Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Happy New Year!

Looks like Pippi got a head start on the revelry.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

For your distraction and entertainment needs

I've been too caught up in end of the semester madness to blog. Btw, if I could single-handedly get rid of our rolling admissions for our MA program, I would. Who on earth decides on December 15th that maybe they should do an MA in English and that they should definitely start it next month? These are the same people who are asking all of you for letters of recommendation right about now. Oh, and they need it by Christmas, btw.

Anywho, since this madness is keeping me from blogging -- and don't forget the approximately 650 pages of grading I'm doing now -- I thought I'd introduce you to a new blog. It only has two posts so far and they're pretty damn funny. I especially like the top one, "Dude Who Never Comes to Class," in which our writer wonders,

Are you the embodiment of the recurring dream we’ve all had? The one where you completely forget about a class for the entire semester and then somehow realize your horrendous mistake two minutes before the final exam? And you go to the test and have no idea how to answer any of the questions and wake up absolutely panic-stricken. Are you living that dream? If so, that really sucks dude.

It's called Acadammit and you can find it here.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

A meme for a lazy Saturday

Things I’ve done are in bold.
Things I am indifferent towards or actively would like to avoid are crossed out.
Things in normal type face are things I’d like to do.

Comments in parentheses are my addition. I got this version from Squadratomagico (though I took off her additions).

Start my own blog
Sleep under the stars
Play in a band
Own a cell phone
Visit Hawaii
Watch a meteor shower
Give more than I can afford to charity (Well, in this case, "more than I can afford" means on the credit card, to be paid next month)
Visit Disneyland / Disneyworld (both!)
Climb a mountain

Sing a solo
Bungee jump
Participate in a traditional Japanese tea ceremony
Teach myself an art from scratch (If you define "art" broadly, this is what academics do all the time)
Adopt a child
Purchase real estate
Had food poisoning
Visit Parliament / Capital Hill
Grow my own vegetables
See the Mona Lisa in France
Sleep on an overnight train
Have a pillow fight
Take a sick day when you’re not ill (but only prior to becoming an academic)
Build a snow fort
Hold a lamb
Go skinny dipping
Run a Marathon
Been on television
Ride in a gondola in Venice (how about a punt in Cambridge?)

See a total eclipse
Watch a sunrise or sunset

Hit a home run
Go on a cruise
See Niagara Falls in person
Visit the birthplace of my ancestors

See an Amish community
Teach myself a new language (Haven't done it yet, but I'm thinking Old Norse.)
Have enough money to be truly satisfied
See the Leaning Tower of Pisa in person

Go rock climbing
See Michelangelo’s David
Sing karaoke
See Old Faithful erupt
Buy a stranger a meal at a restaurant
Visit Africa
Walk on a beach by moonlight
Be transported in an ambulance
Have my portrait painted
Be arrested
Go deep sea fishing
See the Sistine Chapel in person
Go to the top of the Eiffel Tower in Paris
Go scuba diving or snorkeling
Kiss in the rain

Play in the mud
Go to a drive-in theatre
Be in a movie (but I've been on a number of sets)
Visit the Great Wall of China
Start a business
Take a martial arts class
Visit Russia (one of the few places I don't really have a burning desire to visit)
Serve at a soup kitchen
Sell Girl Scout Cookies

Go whale watching
Get flowers for no reason

Donate blood, platelets or plasma
Go sky diving
Visit a Nazi Concentration Camp
Bounce a check
Fly in a helicopter

Save a favorite childhood toy
Visit Quebec City
Eat Caviar

Piece a quilt
Stand in Times Square

Tour the Everglades
Been fired from a job
See the Changing of the Guards in London
Been on a speeding motorcycle
See the Grand Canyon in person
Published a book
Visit the Vatican
Buy a brand new car

Walk in Jerusalem
Have my picture in the newspaper
Read the entire Bible
Visit the White House
Kill and prepared an animal for eating
Had chickenpox
Save someone’s life
Sit on a jury
Meet someone famous
Join a book club
Lose a loved one

Have a baby
See the Alamo in person
Swim in the Great Salt Lake
Been involved in a law suit
Been stung by a bee
Ride an elephant

29 -- I better get cracking!

