Author Archives: Kisha Tracy

Mad for Margery: Disability and the Imago Dei in the Book of Margery Kempe (M.W. Bychowski)

[Transcript of comments by M.W. Bychowski at a roundtable-style session (which was tweeted with the hashtags #maa2016 #s13) at the Medieval Academy of America’s annual conference, held this year in Boston. For M.’s bio and website, please click here to see Transliterature: Things Transform.]

“Dixit Dominus ad eum: Quis fecit os hominis? aut quis fabricatus est mutum et surdum, videntem et cæcum? nonne ego?”

—Exodus 4:11

In the seventy-fourth chapter of the Book of Margery Kempe, Margery asks God how she might come into His divine presence. In response, Christ “drow hys creatur unto hys lofe and to mynde of hys passyon that sche myth not duryn to beheldyn a lazer er an other seke man, specialy yyf he had any wowndys aperyng on hym. So sche cryid and so sche wept as yyf sche had sen owr Lord Jhesu Crist wyth hys wowndys bledyng” (Staley, 74.4178-4182). She asks to see the Imago Dei, the image of God, and is shown the disabled. Through the “lofe” and “mynde” of Christ, Margery comes to read lepers and the other unreasonable bodies of the Lazar Houses as images of God’s presence.

After the transmission of Aristotle’s texts during the twelfth century, there was renewed interest in Europe for classical philosophy. Evident in the work of scholastic theologians, such as Thomas Aquinas, Faith had to make room, as Reason became the measure of all things; including what it meant to be made in the image of God. By the fifteenth century, the Middle-English word “Mad” had developed into two distinct but not incompatible concepts:  “mad,” meaning “made,” the state of being a creature in a process of creation with social contexts, and “mad,” meaning to be “uncontrolled by reason” or “filled with enthusiasm or desire” (OED). Madness in the latter sense marked differences through exceptions rather than histories, then isolated rather than contextualized these differences from communion with humanity or God.

In Mad for Foucault, Lynne Huffer contends that neither madness nor rationality is a personal state of being but a social product. Huffer credits the development of the Lazar Houses, where lepers specifically and “mad” persons generally were isolated from civilization, propelling the idea of individual subjectivity and sovereignty by inscribing the association of internalized madness and exterior rationality. Reason becomes a byproduct of suppressing private “Unreason” within public thought and government. As such, madness is not the exception but the foundation for Reason. To dwell within the Lazar House or within madness allows for the possible resistance of lying bare the means by which common unreasonableness (e.g. desire, dependency) turns into exceptional thought. In other words, Huffer writes, madness reveals “thought thinking itself.” (103)

While adeptly critiquing the implications of the Lazar House and madness for later human social relations in the Age of Reason, Huffer’s Mad for Foucault does not account for how the workings of “madness” point towards a medieval past with critical, contentious relationships with God. While madness in the fifteenth century not only threatened disability in this life, but damnation in the life to come, with worldly isolation prescribing eternal confinement in Hell, I argue that the self-conscious work of madness in the Book of Margery Kempe not only challenges the rationality of the world but the cosmological order. The implication that the mad were Imago Dei, made in the image of God, and that to go to a Lazar House was to enter into the presence of Christ turns the value system of rational society inside out. Subsequently, I contend that Margery breaks open of madness as being “mad,” i.e. both “made” and “unreasonable,” in the Imago Dei through the making of a spiritual treatise and comforting the poor and marginalized by entering into community, constituting an early form of liberation theology.

The power to create may beg the question the Lazar House attempts to answer: what is the goal of creation?  The demand for an end is essentially a product of Reason. The end serves as the rational justification for the work of creation. When Reason is the standard measure, assessing all things in terms of reasonability, only the reasonable serve as sufficient tools or products. The Lazar House is one such attempt to determine whether or how one contributes to the world. It then isolates the “mad” as those bodies operating beyond Reason’s ability to understand or govern. The problem with this is that reason becomes what G.K. Chesterton calls a “perfect circle” (21). By rejecting all that does not fit into itself, “what a great deal it leaves it out!” asks Chesterton (21).

Anything or everything may turn out to be unreasonable and Creation’s madness, argues Bruno Latour, is evident in the surprising existence of Existence itself.  “Modernists believe they make the world in their image just as God made them in His. This is a strange and impious description of God. As if God were master of His Creation! As if He were omnipotent and omniscient. If he had these perfections, there would be no Creation… God too, is slightly overtaken by His Creation, that is, by all that is changed and modified and altered in encountering Him. Yes we are indeed made in the image of God, that is, we do not know what we are doing either. We are surprised by what we make.” (Latour 287). As a metaphysical sign, the Imago Dei does not govern but creates and revels in madness. Creation in this sense testifies against Reason. “No Creation” is reasonable because it is a closed loop. A self-sufficient perfection does not need to create. Our surprise in what is mad testifies that the Imago Dei is not Reason alone, but the work of creative community.  If the Imago Dei makes and makes without reason, it is most reflected by co-creative “madness” and not self-governing reason.

The Book acts as such a self-conscious Imago Dei, opening and closing with descriptions of its making, proudly proclaiming, “this boke was mad” (Staley, 17.873; 89.4245).  This recursion deepens in the only two instants in the Book where madness explicitly means unreason. The Book quotes the Pryke of Life’s author confessing to being “ovyrcome thorw desyr, begynne for to maddyn, for lofe governyth me and not reson… thei seyn ‘Lo, yen wood man cryeth in the stretys,’ but how meche is the desyr of myn hert thei parceyve not” (Staley, 62.3638). Likewise, Margery admits that “crying and roryng” for God makes her a “mad woman” (80.5489). In both cases, the writers testify that their madness arises from acts of making that exceed reason. The Book is a mad machine, “thought thinking itself” that suggest what J.R.R. Tolkien called “sub-creation” or “Creation creating itself.” (Huffer 103). The Book, draws us to glimpse God’s “madness” making itself. The difference between the circular logic of Reason and madness’s recursion is critical. Reason functions by maintaining the exclusivity of what is inside and outside its parameters. It is fundamentally conservative. Madness functions by the creation of difference and so affirms what Huffer calls “co-extension” (29).

