Friday, August 29, 2003

Start of the Semester

One of the many great things about being a professor is that you get to stay plugged in to the great cycle of the year in a way that many other professions don't. (For my wife the engineer, for example, there's no real difference in work between an average September and an average April). September has that same "back to school" feel that it had when you were a kid, but it is even better in that there's less (for me, at least) of the trepidation that went with the return to school.

My syllabi are now finished. I'm teaching Medieval Lit (in translation), a Senior Seminar on Tolkien and Le Guin, and an English 101 that's linked to a Math First Year Seminar and focuses on Science Fiction. It should be a fun semester. I also may continue teaching Old Norse (if the student wants to continue). For the first time in a while I'm not directing an honors thesis (I don't think).

It's immensely satisfying to be able to plan out an entire semester, right down to the chapter and page for each day. Of course it never goes entirely according to plan, but I can be pretty sure how each week in the semester will be working out: what the students will be reading and writing, what my own grading workload will be, etc.

There's nothing quite like the excitement of walking in to a new set of classes in September. I'm hopeful that these will be as wonderful as the ones I had last year.

Friday, August 15, 2003


Sorry to take so long to give the post-ISAS roundup (that my three readers just couldn't wait for; but where else can you get a blog entry on the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists?

It was five times hotter than the surface of the sun in Phoenix/Scottsdale, but the conference itself was (as always) pretty fabulous. Some absolutely great papers, including one by the genius Mechthild Gretsch in the session I chaired. A very good complement of graduate student papers, also, which is good news for the field, particularly since the abstracts were all judged blind this year.

I'm not sure what it means that almost all of my favorite papers were by women: Joyce Hill, Jo Story, Mary Swan, Kanerva Heikkinen. Anglo-Saxon studies used to have a reputations as one of the few sub-disciplines in English that was still a boys club. I guess that's not true any more.

The best paper was the plenary address by my dissertation director, Allen Frantzen (and he didn't tell me to write that), but there was another really fabulous plenary by John Blair, from Oxford. The talk, "How Christian was Early Christian England?" really tied together an enormous quantity of loose threads. It was one of those papers that you enjoy while you're hearing it, but then get another burst of pleasure out of when it all sinks in and you think about it later. And the great thing about ISAS was that I was then able to have lunch and dinner with John Blair (whom I'd never before me) and talk in great detail about Anglo-Saxon history, archeology, etc.

In fact, I learned a lot about archeology from a variety of people at this conference. Bottom line (for my readers): those Anglo-Saxon strap ends and Sceattas on eBay are probably legitimate, but you want to try to deal only with people who document their finds and report them. Metal detectors are finding an enormous number of artifacts and it's not necessarily unethical to buy them as long as the type of find and location is reported. So now I can buy a strap-end or a sceat with good conscience.

I could give more info, but I came home to the hideous task of re-writting all of my references in How Tradition Works to make them conform to MRTS style. Hellish job, but it's now done. More later.