, I recently learned about a fascinating social sciences unit taught by some of my colleagues in first-year composition. During a few class visits to the Chapel Hill cemetery, students take notes on the gravestones, focusing on desciptive writing. They later read social science journals and ultimately write a conference paper on their own “reading” of the cemetery as cultural record. 
Professor Lupton’s courses focus on the newest technologies with which we interact;  the cemetery unit uses old stones and epitaphs as the objects of study. But is there a way to do both? If so, it seems that would involve more than just following an archaeologist on Twitter. But what would it look like for freshmen in college to conduct field research, engage in secondary readings, and join interdisciplinary (or at least multimedia) communities– all for an English class?
Like Lubpton, I “believe that courses in the writing and the humanities that engage with the designed world can matter immediately to how all of us make our livings, in the broadest possible sense.”
And at this stage, I’m wondering what I can do about it. 

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