I won’t beat around the bush; this week has been full of chaos.  UK Customs, failed attempts to top up my Orange phone, a mix up with a tutor meeting, my manic Monday of 6 hours of class, and thing after thing driving me insane.  Having said that, I think I have this week planned out well, even though it will be very, very busy, and one thing I can count on to keep me sane is the wonder in books.  There is order and magic and reliability in books, and a full bookshelf calms my soul.  So, here is the contents of the top shelf in my Argos bookcase (which is about 2 1/2 feet long):

  • The Riverside Chaucer
  • The Poems of the Pearl Manuscript, ed. Andrew and Waldron
  • The Riverside Chaucer (library copy)
  • Apollonius of Tyre: Medieval and Renaissance Themes and Variations, Archibald
  • Ovid, Metamorphoses, Norton pub.
  • Ovid, Heroides, Penguin pub.
  • The Lais of Marie de France, Baker Academic pub.
  • Sagas of Warrior Poets, Penguin pub.
  • The Song of Roland, Penguin pub.
  • Chrétien de Troyes, Arthurian Romances, Penguin pub.
  • Christine de Pizan, The Treasure of the City of the Ladies, Penguin pub.
  • Rabelais: Gargantua and Pantagruel, Norton pub.
  • Middle English Romances, Norton Critical Edition
  • Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, trans. Simon Armitage
  • Thomas Malory, Le Morte Darthur, Oxford pub.
  • The Poems of the Cid, Penguin pub.
  • The Nibelunglied, Penguin pub.
  • Dante, Paradisio, trans. John D. Sinclair
  • Las Mocedades de Roderigo, trans. Bailey
  • Chivalry, Maurice Keen
  • The Romance of Tristan, Oxford pub.
  • The Romance of Arthur: An Anthology of Medieval Texts in Translation, ed. Wilhelm
  • Medieval Folklore, Lindahl, McNamara, Lindow
  • Arthur, Daniel Mersey
  • Arthur’s Britain, Leslie Alcock
  • Geoffrey of Monmouth, The History of the Kings of Britain, Penguin pub.
  • Beowulf, trans. Seamus Heaney
  • Robin Hood, J.C. Holt
  • Imagining Robin Hood, A.J. Pollard
  • Rymes of Robin Hood, R.B. Dobson and J. Taylor
  • Robin Hood: A Mythic Biography, Stephen Knight
  • William Langland, Piers Plowman, Penguin pub.
  • Chaucer, The Canterbury Tales, Norton Critical Edition
  • Chaucer’s Major Poetry, ed. Albert C. Baugh

Works Cited: jancology.com

The first chunk until Maurice Keen’s book is for class, while the rest is related to research (I swear!) but is interesting reading on its own.  I am sentimentally attached to my Dobson and Taylor Rymes and to the beautiful copy of Chaucer’s Major Poetry.  The first is the best edition of the original ballads, and is hard to come by.  The Chaucer was given to me by my first Chaucer professor at the University of Washington, who had me for one class one quarter and believed in my ability to do good work in literature.  Times like this, when I’ve become overwhelmed with schoolwork and personal commitments, that books give me solace and quiet my mind.

Now all I’m missing is a comfy armchair.  Let’s face it, the regulation Hild Bede chairs just can’t compare…

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The several weeks I’ve been here have flown by, and already I’m feeling the pangs of home-/Minnesota-sickness. Not to say that Durham is in any way bad (except for maybe the darn hills which, as a wonderful taxi driver once said, “always go up”). Registration was more complicated than I think it needed to be, with students cutting into the queue, no prior computerized registration, and mixed up modules in various departments. Even though my English module is through the IMRS, the reading list was in the English department. Added to the chaos of trying to pin down my advisor with a “this is my career plan” conversation in mind were the many, many freshers (AKA freshman) signing up for classes and not having any idea where they were supposed to do or what they wanted, other than the free pizza coupons, of course.  I truly don’t believe I was that clueless when I was a freshman.  Naive?  Yes.  Clueless and obsessed with getting drunk?  No.

The one thing I’ve come to count on is the availability of my Belvedere blockmates with whom I can chat, joke, and relax.  We live at the top of one big f-ing hill (and Gusties, I no longer think our hill is that impressive.  I’m sorry.) which is immediately preceded by at least one other big hill.  I should get pictures, really.  Even though it’s literally a big pain in my already painful knee, the people here are amazing.  There are English, law, psychology, math, theology, and museum studies students, among others, and we all seem to really get along well.  In my American classes and dorms (as well as my Cambridge summer school) there has been that one person who seems to believe in making life as hard or awkward as possible, but that one seems to be lacking in this area of my college.  Maybe the trek up the hills scared him or her off?

