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.

…No, not the song!

My treat after a hard year and after exams are done is to get a massage.  Today, I had what was quite possibly the best massage I’ve ever had.  My back is usually just the part of my body between my neck and waist, which is opposite my stomach, but during the course of several academic terms and long flights, my back becomes the place where I hold all my stress and anxiety.  Of course, I neglect this part of my body, except for long stretches during yoga.  However, on days like this, when all that pent-up stress is released, my back becomes this force radiating calm and strength.

Having all that bad stuff removed from my muscles made me wonder where else I carry negative feelings or tension.  My heart certainly has its fair share of bruises and scrapes from confrontations with family, friends, and exes.  There are still some situations from years ago that I repeat in my head too often.  There are physical scars from surgeries, falls, and interactions with scared kittens.  My tongue has remembered some tastes I’d rather not have experienced, such as garum in sophomore year Roman history class.  Likewise my nose.  (Burnt popcorn and fried food on a small train?  No, thanks.)

My body has its problems, like with my knees, and I have come to accept that.  However, my feet have carried me all over Italy and England.  My hands have flipped through thousands of pages and written copious amounts of papers, and have nurtured and nourished young animals on the brink of death.  They have been burnt, almost frozen, painted, mittened, and muddied.  They’ve held others’ hands and prayed in churches over four countries.  Come to think of it, I love my hands.

Even though television is quick to suggest methods of making your feet, hands, head, nose, and, back feel better, each sore muscle and patch of skin has memories from my life.  Those scars, seen or unseen, have made me who I am today.  I should remember that my knee injury put me in the position to meet some of the best people I’ve ever had the pleasure of meeting and led to my current path.

I think a sore back is totally worth it.

I steal from the rich and give to the needy.
He takes a wee percentage, but I’m not greedy.
I rescue pretty damsels, man, I’m good.
What a guy, ha-ha, Monsieur Hood!

(From Shrek)

And, P.S.  That Robin Hood paper is done!  Woo-hoo!  I’m currently trying to wait patiently for my grades and for news about a scholarship at Durham.  However, I think the hard part about having nothing to do is waiting for the next thing.  Of course, I’ve been at my computer checking my e-mail and transcript every hour.  I think part of it is that I think I did good work this quarter and on my scholarship essay, and so I’m eager to see how my work was evaluated.  I’m uncertain if I’ll actually take the scholarship, as that would mean being in a different college (College of St Hild and St Bede instead of Ustinov College) and a different set of college-mates (mostly undergrad instead of completely postgrad), but it is funding…

I’ve been done and on summer break since Friday afternoon, and have no academic responsibilities until Saturday morning.  Then, it’s back to Washington for summer quarter.  I’m actually in a hurry to be away from this stifling heat, but I haven’t been home since before Thanksgiving, and so am really enjoying being home.

I kinda sorta knew that Memorial Day was coming up from the sale ads in my email inbox, but I have never paid much attention to the holiday because I’ve always been out of school before.  I actually had to look up the UW calendar to confirm that we don’t have class on Monday.  I didn’t know if it was a school holiday or not.  It was a welcome surprise to see that we do, indeed, have the day off, but the gift of a free day has also put me into a frenzy because next week is the last week of class.  It’s strange how “nice” surprises can somehow turn sour because of circumstances.  I would usually be so relieved to have a day off, but I’m itching to get back to class after this vertigo crapola I’ve been dealing with.

However, on the positive side, I have longer than I thought to work on my research paper.  I’m getting everything sorted out right now, and my desk is an absolute mess.  It’s a constructive mess, though.  I think.  I’ve discovered that as I read, I’m becoming more aware of the best scholars in the field and if I generally like their writing style or not.  That was something I struggled with in classics, probably because I took classes in almost every possible field in that general academic area.  I got to remember the translators I preferred (see my Aeneid post for some comments on that) but didn’t really identify with any particular scholar’s articles or books.  In the Robin Hood area, I’m fond of Ohlgren, Keen, and Knight, even though I sometimes find Keen a little general and Knight a bit pretentious.  However, I can identify sources’ usefulness sometimes based on this.  If I see that an article cites something by one of them or cites the Dobson and Taylor as the source of the Gest, that’s an indicator of something good.

I’ve also been struck by the lack of female scholars in medieval history.  My professor is amazing, and a woman, and one of my favorite articles from class is written by Barbara Hanawalt, but the academics in the last paragraph–the dominant figures in Robin Hood scholarship–are all male.  Granted, academia didn’t have more gender equality until recently, but it’s strange to know that I’ll be going into a field that is predominantly male.  And I have no idea if the UK is as adamant about integrating women into the workforce as the US when it comes to the collegiate level.  I remember the US News and World Report’s statistics on graduate schools, and all of the classics graduate programs were very male-centric.  Hmm.  I guess I’ll have something to look for when I get to Durham.  Hopefully, I won’t be the only girl in my program.  I also have more respect for my classics professors, Mary and Yurie, and my history professor, Charity, after coming to this (belated) realization, and appreciate their hard work even more.

Let’s see…  What else on the academic front?  My next batch of books is on King Edward II, as I’m trying to find good material on the royal court to compare to Robin Hood’s greenwood “court” in the Gest.  I don’t find single monarchs particularly enthralling, so I’m sure it will feel like a slog.  That may be why I decided to take a break and write a post, too.

First, some music to give you an idea of where my head is:

“Merry Men” from Robin Hood

“Ibelin” from Kingdom of Heaven

“The Battle” from Gladiator

There are certain things I like to have nearby when I’m buckling down to research and to write.  Flavored coffee (like the coconut creme I have here now), certain soundtracks playing on iTunes nonstop, and brightly colored pens are great.  I’m usually partial to The Lord of the Rings soundtracks for work, but I’ve made a special playlist for this venture.  It includes Kingdom of Heaven, the new Robin Hood, and Gladiator (I can’t forget my roots!).  Ah, music.  Without it, life wouldn’t be as happy.

iPod Nanos

I don’t know if I mentioned the fact that I love green recently.  Well, I do.  I have no idea if that comes from me starting to focus on medieval history (Lincoln green, the greenwood, etc.) or perhaps from my winters in Minnesota, which are decidedly vacant of green, and boiling summers in Texas and Oklahoma, which have various shades of brown predominating the landscape.  My room is periwinkle, but somehow over the years I’ve collected a green iPod Nano, a green phone cover, a green metal water bottle, and green room and desk accents.

Burghley House Grounds, Lincolnshire

Or maybe I’m morphing into a tree.  Historians and writers would have you believe that stranger things have happened.  Don’t believe me?  Check out John Mandeville; he’s one trippy medieval dude.

I also have this theory that green is the color of evil and death.  Look at the Disney Hercules, The Lord of the Ring trilogy, and the like.  The Underworld is a sickly green color, the Dead Marshes have ghostly green spirits, and the Paths of the Dead have similarly-colored creepy guys.  The Green Knight in Sir Gawain is, well, you know… green.  In the Aeneid, Anchises is in a green field in the Underworld, too, though it’s not as unpleasant as the Greek version.  On the flip side, green is the color of life and safety.  Leaves, the (ahem) greenwood, spring, and “go” signs are all green.  Interesting paradox.  I may smell a paper coming up.

And that reminds me that I should get back to work on my current paper.

A Step Into Green

Good luck to the graduating class of Gustavus, and a special “congratulations” to my friends who are walking tomorrow!