Tuesday, June 05, 2007

The Dream of the Rood and other things

Posting has been light here due to workload and also because the person who has probably been my closest friend at Wheaton for the past ten years has been diagnosed with terminal cancer and is rapidly slipping away. It's a very difficult time. She has been such an important part of encouraging me with my work and helping me along, and I'm at a loss.

But I am trying to keep up with my projects. Over at Anglo-Saxon Aloud, I've posted The Dream of the Rood. It is one of the most beautiful poems in Old English, and I know it very well, so I think that the recording isn't too bad. If you haven't listened to an Anglo-Saxon poem yet, this might be a good one. It is about 11 minutes long.

This past weekend I gave an invited lecture, "Engineers as Heroes: Science Fiction from the 1930s to Today" to the Sigma Xi (the Scientific Research Society) chapter at General Motors in Warren, Michigan. This one of of the most well-informed, intelligent audiences I've ever spoken to, and I had a great time visiting the Tech Center and giving the talk. Great people (and one of them was a Wheaton alum from 1978--in anthropology!).

Also, I'll be giving a research seminar at the Santa Fe Institute next week. And, it turns out, I will be presenting at the International Society of Anglo-Saxonists' conference in London at the beginning of August (despite what I told everyone at Kalamazoo).

But before then, I have to write all fourteen lectures for A Way with Words Part II: Understanding Literature for Recorded Books. I think it's funny that I, a Theory skeptic who thinks Derrida is wrong about many things because he didn't read his Wittgenstein, got hired to write a Theory-related course. But I'm really happy about working with Recorded Books again, not the least because my colleague in Biology, John Kricher, has agreed to do a course on Dinosaurs for them and I will get to be in the studio when part of that is recorded. Dinosaurs! So cool.


John Cowan said...

This was the first of your recordings that I've listened to, and in fact I listened to it three times: once just to the recording, a second time following along with the text, and a third time following along with a translation. I've never read or studied this poem either in the original or in translation.

In the second reading, I wound up focusing on the phonology, and I heard a few things I thought I'd mention, just things to watch out for in future recordings. You have a fronted /u/, as is typical of American English, and that pushes your OE /u/ very close to [y]. Similarly, the /y/ (long or short) is quite often [i], as in "dryhten" which comes out [drIkt@n] rather than [drYxt@n]. Many instances of /æ/ also sounded like your /a/, though not vice versa, and "ea" often began with [e] rather than [æ].

On the consonant side, palatalized /c/ and /g/ were quite consistent, but intervocalic /f/ was often [f] rather than [v], particularly in more common words, and likewise /θ/ was quite often [θ] rather than [ð].

(I recognize that some of these remarks may reflect my limited understanding of OE phonology rather than being speech errors on your part; if so, please correct me!)

But these are basically flyspecks which I wouldn't even have picked up on if I weren't listening in the manner that I explained above. It's overall a great recording: it makes the verse sound like verse, and it's spoken rather than hypnotically chanted as is all too often the case.

theswain said...

My condolences on your friend. My mother in law is in the same boat, I'm afraid, and I've lost other good friends to cancer too. So I now how you feel and have no words of wisdom other than to say that I know what you're going through. Best wishes!

Dr. Virago said...

My condolences regarding your friend. And I second what The Swain said. I've been there, too, and my thoughts are with you.

New Kid on the Hallway said...

Very sorry to hear about your friend.

Another Damned Medievalist said...

That sucks, Michael. I'm so very sorry.

Anonymous said...

I'm sorry to hear about your friend, Michael.

Matt said...

Thank you for writing this about my mother. She loved Wheaton and all the people there. It was great to see the turn out of people coming to say good bye to her. I will miss her forever! All she needed to be happy was to see my daughter at the end of the day. The only thing that would have made her happier would be to see my daughter and my brothers new baby after a day at work!!!! Once again THANK YOU for telling everyone how GREAT my Mom was

I love you forever MOM!!!!

Love Matt

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