CFP: ICMS (Kalamazoo) Roundtable: “The Ballad of the Lone Medievalist”

Once again, MassMedieval is organizing a roundtable for the International Congress. For the 2015 Congress, our topic is “The Ballad of the Lone Medievalist: Succeeding in Academic Life at Smaller Colleges and Universities.”

For many medievalists who are fortunate to find jobs in academe, the professional reality is that we’re unlikely to be surrounded by colleagues who share our areas of expertise and interest. In most cases, a department will hire only a single medieval specialist–and may be hard-pressed to convince administrations or hiring committees to approve even that one. While the advent of digital technologies has brought us the possibility of closer contact and greater collaboration with our fellow medievalists, our resource access, teaching opportunities, tenure cases, and other facets of our professional lives can be affected by our lack of numbers and by questions about the nature and value of what we do. This roundtable, as the title suggests, will address success strategies for professional engagement, curriculum planning, and reappointment & tenure cases as the “lone medievalist” in a department or institution.

We have a couple of seats on the roundtable still available–if you’d like to take part in this important conversation, please e-mail John at john.sexton@bridgew.edu by September 15. Thanks!

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Kalamazoo 2014: MassMedieval Roundtable – “Digital Life of Twenty-First-Century Medieval Studies”

I know that I promised a final blog post about the last day of KZoo, specifically MassMedieval’s roundtable, “Medievalists and the Social Media Pilgrimage: The Digital Life of Twenty-First-Century Medieval Studies,” featuring  John; Peter Konieczny, Medievalists.netBrandon W. Hawk, University of Connecticut; Andrew M. Pfrenger, Kent State University–Salem; Joshua R. Eyler, Rice University; and M. Wendy Hennequin, Tennessee State University. Unfortunately, I simply haven’t had the time! To make up for my lapse, I decided, in lieu of a traditional post and in the spirit of the subject of the roundtable itself, to create a Storify of the Tweets from the session, which gives a fairly complete summary of the discussions. Take a look! –Kisha

Leave a comment

Filed under Conferences, Kalamazoo, Technology

Blogging a Blog by a Fellow Blogger: Kalamazoo blogs and videos

Kisha Tracy:

Shout outs for MassMedieval on Anna Smol’s blog. Thank you!

Originally posted on Anna Smol:

Kalamazoo campus swan pondIf you regret not being able to go to the 49th International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, Michigan (or you just didn’t get to all the sessions you wanted, or you want to review the ones that you did attend), I’ve collected some blog posts and videos that might give you a taste of the kinds of topics that were discussed. This conference is huge, with over 500 sessions in all fields of medieval studies, so my list is not representative, but the following links will lead you to a few summaries of presentations and in some cases, even entire conference papers.

I’ll start with the Tolkien at Kalamazoo sessions. Although I sometimes write up summaries of Tolkien conference sessions for this blog, this year Andrew Higgins has done the work with an excellent “Kalamazoo 2014 Round-Up” for the Tolkien Society.

Kisha Tracy also commented on the

View original 511 more words

Leave a comment

Filed under Uncategorized

Guest Post – Jonathan Hsy: & (Presented at ICMS 2014)

MassMedieval is proud to present a second surprise! Jonathan Hsy was a panelist on the same Babel punctuation session at ICMS 2014 referenced in my previous post and in the guest post by Josh Eyler. After reading these posts (and publicizing them widely), Jonathan has also offered us the full text of his presentation on the ampersand (&). We are very grateful for this continued generosity, and we hope our readers are enjoying this series of posts as much as we are.

Jonathan Hsy is Associate Professor of English at George Washington University, and his research and teaching interests span the fields of translation studies and disability theory. His first book, Trading Tongues: Merchants, Multilingualism, and Medieval Literature (Ohio State University Press, 2013) investigates the work of polyglot urban writers across the late medieval and early Tudor eras. His current book project, Disability and Life Writing: Authorship as Advocacy, Then and Now, explores writing by medieval authors who self-identify as blind or deaf. Hsy is also the founding Co-Director (with Alexa Huang) of the GW Digital Humanities Institute, and he is currently involved in a few collaborative digital endeavors. He blogs at In The Middle, serves on the Editorial Committee of the Online Medieval Disability Glossary, and is collaborating with Candace Barrington on Global Chaucers, an emergent online archive of modern adaptations of Chaucer in non-Anglophone settings.

