March and April brought my first professional engagements at conferences and classes.  After the end of the term at York, during which time I had shadowed and had a fun (but at times trying) time teaching for the first time, I attended the Society for the Study of Medieval Languages and Literature’s first conversation.  The SSMLL and the Corpus Centre for the Study of Greek and Roman Antiquity jointly hosted “Classicists and Medievalists in Conversation: Epic“.  Of course, this event seemed tailor-made for my interests.  I was an undergraduate classicist with a focus on epic, and I am a current medievalist focusing on epic tradition in medieval romance.  This was technically a conference, but it was organised to be a more informal forum for discussion. The short panels left plenty of time for discussion afterwards.  There were lots of big names in the room, and I was particularly starstruck by Philip Hardie whose books I’ve consulted frequently over the past several months.  I think I was a bit timid–this was my first big-girl (as in not just postgraduate) conference, and the discussion tended to be dominated by more experienced, published, and employed academics.  I felt a bit out of place, as much of the discussion was on material I’d never encountered before.  However, it was a good way to dip my toes into the conference pool.  My full conference report can be found here.

St. Hugh’s College, Oxford
Works Cited: http://www.proimmune.com/

Two weeks after the day-long Epic conversation, I went to back to Oxford for the Romance in Medieval Britain Conference at St. Hugh’s College.  This was a three-day event, and the papers were absolutely fantastic.  I got to see two of my fellow PhD workroom friends present papers, talked with academics I’ve encountered at Cambridge and Durham, and meet other new researchers and post-docs with similar interests.  I was pleased to find that there were many others working on various Troy Books and ecphrasis, there was one panel whose papers fit incredibly well with my MA dissertation on hospitality and generosity in Gawain romances.  It was tiring, but extremely rewarding and fun.  After the last panel, I got to walk around the manuscript exhibit at the Bodleian Library.  While perusing the various sections, I bumped into another PhD from the conference who was visiting from Toronto, and we had a lovely afternoon walking in the sunshine.  My goal is to present a paper at the next RMB in two years, and I hope to keep up with the contacts I made this year.

Old Main, Gustavus Adolphus College
Works Cited: http://geography.blog.gustavus.edu/

After that crazy two weeks, I went home and then up to Minnesota to speak at Gustavus.  I shared my study abroad experience at the annual “Why Classics?” event and got an overwhelmingly positive response from the faculty.  The following day, I taught a class on the Aeneid in the Middle Ages with particular attention to the text of Chaucer’s House of Fame (Book 1) and sections of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight.  I was a bit disappointed that the students didn’t seem to work with the Middle English, and I discovered that I should have spent more time on SGGK because the text I provided for that had a modern translation.  I was expecting a Latin class to be a bit more receptive to engaging with the language, but I understand that it was something new for them.  However, I think the class went well even if I presented many novel ideas in a short amount of time.  I spoke with the only medievalist in the English department (who, of course, had been working in admin while I was a student), and he said he struggles each year when deciding on Chaucer text.  To use or not to use the Middle English?  It’s something I don’t think we should struggle with; Chaucer’s Middle English isn’t particularly difficult, and I’ve seen many undergraduate classes who read all the literature without translations.  It’s something to consider in the future, and I’d never thought about it before.

Being back at Gustavus as a speaker was a bit surreal.  I stayed in the guest house and was driven to and from Gustavus by my old advisor.  I was privy to all sorts of gossip and opinions from the faculty about which I had no idea as a student.  It was interesting to be on the other side of the fence–the side shared by professors I highly respect and adore.

I had a fantastic time being a “grown-up” academic for the first time.  It’s scary to be there, and entering into the ivory tower is daunting.  I hope that with practice I can work up to feeling more like I belong among those academics.

