Sunday, May 25, 2008

A cranky medievalist

Things are making me cranky today, despite the glorious spring holiday weekend Sunday that we're having. And everything that's making me cranky is doing so because I'm a medievalist. It's making me wish I'd been a modernist after all (once upon a time that's what I thought I wanted to do).

First, there's this article skewering the Medieval Congress at K'zoo, which Dr. Nokes has posted about and partly criticized, rightly. It's probably better that he do so than I, since as you can see from my comments there, the thing gets my hackles up in all sorts of ways that don't bother him.

But as if that weren't enough, I also had a colleague forward the article to me, assuming that I'd *share* her viewpoint -- he thought I'd be one of the people, like the writer, tsk-tsking the use of cultural studies and the papers on excrement. (Clearly he hasn't even looked at my CV -- not even when I was up for tenure??? -- and also doesn't know my love of fart jokes.) And he thought the article was a fair and sympathetic assessment! (As if he'd know. He's never been to the Congress -- he's an Americanist!) It reminds me of how my dad used to always send me clippings of conservative critiques of all the leftists in academia and tell me to be careful or I wouldn't get a job. Apparently, my colleague, like my dad, thinks I'm a conservative. My dad thinks so for complex psychological reasons I don't have time to get into (he also thinks I'm still a practicing Catholic and a virgin, and he doesn't know I live with Bullock). But I think my colleague keeps assuming that I'm a political conservative because, I guess, I study the Middle Ages. Why? Why assume that? Can someone fill me in here? [Edited to add: it's the act of assuming that bugs me most. I'm sure said colleague would be annoyed if someone assumed he was a liberal just because he's an English professor. When smart people assume, it annoys me.]

And *then* I get another e-mail, this time sent to a large list, from another colleague (apparently my colleagues have no lives and spend holiday weekends writing e-mails) in which he attached a letter to an editor defending what we do in the liberal arts. OK, nothing to get cranky about, right? Except that in a moment of misplaced, annoying cutesiness, he referred to scholars at RBU who teach "Olde English." Ack! OLD-E ENGLISH! I do NOT teach Old-E fraking English. Way to denigrate what I do into some cutesy Ren Fest attraction. Not to mention the fact that it's not even grammatically correct in Old or even Middle English. But that's besides the point, since who would give a class title for a serious class in an American university in anything but modern English? Argh! Bullock managed to alleviate my annoyance a little bit though, when he told me I should write to my colleague and tell him to "go to the shoppe and buy a clue." Hee-hee.

But seriously all of this is making me tired of being a medievalist at the moment. I'll recover, I'm sure, but for once it would be nice not to specialize in a period that gets so abused and misunderstood. I should go commiserate with Victoria -- Victorianist are probably second to medievalists in their impatience with the (ab)use of their period by the general public. And I know Will, our Shakespearean, gets sick of Shakespeare being used as a weapon in various fights about the humanities. And if I studied early American, I'd likely get sick of the abuse of the term "puritanical." *Is* there a period of English or American literature that's free from popular misunderstandings?

11 comments:

Another Damned Medievalist said...

Insecurity much?

(her, not you)

tempestsarekind said...

What I want to know is whether you can get a Marxist cheesegrater at Crate & Barrel. Because I have a Freudian mandoline, but the handguard does tend to--what else?--slip.

tempestsarekind said...

Also, isn't Olde English a brand of malt liquor? Yikes!

Dr. Virago said...

Tempests -- Hee hee!

Matthew Gabriele said...

As I said to a colleague after hearing a recent conference paper, "That would've been good if it were written in 1905."

Besides, I don't know what she can expect by slagging off the vast majority of her future colleagues.

Sisyphus said...

Wait, Dr. V, I think you and I have the same dad! Heh!

And Tempest's response is great! I may have to steal that.

PS in a random segue, I would like to add that Fecopoetics is an _awesome_ title and idea!

The Pastry Pirate said...

Oh honey, I'm so sorry you didn't choose a profession where you can pelt the deserving with burnt cinnamon rolls.

But seriously... I read the article and then some posts about it and found my way to other things, even more ridiculous, that this intellectual spoiled toddler has written. And wow. My first impression of the article, not as a medievalist of course but as someone who knows a thing or three about journalism, was hack. She went looking for things to mock, things that fit her agenda, things that would stick in the craw of her audience and she found them, puffed them up and ignored everything else.

And don't you love how she happened to work in her ability to recognize a good French accent? Sacre bleu, quelle beetch!

The further I delved into her Sick, Sad World, the more evidence I discovered that she's clearly of the Anne Coulter school of Media Whoring: pander to your demographic, favor screeching over discourse and trample over the facts because no one really cares about those.

Oh, and as a writer, she sucks. I thought *my* sentences were long!

I toss a virtual cinder-mon roll in her direction on your behalf.

The Pastry Pirate said...

OMG, ok, so this is off topic, but did you know Stephen Colbert was a guest star on an episode of "Law & Order: Criminal Intent" where he plays a forge-happy nutcase? I'm watching the episode now... he's actually really good in it, though I keep waiting for "The Word" to pop up beside him when he speaks...

Dr. Virago said...

Pirate -- Thanks for giving her the thumbs down from the non-medievalist perspective. And yeah, it wasn't until later that I realize that she's the "genius" behind the "women really are dumb and the weaker sex" piece from a while back. Ann Coulter school of media, indeed. As ADM points out in her post at her blog, and as you allude to, and as Matthew Gabriele suggests, as well, given that the beauty of K'zoo and its size is that there's something there for everyone, who goes to a conference with 600+ panels and only goes to the ones that will piss you off?? Oh, a hack with an ax to grind does!

But if you're going to check cinder-mon rolls at her, at least virtually, could you use a trebuchet to do it? :)

And Matthew -- I don't think she'll have future colleagues. From one Google search I found out she's in her 60s and is probably one of those people getting a Ph.D. for something to do during retirement. So hence, she can afford to be as bitchy as she wants. (This also explains her strange reference to 'hip-hoppers in Blondie t-shirts.' Quoi? Unless she was refering to "Rapture" -- I doubt it -- hip hop and Blondie don't really go together.)

I got an "A" in crazy beeyotch said...

Wait--this isn't "ye olde blog"? Sorry-wrong blog!

Dr. Virago said...

A in Crazy Beeyotch -- Ha ha. *Very* funny. ;)

Thanks for commenting -- I've been meaning to link to you.