In modern English, the symbol & [ampersand] stands out among punctuation marks due to its status not as a silent break between words but rather a glyph that signifies an entire word in itself. That is to say, the ampersand functions not as a punctuation mark but rather as a logogram, compressing an entire word (semantic unit) into one graphic symbol. The ampersand, moreover, really came into its own in Middle Ages as a ligature: most visible, for instance, in the linking of Carolingian letters E and T (the Latin word “et”).[1]

ampersand image 1

Over time, the stylized glyph transformed and was eventually carried over into vernacular languages as the grammatical conjunction that we pronounce, in English, as “and.”

I really love the ampersand because it’s so cute. So beautiful. So aesthetically pleasing. So logographically distinctive. The aptly-named blog 300&65 Ampersands devoted an entire year (2010 to be precise) to celebrating the ampersand in all its variety. Each day readers were reminded that the ampersand marks a distinctive flourish for graphic designers and typographers alike.

I also love the ampersand for its conspicuous capacity to signify “and”-ness across languages. The symbol has unique conjunctive powers, and the ampersand does not so much conjoin thoughts as squish them together, enacting a confluence of languages. The name “ampersand,” of course, derives from a bilingual utterance that schoolchildren would recite back in the days when the symbol was considered a “letter” of the alphabet like A and I. In this 19th-century hornbook, the ampersand appears at the end of the alphabet after all the capital letters. When reciting the alphabet (so the story goes), schoolchildren would make the utterance “A per se A” [A by itself means “A”], “I per se I” [I by itself means “I”], and “and per se and” to drive home the point that the symbol “by itself” signaled an entire word. “And per se and” becomes “Ampersand.” Its very name in modern English squishes together two languages (English and Latin) into a conjunctive neologism.

At this point I’d like to pivot to consider the post-medieval life of the ampersand when it enters into print culture and show some of the ways it brazenly flaunts its capacity to move across tongues. Shakespeare’s Henry V is one of my favorite fictive explorations of medieval language contact. In the final courtship scene (Act 5, scene 2), English Henry woos French Katherine initially through her interpreter Alice but soon both attempt to speak, however haltingly, in the other’s language. In this excerpt from a printing of Henry V in Shakespeare’s First Folio(1623), the French dialogue (code-switching) is signaled by italics.[2]

ampersand image 2

First, Henry speaks to Katherine in his halting French: “Ie quand sur le possession de Fraunce, & quand vous aues le possession de moy … Donc vostre est Fraunce, & vous estes mienne” [When I have the possession of France, and (&) when you have the possession of me, then France is yours, and (&) you are mine]. Throughout Henry’s utterance, the ampersand marks the French conjunction “et” [and], conjoining a chain of thoughts on language and reciprocal possession. Katherine then praises Henry’s French: “le Francois ques vous parleis, il & melius que l’Anglois le quel Ie parle” [the French that you speak, it is (& = est) better than the English that I speak]. Here, the ampersand shifts, standing in now for the French verb “est” [is] rather than the conjunction “et” [and]. In a case of typographical irony, the early modern compositor has improperly repurposed the multivalent logogram. Fittingly, this typographical toggling happens in the very episode in the play where boundaries between French and English vernaculars and their overlapping claims to “possession” are increasingly blurred.

