Friday, May 16, 2003

Tonight my younger brother went to the Matrix Reloaded. Did I go? Of course not, I have better things to do than watch the film of the summer before anyone else at work does and spoils it for me in passing conversation. No, I went to the Medici exhibit at the DIA. Which I saw at Christmas in Chicago. And the sad thing is, I think I enjoyed the exhibit more than I would have enjoyed seeing the film, with or without my little brother. If Keanu himself had escorted me to the film, then perhaps I would have enjoyed that more, but the laws of reality do not permit such felicities..

More on this when I can keep my eyes open. Did I say I was going to blog on Georgette? I will get to it..

Thursday, May 15, 2003

I'm afraid I don't know nearly enough about German and Italian historiography. My home field is England. Nevertheless it makes sense... although, certainly, pockets of the British Isles did glorify the folk as supporters of the nation. I'm especially thinking here of the "Celtic fringe" - for example, Welsh nationalists like Iolo Morgannwg revisited the Welsh bardic tradition in order to create "ancient Welsh glory."

Meanwhile, I don't know if any of our readers are familiar with the Encyclopedia Brown books (squeaky-clean mysteries solved by the brilliant ten-year-old Leroy "Encyclopedia" Brown and his tomboy best friend Sally), but Modern Humorist has gradually been adding to the Encyclopedia canon over the last several years. I direct you to their newest triumph, Encyclopedia Brown and the Case of the Missing WMDs.

"German and Italian historians, for lack of a nation, glorified the folk."

--Jacques Barzun, From Dawn To Decadence
Care of Andy's page.

Okay, fellow Nuns, anchoresses etc.. Discuss! Do you think he's right?

Wednesday, May 14, 2003

Iris Gets Political Again

On the News Hour Today

According to The News Hour with Jim Lehrer, Cholera has been found in Basra, and they still haven't fixed the water problems (This was mentioned on the TV version, I am not sure if its discussed in the Online version). This, in the 'good' city of Iraq. Security is okay, but obviously made problematic by the fact that the troops don't know, and have no training in languages of Iraq. Doesn't Rummy see we need a greater number of civil affairs-trained troops out there to do the job right? People on the street are griping for good reason, but sadly it will be six months to a year before those big US companies hire, train and ship people and supplies out to Iraq for the rebuilding effort. I wish that along with all those secret war activities Bush was doing, he had also been setting up secret rebuilding programs too, instead of just making 'plans,' to be put in place later.

Still, after I watched a mass grave of three thousand being unearthed, all of the dead killed after Gulf War I, I think our action in Iraq was long overdue.

Apparently some 40 Texas Democrats are thwarting the redistricting plan that blatantly favors Republicans by fleeing to Oklahoma, thus forcing the vote on the bill to be cancelled. More power to them.

Video footage of Bush talking about Robust tax cuts makes me wonder if he's selling beer . Great Taste, Less Filling! How can anyone not see his version of tax relief is aimed at people who have dividend taxes to pay-- people who are a lot more wealthy than me.

Welcome back, Sister Scarlett! I am so glad you were able to give a paper on lace in Slovakia and its nationalist overtones. All three of us seem to have a great interest in nationalism, and at least some of us have read chapters from 'Imagined Communities' perhaps too many times. I am now going to make up a calendar for the next few months with will involve placing the GRE down sometime in July.. I really don't think I will get to it before my brother's wedding. When I finish that I will prepare to apply for a masters program at the school of information in both library studies and museum studies. Apparently you can do both. I haven't told my mother this yet, so she continues to carp, making me feel about 18, but if I do tell her, it would be worse.

Good news on the wedding preparations(Not mine, thank god! An Abbess' life for me thankyou;)) : I had my dress refitted and now it looks just lovely, instead of a lump of melted blue moon ice cream on me. Well, more of a light metalic blue meltdown, but you know what I mean. There is actually a website devoted of bad bridesmaid dresses and the like, but I won't bother typing it in, its a one-joke wonder. I also had that little green dress i bought at Chartres fitted so the straps don't fall and it gives me a better figure. I may go back again and get some of my pants fixed so they hold to my waist. See the dangers of doing too many sit-ups?! Its damned expensive. I'm counteracting it by eating large chocolate chip cookies.