I mentioned that I did, indeed, stand in line for registration, and I got the confirmation email today that it’s gone through.  What I’m left with is (officially) Research Methods, Issues in Medieval and Renaissance Studies, my dissertation, Narrative Transformations, and From Roland to Orlando.  Unofficially, I’m auditing paleography and perhaps an undergraduate Robin Hood class (yeah, bet you didn’t see that one coming).  The reading load looks daunting and the methods class seems long and tedious, but I have a feeling I’ll come out of this programme knowing what I really want to do and what my focus will be.  Plus, this methods class will help me to be a better writer and researcher, which can never be a bad thing.

P.S.  We had postgraduate matriculation today.  We’re now really, really and truly members of the university.  Exciting!

Oh, and next post hopefully will be a bit more organized and I’ll get to show off my new glasses I mentioned.

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.

So, I’m pretty set on accepting this Hild Bede Scholarship.  I am still incredibly waffly (is that a real word?) about this, as I have no idea what the College of St Hild and St Bede’s postgraduate community will be like.  It’s apparently the largest college (Good?  Bad?  I don’t know; more people but pretty gardens and a library), and most of my tuition and accommodation will be paid by the university.

I know it’s so silly that I even considered turning it down.  I suppose it’s because on online forums and through my communication with a MA Med/Ren student from last year I felt like I know what to expect from Ustinov.  I don’t really know anything about Hild Bede, as I was supposed to be prepared for this and notified by the college by now (and, really, about the scholarship about 6 weeks ago, ha…).  It’s a very queasy feeling.  Do I take what I know or take the money and bet my living arrangements, hoping with three weeks to go I’ll have everything arranged?

My main motivation is for my parents.  They’ve been so wonderful, and I know that grad school, especially in another country, is pricey.  This scholarship means that airfare, other travel and paperwork, and a bit of the tuition as a non-EU student is all we’d pay for out-of-pocket.  One of my wisest friends, Heather, said that she knew how I felt about community and the social aspect because, let’s face it, I am rely on my friends and connections.  They’re my life.

Another decision I’m coping with is what to take with me.  I know that there are things I need to buy… and quickly:

  • bookbag or backpack of some variety, probably leather for a “grown up” lifestyle
  • day trip tote/purse for camera, wallet, books, and various smaller necessities
  • coin purse (Damn you, coinage!  How dare you scatter all over the bottom of my bag!)
  • boots, waterproofed
  • coat, waterproof, warmer than my raincoat
  • camera, larger than a pocket-sized, but not $800 like some photo shops would have me buy

And then there are the things I want, and think would be practical, if not necessary:

  • printed photos
  • books (Oh, the agony of whittling down my bookshelf!  ARGH!)
  • DVDs, iPod, computer with its new international ports
  • little reminders of home
  • maps and guidebooks I’ve picked up along the way

Plus the absolutely necessary: clothing, setting up a bank account, passport with completed visa (ta-da!!!), transcripts and related academic stuff, toiletries, etc.

I need to buy a lamp, bookshelf, sheets, etc. there, which will be a pain.  I definitely smell a trip to Newcastle and a large order on Amazon.co.uk.

Amazon reminds me of my time yesterday at Half Price Books, a dangerous, dangerous place for me.  I have read several of Marie de France’s lais while at UW, including Lanval (knight of King Arthur’s court) and the wonderful Bisclavret (werewolf, based some on Petronius’ Satyricon, hooray!).  Not one person in the store had heard of it, but I did get one amazing anthropologist staffer intrigued!  I think before bed I’ll order the book, which will make happy reading.  I also picked up J. C. Holt’s book on Robin Hood, the Old French Tristan saga (translated!), an anthology of women poets from antiquity to modern times, and a good resource book on Arthur, including the research and theories about the legends beginning with Malory, Wace, and Laȝamon.  Good stuff.  Very bad.

I’m reading the second book by Carlos Ruiz Zafón, which is a prequel to The Shadow of the Wind.  It’s called The Angel’s Game and am loving it!  I also recently read my first book by Isabella Allende, Inés of My Soul, which was completely appropriate with its just post-Inquisition Spain/Peru/Chile setting following my Late Middle Ages’ lecture on the Reformation, the Reconquista, and the Inquisition.  Mmmmmm…  So many books, so little time!

…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!

I’ve been very absent from the blogging world for a while, and a lot has happened since I last wrote.