Turning again to Margery’s prayer for God’s presence, readers stand witness to how the Imago Dei in the “mad” bodies of the Lazar House inspires acts of liberation. Receiving her revelation, Margery “went to a place wher seke women dwellyd whech wer ryth ful of the sekenes and fel down on hir kneys beforn hem” (Staley, 74.4292-4193). Margery challenges the exclusionary logic of the Lazar House by crossing its threshold with a gesture of community. Seeing madness from the inside, Margery offers no rational answer to the woman’s ills, but remains with her, “Comfortyn hir” (74.4204). Coming from the Latin, “comfort” means: “to strengthen (morally or spiritually); to encourage, hearten, inspirit, incite” (OED). Comfort is an act of community making, as the pre-fix suggests the strengthening be done “together, together with, in combination or union” with others (OED). “Comfortyn” incites a collective act “To confirm, corroborate” our togetherness (OED). By comfort, Margery confirms that they are “mad” together. “Creative power,” writes Reynolds “is essentially a relational power.” (180).  The encounter with the madness of the Imago Dei breaks a barrier for Margery that prevented her, like the walls of the Lazar House, from finding comfort. “In the yerys of werldly prosperité,” Margery regarded “no thyng mor lothful ne mor abhomynabyl …than to seen er beheldyn a lazer” (Staley, 74.4186-4187). The Book uses “abominable,” like the Book of Leviticus, to mark things excluded from the community. It aligns the logic of exclusion with “worldly prosperite,” suggesting that the Imago Dei could not be present until she accepts her own madness. Only then could she find and give comfort.

Margery finds herself most drawn to a woman “labowryd wyth many fowle and horibyl thowtys” (74.4201-4202). Subject to visions of her own, the woman Margery ministers to mirrors herself, “a mad woman, crying and roryng” (1.80.4588-4589). Entering the Lazar House, Margery not only finds comfort for the leper, but for herself.  The drive to comfort does not excuse the violence and isolation governing madness but seeks co-creation and co-liberation by a communal sharing of strength (physical, social, spiritual). Disability, writes Reynolds, marks how all things are mad “contingent in an open universe subject to elements of unpredictability, instability, and conflict” (177-187). As things are formed as disabled, they get pushed to the margins, but the Imago Dei of the Book of Margery Kempe gives a call to seek each other and make a co-creative community. Instead of being mad in isolation, we become mad for each other.

Works Cited

“com-, prefix.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2014. Web. 3 June 2014.

“comfort, v.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2014. Web. 3 June 2014.

Chesterton, G. K. “The Maniac.” Orthodoxy. Ed. Sheridan Gilley. South Orange, NJ: Chesterton Institute, 2008. Print.

Huffer, Lynne. Mad for Foucault: Rethinking the Foundations of Queer Theory. New York: Columbia UP, 2010. Print.

Latour, Bruno. “”The Slight Surprise of Action”” Pandora’s Hope: Essays on the Reality of Science Studies. Cambridge, MA: Harvard UP, 1999. Print.

“mad, adj.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, March 2014. Web. 3 June 2014.

Reynolds, Thomas E. Vulnerable Communion: A Theology of Disability and Hospitality. Grand Rapids, MI: Brazos, 2008. Print.

Staley, Lynn, ed. The Book of Margery Kempe. Kalamazoo, MI: Published for TEAMS (the Consortium for the Teaching of the Middle Ages) in Association with the U of Rochester by Medieval Institute Publications, Western Michigan U, 1996. Print.

Leave a comment

Filed under Conferences, Disability, Guest Post

Disability Studies in the Middle Ages: Where Are We Now?

[Continuation of John’s post with our comments at a roundtable-style session (which was tweeted with the hashtags #maa2016 #s13) at the Medieval Academy of America’s annual conference, being held this year in Boston.]

Please forgive me for my absence. I am very upset not to be present at today’s discussion. I will blame my students for passing along the stomach bug that has been making its rounds on campus. I am pleased that this panel was accepted by the Medieval Academy, bringing medieval disability studies to this conference. I think it’s a step forward for our particular field of study.

To pick up where John left off, there are multiple medieval traditions that must be considered in thinking about medieval disability. These traditions consider perspectives of geography and chronology as well as specific groups of individuals with specific concerns, all of which will provide cross-overs in thought on disability, but also unique nuances and complexities. Geographically, examples include Byzantium, France, England, and Iceland, among many other locations. Chronologically, we can consider periods from the Roman Empire to the Anglo-Saxon to later. Within these frameworks, sub-sections of the populace – or the imagination – emerge – for instance, saints and the complicated, sometimes conflicting roles of disability in their lives. Emerging from these discussions are various critical lenses that can be useful in this work. One major example is offering theories concerning gender, which can be approached by offering a medieval framework and/or examining the impact current attitudes have on readings of medieval texts. We begin to see through these critical perspectives that there are dynamic relationships between disability studies and other approaches, both medieval and modern (and for that matter, Classical and other adjacent periods), to analyzing text.

While these methods of studying medieval disability are exciting and promising, we have found that there are still some challenges in the field – perhaps different ones than we have previously experienced now that the field has evolved and grown.

In putting together this collection, it is apparent that scholars in medieval disability tend towards the literary and the Western. It is perhaps unsurprising given that there were many literary scholars at the forefront of developing medieval disability studies. However, it still remains true that much of the work being done focuses on literature. This is not to say that there aren’t others working on non-literary or non-Western subjects, but there remains a great deal of potential for growth in these areas. John mentioned material culture, which is certainly a rich avenue for consideration. Visual studies is another.

Another major challenge that we have found is crossing the boundaries between modern and medieval disability studies. While modern scholars are thrilled – a direct quotation, not mine – that medieval disability studies is growing, we found that they were quite hesitant to engage with the scholarship, particularly citing that they are uncomfortable with the historical divide and feel they have nothing to offer. This is something we can attempt to rectify. There have been discussions about how to accomplish this, and there has been headway, I think, in working towards this goal. For instance, medieval disability scholars are presenting at more general disability conferences – and, for that matter, at general medieval conferences – with more regularity. John has noted the importance of thinking through “medieval things,” and this is very true. I think we have much to offer in considering, for instance, the variability we see in medieval thought on the subject.

On a related note, I’ll simply bring up a general fact about medieval disability studies. I’ll preface by saying that I in no way think of this as a negative, but it is simply something to consider. The scholars in medieval disability tend towards early career and graduate students. As I said, not a negative – it implies fresh looks and new ideas, which will keep the field moving forward. It can, however, provide an impediment when publishing. Some publishers look to balance “established” scholars with newer, and it’s simply a challenge we have to overcome – or argue against as the case may be. As a side note, as far as our volume is concerned, we very consciously attempted to invite medieval scholars who don’t normally work on disability, with healthy success.

On a final note, I will offer that, as diverse as the interests of medieval disability scholars are, we have much more work to do concerning “invisible” disabilities – for instance, mental disabilities. This can be a particularly difficult avenue of research, especially due to language differences. I will put a plug in here for the online Medieval Disability Glossary as a method of working through the problems inherent in language and terminology (not to mention a way to bring medieval disability to our students). Studying mental disabilities often requires a great deal more interpretation, and there is often the danger of falling into diagnosis mode or into modern definitions, yet it is a significant aspect that needs even more attention.