Latin is still a living language!

(I wish I had an escariorum lavator. I don't like washing dishes.)

Congrats St. Scarlett on the completed M.Phil and your new status as Ph.D candidate! Also congrats on acquiring some time for a life... (I want some!) Although I'll have a few days off starting as soon as I finish the paper (on the status of the heart in the 13th century Anchoresses' Rule) that's due on Friday. I suppose I should spend those days off on thesis work... but I'm definitely approaching burn out and it's bad. I need to be relaxed by the time I get to Berkeley so I can deal with the new stress there...

Hmm, Nordic Congress of Ethnology and Folklore. That sounds like... I'm not quite sure what it sounds like, actually. Lace and Slovakia, though, that's intriguing. Much more interesting than Habermas (whoever he is), I think.

Medieval jousting tourney, Iris? Certainly, if not an authentic tournament, at least one of the tournaments in the romances of Chretien de Troyes and Marie de France, where the knights display their prowess at arms and bear the sleeves of their ladies-love (lady-loves?). I'm not actually sure how many times these kinds of tournaments occurred historically, and I certainly doubt that they always carried the kind of prestige/sexual benefit that the romances ascribe to them.

You're right about K-Zoo as a kind of competitive space, where prowess is shown by clarity of scholarship and alliances form and grow, while academic wars are quietly fought in the background.

I don't know if you noticed, but we went to a number of "popular" sessions... Arthurian, Tolkien, et cetera. There's a movement (represented mostly by the elder generation) that feels these subjects not to be overly worth studying. The theologians have their clique (you saw them at the Aquinas/Pecham/On Sitting like Socrates session) and the scholars of women's anchoritism have theirs (both the Ancrene Wisse session and the Barking Abbey session). It's quite possible to attend Kalamazoo and only go to sessions in your own particular tiny corner of the Middle Ages. (That is, unless you study medieval Spanish history, three different sessions of which were at the same time on Sunday morning, which, by the way, is the most hellish slot in the entire conference.) The academic wars are there, but if you stay in your own place, you'll only hear one side of them.

I must get work done today. I must get work done today. I must get work done today. Farewell, good sisters.

St Scarlett returns....................

Mother Surperior, you asked me to comment on the tv documentary on the EU's expansion and the hidden agendas of Fischer and the like. It strikes me, that Fischer may not be the only one in Germany voicing the opinion that Turkey should be kept out of the European Union. In fact, there is a huge question mark over the whole prospect of Turkey joining and the EU keeps throwing things in the path of Turkey (economic and political demands). Yes, the economy is unstable and yes Turkey has problems with human rights violations, but frankly, I think it boils down to a serious doubt whether Turkey is 'Europe' or not. Neither Spain nor Greece had an unblemished human rights record or a stable economy when they joined, but there was no question as to their 'Europeanness'. There is a distinct unwillingness from the part of the EU to make any clear policy on Turkey. Basicly, it seems that dealing with the question of Turkey's membership is avoided time and time again, because no one wants to admit that they, like Fischer, are not entirely sure whether they want them to join at all. And it plays no small part that Turkey is a Muslim country, though few are willing to admit it. Thus, the policy towards Turkey is full of vacillations and hidden agendas. The problem is, that membership of the EU has not only economic advantages, but also acts as a legitimizing force and is connected to a sense of belonging to a western, civilised world ( this is connection is made very strongly in Eastern Europe). An outright denial of membership to Turkey would cause all sorts of problems....

And it is important to note that Germany has very many Turkish immigrants, in fact they probably form the largest immigrant group in the country. Therefore Fischers comments leave all of us feeling that there lie some rather unpleasant sentiments behind them..........