I was very emotional about the whole family thing last time, as anyone could probably see, mostly because as children we tend to remember the hurtful stuff and not the wonderful bits.  I truly miss my extended family, and really want to meet my cousins’ new(ish!) spouses and children.  The last time I saw most of my extended family, excluding those who were living in Texas around the same time we were, was when I was very young.  I think I was 10 or 11, while my closest cousin was 17 or so.  Add to those uncomfortable memories the fact that I think some of them think I’m having a romantic relationship with or am sleeping with my roommate (which I should point out, I’m not, as he’s a brother to me and anything more than that would be, uh, awkward to say the least).  It wound up being impossible to do, anyway, as my Latin final was in the very last final exam time, ending at 6:30 pm the night before the party.  I somehow doubt that I would have been good company after all that cramming, a long flight, and probably very little sleep…

As I believe I mentioned before, I was accepted into the MA programs in Medieval Studies / Medieval and Renaissance Studies / Medieaval Studies at St Andrews, York, and Durham.  I finally accepted DURHAM!  I’m so excited and really can’t wait to get enrolled and find out where I’m living and if I got financial aide, etc, etc, etc.  It’s just such a beautiful place and I really feel like I’ll fit in well, especially since I’ve been corresponding with the girlfriend of my dad’s colleague’s son (got all that?) who is currently at Durham.  I know what I need to work on and how I need to prepare, which is why I’m determined to work my butt off this coming term at Washington.  I know that those grades and that transcript aren’t really for anything but to satisfy my own incurable desire for knowledge, but I think they’ll help me to jump into a master’s schedule.

Speaking of UWash, spring quarter starts tomorrow today!  If I can get all the signatures I need from my professors and departments, I’ll be taking two English classes (Middle English and Chaucer) and a history colloquium (Medieval Outlaws).  I’m so amazingly excited.  Really.  I mean, medieval outlaws?!  A class to just focus on the late medieval writer Chaucer?!  A class where I can learn to read Middle-freaking-English and the original Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, Piers Plowman, and Chaucer?!  My brain is totally going to explode, in a good way!

Let’s see, on the film front, I’ve been using my Netflix membership wisely and have seen some great movies in the past month or so, and more in theaters.  Here’s my list of films and if they’re starred, they’re worth seeing (in my opinion):

  • Alice in Wonderland (3D)
  • How to Train Your Dragon*
  • The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus
  • Up in the Air*
  • Fantastic Mr. Fox*
  • A Serious Man*
  • Rebecca (Hitchcock, 1940, one of my new favorite films AND books!)*
  • Northanger Abbey (2000s, PBS/BBC)*
  • The Usual Suspects*
  • Sherlock Holmes*
  • Avatar*
  • Precious*
  • The Hurt Locker*
  • The Informant!*
  • Cinema Paradiso (complete with the cutie from Like Water for Chocolate!)*
  • Mulholland Dr. (* if you’re ready for a VERY distorted film that will make you wonder, “What the heck was that about?!”)
  • Hunger*
  • Unbearable Lightness of Being*

I’m eagerly awaiting The Princess and the Frog and An Education.  I should mention that Northanger Abbey up there has the fantastic Carey Mulligan in a supporting role.  As far as the theater films go, I am so excited for Clash of the Titans, Robin Hood, and Sharpe’s 16 (I have the episodes 1-15 at home, and admit that British history under Wellington is much more interesting when including Sean Bean).  I also should mention that I probably will have some kind of intellectual orgasm from the new Robin Hood, which is unusual for me.  I loved Elizabeth and Shakespeare in Love and Queen Margot, but that’s not my focus.  I hated (with a firey passion) Troy and Alexander, though Ridley Scott is mostly amazing, with Gladiator and Kingdom of Heaven to show for it.  And I have two copies of each of those on DVD (theatrical and extended editions.  Shhh–no judging!  I like my DVD extras and commentary.  Plus, more Russell Crowe and buff Orlando Bloom is NEVER a bad thing!)

I’m going to leave it at that for the evening.  I actually have to be up in the morning.  Where did spring break go?!

Here are a few pictures to hopefully entertain you.  I was able to see my cousin, Scott, last week when he was in the Seattle area for his work with Microsoft.  We ate at the Crab Pot restaurant on the waterfront, which was amazing.  I haven’t seen him and the rest of his family since we first moved to Oklahoma City, and he and his wife, Laura, are incredible people.  I remember holding their two youngest boys in my arms after they were born and knowing then (at 13? 14?) I wanted to be a mom.  I even crosstitched an ark for their eldest, Matthew, when he was born.  I really can’t wait to see them almost grown up and to meet the youngest, Ryan, for the first time.

The second picture is from Veronica’s visit to Seattle.  We met at Pike’s Place Market on a Sunday, and then I met her on the UW campus for a Coke after class the next day, when this pic was taken.  Don’t worry…  Our expressions are completely normal.  We have a tradition of taking pictures with utensils in our mouths each time we get together!

Here’s to a happy spring to each of you!

Scott and me, March 2010

Traditional Picture of Veronica and Me, March 2010