I shall stop here as I am sure others in the room can define more challenges that we face – and hopefully provide some suggestions. I will conclude by reiterating the significance of this field of study, how it opens up spaces for individuals and groups of historic people and how it adds even more to our understanding of the complexity of the medieval world. Thank you for being a part of this discussion.

Stay tuned for other posts with transcripts from other panel members…

Leave a comment

Filed under Conferences, Disability

Significance of Studying the Middle Ages

Recently, I asked a favor of my fellow medievalists. I have started beginning my courses (particularly general education ones) with “why are we studying this” units, which I have found very effective in getting students to think about the value of the course, rather than simply thinking they are required to be there. I currently added one to my British Literature I (spanning medieval and Early Modern) course. I am essentially starting with a two-week unit with relevant readings, blog posts, etc. As a part of this unit, I asked my medievalist circles to contribute a few sentences as to why studying medieval (and Early Modern) literature is important/significant/relevant. My students will be required to respond and ask questions. The idea was well-received, and some wanted to use it in their own courses. Thus, I have created a Facebook group on which to collect these thoughts/discussions/relevant links, and, so far, the posts are thought-provoking. If you are interested, please feel free to join the group, post your thoughts, share with others, and/or use it with your own students!

Why do I think studying the Middle Ages is significant? Here are a few thoughts…

Progress: “Perhaps at the core of many of the social, economic, educational, and intellectual problems that face us today is our deep, nearly unconscious commitment to the notion that history is progress, that the human community moves inexorably and endlessly towards betterment, sophistication, wisdom, happiness, and that the future will be preferable to the past…Those of us involved in historical studies need to be introducing cautions about the doctrines of progress. It should be stressed that past cultures were sophisticated in ways that often outstrip us” (Milton McC. Gatch, “The Medievalist and Cultural Literacy,” Speculum 66, no. 3 (1991): 591-604 at 595). I must give grateful credit to Sarah Harlan-Haughey for introducing me to this article and quotation. It captures my experience as a student of literature and history, an instructor, a citizen, and even a Facebook onlooker. There is a distinct tendency to believe that what is past – especially what is long past and thus different than our present view – must be “primitive” or even “wrong.” I wonder if technological development is part of what contributes to this bias. The printing press saved us time; therefore, it is better than handwriting. The internet makes life easier; therefore, it must be better than…no internet. This sense of constant update might contribute to this idea that we must be progressing as a species. Whatever the causes, there is a general belief that the peoples of the past were somehow exempt from (positive, especially) human nature, or had less of a sense of morality (by any definition) than we do now, or were unaware of basic human dilemmas or triumphs. This approach to history often creates – wittingly or unwittingly – a “better than thou” attitude and a rather stagnant complacency.

The Middle Ages in particular seems to draw these sorts of conclusions: dogmatic slaves to faith, universal abusers of women, staunch deniers of science, etc. Relegating this time period to”primitive” distances us from close examination of what has not changed in society or, if it has changed, that it might not indeed be for the better. Women’s rights, in particular, is a striking example (my students often have to pause, for instance, when they get “disgusted” by primogeniture or other patriarchal customs, only to be reminded that the United States has yet to elect a female President). Assuming that women have more rights now (and dismissing the Middle Ages as a result) prevents discussion of the nuances of such a topic, for this is a society that also produced Christine de Pizan, who commented in her Book of the City of Ladies, that (paraphrased) “God has truly made women’s minds sharp enough to learn, understand, and retain any form of knowledge.” Progress indeed is a tricky concept.

Humanness: Without studying human beings over the course of time, we risk failing to discover what it is that it means to be human. Our modern experience is only one of many throughout the course of history. Studying what we know about our counterparts in the past, how they reacted to and understood their world, and what commonalities they share with us presents a method to understand what – putting aside technology, social or religious structures, governments, etc. – “humanness” is. Not what the modern human is, or the American, or the first/third-world citizen. But what the human experience is universally, regardless of time and geography.

And, yet, it is difficult, if not impossible, to grasp all of humanity in the same thought. We can process more deeply when delving with focus into a defined set of information – or, in this case, a defined time period. The Middle Ages is the final pre-modern period in Western civilization and, thus, ideally situated as a locus for deep investigation into past humanness. It reaches simultaneously backward to previous civilizations and forward to future generations. It encompasses both tradition and innovation. It operates before certain major technological inventions and yet exhibits scientific inquiry (which is aside from the technology and speaks to invention). Studying this experience as well as in comparison to our own yields a clearer image of what is intrinsically human.

Alterity Immersion: In a Chronicle of Higher Education article entitled “One College’s Method to Prove Its Value: Scanning Students’ Brains,” one university has decided to use brain scans to test the efficacy of study abroad programs. They theorize that “students who spend 15 weeks abroad in a highly structured, fully immersive program end up with a greater intellectual capacity and an increased ability to work with people from different cultures than do their peers who stay on the campus.” I would agree that the physical interaction with a different culture has the ability to change perspectives dramatically, and it is an experience I would encourage every college student to have if logistically possible.

Yet, I would argue that it is just as vital to immerse ourselves in the alterity of past cultures as well as modern ones. This, of course, poses certain practical problems, especially as time travel hasn’t been perfected…yet. To do what we can though – to increase contact with the artists of the time, to struggle with putting ourselves in their minds and daily lives, to think in their languages, to imagine the scope of and reasons for their wars – it gives us the opportunity to immerse ourselves in other mindsets and beliefs. It’s only through contact with “the other” that we shape who we are and develop tolerance, empathy, and acceptance.

In addition, there is perhaps no better time period in order to consider the issues of alterity. Quite literally, it’s everywhere in the Middle Ages – literature, art, history, medicine, sociology, religion, economics, etc. There are a multitude of examples of “the other” in the contact among cultures and in how its varying forms negotiate and are negotiated by society.

Faith/Belief: It may seem counter-intuitive after the discussion of “progress” above to include then a section on faith and belief. That reaction is unto itself something to reconsider. Faith is an aspect of studying the Middle Ages that deserves recognition. While there is indeed science in this period and some rather sophisticated thought at that, it is a time period occurring prior to what we call the scientific revolution or the age of psychoanalysis. Their worldview is frequently defined in terms of faith and belief – not the blind belief that is often associated with the period, but, rather, deep and careful thought about the very meaning of belief and how belief can be explored, shaped,  defined, and applied. It strips the trappings of “knowing” away,  opening up what is possible. This is a period when, no matter how we might diagnose it, Julian of Norwich believes firmly in her visions. There is a freedom from prosaic explanation that allows for imaginative exploration.

