Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Marginally Medieval, More Medieval and Most Medieval

by Mary Kate Hurley

It just occurred to me that in my complete preoccupation with a chapter on Orosius in my dissertation (of which you shall all hear more soon), I have not yet had occasion to point your browsers and minds to a few things.

First, the Marginally Medieval:
Readers might remember that I was involved in the Graduate Translation Conference at Columbia this Spring. I'm pleased to report that the Keynote Conversation between US Poet Laureate Charles Simic and Professor Michael Scammell is now available online as a podcast. It was a fascinating event, one I'd highly recommend listening to. And as though Simic and Scammell aren't reason enough to listen, you can hear me ask a question at the end of the recording!

And now, getting a little More Medieval:
Way back in January, I mentioned that I was writing an essay for the Old English Newsletter on blogging and academia. You can now read the article in its entirety at OEN.org.

Finally -- for the Most Medieval of my Miscellaneous Notes today:
On a whim, I decided to propose a special session for the 2008 Kalamazoo Conference. If you turn to page 27 of the 2009 call for Papers for the Western Michigan University International Medieval Congress, you'll find a session called "Beyond Geography: New Work on the Old English Orosius." I hope to find other folks interested in this crazy text, so if you know anyone working on the Orosius, send them my way! If you've ever even had a vague interest in writing on it -- consider this your big chance!

Now, you should go and read the REAL medieval content, by Jeffrey on the Franklyn's Tale and Eileen on Guthlac and gender.


Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Mary Kate, congratulations on the publication of this essay in thde OEN. Its well written and I enjoyed reading it. Two things crossed my mind as I lingered over your words.

In explaining why so many bloggers prefer anonymity, you wrote: In a world in which your ideas will make or break you, any crack in your armor can seem a monumental weakness. I've always blogged under my own name, and done so mainly for the opposite reason: that is, to show the vulnerability necessary to do work that takes you in new directions, and to foreground that (contra the heroic individual model of scholarship that prevails) we are not bodiless intellectuals. Life is not an inconvenient intrusion into the time we spend with our manuscripts but our companion in the archive, the shaper of the questions we ask and the arena in which we come arrive at our answers. That's also why Katherine and Alexander figure so prominently in my "Weight of the Past" project, most notably in the intrusions they instigate at two sites important to that work (Avebury and the British Museum; see here for more).

I acknowledge, though, that for someone with tenure and his end-of-the-line promotion, it's far easier for me to take such a risk than it is for a graduate student working on a thesis. For me the only negative impact has been the fixation it fed for an unhappy blog commenter, and although that was at times annoying, it was also easy enough to ignore.

Also, it was anonymous bloggers like Dr Virago, ADM, and Ancrene Wiseass who made me want to blog: they and some unstructured sabbatical time were my inspiration for starting In the Middle. Blogging is something we medievalists can now call a scholarly practice, but it was in its origin given energy, direction, and impact by the young-in-the-field, not crusty codgers like (as Karl recently called me, and I am still stewing over it) Old Man Cohen (and yes he did say it as a joke, but the absence of my sense of humor is as legendary as my vindictiveness. How is that for using the blog as confessional organ?)

That's a long way of saying that a year or two ago, blogs seemed riskier than they do now: we were hearing horror stories and all that Ivan Tribble ridiculousness. Grad students were being warned against blogging and Facebook and anything else that would leave electronic evidence that they sometimes left the library. Now I see blogs cited in books and articles, and I can't help wondering if they haven't become the new journals, or perhaps better the next and more flexible form that the scholarly journal will take. At any rate, blogs seem so much more an accepted part of scholarly life than they were not that long ago.

I wonder how long they will endure ... and what is next for them. Actually, after all that typing there is my question, for Mary Kate and for all readers of this comment: what IS next for blogs?

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

Oh, and I meant to add: we are so happy to have you on the ITM blogging team, Mary Kate. I'm happy to say that I've known you since the Anhaga days, and it has been thrilling to be a witness to your coming into your voice. What a voice it is: if I could travel back in time to sourpuss grad student me, I'd slap him and then make him read your work.

Jeffrey J. Cohen said...

"in thde OEN" = in the OEN. Dddon'td kndow whered thadt exdtra D camde fdrom.

Eileen Joy said...

Mary Kate: the essay in OEN is wonderful and I was especially glad to see you invoke what I know is a very important signature mantra for you, E.M. Forster's "only connect." As I know you already know, this has, for years, also been an important mantra of my own, and I really believe [as Steve Muhlberger has recently pointed out in his recent post on academic publishing and blogging] that the critical dialogue that we engage in here, especially with regard to our ongoing projects [conference presentations, dissertations, articles, books, etc.], is, in and of itself, perhaps more valuable than our so-called "finished products." It is in the fraternity, if I can use such a gender-biased term, of fellow co-bloggers [who are themselves situated with a highly impersonal, competitive, and often anxiety-inducing larger "field" of academic studies] that I would locate the real value of this practice we call "blogging."

Mary Kate Hurley said...

Coming back to this rather late in the game, but here goes:

Jeffrey: I think you've picked up on something that I really struggled with on the article -- how to capture the vulnerability that blogging can open you to, simultaneously with the real intellectual work that is IN ITSELF vulnerable. And I think you've really been a model for that, and Eileen and Karl too, along with other bloggers. I also love the way you phrase this: Life is not an inconvenient intrusion into the time we spend with our manuscripts but our companion in the archive, the shaper of the questions we ask and the arena in which we come arrive at our answers.

I think you're also right - blogs are becoming more accepted as a place in which we do our scholarly work. But it's still a work-in-progress, I think, and that's something I had a hard time portraying.

As for what is next for blogging -- I think it's a space in which the future of collaboration is being worked out -- the ways in which we think together, and the ways in which we learn to acknowledge that thinking-together. I've also got in mind what Steve Muhlberger Said about the blog in his post on the future of academic publishing:

Here some like-minded scholars, with a penchant for complex literary theory that sometimes leaves me behind, are throwing out some of their best new ideas in what might be seen as half developed form, so that their blog partners and any passing reader can think about them and comment, favorably or unfavorably. This is not instead of the usual academic activity. Material on In the Middle relates directly to conference papers, potential articles, and monographs being worked on by the blog owners, material it should be noted that otherwise I never would have heard of (being a more or less conventional historian). I'm part of an unexpected audience that was attracted to the blog by a reference to some other blog. And there must be many others, all of whom are in a position to comment, at whatever length. Who knows what some half-random reader may say that may contribute to this remarkable productivity?

Particularly at the end of that statement, I think he hits the nail on the head. Enlarging the scope of what influences we not only allow for but embrace is crucial to a type of scholarship that allows for real breadth.

And coming to what Eileen says in her comment -- precisely! The thinking-together we accomplish here is truly extraordinary, because it brings together so many different voices, so many different ideas.

As to my voice: ITM has been a huge part of its development -- from Anhaga days forward. So I'm happy to be here with all of you!

Karl Steel said...

So I'm happy to be here with all of you!

Right back at you!