Since Blackpool, I have been holed up in the library every single day – either the English Faculty Library, the Sackler Classics Library, the Radcliffe Camera, or the Duke Humphery’s Library (it’s very easy to unlock the different levels of the ‘Bookworm Badge’ on Foursquare in Oxford). The past month has really been quite a blur. To quote my Paleography professor on March 5th, ‘This is the most difficult part of your course. If you survive, you will be fine.’ Reassuring words, I think? We had our Paleography exam on March 8th, in which we had three hours to discuss two out of three manuscript plates given to us. We had to correctly identify the hand, the date, and give articulate reasons as to our logic. You wouldn’t realize it, but the crossbar above a ‘t’ can tell you a whole lot about the date/tendency of a hand. After that, Margaret, HC ‘11, and Carrie came to visit for the weekend.
Margaret is currently a first year law student at William and Mary. She was on her Spring Break, so she decided to take her parents up on her graduation gift of a ticket to England and re-live some of the highlights of our junior year abroad. Luckily, the weather cooperated, so we had a wonderful weekend exploring Magdalen College gardens, our favorite outdoor cafe, and the Eagle and Child.
Unfortunately, Margaret had to leave to return to Law School, and Carrie has a job. Psh. And…well, I had two essays to write. The first one was on the linguistic aspects of Sir Gawain and the Green Knight, specifically how he refers to himself within various landscape settings. I was exploring the actual construction of the words and the metrical stability of the words. I turned in that essay on Monday, and then I had to turn around and write my Paleography essay. One of my friends (a DPhil Student), Zach, alerted me about a rather peculiar version of Gregory’s Pastoral Care. The work in of itself is not interesting, but it’s how people received it and responded to it that is. There are these curious Middle English glosses throughout the text, a book curse, a book price (rare), and several names. I was able to track down three out of the four names, but Mr. Anthony Diggison remains unfound at the moment. Why is all of this important? My personal research is beginning to look at book culture itself – how people received texts, what they did with them, how they passed them on, etc. Identifying three of the named owners of this text helped situation this manuscript in a different setting in a different range of years; each of these different owners did something different with it. My research ended up focusing primarily on the Middle English glosses, and I’m fairly confident that the book was a Latin primer used in a monastic setting. More research will have to be done, but that’s where the paper stood when I turned it in on Thursday.
The last event of this incredibly busy term happened on Sunday. I’ve had a total of five dance competitions over the past month and a half. That is a lot of hair gel and fake tan. It’s been an interesting five competitions as well; sometimes, the results were wonderful, and other times, the results were dreadful. With such an unstable range of dance results and my first free weekend after a very busy term, I was quite reluctant to attend the competition yesterday. Well, I’m glad I did, since Dean and I ended up winning. The wins came as a huge shock to the two of us – we haven’t really practiced since both of our exam sessions began earlier this month, and we didn’t expect to do well; we just went to have some fun. Apparently, that’s the attitude that we need to maintain from now on. We have another competition in late April, and then a major one against Cambridge in May.
Until then, though, I’m headed to Vercelli, Italy next week to research some Anglo-Saxon manuscripts. After that, I’ll be working non-stop on my dissertation, with the hope of finishing it in early May so I can enjoy the rest of a wonderful summer in Oxford. However, I’m taking a bit of a break…for now.