Technology: I have mentioned this several times already, so I won’t belabor the point. The Middle Ages is the time of transfer from oral to written (then to printed) text. This shift in technology is essential to the study of literature, storytelling, individualism, identity, memory, book production, and so much more. There is indeed a humility in recognizing the achievements of civilizations before our “tools of progress” made certain activities comparatively “easy” and second nature.

Development of Critical Study, Empathy, and Skepticism: I think this is a truly beneficial side effect of studying unfamiliar civilizations. As my friend and colleague Brandon Hawk stated, “If we can learn to critically think about medieval culture, we can learn to critically think about any culture.” For instance, if what we have been taught about this culture is wrong, what else is also incorrect? If we can learn to appreciate the nuances of this culture, then what can we discover about our own? If we can develop an empathy for the peoples far removed from us, what empathy can we feel for modern peoples?

These are only a few thoughts. Indeed, my belief in the significance of studying the Middle Ages is endless.

–Kisha

1 Comment

Filed under Professional stuff, Teaching

Guest Post – Brandon Hawk: Life in a New Job

First, let me say how happy I am to be back in New England and within the proximity of Kisha, John, and the wider MASSMedieval community. And thanks to them for the invitation to share some thoughts on my new position as Assistant Professor in English at Rhode Island College. At RIC, I am “the lone medievalist,” but I mostly see this an opportunity rather than a drawback: while I’m the sole pre-modernist in the department, I’ve also been encouraged to pursue some of the ways in which I can look beyond the medieval period in my teaching and research. In other words, I see plenty of possibilities for expanding the diversity of my work.

For example, I’m eager to cultivate my interests in the long history of media and technologies. Several of my colleagues have a strong media studies focus, and there’s a close link between English and the Media Studies Program. Related to that, I’ve made some great friends in the Adams Library on campus, including a new reference librarian who specializes in English and digital humanities, as well as the interim Head of Digital Initiatives. While there are no details plans yet, we have informally schemed to think about collaborative projects around campus and using the library’s special collections.

In terms of research, I’m using some of my interest in media studies to start new projects or reframe old ideas as I revise. In particular, I am turning to revising my dissertation into a book, which I’m tentatively calling Preaching Apocrypha in Anglo-Saxon England. As I rethink this project, I’m particularly thinking about the long history of media, how Anglo-Saxon culture can be thought of as “multi-media,” and what that can tell us about the contexts of translation and adaptation, the circulation of books, and especially preaching in medieval England. Last weekend I attended the York Christian Apocrypha Symposium (http://tonyburke.ca/conference/) and presented part of my research on sermons and visual art related to stories about Jesus’ infancy in the Gospel of Pseudo-Matthew. This represents one step in bringing medieval and media studies together as I forge ahead with the larger book project.

Teaching has also posed opportunities both to stay rooted in the medieval and to look beyond it. I’m teaching a 100-level general education “Literature and the Canon” course; a 200-level course that welcomes students to the English major as “Introduction to Literary Study”; and a 300-level “Literature of Medieval Britain.” I’ve taken the most liberty to look beyond the medieval period in “Introduction to Literary Study,” in which we’re reading a smattering of literature including Neil Gaiman’s The Ocean at the End of the Lane, Kazuo Ishiguro’s “A Village After Dark,” Homer’s Odyssey, the biblical Genesis, Sophocles’ Antigone, Beowulf, Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, Virginia Woolf’s short stories in Monday or Tuesday, Alan Moore’s Watchmen, and Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis. Essentially, I’ve mixed a bit of classic, canonical literature with things that I just want to read (and some, like Woolf’s stories or Satrapi’s Persepolis, that I’ve never read before). For the last book of the semester, I had students nominate ideas (a total of 6) and then vote on them—offering a type of democratic ending to the semester—for which they collectively chose Harper Lee’s recently published Go Set a Watchman. I’m also taking the opportunity to experiment with teaching, like an exercise you can read about here (http://brandonwhawk.net/2015/09/04/teaching-with-lego/).

So far, I’ve had a good start to the semester and this position, and I’m looking forward to what else might come—medieval and otherwise—in my future at RIC.

–Brandon

Leave a comment

Filed under Anglo-Saxon, Guest Post, New England, Professional stuff, Scholar, Teaching, University

Medieval or Modern – Can You Tell?

“As for the old reputation of medieval times as a dark time of parochialism, religious prejudice and mass slaughter, the record of the twentieth century must lead any thoughtful observer to conclude that we are in no way superior.” – Michael Crichton, Timeline
One of the issues I often see in my courses with medieval content is students falling back on thinking that the medieval era was “primitive” or “backward,” believing that the modern era has progressed far beyond what they see in the older texts. It is indeed part of a tendency – not just for students, for all of us in general – to see time periods and people in those time periods as “all” one way or another.
*
In order to open up conversations about this topic, I recently developed an activity to try with my students that I call “Medieval or Modern.” I collected – with the help of the Facebook and Twitter ‘Verses – thirty-two quotations, some from modern sources and others from medieval sources.

The goal was to find modern quotations, particularly related to gender and ethnicity, that could sound “medieval” and medieval quotations that could sound “modern.” In addition, I included more “traditional” sounding quotations from both periods as well. I did heavily edit the quotations to disguise any obvious clues, but the meanings were all retained. Then I mixed them all up and took the citations off of them.
*
Here is the activity. Test yourself on the quotations! The answer key is at the end of the post.
*

Activity: During this activity, the group will consider the time period of a variety of anonymous quotations.

Purpose: This activity will provide the opportunity for us to 1) consider attitudes towards gender, ethnicity, science, religion, etc., during the Middle Ages and on the modern era; 2) reconsider whether our own approaches to the Middle Ages are accurate; and 3) think about the meanings of the words “primitive” and “progress.”