Happy blogging girls, see you...St Scarlett

My dear Nunnies,

It is wonderful to hear that you have been expanding your minds together at Kalamazoo 2003 ( tello me, could they not invent at temporary name more befitting to the venue.....Kalamazoo sounds like somewhere the American Association of Clowns would congregating flooding the town with red noses, oversized shoes, polka dotted trousers and balloons.....). Though it seems there were enough red noses, and blushing cheeks from young scholars giving papers on classics they were wholey unfamiliar with.......

Meanwhile, this coincided with my own headache causing attendance of the 29th Nordic Congress of Ethnology and Folklore back on the fair island of Zealand. Here my mind was streched ( and numbed at times, I have to admit), but I did engage in a fair bit of expanding of other peoples mind ( I hope) in presenting a paper. The session contained 5 papers, where of 4 delt more or less with the same discussion of national idenitity and political representation, at a very, very theoretical level. Then I came along an handed out some lace and talked on my project relating it to Slovakia joining the European Union next year (the session was about the relationship between the EU and the nationstate), but completely ignoring their protracted discussions ( to use the polite term) of their different views on Habermas. There were audible thuds as their minds came plummiting down to earth again and I had only too reactions : Half sat there, their eyes glazing over, visibly fighting not to fall asleep, and the other stared at me, seemingly fascinated by the complete mundane and material nature of my studies.

After returning, I had two days to prepare for my upgrading ( from MPhil to PhD status), which I spent wondering around feeling paralysed and wishing it was over. In the end it was fine, after 1 1/2 hours of grilling me we all went for coffee (me and my 3 supervisors) and chatted about collecting and setting up websites for companies to head hunt students, meetings in Denmark and various other bits. Result : I fell free (at last), and I can get on to reading all the books I have not read, getting to see some collections and generally having a life again.

Duties are calling me, so I must run.Will blog on again later. St. Scarlett

Tuesday, May 13, 2003

My K-zoo hangover is finally beginning to lift. No, not alchoholic hangover, academic hangover. I may have sounded grouchy about my visit in the previous post, but in fact, I loved every minute of that conference. I loved the feeling of having a conversation over lunch about literature and history, using complete sentences without the word, 'like' appearing in any of them. I loved hearing other people express their love of learning not just by saying, "I really dig Beowolf," but by reading a paper they had spent hundreds of hours preparing.

For some reason the conference reminds me of a mideival jousting tourney(Andrea will probably shoot me down on this). These students and academics sought to prove their valor(and validity) in a public forum of their peers, which can be as cut throat as being thrown from a horse. This is especially true if you make the kind of mistakes that poor fantasy lit scholar did below. Then again you form friendships and alliances at this kind of conference which could help you in your future scholarly activities, or even in getting a job.

Now that I am home, I miss the hubbub. What do I have to look forward to this week? Weeding Ms. X's condo garden, work, and reading Georgette Heyer. More on her later.

Monday, May 12, 2003

At last, the Mother Superior and Sister Andrea have returned from Kalamazoo 2003, when three thousand medievalists descended upon Western Michigan. We had a lovely time wandering about among the scholars, going to scholarly events, buying T-shirts and books, etc.

Certain things deserve special mention, of course. We shall describe them:
Please note, all of Iris's comments are italicized
Great scholarship. I can't even begin to explain the joy of sitting in a room that holds four or five of the queens among scholars of high medieval English women's anchoritism, when, after a few grad student scholars give their papers on Barking Abbey, the royals begin analyzing the precise gradations of Barking's history and literature. I sat and gawked. I could almost see new books and articles forming in the air around the room. Same goes for the second plenary session, given by Jocelyn Wogan-Browne, in which the good professor (one of the queens of anchoritic scholarship) sang the praises of multilingual research in twelfth- and thirteenth-century "English" literature. Effectively, she gave me a mission statement for handling research for the rest of my life. First plenary was excellent as well, providing genuine and believable connections between antisemitism and homophobia in fifteenth-century Spanish poetry and the wider rise of antisemitism in Spain before 1492.