Thursday, December 11, 2008

For all *my* internet friends

Amanda French wrote this awesome song for all of her internet friends, and I'm passing it along to all of you as an early holiday gift. Click on the link to go play it and/or download it. Feel free to pass it along to *your* internet friends, since, as she sings, "all my internet friends give things away / They just really like to make stuff even when it doesn't pay."

H/T Michael Bérubé

Tuesday, December 9, 2008


Because of a torrent of invitations lately to join freakin' facebook from a bunch of people with names (first or last) beginning with J (seriously, it was weird), I finally joined the damn thing. I really didn't want to. After hours lost in early 2003 to stupid Friendster, I thought I was over the social networking thing. But I couldn't take the peer pressure any more! I feel like those idiots at REM concerts who think it all began with Monster.

I'm under my full real life name -- middle initial included -- so if you know it, feel free to friend me!

Now, could ya'll tell me what you do about students? And, um, Bullock seems to have his own fb life -- should we leave it that way? What's the netiquette here?

Monday, December 8, 2008

A holy day of obligation I'll never forget

Growing up Catholic and going to 12 years of Catholic school, I had plenty of people to remind me back then of the various holy days of obligation (the ones lay Catholic are obliged to observe). Now I often don't even know when Easter falls. But hey, it moves!

However, there's one holy day I'll never forget and that's today, December 8, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception (not a movable feast). And that's because it's *also* my brother Fast Fizzy's birthday (which means he always had the day off from Catholic school, the bastard!). And it is *also* his only child's birthday, who was born on his 40th birthday -- nice present, eh?

So happy birthday to Fast Fizzy and Youngest Niece, who turn 55 and 15 respectively today!

Oh, yeah, and happy Feast of the Immaculate Conception, too, if you celebrate it.

(FYI for those of you not in the know, the feast of the Immaculate Conception celebrates the conception of *Mary*, the mother of God, not her conception of Jesus. Oh, and "immaculate" means unmarked, spotless [as in sinless] -- not miraculous, though I suppose it has a touch of the miraculous. Still, that's not the primary meaning. Just think of someone's "immaculately clean" house. While the "immaculate reception" was a funny *sounding* sports pun, it actually made no sense whatsoever. I'm still trying to figure out how a reception could be spotless. I suppose, though, it could be clean in an additional metaphorical sense, but that's not what they were trying to convey. Anyway, this bothers me almost as much as the misuse of "literally" and "aggravating," for which, see below. Usually I'm not this pedantic, but for some reason these three things get to me. Oh, and the redundancy of "irregardless." Shudder. That one was made worse by the fact that I once had a boss who used that 'word' about 10 times a day, usually to mean, "Stop talking -- I don't care what you have to say," so he was both rude and redundant.)

Saturday, December 6, 2008

A snapshot from the Virago-Bullock home

On the taped episode of The Office we watched last night, Michael misused the word "literally" -- as so many do -- to describe something that was very obviously figurative. (I can't remember what it was exactly, but that doesn't really matter here.) The following exchange resulted:

Virago: I just love it when people misuse "literally" like that.

Bullock: Yeah, it's really aggravating, isn't it?


Thursday, December 4, 2008


Thanks to everyone for all the suggestions and encouragement in the posts below about my Chaucer class and my medieval lit. survey course. You've definitely convinced me that doing adaptations of Chaucer in a Chaucer course isn't crazy, and you've given me lots of ideas for the medieval lit. class. After this year, I won't be teaching either again for three years, since next year I have the Old and Middle English linguistics classes, the research methods class for the grad students, and a special topics honors seminar on the subject of my book, and then the year after that I hope to be on sabbatical for the whole year. But that just gives me plenty of time to plan for big changes.