And now for a coda, addition, appendix, appendage: some brief comments on the ampersand’s sibling, the Tironian “et” (i.e., the numeral-seven-shaped symbol or plus-sign glyph that also signifies the word “and”).[3] In one sense this Tironian symbol has a parallel life to the ampersand. On the QWERTY keyboard the ampersand (&) lives on the same key as seven (7), suggesting a typographical coupling or toggling between the two. And these symbols’ parallel lives nicely register across languages. This sign for a “pay and park” in Ireland uses the Tironian 7 in the Irish text but the & (ampersand) in English text below.[4]

Stan Carey - íoc & taispeáin, with Tironian et

Despite their similarity in meaning, the Tironian symbol and the ampersand are not entirely interchangeable. The Tironian “and” diverges from the ampersand in another important respect: it can serve a slightly different grammatical role in Latin. The mark in Latin texts did not merely signify a conjunction but could stand in for the enclitic suffix “-que” (meaning “and”).[5]

Perhaps, then, the Tironian “et” and the ampersand engage in a kind of graphic and syntactic sibling rivalry. I leave you with this poster in which Shakespeare is typographically surpassed by the Middle Ages through a deliberate divergence in punctuation. Some of the promotional posters for the film Tristan and Isolde (2006) use a provocative tagline that deploys two different symbols for the word “and.” This poster reads: “Before there was Romeo and [&] Juliet, there was Tristan and [+] Isolde.”[6]

ampersand image 4

So the next time you see the ampersand (or its sibling, the Tironian “and”), don’t just admire the symbol because it’s cute or aesthetically pleasing. Respect it as a logogram. Marvel at its power to move across languages. And consider how it encourages us to adopt not so much “conjunctive” thinking as a concurrent processing of languages and meanings.

[1] Image 1 is excerpted from the section on the ampersand from Keith Houston’s informative book on punctuation marks, Shady Characters (2013); the blog that spawned Houston’s book is also excellent.

[2] Image 2 is a screenshot from this digital reproduction of the Brandeis University Library copy of the First Folio, via Internet Shakespeare Editions.

[3] For the history of this symbol, see Keith Houston’s excellent blog posting.

[4] Image 3 can be accessed on this entry on Stan Carey’s language blog, along with related links about the ampersand.

[5] See Adriano Cappelli (trans. David Heimann and Richard Kay), The elements of abbreviation in medieval Latin paleography (Lawrence: University of Kansas Libraries, 1982), section 3.72 [p. 18].

[6] Image 4 was accessed through Craig Koban’s online review of Tristan and Isolde (2006).

1 Comment

Filed under Conferences, Guest Post, Kalamazoo

Guest Post – Josh Eyler: , (A Breath) (Presented at ICMS 2014)

In my last post, I wrote about the BABEL punctuation session at the 2014 International Congress on Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo, MI, and, in particular, the meaningful presentation by Josh Eyler on the comma. Now we have a surprise – he has been generous enough to post the full text of his presentation here on MassMedieval! We are very grateful for this opportunity and thank Josh for his willingness to share his work with us – and you.

After receiving his Ph.D. in Medieval Studies from the University of Connecticut in 2006, Josh Eyler moved to a position as Assistant Professor in the English department at Columbus State University in Georgia.  Although he was approved for tenure at CSU, his love for teaching and his desire to work with instructors from many different disciplines led him to the field of faculty development and to George Mason University, where he served as an Associate Director of the Center for Teaching and Faculty Excellence from 2011-2013. In August of 2013, he moved to Rice University to take the positions of Director of the Center for Teaching Excellence and Adjunct Associate Professor of Humanities. He has published broadly on medieval literature, and his eclectic research interests include brain-based learning theories, Chaucer, and disability studies.  His current projects include the book Teaching the Humanities in the 21st Century, which is under contract with the University of Nebraska Press.


