Digital Medieval Disability Glossary: Call for Submissions from Faculty and Students in HEL Courses and Beyond

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CFP: The Ballad of the Lone Medievalist

CFP: “The Ballad of the Lone Medievalist”

Contributions of any style and various lengths welcome!

For many medievalists who have had the good fortune to find jobs in academe, the professional reality is that we are 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. Those lucky few who find a tenure-track position will then spend years explaining their work to colleagues, chairs, grant committees, and eventually tenure reviewers who know little about the work we do; others, in non-tenure or adjunct positions, must decide whether maintaining an interest in medieval studies is wise or even possible as the entry-level-course teaching load piles up. While the advent of digital technologies has brought us the possibility of closer contact and greater collaboration with our fellow medievalists, our resource access, scholarly profile, 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 collection, as the title suggests, will address the realities of professional engagement, curriculum planning, and reappointment and tenure cases as the “lone medievalist” in a department or institution. We are interested in almost any style of submission that is concerned in a meaningful and productive way with the topic of “the lone medievalist.” This will not be a collection bewailing the state of medieval studies in small institutions. Rather, we envision a collection offering camaraderie, suggestions, resolution, and advice, while simultaneously creating a snapshot of the current state of Medieval Studies as it manifests itself through the careers and daily work of medievalist academics. We intend it to be forward-thinking and revitalizing as well as helpful to those of us in these positions.

Send proposals (do not have to be too long or formal – around 100-200 words to give us a good sense of your idea) either through Facebook messaging or to the email addresses: ktracy3@fitchburgstate.edu and john.sexton@bridgew.edu. We are looking for a combination of anecdotes, stories, longer essays, manifestos, and advice – various lengths, any style. We do recommend 1000-5000 words (longer will be considered as well) or the equivalent (e.g. a photographic essay or a collection of documents). We anticipate a quick turnaround on this, so let’s get moving! The initial deadline for proposals will be July 31, 2015. The initial deadline for contributions is scheduled for October 31, 2015.

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And on the Sabbath…

Last week, I began the first sabbatical of my career. I’m still trying to figure out what to make of it.

I don’t mean “what to do with it”–I’ve figured that out. I decided what I was working on last year. And again last semester. And then this past month. Repeatedly. With lists, calendars, spreadsheets, and every other timetable-based organizational tool that imagination can contrive. Twice in the last twenty-four hours, in fact.

Maybe I do mean “what to do with it.”

The problem isn’t in finding a project–I’ve always been blessed (or cursed) with an overactive mind when it comes to thinking up things to explore, learn, etc.I’ve always been the sort of person who spends a month or more at a time reading everything I can find about vice-presidents, or the history of football, or nineteenth-century sailing memoirs, or gerrymandering, or armorsmithing, usually at the expense of more immediately important things like doing the laundry. I would be, in other words, an utter failure as a zen master, but am reasonably well-equipped for the life of an intellectual dilettante.

The problem is sorting out which are the projects to pursue now. What can I manage in a few months’ time; which ideas are ripe for exploration and which need more time on the vine; how much energy should I pour into my ongoing commitments and half-finished articles, and how much should I devote to finding the next steps on the path? Given my teaching-heavy professional obligations at Bridgewater, how much time should I devote to recalibrating my course structures, reading up on the pedagogical insights of my peers, and seeking out the latest scholarship on my most-taught texts?

And, of course, with two  boys aged 1 and 2 at home with me much of the time, I also expect and hope to spend time on snowman-making, pillow-castle building, toy-share officiating, feeding, entertaining, (etc., etc.) and generally enjoying my never-to-be-this-young-again sons. And how about a little time with my wife, whose own job as a secondary-school Classics teacher is at least as all-consuming as my own?

I want to explicitly state that I don’t mean any of this as a complaint. I’m grateful, almost unreasoningly so, for the existence of the sabbatical as concept and practice. As concept, because of its value in punctuating the years of “if-only” in between, when so many texts go unread and so many ideas unexamined due to a simple lack of time. A sabbatical is a gift, and I very much feel it as such. All the more so because I’m painfully aware of how many equally- or better-qualified minds, both in academia and outside of it, are never afforded this space and time in which to follow a labyrinth to its center. As practice, because I entered into this profession for a multitude of reasons–teaching, writing, a love of medieval literature and history, a strong conviction in the importance of the humanities to the health of the human animal–but also because I believe in the hunt for ideas worth having. Not necessarily big ideas, though the profundity of the smallest idea probably comes from its place among and between the big ones. A sabbatical is a chance to follow ideas in uninterrupted fashion through to their completion.

Well, less-interrupted, anyway.

Some of this work of envisioning how best to spend my time went on (repeatedly, as mentioned above, and with Escherian feedback loops) over the last year, but some adjustments are still being made. I have a plan–a modest one, which I’ll stick in a separate post at some point–and a much bigger and broader dream of learning how to manage all of the facets of my daily routine–teaching and publishing and family and magpie intellectualism–with real attention. I involuntarily recoil from the self-help-speak version of these ideas, but I can recognize the need for both greater integration and, not paradoxically, greater compartmentalization of the component parts of my life and work. This semester, with its store of time, is a chance to renew my commitment to my commitments, and I revel in it.

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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!

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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

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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

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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).

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