Anyway, I suspect things are going to be a little quiet around here for awhile because of various end of the semester madness. But I'll see y'all at your blogs. And hey, who's going to be at MLA? Medieval Woman is organizing a get-together.

Monday, December 1, 2008

Changing up Chaucer

This post is in part a follow up to the post before last, in which I lamented my boredom with doing the same-old, same-old in the big medieval class. It is also, in part, for Meg, who asked, in another context, for ideas for new stuff to do in her Chaucer class.

Now a class on Chaucer is hard to change very easily. Your big questions are: Do I try and do a little of everything (Troilus and Criseyde, a dream vision or two, a selection of The Canterbury Tales, maybe even some of the short poetry or a single legend from The Legend of Good Women)? Or do I stick to The Canterbury Tales? (This is your choice unless, that is, you're teaching at a school with separate Canterbury Tales and Troilus-and-everything-else courses. Oh, and I suppose you could just do the Troilus-and-everything-else course, but I can't bring myself not to do the Tales at least in part.) I alternate between those two options, and in the little-bit-of-everything version, I change the Tales or the selections from the other works when I get bored.

But now I've been doing that and I'm bored again. So now I'm futzing with *how* I teach it all -- from the emphases I give the course to the assignments I give. Last year I borrowed and adapted a writing assignment sequence from Jeffrey Cohen that builds skills from comprehension of Middle English (through translation) to analysis of passages, to arguments with other critics. To that I added one of my own favorite assignments, in which I ask students to write a modern imitation of a Chaucerian dream vision (albeit in prose), which is an exercise in genre analysis in disguise. I think I may keep most of that this time around, though I may be getting rid of the dream visions this time around, so no imitation. And in the last go-round, I assigned the passages for translation and analysis, but I may let students pick their own next time, because trying to figure out what's worth talking about in close detail is an analytic and interpretative skill, too.

But the big change I'm thinking about making is kind of wacky. And I'm wondering what you all think. I'm thinking about focusing on transmission and adaptation, from the manuscript to early print editions to later imitations and adaptations of Chaucer's work (and also Chaucer's adaptation of his sources), and so I'm thinking of having the class read Henryson's Testament of Cresseid and Shakespeare's Troilus and Cressida after we're done with Troilus and Criseyde. And I'm thinking of giving a day over to discussion A Knight's Tale; of using some or all of the BBC's fairly recent adaptations (I have the Wife of Bath episode on VHS); of playing some of Baba Brinkman's hip-hop Chaucer along the way; and of utterly traumatizing students with a bit of Pasolini's Racconti di Canterbury at the end of the semester, if I can get my hands on either a tape or DVD of it. Or maybe instead of Pasolini at the end, we could read one of the 15th century continuations of the tales in the TEAMS edition edited by John Bowers. But I'd also assign critical articles as "adaptations," too, because part of the point of this would be to talk about adaptation as interpretation -- and so, interpretation as adaptation. And in the writing assignments and other discussion we'd be talking about translation as adaptation and interpretation, too.

Out of 16 weeks, this would take away three weeks (six classes) from Chaucer "proper" -- the rest would be blended in and done in excerpt alongside Chaucer "proper." It would mean a lot of reading, but I think it might enrich the discussion of Chaucer's own works immensely, and put them in broad context of reception and interpretation. And that might also help students put themselves and their interpretative activities in context and in a greater conversation, too. I worry, often, that when I teach Chaucer only in his 14th century contexts -- as cool and interesting as that can be -- that students consciously or unconsciously feel justified in filing him away as "classic." Shudder. That's such a deadly word. Although I bring in the present or the very recent past all the time in all my classes, I think maybe a smattering of adaptations from the centuries immediately following Chaucer and our own age would make the point better that "Chaucer" is not confined to the 14th century.

What do you think?