The Comma:  it has always intrigued me that such a tiny sliver of ink on paper, as Kurt Vonnegut used to say, could be so powerful.  There are, of course, the heated debates about the Oxford comma that drive proponents of either side into near apoplexy (I am unabashedly in favor of ol’ Oxie).  And there are the books and internet memes shouting at us about the ways in which “Punctuation Saves Lives!”  When used effectively, commas can magnify beauty, as in the elegant, yet potent, appositive in the title of John Updike’s Rabbit, Run, or in the proliferation that drives us deeper into the consciousness of Woolf’s Mrs. Dalloway.  At the same time, when implemented poorly, commas can render prose nearly unintelligible.  There is power there.  I would like to suggest, though, that the comma’s power is more than just a stylistic one; it is a philosophical one too.  Today I want to productively splice the comma, weaving together a number of different perspectives on our field of Medieval Studies and ourselves.  To do so, I want to a build off of a foundation laid out in the Pulitzer Prize winning play Wit by Margaret Edson.  As you may recall, Wit tells the story of Vivian Bearing, a scholar specializing in John Donne’s poetry, and her ultimately unsuccessful battle with cancer.  In one particular scene, Vivian recalls her time as a graduate student and a meeting she has with her mentor Professor E. M. Ashford.

(The scene performed in the session ends with “It isn’t?”)

It’s not.  The point is the pause.  The breath.

As I think about this field that caught my mind and my heart many years ago now, I think about a comma the way Ashford describes it.  The Middle Ages offer the pregnant pause of possibility, the nurturing breath that gave rise to some of the most profound works of art the world has ever produced.  And yet, at the same time, those centuries that we group together and label as “medieval” still represent only the briefest of moments before the world began to move in different directions.  Time has always operated like this.  The Classical era, the Middle Ages, the Renaissance, then, now, tomorrow—all simply breaths in the collective sigh of the past.  Because, despite what Stephen Greenblatt and other Burckhardtians would have us believe, history is not made up of full-stop “periods,” all separate from each other, but of commas, one inextricably linked to the next as parts of the same structure.

In a similar way, only the smallest of pauses, a comma, separates us from the medieval world.  The art of the Middle Ages still speaks to us with immediacy and urgency.  When Dante talks about his dark wood, we understand; manuscripts, written by hands not very different from our own, capture us intellectually; Chaucer’s jokes about bodily functions make us laugh; Boccaccio’s gripping account of the bubonic plague reveal what could still account for the best and worst in human nature; cathedrals and castles built a thousand years ago continue to inspire; Julian of Norwich’s claim that “all shall be well” resonates with a comforting, if not entirely convincing, hope.

Finally, nothing but a breath, a comma, separates us from our students–for we do not teach medieval literature, medieval art, medieval history, or medieval archaeology; we teach students about these subjects, about new ways to see their world through the lens of the past.  Our field will continue to live and breathe only insofar as we dedicate ourselves to teaching it.  And here I look to the wisdom of my dissertation director, Fred Biggs, who once told me that *everything* is a teaching activity—writing, presenting, publishing, but especially our work in the classroom, where we will teach hundreds and even thousands of students over the course of a career.  The work we do with our students will push back the boundaries of our knowledge about the Middle Ages ever further, but to accomplish this we need to tear down the tenuous hierarchies of our classrooms—professor/student, expert/novice—and move forward together as fellow learners, engaging in projects together, teaching each other, finding meaning together in this moment—our own pause, our breath, our comma.

4 Comments

Filed under Conferences, Guest Post, Kalamazoo

Kalamazoo 2014: Saturday (BABELing Punctuation)

Yesterday, I spent time at the exhibition hall and early dinner, so I only made one session. As it happened, it was a rich session and one in which I got to play a small role. This panel was the BABEL working group’s discussion of our ever favorite and often frustrating punctuation marks. Each member of the panel addressed a different type of punctuation: the space, the apostrophe, the comma, the interrobang, the asterisk, and the ampersand. The talks ranged from the outrageous to the poignant, which perhaps illustrates an idea that came up in more than one of the talks: punctuation both incites emotion and drives it. How it incites varies. For instance, who has not seen or experienced the frustration elicited upon encountering a missing apostrophe (as David Hadbawnik pointed out in countless memes devoted to the subject)? This (and I proudly admit I’m one of the most rabid) despite that many punctuation marks are in relative infancy of their so-called modern codification (ex. earlier in its history, the apostrophe was indeed used to form the plural: tomato’s).

