31 March, 2008

Another crazy thing about this country, and Researchy Stuff

Britain has yet to discover warm water. They've got "hot" down pat, and they've mastered "cold" as well. The revolutionary idea of combining the two is still undeveloped. Sinks (and tubs) have a hot spout and a cold spout. Rare is the sink that has but a single spout, from which pours forth wonderful warm water.

In regards to school, I am still working with Margery, and I'm rather annoyed that I will need to read such a wide range of material on her in order to effectively make a point. Everything from the political situation in Lynn in the early fifteenth century to gender relations and the larger milieu of female mysticism.

Today I hearkened way, way back to 4th grade or so, and started making a tally sheet. I am tallying the references to individual works and authors in the mentally-related entries in the Dictionary of Medieval Latin. A chart! David would be pleased. I can even make it fancier and combine it with my Middle English references. (Some of the entries are from Anglo-Saxon/Latin glossaries and point me to further, older, vocabulary!) And then, I can arrange them according to genre.

Charts make me feel like I'm doing something more concrete than just theory-work.

Maybe that's why David likes them so much. You can't argue with a good chart.

Another thing I really like about the Dictionary of Medieval Latin is that it draws on a wider range of genres: the literary sources are balanced by historical and theological sources.

However, I'm finding the actual definitions kind of irritating. Most of the entries gloss a morphological variant of "fool" - but the whole point of what I am doing is to try to figure out what that actually means. And I got a kick out of the glossing of fatuosus and fatuus with "lunatic." "Mad" would be a decent translation for some of the listed sources, but "lunatic" is just plain silly. "Lunatic" refers to a cyclical (generally monthly) madness, not just any madness at all. Sloppy. Tsk.

Life goes well, and now I go back to practicing Latin for the exam in April. :) Cheers!

20 March, 2008

Arrogant Frog

I fear becoming a theorist. At this stage in the game, anyone involved in medieval disability studies is working on developing theory, but I really don't want to turn into Michel Foucault. Or anyone like him.

Maybe that's why I don't want to study Margery overmuch. She wrote a book, and that's about all we know. Any theory done based on Margery will always only ever remain theory. And I'm not enthralled about that.

I want to do more than that, be more than that. Critical theory is essential but if all it remains is theory, we all end up like Foucault.

And no one wants to end up like Foucault.

13 March, 2008


I'm beginning to wrest some sense out of this lexicology work I've been doing. This is good, because I was beginning to dread it. Now the cogs in my mind are working and I am beginning to listen to the words and what they are conveying. I am finding things that interest me, and I'm excited to wake up tomorrow and get back at it.

Words are fun. Reading the dictionary can be a stimulating and profitable enterprise, if you approach it right.

11 March, 2008

I need to make the time

Each summer, the University of York and the University of Norwich hold a graduate student conference for medievalists. We present papers to each other; it's supposedly a low-pressure way to get used to delivering lectures in public. I can get behind that! I have something I might like to present about Margery Kempe, couched in disability studies terms, and I might give that a shot. I don't want to go presenting stuff about dear Margery in a larger setting, such as Kalamazoo, where there are dozens of people present who've been studying her since before I was born. I'm not ready for that level of scrutiny, especially on something I don't really care to devote my life to. But who knows, it might bear fruit!

Also upcoming is the International Medieval Congress in Leeds. This is the European version of the International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo (or at least they're trying to make it so). This year's them is the environment and natural world, which doesn't have much to do with me and anyway it's far too late to submit anything. But next year's theme is heresy and orthodoxy, and given the widespread use of the word "fool" to denote a person who acts contrary to the Natural Law by sinning, I'm sure I can work something in.

It's interesting, this use of the vocabulary of foolishness. On the one hand, it makes clear use of the "natural fool" referent, but on the other, it's such a cursedly popular usage. It's not just that someone who sins acts like a fool to medieval writers. On the contrary, sinning is foolishness. One who sins is a fool, for how else can the egregious breach of the Natural Law be accounted for? It is like we define autism: according to our understanding of human nature, an inability to comprehend the actions of others means a mind that is missing a crucial piece of functioning.* In the Middle Ages, it seems, an ability to act contrary to the self-evident Natural Law that was divinely ordained for humanity's own good signalled a mind which was missing a crucial piece of functioning.

And all of a sudden, my irritation with this "troublesome" usage of the word fool has changed to intrigue and fascination. I must also pursue this. Thank you, O Blog of mine!

* This is a gross oversimplification of autism spectrum disorder, but I am just searching for a modern "disorder" comparable in its heavy emphasis on social interaction.

06 March, 2008

Dear Mr S.

Why did you have to go and spoil our wonderful relationship? I had placed you into the mental category of "People Who Might Have a Clue" but today you had to go and ruin things. Don't you care? I am willing to make this relationship work, but it's not going to be easy. You could help by taking a couple of medieval history classes before you start calling the Renaissance the "re-emergence of Reason."

Don't you know that the Scholastic theologians of the high Middle Ages displayed a respect and reverence for Reason that made it almost a god? Don't you know that never before and rarely since have scholars given such weight to Reason? You've fallen for the Renaissance propaganda, and until you realise the error of your ways, I can no longer trust anything you say about the Medieval period.

And that saddens me. It hurts real deep. I thought I could trust you, and you go and betray me with Erasmus and Foucault. Maybe we can rebuild our relationship, but it will never be quite the same again.

I thought you were different.

- Hurt

04 March, 2008


Oh, and I booked my attendance at the Medieval Congress in Kalamazoo last night. Very exciting. I can't wait for this year and I wish it were May already!


I had my lass class of the term today. What's up with that?

I did a decent job of Latin class today, I think. It was my day to teach and because I never feel like I get enough nice easy Aquinas, I inflicted him on everyone else. Well, I like doing it! We managed to whizz through it pretty quickly, and thanks to both That Horrible Philosophy Class and Excellent David, I think I sounded like I knew something.

I am going to take another stab at the UofT Latin exam again this April. Every chance I get till I pass it, honestly, since York is footing the bill. But with no formal Latin classes between now and the exam, those of us facing it have decided to meet informally to go over old exams and play scrabble. I'm seriously rusty. And hopefully I will get a chance to know my classmates better.

In other news, the absinthe party was a success, and I found a corner where I could chat with people and avoid the dancing. Absinthe is not really that tasty, unless you like licorice a lot.

And in funding news, I have not yet gotten a job, but I called a place yesterday and they said they'd get back to me this evening. Maybe I mistook what "evening" means, but I haven't heard from them yet. I will call again tomorrow. It would be nice to have a certain amount of income that I don't have to pay interest on.