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It’s been… a while since my last post (to put it mildly).  I’ve been busy, and at the moment I’m sitting in a room at St. Hugh’s College in Oxford University the night before the Romance in Medieval Britain Conference.  I’m eager to detail the first time I taught, the last conference I went to called “Medievalists and Classicists in Conversation: Epic”, my forthcoming visit to Gustavus to talk to the undergraduates twice, and to talk about what I’ve done in my research thus far.  All that will be done!  However, until I have a bit of spare time this will have to do: a guest blog post I wrote for my friend, Emma.  The main page of her blog, The Fox Charmer, can be found here and her travel blog, Tiptoe through the Tulips here.  We share common interests (museums, Skype dates, Skins and Doctor Who), loves (travelling, Italian art, Latin), backgrounds (Gustavus classicists from the southern US) and goals (postgraduate degrees not in classics but classics-adjacent).

As a side note, you may notice a shift in my spelling.  I’ve been asked to write my thesis using the British spellings instead of the American, so you can usually find me each day wearing my jewellery reading about past civilisations, and occasionally looking up words in an online encyclopaedia.

I’VE SUBMITTED!!!

Works cited: yeex3.blogspot.com

In a few months, bar any unforeseen complications, I will have my Master of Arts degree in Medieval and Renaissance Studies from Durham University.  In a way, I feel as though I haven’t done enough work to warrant a degree even though I know I have.  This year has gone by so quickly.  All told (not including bibliographies), I’ve written roughly 32,601 words in five modules.  My dissertation alone was 14,615 words (roughly 43 A4-sized pages) and six pages of bibliography!  I’ve written and rewritten my PhD research proposal about 5 times and edited it for two separate institutions.  I’ve been on the train for roughly an entire day, spent around three days in airplanes (including the Christmas delay at Heathrow which kept us at the gate for an extra 5 or so hours).  I’ve watched countless hours of iPlayer, spent too many pounds to count on library fees and fines (damn recall!), and drunk at least an Olympic-sized pool’s volume of tea.  I’ve cried out of frustration and sadness, missed several weddings, and seemingly broke two hearts.

Works cited: cupcakesx3.onsugar.com

It’s been an eventful year, and at the end I’m so incredibly grateful for the degree that will result from my work and the friends I’ve gained.  They’ve made the journey worth every drop of blood, sweat, and tears.

Someone recently asked me what I miss about living away from the United States.  I couldn’t come up with much besides being closer to family and friends and certain shops and food items.  (Imagine: no canned pumpkin, and therefore, no pumpkin pie, cookies, soups…  It’s the stuff autumn is made of!)  However, since that conversation I’ve reflected on what I really do love about being abroad, besides the new experiences and the medieval-y atmosphere.  The people I meet when I travel tend to bring out the best in me.

Even in college in Minnesota, the good friends I met there centered me and helped me to figure out what I wanted out of life.  I was less angry and frustrated, probably due to the fact I was no longer boxed into an environment without variety.  Here in Oklahoma (where I am currently spending my spring break), I went to school with mostly white, middle class, conservative, straight Christians.  I never really had to consider the LGBT community or the views of people from different religions and nations.  I was naive, most certainly.  College helped to change that, and the new, exciting people helped me to understand myself.  In addition, this inner revelation let the real me shine through.  I was happy, eager to learn, passionate about my study, more outgoing, and laughed more than I had ever done before.

In England, and even during the brief trips to Italy, the same is true.  Going abroad alone forces me to talk with people and to make “single-serving” friends*, and, as in England, probable lifetime friends.  The most interesting of these “single-serving” friends tend to be very different from me, as in the case of the much older Londoner and his Asian trophy wife or the Brazilian airline worker and American history teacher partner.  I sat next to each couple one night when I was in Florence and had amazing evenings.  When talking with people I know next-to-nothing about, I tend to reflect on my happiest memories, and that brings out the true me, and the best me.  At Durham, the friends I am closest to share my intellectual curiosity and are there for me when I’m homesick, upset, or going through some kind of drama.  I feel free to be me.

My advice to any travelers or potential travelers, whether it be to the next town or to another country, is to meet people and talk about what makes you you.  It’s done wonders for me, and I couldn’t be more thankful for the insight travel has given me.

* “Single-serving” friends are from the film Fight Club.  If you haven’t seen it, you should.  It’s mind-blowing in the best possible way.