Yet, the emotion of punctuation is not limited to that created by its misuse. Its significance, for instance, in literature and poetry can be the difference in whether the writing speaks or is mute. My friend Josh Eyler presented on the comma, and a few weeks back he asked if I and another friend, Cameron Hunt McNabb, would be up for helping him with a rather unorthodox plan. How could we not? His idea was indeed unorthodox, but a perfect fit for the concept of his talk and the concept of the panel. After a brief introduction, Josh began to discuss the Margaret Edson play Wit of which there is also a film version starring the incomparable Emma Thompson. The play is about Vivian Bearing, an English professor and a Donne scholar, who is diagnosed with cancer, and the story is a series of flashbacks that follow the path of her treatment. At a pre-arranged cue, Cameron and I stood up out of the audience and, entering from both sides of the stage, began a dramatic reading of a scene from the play that Josh had described. If I hadn’t been a bit preoccupied, I would have liked to have seen what I am sure was surprise from the audience! Unorthodox indeed.

To speak to the scene, however, it is a moving moment that revolves around, of all things, the comma. In the flashback, Vivian remembers a discussion with her professor, Dr. E.M. Ashford (my role in our amateur production), in which she is told to rewrite a paper because she has used the wrong edition of Donne’s “Holy Sonnet Six” in favor of one that is “inauthentically punctuated.” What begins as humorous turns to the poignant as Ashford verbally removes all the unnecessary punctuation from a line of the poem, returning it to the “authentic edition’s” simple comma.

“And death shall be no more, comma, Death thou shalt die.”

“Nothing but a breath – a comma – separates life from everlasting life.”

A breath. After our scene, Josh expanded upon this concept as he considered thinking of time periods as commas, thus reminding us that we are only separated from the Middle Ages by a breath. He drew even more from this as he indicated that we also are only separated from our students by a breath, a comma, a pause, rather than the “insuperable barriers” that all too often get built.

The scene in the film:

To move on to the rest of the panel, my thoughts are rather a jumble. I will attempt to sort them with one of my own favorite punctuation: the bullet mark.

  • The first talk, “Seeing Spaces” by Chris Piuma, brought up one idea in particular that I want to mull further. He commented that spaces are inserted into editions and all text for the purpose of making reading easier. When it does, what happens then when we (or students) are asked to read something with non-traditional spacing (insert medieval MSS)? He acknowledged that poetry often does complicate spacing, but not everyone reads poetry and gains this experience.
  • Meg Worley, in “The Divorce of Punctuation and Diacritics,” indicated how, in literary history, some authors wanted control of punctuation, and yet others ceded it to the publisher, having little interest in it. How do these choices affect or even control the reader? We should consider our own interaction with punctuation and not be afraid to “push back” and question how works are punctuated. What kind of speculation and analysis would present itself if we consider passages with commas (re)moved or statements becoming questions?
  • As an example, in a way, of the idea of reconsidering punctuation as printed, Corey Sparks (remotely through the miracle of YouTube – see full presentation below) reimagined a few Chaucerian passages by replacing certain punctuation added in by editors and adding the interrobang (‽). This mark can indicate querying surprise and can often complicate narrative with its presence. In particular, Sparks considers passages from the Book of the Duchess, one into which editors often assert an assortment of punctuation.

  • Robert Rouse tackled the asterisk. The idea that struck me the most from his talk was his consideration of the Middle English dictionary and the asterisk as search tool (adding an asterisk to a truncated word being searched allows the dictionary to search for more forms). Rouse described this as smoothing over the edges of what we don’t know, offering us options and possibilities. He likened this way of looking at the search tool to our entire field, suggesting we should think in terms of Medieva*.
  • Jonathan Hsy brought us the ampersand (&). He sifted through a great deal of information and history, but I was drawn to his last point. He showed the image of the Tristan + Isolde film poster (posted below), which has the tag line: “Before Romeo & Juliet, there was Tristan + Isolde.” I still do not have a conclusion about the parallel use of the two marks (unlike my views on the film itself), although I am intrigued by the medieval vs. Early Modern reading.

I believe I will stop there, although there were many fascinating ideas presented that I did not discuss. I will end with the same question someone else raised at the end of the panel: what has happened in scholarly history that we can now be this playful with punctuation?

