Thursday, June 15, 2006

The Medievalist's Apprentice

Prynhawn da, or good afternoon. I thank JJC for his kind introduction and for his continuing presence in my life and work. Like many of you, I’ve eagerly and actively watched this blog grow over the past six months, and now I’m very flattered indeed to have been given the keys the virtual kingdom while its real proprietor is sunning himself on a beach in Maine. I hope that my modest contributions will be of interest to this blog’s reading public, and I hope to learn much from any comments that you all might have. (And should anyone else out there wants to guest blog, by all means, get in touch with JJC or post a comment; by next week I shall have to get back to my writing.)

My dissertation, which I’m beginning this summer, is about political language, specifically the language of kingship, in England and Wales in the age of Chaucer. The few snippets of work that I’d like to share relate to the Welsh angle of my project, which will form the second chapter of my dissertation. The themes that I’m exploring—national and personal identity, the writing of history, political imagination, and so on—will hardly seem new to those of you for whom this blog is regular reading.

I shall be particularly interested to hear from readers who are familiar with Middle Welsh literature. For two years a dedicated nucleus of New York graduate student medievalists has met at the CUNY Graduate Center in Midtown, first to learn Middle Welsh from Celticist extraordinaire Catherine McKenna, and then, after Catherine accepted a position in Harvard’s Celtic Studies Department, as part of a weekly translation group. Aside from one another, though, we’ve been hard-pressed to speak of things Welsh with other medievalists. A pleasant exception to this state of affairs was last year’s Harvard Celtic Colloquium, which two of us trekked north to Cambridge to attend. Here in New York, though, we’re on our own. Hence I turn to the great wide blogosphere: come one, come all, and let us for a brief time indulge in medieval Welsh literature!

Later this afternoon or tomorrow I shall post some snippets from two projects, one about Culhwch ac Olwen, the oldest Arthurian tale, and another about Breudwyt Maxen Wledic, a Welsh historical narrative about Emperor Maxen of Rome and his (mis)adventures in the provinces. If any further thoughts about Welsh literature or the Middle Welsh language occur to me I'll post them as well.

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