Assignment (10 points):

  • Read each quotation and discuss it briefly as a group.
  • Decide (for yourself) whether you think it is a medieval quotation or a modern quotation (i.e. whether it was said/written by a medieval writer/person or a modern one).
  • Record your decisions on your own Endeavors assignment sheet. (not part of grade)
  • Afterward completing all 32 quotations, consult the answer key. Were you correct? Were you incorrect? If incorrect, does the answer surprise you?
  • For at least two (2) of the quotations, provide a comment on your Endeavors assignment sheet discussing your surprise at whether the quotation is medieval or modern and/or your response to the content of the quotations. (part of grade)
  • Finally, respond to the final questions. (part of grade)

Quotations:

  1. So a woman who is free of wedlock, or a virgin, is concerned with the Lord’s claim, intent on holiness, bodily and spiritual; whereas the married woman is concerned with the world’s claim, asking how she is to please her husband.
  2. God has truly made women’s minds sharp enough to learn, understand, and retain any form of knowledge.
  3. I have the power during my life over his body, and not he. The Apostle said this, and told our husbands to love us well. I like this a lot.
  4. Women are much happier at home with a husband and children.
  5. We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyses: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you,’ No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytising.
  6. The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love.
  7. We, the Jews, collectively rejected God and hung Him up on a cross to die, and thus we deserved the punishments that were heaped on our heads.
  8. But that miserable and afflicted wife endures far greater oppression than her husband. For when she sees the one who should be her comfort in every distress, and from whom she should expect advocacy, being savage and more hostile to her than all others, where can she turn?
  9. A woman’s behavior must be monitored and her decisions subject to approval of a male relative who understands what’s in her best interests better than she does herself.
  10. Marry for love.
  11. If it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the rape down.
  12. Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love.
  13. It angers and upsets me when men claim that women want to be raped and that, even though she says no to a man, she won’t in fact mind if he does force himself on her. You can be sure that women would find no pleasure in being raped.
  14. The right approach is to accept rape — a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you.
  15. “If there came a man to kill me unless I have sex with you as I have done before, would you let him kill me or sleep with me?” “I would rather you be killed than have sex again.”
  16. Let every man give his wife what is her due, and every woman do the same by her husband.
  17. Men expect far greater constancy from women than they themselves can manage.
  18. These ideas are encouraged by Satan.
  19. One and all fell prey to women; if I am led astray, I may be excused.
  20. Islam is a religion that promotes the most murderous mayhem in their so-called holiest days.
  21. When life begins in rape, it is something that God intended to happen.
  22. When you see your wife commit an offense, do not rush at her with insults and violence: rather, first correct the wrong lovingly and pleasingly. (Cherubino of Siena, 15th-century Italian friar)
  23. The wall will go up, and our enemy will start behaving.
  24. Knowledge of the sciences should help inform moral values.
  25. Fight for the sake of God those that fight against you, but do not attack them first. God does not love aggressors.
  26. Pagans are wrong, the Christian cause is right.
  27. Women immodestly dressed cause earthquakes.
  28. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed.
  29. Let us ask pardon for the divisions which have occurred among Christians, for the violence some have used in the service of the truth and for the distrustful and hostile attitudes sometimes taken towards the followers of other religions.
  30. He agreed to give them assurances of safety . . . He made no difficulties, and when he was advised to imprison them, replied that he would not go back on his word.
  31. Most Muslims are peaceful. But if someone’s killed for what they said or wrote, you know the religion of the murderers.
  32. Once you give a woman personal freedom, she enslaves herself to one of numerous vices and undertakes a rampage of destruction to her body and those who want to be a meaningful part of her life.
What did you learn from this exercise? Were any of your attitudes concerning the Middle Ages confirmed or changed? Do you believe that the people of the Middle Ages were primitive and that there has indeed been progress in the attitudes discussed?
*

*
I have decided to pronounce this activity a success. Many students were “upset” with themselves that they identified no more than half of the quotations successfully. It emphasized with them that the medieval/modern so-called divide is not as clear-cut as they assumed when they came into the course. With their permission, I present some of their thoughts in their own words:
*
“I learned I have no initial idea of how things  were perceived. I was mistaken in over 60% of my guesses. Sometimes, reading these quotes makes the ‘viewpoints’ and ‘misconceptions’ of modern politicians/viewpoints ludicrous. Progressiveness seems to be relative to one’s personal beliefs. I think that in a lot of ways we’ve regressed in basic human compassion.”
“I learned that the modern society we live in shouldn’t be as proud of itself, thinking that we have evolved so much from the Middle Ages. My belief has definitely changed. I don’t view them as primitive, nor do I think that our ‘progress’ is as progressive as we think.”
“I learned that there were some progressive ideas in medieval times and antiquated ideas in today’s society.”
“I learned that you definitely can’t judge something without reading into it/getting more information. It also seems that people haven’t evolved as much as I had thought.”
“I learned that my preconceptions about the people of the Middle Ages can be wrong. A lot of my ideas have been changed, as I did not think the people of the Middle Ages would consider science ideologies and equality between genders. I still believe progress has been made.”
“I am still not 100% convinced on progress because we have progressed in science and technology but not always in ideas and opinions.”
“My ideas on the Middle Ages changed because I expected them to be “women-haters” when they weren’t in most cases. Yes, I believe that the people of the Middle Ages were primitive and that progress had been made regarding women/rape. Found that in some ways, we have progressed and others we have digressed.”
“I learned that some medieval values were more acceptable than some modern values…in modern society progress has been made in technology but not the human mind.”
“I learned more about modern vs. medieval thoughts and although thought processes perceived to be completely different, they’re not. A lot of times current (modern) quotes we thought were from the medieval times were actually modern. Attitudes I had towards the Middle Ages have definitely changed.”
There is much that delights me in these statements. One, they are willing to accept that their preconceptions may be inaccurate, which is the first step in learning. Two, I sense confusion now – this, to me, is good in that it indicates consideration and thought. Three, there is not a willingness to go completely to the opposite and state that modern times have not progressed at all. I appreciate this as it means they are retaining their own thoughts on ideas such as “primitive” and “progress.” Four, several of the responses mention that perhaps we have not changed as human beings as much as we think, which I believe is a healthy attitude in which to approach study of medieval literature.
*
All in all, again, I consider this activity useful, and I look forward to seeing if it has echoes in the rest of the semester. How did you do on the quotations? Thoughts for other quotations? Thoughts for similar activities?
*
–Kisha

Answer Key:

  1. So a woman who is free of wedlock, or a virgin, is concerned with the Lord’s claim, intent on holiness, bodily and spiritual; whereas the married woman is concerned with the world’s claim, asking how she is to please her husband. (1 Corinthians 7:34)
  2. God has truly made women’s minds sharp enough to learn, understand, and retain any form of knowledge. (Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, c. 1405)
  3. I have the power during my life over his body, and not he. The Apostle said this, and told our husbands to love us well. I like this a lot. (“The Wife of Bath’s Prologue,” 14th cent.)
  4. Women are much happier at home with a husband and children. (Gavin McInnes, the co-founder of Vice Media)
  5. We can inspire others through witness so that one grows together in communicating. But the worst thing of all is religious proselytism, which paralyses: ‘I am talking with you in order to persuade you,’ No. Each person dialogues, starting with his and her own identity. The church grows by attraction, not proselytising. (Pope Francis)
  6. The greatest honor we can give Almighty God is to live gladly because of the knowledge of his love. (Julian of Norwich, late 14th/early 15th cent.)
  7. We, the Jews, collectively rejected God and hung Him up on a cross to die, and thus we deserved the punishments that were heaped on our heads. (anonymous Jewish convert to Christianity in a student journal at Harvard College, 2013)
  8. But that miserable and afflicted wife endures far greater oppression than her husband. For when she sees the one who should be her comfort in every distress, and from whom she should expect advocacy, being savage and more hostile to her than all others, where can she turn? (John of Chrysostom, Archbishop of Constantinople, c. 349-407)
  9. A woman’s behavior must be monitored and her decisions subject to approval of a male relative who understands what’s in her best interests better than she does herself. (Roosh V“Women Must Have Their Behavior and Decisions Controlled By Men”)
  10. Marry for love. (Piers Plowman, 14th cent.)
  11. If it’s legitimate rape, the female body has ways to try to shut the rape down. (Todd Akin, American politician)
  12. Forgiveness is a strange thing. It can sometimes be easier to forgive our enemies than our friends. It can be hardest of all to forgive people we love. (Mr. Rogers)
  13. It angers and upsets me when men claim that women want to be raped and that, even though she says no to a man, she won’t in fact mind if he does force himself on her. You can be sure that women would find no pleasure in being raped. (Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, c. 1405)
  14. The right approach is to accept rape — a gift in a very broken way, the gift of human life, and accept what God has given to you. (Rick Santorum, American politician)
  15. “If there came a man to kill me unless I have sex with you as I have done before, would you let him kill me or sleep with me?” “I would rather you be killed than have sex again.” (Margery Kempe, late 14th/early 15th cent.)
  16. Let every man give his wife what is her due, and every woman do the same by her husband. (1 Corinthians 7:3)
  17. Men expect far greater constancy from women than they themselves can manage. (Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, c. 1405)
  18. These ideas are encouraged by Satan. (Ben Carson, American author and politician)
  19. One and all fell prey to women; if I am led astray, I may be excused. (Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, 14th cent.)
  20. Islam is a religion that promotes the most murderous mayhem in their so-called holiest days. (Mike Huckabee, American politician)
  21. When life begins in rape, it is something that God intended to happen. (Richard Mourdock, American politician)
  22. When you see your wife commit an offense, do not rush at her with insults and violence: rather, first correct the wrong lovingly and pleasingly. (Cherubino of Siena, 15th-century Italian friar)
  23. The wall will go up, and our enemy will start behaving.  (Donald Trump, American businessman and politician)
  24. Knowledge of the sciences should help inform moral values. (Christine de Pizan, The Book of the City of Ladies, c. 1405)
  25. Fight for the sake of God those that fight against you, but do not attack them first. God does not love aggressors. (Qur’an, Sura 2 1065)
  26. Pagans are wrong, the Christian cause is right. (The Song of Roland, 12th cent.)
  27. Women immodestly dressed cause earthquakes. (Fazlur Rehman, Pakistani politician)
  28. Love that conquers hate, peace that rises triumphant over war, and justice that proves more powerful than greed. (Mr. Rogers)
  29. Let us ask pardon for the divisions which have occurred among Christians, for the violence some have used in the service of the truth and for the distrustful and hostile attitudes sometimes taken towards the followers of other religions. (Pope John Paul II)
  30. He agreed to give them assurances of safety . . . He made no difficulties, and when he was advised to imprison them, replied that he would not go back on his word. (Ibn al-Athir, The Collection of Histories (Arab perspective on Third Crusade), 12th/13th cent.)
  31. Most Muslims are peaceful. But if someone’s killed for what they said or wrote, you know the religion of the murderers. (Richard Dawkins, biologist and New Atheist)
  32. Once you give a woman personal freedom, she enslaves herself to one of numerous vices and undertakes a rampage of destruction to her body and those who want to be a meaningful part of her life.  (Roosh V“Women Must Have Their Behavior and Decisions Controlled By Men”)

2 Comments

Filed under Teaching

Call for Higher Ed Teaching Experiences

Call for Higher Education Teaching Experiences/Activities/Assignments

Currently, I am writing a book (already under contract) about methods in higher education courses of all disciplines, particularly but not exclusively in general education courses, to encourage student investment in learning. To help with aspects of this work, I am in search of anecdotes, experiences, activities, assignments, etc., that relate to the following:

  • Activities emphasizing why students are taking class
  • Students producing knowledge
  • Game-based pedagogy
  • Skills that transfer
  • Short and long-term group work​
  • Service and experiential learning
  • Learning from teaching others
  • Authentic assignments
  • Reflection (meta-cognition)
If you have any related experiences and would be interested in being included in this work, please email Kisha Tracy at ktracy3@fitchburgstate.edu. A few sentences, a paragraph, or an attachment is all that is necessary. In particular, please address how you think it affects student investment in learning. If it is applicable, then I will contact you for permission to include you and perhaps ask for more details. My sincere appreciation in advance for your help! Please do send this to anyone you feel would be willing to participate.

 

Leave a comment

Filed under Non-Medieval, Scholar, Teaching, University

Guest Post – M. Wendy Hennequin: How Medieval People Composed

I am no rhetorician.  Granted, I have a professional interest in composition because I teach it, and I’ve served as the Freshman English coordinator in my department.  But the study of composition just doesn’t ignite my scholarly passions.  I’m a medievalist.  Give me Beowulf and Sir Gawain and the Green Knight any day.

But recently, I became very personally interested in how medieval people composed.

Last January, I broke my right wrist.  Yes, I am right-handed.  The cast immobilized my right arm and my right thumb, and partially restricted the movement of my fingers.  I could not write or type or use a keyboard.  Yet I needed to compose a paper for the International Medieval Congress in May.

Normally, I compose the way all the manuals prescribe: brainstorming, research, outline, drafts, revision, revision, more revision coupled with editing, and proofreading.  We think of this process as mental, but it depends heavily on physical acts: writing or typing notes and ideas; writing or typing research notes; using the notes to compose an outline, either in writing or in typescript; and then using these manuscript papers and typescript files to compose the paper, again either by writing or typing.

I literally couldn’t hold a pen or type, so I got to work using the only tool I could still wield: dictation software.

Composing a paper—a difficult process at best—presented a new set of painful challenges when using the dictation software.  The software isn’t as accurate as the manufacturers claim, and my composition process became an adventure in proofreading. The dictation software would render everyday words incorrectly: “act” as “ask”; “she is” as “choose”; “define” as “to find.” (Strangely, the software accurately rendered the foul language I used to curse its inefficiency.)  Dictation software also requires the user to dictate everything that appears on the page, including punctuation and capitals.  The simple sentence, “The comitatus bond has its roots in Ancient Germanic society,” becomes, when dictated, “open quotes cap the comitatus italicize that [pause while software complies] bond has its roots in cap Ancient cap Germanic society period close quotes.” Then I can go on to the next sentence, so long as the software doesn’t render “society” as “so sigh at tea.”