Hopefully, tomorrow, I will finish the last of the Kalamazoo posts.

–Kisha

7 Comments

Filed under Chaucer, Conferences, Kalamazoo

ICMS 2014: Day 3 (Friday)

Yes, I know…I’m a little behind on these.

Friday was a day of indulgence. For a different sort of conference (or, I suppose, a person more in touch with their hedonistic id), that would mean a day spent exploring the various sins offered by the host city,* or perhaps a day holed up in one’s room with a book or a television. But at Kalamazoo, I indulge myself by heading into panels chosen more or less at random, expecting at the least some intellectual stimulation and at the most something unanticipated, exciting, and new.

I was reasonably sure I was attending a different panel on the Economics of Sanctity (which I later heard was excellent), but changed my mind at the last minute to attend session 219, “Social Contracts and Contacts in Old English and Old Norse Literature.” I was, frankly, trolling for material for a couple of upcoming BSU courses…the papers were on the economy of debt in the O.E. Juliana (Fabienne Michelet), the changing perception of feud in Anglo-Saxon literature (David DiTucci), and the deployment of non-sexual flyting insults in Bjorn Hitardal-people’s Champion’s saga (Rebecca Straple). I’ll be teaching courses on Medieval British and Icelandic saga literature in the fall, and new perspectives and conversations are always valuable. The panel turned out to be a very solid conversation about forms of exchange–whether insults, faith, or violence, it’s important to remember that these texts reflect a valuing or devaluing of ways of living–or, indeed, of lives. Fabienne Michelet’s discussion of the rhetorical maneuver in Juliana that replaced an economy of wealth with “an unpayable, but forgivable, debt” bonding the saint and faithful together has clear implications for the rest of hagiographic literature (as well, I think, for understanding the impulse toward collective action in Anglo-Saxon law). DiTucci and Straple took up feuds fought with unusual weapons (a “bulwark of faith” against the “feud of Satan” in one case, witty insults and insinuations in the other) and in different circumstances, but both brought home the complex ways that feud functions as a motif in the literature–one that we lose the richness of when we simplify it as merely physical violence begetting violence.

Lunch, as usual, was a hasty sandwich in the company of my fellow UConn alumni.

The afternoon sessions began with a panel (240) on Interdisciplinary approaches to Celtic Studies. Though both papers on the panel were well worth hearing, it was the second, in which Jaimin Weets explained the implications of his study of 6,659 human teeth found in various sites in Ireland, that really caught my attention. His research seems to suggest pretty strongly that the accepted historical narrative of the Celtic Migration is, at the least, problematic. Jaimin and I later spoke during dinner about his work’s relevance to the linguistic puzzle of the lack of Celtic language influence on early insular Anglo-Saxon. The issues of cultural identity and allegiance that we discussed are extremely interesting, and I’m going to have to follow up with some other reading. I may have to rethink a few things before the next time I teach my History of the English Language course…

I was a participant in a 3:30 roundtable discussion on Disability Studies and the Digital Humanities. I’d been looking forward to this conversation with Richard Godden, Cameron Hunt McNabb, Jonathan Hsy, Tory V. Pearman, and the attending scholars. Though the conversation occasionally veered into various permutations of what Godden tagged as “cranky” talk, the overall focus was on the remarkable potential that DH offers us as working scholars and teachers. As a profession, we have to feel our way past some rough edges where things like social media and scholarly thought run up against one another (such as the tension between the instant-response value of Twitter and our general impulse toward rumination and reflection), but the many ways DH allows us to participate in public scholarship, and the potential of new kinds of collaboration and engagement, means that we’re working at an exciting time in the academy.

More to say, but I’ve got some traveling  and thinking to do…

 

 

*I do not mean this to imply that Kalamazoo and its conference lack appealing sins, or that my evenings here don’t involve a certain degree of indulgence therein. But there, gentle reader, we draw a blushing curtain over our story.

3 Comments

Filed under Uncategorized