Wow; I can’t believe that I haven’t updated in quite some time! I know that you’ve all been sitting on the edges of your seats because you just can’t wait to hear about my exciting life. Since my last post (which was, erm, a while ago…), life has been extremely hectic. Where on earth do I begin with my adventures in Oxford? I guess that I should start with academics; after all, that’s what brought me here in the first place! Firstly, I cannot believe how quickly Michelmas term went. In my last four meetings with my primary tutorial, I explored linguistic changes as evident in texts from various periods. It was fascinating. The first week, I focused on English’s switch from a synthetic language to an analytic language, and I had to analyze the differences between Old English and Middle English sentence constructions. For instance, Old English sentences are Subject Object Verb (typically…as we all know with grammar, there are always exceptions!), whilst Middle English sentences are Subject Verb Object. For the next week, I focused on code-switching in Medieval texts, particularly from Latin to English in The Vision of Piers Plowman. Now that was awesome. Basically, I was analyzing the rise of English as a formal language in both academic and literary circles. After that, I encountered the most significant and sweeping linguistic change in the English language – the Great Vowel Shift. During this tutorial, Charlotte asked me why I thought that this happened. Here’s what I’ve learned about linguistics, specifically when we’re dealing with the evolution of English: We just don’t know, so people can propose a lot of theories that might be ludicrous, but they hold merit nonetheless. Anyway, my final essay was the perfect assignment and it was what I was anticipating the entire term. Charlotte gave me three texts – a selection from The Canterbury Tales, Marlowe’s Dr. Faustus, and Fanny Burney’s Evangelina. She told me to study them and write an essay on the one linguistic change that I saw throughout the three of them. She was talking about the rise of the periphrastic do in the English language. I really don’t have enough room to even begin talking about this subject, but it was absolutely fascinating to see it before my eyes in texts. Basically, we use the word do in a multitude of linguistic functions that the word simply didn’t employ during the Medieval period. I’ll leave it at that because I just find it such a fascinating topic that I could talk about it for hours. As you can tell, I really enjoyed my tutorial in the History of the English language, and I’m really going to miss learning about the linguistics of my major.
As for Bede, my last essay for Hugh was about why Bede included miracle stories in the Ecclesiastical History and not in his The Lives of the Abbots. Talk about fascinating! That was definitely a fun paper to write, even if my computer crashed literally fifteen minutes before the paper was due. Ever heard of Murphy’s Law? Well, I’m renaming it Colleen Curran’s law. Yes, my computer malfunctioned fifteen minutes before my paper was due and then I couldn’t find an internet connection to e-mail my paper to Hugh. Thank goodness my ballroom dance partner, Sam, was with me when it all happened because he a) made sure that I remained calm and b) found me an internet connection. That was quite the way to end the term. Anyway, I’m taking another class with Hugh in Trinity term, but this time it’s going to be more of a general history class covering the British Isles from c. 300 until 1066.
Okay, now let’s step back from academics for a bit, shall we? I swear that I’m not just studying at Oxford. The other major component of my schedule is ballroom dance. We had two competitions; one was at Warwick and the other was at Nottingham. No, those names yield no geographical insight for me either. Sam and I did rather well in both styles of dance at both competitions. We made it to the semi-finals in all the Latin dances at both competitions, and we made it to the quarter finals in the Ballroom dances at both competitions as well. The ballroom competitions are much different in England than they are in America. Here, you only dance one style – International. In America, however, competitions offer both American and International styles, which means it’s typically a longer day. Also, English competitions have what’s called a team match – every school enters a certain amount of teams. Each team is composed of a quickstep couple, a jive couple, a cha cha couple, and a waltz couple. It’s actually a lot of fun, and I’m thinking about incorporating that in the Holy Cross competition next year.
So, what about traveling, which is supposed to be a major component of any study abroad experience? Well, I’m going to be quite honest – I simply haven’t had the time to travel as much as I’ve wanted to. Since classes let out on December 6th, I’ve been running around in Oxford. Generally, my days included Christmas shopping (excellent), reading, and practicing ballroom. Yes, my life is fantastic. However, Carrie and I did manage to make it to Sutton Hoo, which is an Anglo-Saxon burial site. There’s really not much to the site other than the original barrow mounds, as all of the artifacts are housed in the British Museum for safe-keeping. However, just to see the mounds was fantastic. I always delight in seeing a medieval site because it just brings everything to life for me. I can study the period as much as I want through manuscripts, texts, historical analysis, and languages, but just visiting sites makes me realize that these were human beings who experienced the same world in which we now live. Okay, I’m finished with that nerd rant. Don’t worry, though – we’re all planning to travel a lot more during the next two terms now that we’ve tackled Oxford.
Unfortunately, I’m sitting in my room in Alpharetta, GA as I write this. Yes, I did leave Oxford yesterday morning. Yes, I left willingly. Don’t worry; I’m going to be back there in three weeks! Until then, though, check back here for updates, specifically tomorrow as I post my general thoughts about how my first term at Oxford went. Of course, you can also check back to read about my incredibly exciting life in Georgia…or you could also just look through the photos below. Whatever floats your boat.
Until next time!
Update: Okay, so the photo uploader isn’t working for me at the moment. Never fear; I shall sort this out!
Colleen Curran '11