Taking and organizing notes was also cumbersome, because it involved switching between multiple documents, and dictation errors in my notes sometimes confused me. Worse, the dictation software made mistakes in almost every sentence, even after I added words to its dictionary and trained the software on the words.

Drafting with dictation software took an enormous toll on the ease and quality of my composition.  The constant distraction of fixing mistakes and dictating punctuation interfered with my thought process.  I often lost my place and, worse, my ideas.  My argument flowed in fits and starts, paragraphs came out fragmented, and sentences were roughly worded.  The paper got done, finally, but it was a draft, a horrible one.  Composing it took so long that I had no time to improve it—and the process of revising through dictation software would have been just as frustrating.

I knew there had to be a better way.  Medieval and ancient authors composed long works, but they could not have composed drafts the way we do, because they had limited resources for physical writing.  They didn’t have a huge supply of scrap paper for research notes or drafts.  They had wax tablets, but nothing large enough to hold long, multi-sectioned works.  Even light was limited.

Granted, some, like Homer and possibly the author of Beowulf, composed orally.  The oral-formulaic theory posits that highly-trained poets composed the lines ex tempore, hanging well-known formulae (stock phrases or parts of stock phrases) onto a narrative outline like ornaments on a Christmas tree.  These poets eventually dictated the poem to a scribe, leaving us with works like Gilgamesh and The Odyssey.

But most medieval and ancient authors were not oral-formulaic composers, but literate authors who carefully crafted and revised their works without unlimited access to physical writing and written drafts.  Chaucer did it this way—whatever this way was.  Virgil did it, too.  Boccaccio, Aristotle, Alfred the Great, Christine de Pizan, Thomas Aquinas, and Thomas Malory did it in prose, as did all the medieval and ancient historians.  Even Milton did it—and he was blind. There had to be a way to compose these longs works without physically writing, because these authors had done it.

Facing with the possibility of surgery and another six months of dictation software, I was determined to learn their secret.  But I discovered I knew the secret—and I had already used the technique myself.

As I was laboriously constructing my conference paper, my snarky Muse hit me with an unexpected story idea.  My adventures with the conference paper demonstrated to me vividly that I shouldn’t even try to compose this story on the computer.  For one thing, the proper names and terms would trip up the dictation software.  For another, the constant corrections and insertion of punctuation would fragment the story, just as they had done in my conference paper.

Since I intended the story for storytelling anyway (yes, I have weird hobbies), I tried another approach.  After some research, I started hashing out the plot in my brain, setting up events and shuffling them around, adding things in and taking them out.  I paced in the living room as I hashed out the plot. I stared at the bedroom ceiling as I planned the exposition.  I rejected ideas and injected new ones as I drove to work.  And I muttered to myself a lot.

Constructing the prose was somewhat more difficult.  The exact wording in my stories is important, but since I didn’t want to mess with the dictation software, I had no way to record the wording except in my own memory.  So I started speaking the paragraphs out loud to myself, correcting my wording as I went, adding and subtracting and revising, then repeating sentences, paragraphs, and finally sections aloud to myself until I had memorized them almost completely.  I then added one section to another, repeating them, making them work together, revising even more.  Finally, I began rehearsing the completed story and testing it with listeners—again, correcting myself as I spoke, revising where I needed to, refining the wording where it needed polish and ease.

I started composing at the end of February.  By the middle of April, I had a complete story in its final form.  I did not type the story in writing until the end of August.  The story is 1422 words—no Summa Theologica, but a pretty significant length for an orally composed prose work.

I had unknowingly duplicated medieval composition processes to create this story. According to Mary Carruthers’ The Book of Memory: A Study of Memory in Medieval Culture (2nd ed., Cambridge UP, 2008), we only have a few records of medieval composition, but these generally include:

  • Meditating, praying, and talking to oneself until basically completing a mental draft called the res;
  • Refining and revising the res, mentally, orally, and /or with written notes on an easily reusable surface, into a more formal draft called the dictamen;
  • Dictating the dictamen to a scribe;
  • Correcting the scribe’s transcript, sometimes with revision based on others’ input. (Carruthers 235-65)

Note that the physical act of writing is absent from most of the medieval process.  The early stages depend almost entirely on mental composition, and even the written aspects are fragmentary, until the scribe’s transcript.

Unexpectedly, I had achieved the Holy Grail of composition without writing.  But no Holy Grail ever solves problems as advertised.  Yes, I had composed a story successfully, but I knew I could never compose a modern scholarly paper as I had composed my story.  On one level, the medieval, non-written composition process mirrors our own: we still brainstorm until we find our res and organize it, then we draft more formally, transcribe, edit and proofread our work.  But we depend on written records, either paper or electronic.  Paper, computers, and phones have become external, retrievable, physical records of our res and dictamen.  Our technologies of writing—pen, paper, print, typewriter, computer, word processor, printers, and the Internet—and their easy availability have not only changed the process of composition, but have also changed our standards of research and scholarship.

Carruthers points out in The Book of Memory is that medieval scholars practically memorized their research.   We don’t.  For one thing, our writing technologies of writing make memorization unnecessary.  For another, we have access to so many more sources that memorization is impossible.  My conference paper had over twenty sources, including Beowulf, and amounted to close to 4,000 pages of text.  Brain space aside, there simply isn’t enough time to memorize all the sources.

And because we have so many sources to deal with, we’ve become very particular about citation.  What we would call outright plagiarism was commonplace in medieval scholarship, and medieval scholars cited very casually when they cited at all.  A medieval author quoting Plato might never mention whether he’s referring to The Republic or The Symposium—and in fact, he might be quoting Aristotle instead of Plato.  But a contemporary scholar must be painstakingly specific.  Which work by Plato?  Which translation?  Which edition?  Which manuscript?  And the quote had better be correct, too, because someone will be looking it up when we publish it.  Scholars build their work on other scholars’; we rely on each other’s ideas to feed our own, and we rely on each other’s accuracy to be able to trace and adjust and (especially in the sciences) correct and disprove other theories.  There is no way that today’s scholar could accurately reproduce all research, and all the details of the sources, by using the medieval composition process.

We are victims of our technologies.  The proliferation and availability of books and other sources, increased literacy, and the easy access to writing and writing material of all sorts has, in a way, forced us to move our memories from our brains to papers, tablets, notebooks, and computers.  It’s a vicious cycle: we have access to more sources and more detail, so we must use more sources and give more detail and do so accurately.  We have more; therefore, more is expected of us.

