Sunday, November 11, 2012

A Successful Scholarly Sojourn

Come on a Sojourn with me.

This past summer, I gave in to urging from an old friend and agreed to be the scholarly presence on one of the "sojourns" put together by his new company, which is, not surprisingly, called Scholarly Sojourns, and whose slogan is "Think INSIDE the Vacation."

Although skeptical at first, I agreed to be part of an intrepid group of travelers who were seeking the places, the artifacts, the books and the stories of Anglo-Saxon Britain. We gathered in the north of England, in a lovely old hotel in Durham, and began to get to know each other at a delicious meal. The "students" weren't expecting an assignment right away, but, well, if you've brought a professor on your expedition, you might as well use him. So the smart and energetic students (some the same age as my Wheaton students, others older, one who should have been my department chair) began their first assignment: to memorize Cædmon's Hymn in Anglo-Saxon.  We might have started tentatively, but by the end of the evening--they have good beer and wine in Durham--we sounded quite Anglo-Saxon (and very loud!).

We then traveled to Bede's old monastery, Monkwearmouth Jarrow, and held some pieces of stained glass from his time.  I think Bede would have appreciated our studies and our practice of Cædmon's Hymn. Then it was off to the Holy Island of Lindisfarne to communicate with St Cuthbert and keep our eyes peeled for approaching Viking Sails (they must have taken the weekend off).  By this point, we gotten to know each other amidst beautiful scenery of historically vital places, so the learning--and the friendship and joviality of the group--carried us along on our explorations of York, Whitby Abbey and then Whitby Village. After another excellent dinner and some sleep, we toured the Parker Library at Cambridge, the reconstructed Anglo-Saxon village at West Stowe, and then took a trip to the sites of the Battle of Maldon, Bury-St-Edmunds, and in the end, Canterbury Cathedral, where were able to wander freely because we were staying inside the Cathedral Close. The next day brought Battle Abbey, the site of the Battle of Hastings and the death of King Harald. Then a trip to Winchester for an amazingly delicious and very fun meal (We discovered the summertime British drink, Pimms). I was truly sad for the trip to end and the students to separate back into their regular life.  But they'll always have Caedmon's Hymn, some great memories, and, I hope, a joy at the accomplishments of the Anglo-Saxon culture that built so much of the culture of England.

We hope to repeat this sojourn next year, and two others:  One on J.R.R. Tolkien's world (scroll to the bottom left), and the other on the Vikings, to be held in Iceland.  Keep a eye on the Scholarly Sojourns website for more detail.  It would be a great chance to meet you, and all of us can better understand Anglo-Saxon culture if we're occupying their spaces and, perhaps just a little, feeling what they felt.


Dave said...

A.D. 758. This year died Archbishop Cuthbert. He held the
archbishopric eighteen years.

A.D. 2012. This year a band of pilgrims came from America to Northumbria to visit Archbishop Cuthbert and his friend Bede as part of an Anglo-Saxon tour by Scholarly Sojourns. The pilgrims did not know what to expect. The tour turned out to be excellent, as they learned some Old English along the way and saw many of the most storied places in English history. There was beer. There were pubs, cathedrals, superb local guides, sheep, burial mounds, stained glass, manuscripts, reconstructed thatched hut dwellings, and no marauding by Vikings. Archbishop Cuthbert took a dim view of the fun, but when he was not looking, Bede smiled.

Mithrennaith said...

If I had known, and schedule (around Return of the Ring) had permitted, I should have joined you in Northumbria. I’d love to learn from you to sing some Anglo-Saxon!