My dad and I have been in Durham for two nights and about two days.  It’s lovely to be back in such a picturesque and historical city, though the scholarship is causing a few hiccups.  I’ve met with the reception in the college, put my ginormous suitcases and recent bedding purchases in my room, and met with one of the professors and IMRS participants who championed my acceptance and reception of the scholarship.  All seems well, and the sun is shining brilliantly outside over the cathedral!

However, now that these little things are cleared up, or at least on their ways to being cleared up, I have some big decisions ahead of me.  I have to choose modules (American “classes” or “courses”).  After having experience at the Cambridge summer school and at the University of Washington, I have so many modules I want to take!  First, there are the languages.  I want to have at least some basic understanding of Old English, Middle English (1 term already), Old French, modern French, and Latin (3 years already).  I want to be able to teach classes on Shakespeare, medieval literature (with a focus on later poetry, Arthur, epic, and romance), composition (hooray for my Texas TAAS standardized teaching prep actually coming in handy!), manuscript tradition, and the classical tradition’s progression from its early inception in Greece through the beginning of the Renaissance in Europe.  Whew, that’s a lot!  Plus, a good background in the history of the Middle Ages is something I feel I need, and I’ve gotten some excellent education on that.

The modules I’m looking at are Narrative Transformations (classical antiquity to Renaissance), Roland to Orlando (epic), Paleography (reading manuscripts), Codicology (formation of manuscripts and early print), Old English, and romance (focusing on Arthur).  I know I want to take Narrative Transformations, but so much looks so good!  Is it good or bad to want to know everything about literature in the later Middle Ages?  For the master’s program, perhaps it is.  Perhaps it isn’t and it’ll allow me to fine-tune my specialty.  I want to have a specialty in epic literature and antiquity’s influence on medieval literature.  For me, epic includes things like Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight (a traditional romance), and folklore legends that become epic, like Robin Hood and the entire Matters of Britain and France and Rome/Vulgate Cycle/Arthurian romance.

I’ve been battling customs, crowds, and a lack of internet all day, but I wanted to give an update…

I’m in LONDON! On Tuesday, I’m meeting with a Gustavus and a Cambridge friend for dinner, and Wednesday is a tour of Canterbury (I’m only part way through this book, but it’s a source of great inspiration: Walking to Canterbury).

On Thursday, September 22, we go to Durham, and I’m really looking forward to getting things settled and some of this hideously heavy luggage dropped off!

Cheers!

P.S.  I spent part of my flight watching movies I wouldn’t ordinarily see, such as Sex and the City 2 and The Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time.  Meh.  I probably should have rewatched How to Train Your Dragon, as both of my in-flight films were let-downs.  Quick moral of the story: reviews actually are quite accurate, even if you love the premise.

I’ve seen that there are, indeed, people out there Googling “Hild Bede postgraduate.” Hooray, I’m not alone! Please, speak out and introduce yourselves. I’m fairly clueless right now, so any impressions, anxieties, hopes, and excitement I hope you’ll pass my way in the comments section.

I finally did actually get some kind of information from Hild Bede today. I’m unclear as to whether I should be there on the university-wide postgrad move in day (September 29) or at the HE postgrad move in time (September 18-19). The little information I have is creating more questions. All this, with less than a week to go before liftoff!

Good news, I get a single room. Bad news, not en-suite. Good news, there are postgraduate activities during orientation. Bad news, I’ve seen the other calendar for Ustinov.

I’m sure it will all work out and everything will go fine. It’s just a matter of me staying up really, really late tonight and calling the office. I’m thrilled that I’m finally getting some communication from the college itself. It’s comforting to know they know I exist! Plus, they’re already taking care of switching my enrolment forms, etc, from Ustinov to Hild Bede.

Tonight I’ll be filling out more paperwork and calling the college. I’ll be sure to say how it goes and what my impression of this college is (or, at least as much impression as I can get over the phone!).

Coming soon: pics of my new glasses and my own odyssey to find the perfect, non-breakable pair.