Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Fake Medievalist in Action

Tonight was the first night of the Chaucer series.

I went over last Friday, and checked to make sure the technology would work with a couple of library staff folks. It took a couple because the hard-drive was iffy, and the tech person had to come give it a stern talking to. But it was working when I left.

I went early tonight, just to be sure, and the computer wasn't working at all. So much for the email I'd sent myself with links to pictures of Hengwrt and Ellesmere! So, I slapped my old Riverside on a copy machine and made copies of appropriate parts, and winged it. My timing was off, but the audience seemed good.

It's fun to talk to adults about lit. They sometimes get it in a fuller way than most young people, and that gives me hope that I'll get things more as I reread.

I'm wiped out. And happy.

We started out by talking a little about what we'd read (if any) of Chaucer, and I was sad to hear that several people had taken Chaucer in a nearby university (many years ago, now, judging by hair more grey than mine) and found the professor boring. How can you make Chaucer boring? I mean, I can't really conceive how it could be done. Think about "The Miller's Tale" or "The Franklin's Tale." How could you make them boring if you tried? And yet, I've heard that from a couple other folks in the past, about different schools.

I hope this group enjoyed the discussion. I talked more than I wanted to, and read aloud more than I thought I should (with quick translations and then focused discussion on a word or two). But a couple of the librarians I know who were at the reference desk said people coming out were happy and talked about what a great session it was. I hope so. (I chatted with the librarian upstairs about the technology a bit, just in case it gets worked out for next week.)

We talked about the General Prologue stuff, pilgrimages, Thomas Becket, frame narratives, quitting and the game, and the whole "it's not my fault, I have to tell you what the naughty guy said" aspect. Next week, we'll be doing "The Miller's Tale." Just thinking about "The Miller's Tale" excites me. It's sort of mental orgasm, knowing I'll be as surprised as ever when Nicholaus shouts for water, even though I know it's coming. Is there a better moment in literature?

It's times like this, having talked about an incredible piece of literature with people who are interested, when I most love teaching and I'm most happy that I'm here doing the work that I do. Grading and committee work I could leave in an instant, but this feeling I would miss dreadfully.

And now I'm going to bed. It was only an hour and a half, but I run on adrenaline, especially with something like a library series, where I'm less sure of myself and my audience than I am in a regular classroom, so I'm tuckered. (And I did ski for almost an hour today, and worked on syllabus stuff.) I don't know how school teachers teach for 6 or 7 hours in a day, and still manage to get up the next morning and do it all again.


  1. Success!! Congratulations, Bardiac. Sounds thrilling!

  2. Sounds terrific - can I join? The great thing about the library series is that the only people who come are doing it for fun!

    I'm impressed you can sleep -- I often am so charged after evening events that it takes me ages (or else a stiff drink) to get to sleep.

  3. That sounds like a fun series. I do think I get a lot more out of reading the 'classics' now than I did as a teenager/young adult. I am starting to deal with Chaucer as part of my research on Richard II, and you've reminded me I have some novice questions to post for you lit experts.