Wednesday, December 12, 2007


Friday, December 07, 2007

Things I Said in Anglo-Saxon Literature

One of my students in Anglo-Saxon Literature this semester kept a list of things I said that he found amusing. Maybe you will as well.

On false impressions of the Middle Ages) Well, you tell Prof. Mulholland [specialist in 18th-C] that everyone in the Eighteenth Century had syphilis.

(In Yoda voice): Told you I did. Listen you did not. Now screwed we all shall be. There. I just showed you why natural languages don't use VSO order and summarized the Star Wars I-III.

The Finnish language looks like someone threw some vowels on a plate and shook it real hard.

I went through grammar school in the 70's and 80's when they didn't teach us any actual content--we just expressed ourselves all the time.

(On bloodletting) You get a nice slash from a dirty lancet, and you'll feet better--until you get festering gangrene.

It's a happy day when you have vowels. Otherwise it's like speaking Eastern European languages that only have consonants.

I definitely get the impression that Dutch and Finnish used up all the vowels and so there were none left when the other languages got to pick.

(On the wolf in The Passion of St. Edmund) "I am in ur woodz, garding ma haid."

(On circumcision and conversion) "I have to cut off what? I'll stay pagan, thanks."

(On why Athelstan's not having children does not mean he was gay) There were plenty of European rulers who were gay and had children... they just closed their eyes and thought of England for a few minutes.

I've always said that Beowulf should have beaten Grendel with the arm after he ripped it off while yelling at the monster "Why are you hitting yourself? Why are you hitting yourself, huh?" -- Yes, I have a little brother. Why do you ask?

If you want to know what a gusla sounds like, imagine a cat being fed through a wood-chipper.

(Repeatedly) We in medieval studies often make a fuss about how intellectually studly we are.

Unless you are Nathaniel Hawthorne, you don't need to use the word "sepulcher." And if you are Nathaniel Hawthorne, you use it every six lines.

It's always good to have a talk about cannibalism. Plus, it's in the Vercelli Book, so Score! I'm all set.

Athelthryth -- I can't imagine why that name hasn't made a comeback.

Anglo-Saxon fun: "Let's go drink a lot. And: let's bring weapons!"

My Anglo-Saxon class this year is more intelligent and motivated than my Anglo-Saxon class eight years ago. Don't pat yourself on the back -- I'm still going to make you suffer.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

More on Anglo-Saxon Aloud, Singing, etc.

I wanted to thank everyone who has made suggestions and given me kind words about the project. I think I will be ready to record the Paris Psalter in at least a very simplified form of singing when the time comes this spring. I've got a lot to listen to now, and two excellent students who are interested in the project, and now a Music professor who wants to help, as well as folks like Derek on line, so it's just a matter of finding time and learning how to do it right.

So now I'm going to be working through the Minor Poems volume of the ASPR. Yesterday it was Finnsburh, today it's Waldere, and tomorrow through Friday it will be Maldon, a poem which seems to me more artful and more poignant each time I read it.

Unfortunately, I won't be talking about Anglo-Saxon Aloud at Kalamazoo, because that abstract just got rejected. I was a little surprised, but the session it was for got cancelled, and I guess it just wasn't a fit with anything else. I guess it's some kind of karma re-balance for the crap papers I gave at Kalamazoo when I was in graduate school.

I am not going to end up doing an entire set of recording of the Bibliothek der angelsachisen Prosa, but I think I will perhaps do a few of those works that lend themselves to oral delivery, like the Sermo Lupic. Brendan makes some good suggestions, though right now I can't imagine myself reading the entire Ecclesiastical History. Maybe the Chronicle day by day, though (I'd have to calculate how long that would take to record and edit, though), and I was going to ask for suggestions for shorter homilies to give readers a taste "rhythmical prose" by Ælfric or Wulfstan's prose besides the Sermo Lupi.

As for plans for the project: As long as Wheaton will keep the server up, I plan on keeping the project going. If I were to sell it as a CD-set (like Beowulf Aloud, it would end up being about 20 disks long, and I don't know if anyone is going to pay me for what it would cost to make that (i.e., the covers, etc.). Maybe I can load the entire thing onto a cheap iPod Shuffle off of eBay and sell it that way if people don't want to have to keep downloading.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Paris Psalter Singing

Well, thanks to some good suggestions by Derek the Ænglican (including a pointer to the really interesting Chantblog), and the work of one of my students (a brilliant English/Music double major with a minor in Medieval and Renaissance Studies), I now know what I need to do in order to chant the Paris Psalter at Anglo-Saxon Aloud. Unfortunately, I also know that I'm not ready to do it. I need to listen to more chant, particularly monophonic chant, and get the patterns in my head so that I can improvise around the natural Old English rhythm of the lines. This is going to take some practice and some work. So while I do that, I am going to post volume 6 of the Anglo-Saxon Poetic Records, The Anglo-Saxon Minor Poems. That's often considered a silly title for a volume that includes the Battle of Maldon, the Battle of Brunanburh, The Fight at Finnsburh, and Cædmon's Hymn, which are certainly not "minor" in the sense of being trivial or less important. So I hope you'll enjoy those "minor" poem for the next few weeks. Then, when I've gotten to the "fragments of Psalms" in the Minor Poems volume, I should be up to the task of singing those and then the Paris Psalter. And I'll conclude the project, honor of my friend Joel Relihan, with the Meters of Boethius.

I'm hoping this will be done by Kalamazoo, so that I can give my paper on the project (assuming it is accepted). And then I hope to add some other things (like female voices for female-narrated poems) and harmony singing for some of the Psalms (I have two double majors in Voice and English who have taken Anglo-Saxon and are taking Beowulf in the spring). Then maybe a few of the more popular prose texts, like the Sermo Lupi. Suggestions are always welcome.