Yes, much of the scholarship was good. It made my brain hurt. I went to three mind-expanding sessions the first day and nearly had an aneurism. Good thing Monty Python's Holy Grail was on that evening, or I might have been forced to endure more scholarship than I could handle I haven't been back in an academic environment since May of 2002. This was a taste of what I might experience if I ever go back for my masters. I think I need an aspirin.

Horrid scholarship. In one session, which followed medieval themes in a well-known fantasy trilogy by a well-known Old English scholar whose work has recently been made into a well-known movie trilogy by Peter Jackson, there were four presentations. The fourth presenter was a woman not noticeably older than the members of the Nunnery. This woman felt called upon to give her paper while wearing a thin, see-through, low-cut pink blouse over a thin fringed skirt just reaching her knees. She sat upon the desk with her legs crossed as she gave this paper, thus displaying her thigh through the slit in her skirt to the assembled company. Clothing choices aside, this woman's research qualities... well, first, I do not think casual readers of same fantasy trilogy need to examine the pronunciation guide in the appendices, but givers of scholarly papers really ought to. Besides which she made four or five MAJOR errors in her reading of the text. For example, the well-known short furry-footed hero does not die at the end....! Sighhhhh.....

I concur. The tart couldn't discern that although the wizards in the story were not referred to as gods, they were in fact a subset of deified beings, and thus should not have been left our of a paper specifically about actions by gods. Le Duh. Hand me the clue-by-four, Sister Andrea.

Alcohol. I have never seen so much free booze in my life. Of course, most of the free wine at the daily wine hours... well, shall we say, there was alcohol to recommend it. Then again, on Saturday afternoon, the grad students at the University of Central Oklahoma brought home-brewed mead, which was certainly worth drinking, especially the

Metheglin. I always wanted to drink metheglin, spelled "metheglyn" in Susan Cooper's The Dark is Rising when Merriman and Will drink it at Miss Greythorne's ball. It turns out to be a type of mead flavored with cinnamon and ginger (? I didn't get an ingredient list), sweet, spicy and quite worth getting drunk on. In fact, if I could get metheglin at New York pubs, I would do quite a bit more drinking.

Burp.

The Exhibit Hall. Imagine a room the size of a football field, filled with sellers of books on medieval topics, tapestries, manuscript pages, more books on medieval topics, swords-in-soaps, Viking t-shirts... Oh yes, and there were side corridors holding overflow sellers. Imagine Andrea entering this complex of rooms. Imagine Andrea trying very hard not to spend the next year's tuition.

It wasn't quite that big, perhaps a fourth of a football field. Sister Andrea, you must remember, does not have much experience with large fields. She's out east, you know. There were lots of books though, that was true enough. Many were sold by the time we got to them. They sat on the shelves with their "sold" tags stuck inside, jeering at us. Quite disconcerting. I wandered around the stalls asking for new scholarly work on Pecham. No one had any. I found some obscure thesis paper written in 1949, so I bought that. Twenty dollars. Carrying all of Andrea's purchases back to the room, I was amazed by the weight of used money.

The Dance. Quite a hallucinatory experience: hundreds of scholars between the ages of twenty-one and... seventy?... grinding on the dance floor to music that stretches from techno back to polka. I heard a sixty-some-year-old male professor enthusiastically head-banging to "Girls Just Wanna Have Fun" announce, "I love this song. Who sings it?" Oh, and I got a swing-dance lesson... from a fellow grad student who, while not M. Darcy, was certainly worth getting a dance lesson from. It's a pity I'm an incurable klutz.

Grinding is the wrong word. Flailing, is much more appropriately descriptive. There was a kilt. I didn't have a chance to look underneath it. There was a purple mesh shirt, from which all averted their eyes. Old people danced. Young women danced. Geeky, horrid boys danced. Couples danced. Young eligible men sat around the tables arguing about bad presentations, poor scholarship, and collegial politics . They also oogled girls from time to time. Cowards.