Is this change for better or for worse?  Or simply change?  Writing technologies help us retain and transmit knowledge more efficiently; preserve and dissemminate knowledge far more accurately; and possibly increase our production of knowledge.  As a scholar, I acknowledge that these are consummations devoutly to be wished.  But our expectations of writers have correspondingly increased, and my own experiences show how much our composition process is intertwined at almost every stage with some sort of physical or electronic writing.  We are paralyzed when our notes disappear or our Internet connection freezes, when our hands break or the power goes out.  Medieval authors carried their notes and their libraries in their heads; though they had fewer sources, they never lost access to their knowledge, their work, or their tools.  Their process was slower, less efficient, but produced great results.  Perhaps the pressure and work of composing was just as great and onerous as it was to us. Certainly, my experience with medieval composition techniques required more brain-power, memory, and time than composing with technologies.  Yet, I found composing in the medieval way was far more enjoyable, and far less frustrating, than composing with malfunctioning technology.  It is telling that we begin our writing in a storm, and they began with meditation and prayer.

Leave a comment

Filed under Guest Post, Technology

The Story of the “Chaucer Pilgrimage Site”

It all started with this:
 a
I and a couple of students were presenting at the New England Association of the Teachers of English Fall 2014 Conference. As I checked in, the woman at the table told me about the mini-grants. Apparently, to apply all you had to do was write out a proposal on the back of the form and turn it in by the end of the conference. Never one to turn down an opportunity, I mulled ideas as I listened to the keynote speaker. As I considered my courses, I naturally focused on my upcoming Chaucer class in Spring 2015. I had not taught a course just on Chaucer yet, and I was still considering ways to make his texts and Middle English accessible to my students.
  a
My thoughts wandered, considered a variety of options and dismissed them. Then, I came up with the “Pilgrimage Site.” I would create a physical location in our English Studies Department that students would have to visit. Pilgrimage can be complex for students to apply to their modern experiences, especially the difficulty with traveling in the Middle Ages.
  a
What would they do when they got to the Site? Pilgrimage badges! I decided that I would have students “journey” to the Site, pick up a badge specific to our readings of the week, and then leave their own offerings at the Site to represent their understanding of some aspect of the texts.  Students would take photos, provide analysis of their badges and objects, and discuss other students’ objects in a public Facebook group.
 a
I wrote it up, turned it in, and received quite a surprise when I got the email that I had been awarded the mini-grant – its first ever university awardee.
  a
Now came the planning. I have never had more fun planning a course than I did in selecting badges that matched our readings. Students would be visiting the Site every other week, which ended up being seven weeks. I wanted students to have choices, so I provided at least two badges per week.
  a
Before the semester started, I created our Site with the generous support of the department giving me a corner of one of our study rooms. I also decided that the Site would not be complete without Chaucer himself.
  a
  a
It soon became the “thing” to do to take a selfie with Chaucer. Several of my colleagues in the department (and around the university) took their photo with our author. I received the generous permission from some to post them on the project’s Facebook page, which generated more interest among my own students who were delighted at this development. And, of course, I couldn’t resist the opportunity myself.
  a
  a
Having set up the Facebook page (click here to see!), with the beginning of the semester, we began our pilgrimage project.
  a
The Badges
Week 1 – The Book of the Duchess – Black Knights and Tiny Books
 a
Week 2 – Troilus and Criseyde – Wheel of Fortune Magnets and an Arrow
 a
Week 3 – General Prologue – Pilgrim Pins and Becket Prayer Cards
 a
Week 4 – The Friar’s and Summoner’s Tales – Bags of Flour and Frying Pans
 a
Week 5 – The Pardoner’s Tale – Treasure Chests and Bells
 a
Week 6 – The Clerk’s Tale – Brooms and Wedding Rings
 a

Week 7 – The Franklin’s Tale – Star Chart

 a
Student Objects
As the semester progressed, our Site became more and more populated with objects students left to represent their readings.
 a




  a
So What Did I Learn?
For me, this”Pilgrimage Site” became a deliberate study of pedagogical physical and digital spaces. In thinking about ways to negotiate the technology-filled learning environments, we may already have discovered one method that we are not utilizing to its fullest extent – the concept of hybridity. Integrating both physical and digital spaces in more dynamic ways than simply using face-to-face class time as the “physical” aspect allows each to enhance the other. The “paper” and “digital” worlds and teaching practices do not need to be in conflict with each other or be mutually exclusive; they can work together in highly productive ways. The students participated and were immersed in the cultural practice of medieval pilgrimage as well as had a different, creative, active experience with the works of Chaucer. It encouraged interaction with the texts outside of class through cooperative physical and digital interaction. I highly recommend this type of activity!
  a
What About You?
  • Do you have a similar idea? Post it in the comments!
  • How would you analyze each of the badges above? What badges would you have chosen? Comment!

Leave a comment

Filed under Chaucer, Teaching, Technology, Uncategorized

CFP, International Medieval Congress 2016 – “The Ballad of the Lone Medievalist Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Job”

MassMedieval is at it again, organizing for the International Congress. Building off the success of last year’s roundtable, for the 2016 Congress, our topic is a sequel “The Ballad of the Lone Medievalist Or: How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Job.”

The professional reality is that many of us are at institutions at which we are the “lone medievalist,” without 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. In order to navigate these realities, we should be drawing on our collective experience.

At the 2015 International Medieval Congress, we hosted a roundtable entitled “The Ballad of the Lone Medievalist.” It was exceptionally well-attended and various members of the audience raised issues and suggestions that indicated the conversation had only just begun. For this next roundtable, we would like to extend this conversation. This roundtable, as the title suggests, will collect panelists who can provide suggestions and ideas for professional engagement, curriculum planning, and reappointment and tenure cases as the “lone medievalist” in a department or institution. Our intention is that this roundtable will not be a forum simply for bewailing the state of medieval studies in small institutions. Indeed, we anticipate that it will be an opportunity for camaraderie, suggestions, and advice. We intend it to be very forward-thinking and revitalizing as well as helpful to those of us in these positions. It is also a forum for gathering the contact information in order to build a “lone medievalist” support group.

If you’d like to take part in this important conversation, please e-mail Kisha at ktracy3@fitchburgstate.edu by September 15. Thanks!

3 Comments

Filed under Call for Papers, Conferences, Kalamazoo, Lone Medievalist, Uncategorized

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

Screenshot 2015-06-24 11.43.29

Click to enlarge

1 Comment

Filed under Uncategorized