Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Learning Mode: ON!

I'm teaching a nice schedule this semester, and good lit, but I've assigned a lot of reading, and it hit home last night that I have to do it all.

Do people who use basically the same text book reread it every term? For example, does someone teaching intro to chem reread the chapter of the day? It's not like intro chem changes that radically between terms, right?

Of course, I'm not teaching the equivalent of intro to chem, more like intro to the next step of chem.

Last night's reading: "The Dream of the Rood" (in translation, of course). That's an amazing little poem. But then, I like dream visions in general.

I'm thinking of talking about two things that really interest me about it. The first is that you have to know the passion story for the poem to make any sense; that is, you have to already be Christian or have been exposed to the big Christian story.

And yet, the Rood tells the dreamer that he needs to go out and tell the story, and in some ways, the poem is the dreamer acting on that imperitive, and so enacting the gospel/good news part. But in order to make sense of the dreamer's vision, you have to already know, so the point of telling the story isn't to convert, but more to see the story from a new angle.

Except for the Ruthwell Cross, it looks like there's one extant MS from the 10th century, which wasn't "discovered" (in Italy!) until the 1800s. It's interesting, isn't it, how many medieval texts that we consider quite important were "lost" and probably didn't have much cultural impact at the time (as they would have had someone been making lots of copies as with, say, Chaucer's texts). I wish I had something intelligent to say about that.

Speaking of manuscrpts, have I ever mentioned that I love some of the manuscript names? I love Cotton Vespasian number so and so. Doesn't that sound like there's something cool there? (I particularly remember the cool name, but don't remember what text I might have read from that part of the collection.)

Okay, after looking at the British Library info on the Cotton collection, I want to go read Ed 6's diary. Has anyone read it? (I know diddly about Ed 6, really, but at least he's not writing an obscure chancery hand!)


  1. Well, let's see. Among the Cotton Vespasian literary texts are the South English Legendary, a Geoffrey of Monmouth, the Siege of Jerusalem, quite a lot of Anglo-Saxon stuff that isn't really my province these days, the N-Town mystery cycle, and "Why I can't be a nun" (http://www.lib.rochester.edu/camelot/teams/nonunfrm.htm)

    Anything sound familiar?

  2. You're right, Edward's hand is really easy for a mid-Tudor hand! (As a 17th C person, I find the earlier hands are often tricky.)

  3. Yeah, the 17th century is where it gets easier for me, too. 14th and 15th century book hands are relatively easy for me, but Oy! that 15th and 16th century Secretary, etc. Makes my head spin!

    Re: the "lost" MSS -- they might have had an impact in their own time, at least (or maybe not). But the thing I always say about them to students is three-fold: 1) don't assume that something that comes before was necessarily an influence on what comes later, 2) this shows one of the ways that we know more about the Middle Ages now than earlier centuries did (some of those "lost" manuscripts weren't discovered until the *20th* century!) and our knowledge continues to grow -- there's more to discover!, and 3)this demonstrates the bunkum in the idea that's what's "best" to read and study" is what has "stood the test of time" -- lots of worthy stuff didn't have a chance to pass that test!