Review of Week 2 (Aug 29, 31) and Preview of Week 3 (Sept 5, 7)
Review of Week 2 (by Max Arpadi)
This week we reviewed some History of the English Language paying particular attention to the loss of the inflectional endings and the Great Vowel Shift. We talked about defining early Old from Middle English, with Old English being very Germanic in vocabulary, and after the 1066 Norman Conquest the English language experiences an influx of French words. We then reviewed Marie de France’s Guigemar and specifically the flaw of the knight, the importance placed on love, and a lot of attention was given to the hermaphrodite deer. The second part of that class was spent discussing subjectivity. The main thing we spoke about was how the subjectivity reading challenged the idea that the self is something innate. Instead the reading really kept getting back to cultures influencing the self.
Wednesday we began by again discussing Middle English in relation to Old English and the differences some dialects had even when being written at the same time. We noted that northern dialects seem to have maintained more of the Germanic influenced vocabulary than did the southern dialects, which more quickly adapted to the French influence post-Norman Conquest. We then reviewed and discussed the other Breton lay we read, Sir Cleges. We paid attention to the generosity of Cleges and the lack of generosity of the community when Cleges fell on hard times. We also noted the importance of family in the tale and also the “slap stick” ending. We tried to decide what values the poem was assuming and encouraging, and we talked about ways this particular emphasis on knighthood differs from what we find in some other (more “typical”) romances, which focus on the single, young knight’s proving his name and gaining his identity through his valor on the battlefield and in rescuing vulnerable others.
When talking about the French nature of Middle English Dr. Seaman said, “[it’s] important to know about this so we know why we’re reading Marie de France, who writes in French (Anglo-Norman, a variety of French that developed among the Norman aristocracy in England), in an English class.”
Line 57 of Guigemar: “But in forming him nature had so badly erred.” – It is not natural for the Knight to not love.
Line 90 of Guigemar: “Guigemar saw a hind with a fawn”
Line 110: The curse of the Deer
A quote was said when discussing the Subjectivity reading: “notion of selfhood is always in relation to something else.”
Lines 97-108 were addressed when discussing Sir Cleges
Inflectional endings, syntax, lexicon, Great Vowel Shift, Subjectivity, Self, Old English, Modern English, Middle English
Preview of Week 3 (by Dr. Seaman)
After a week spent with two literary texts, one Anglo-Norman and one Middle English, we move this week to developing our understanding of and facility with the object-oriented methodology that we’ll be employing throughout the semester in our readings of medieval literature.
Monday we start with Bill Brown’s essay “Thing Theory” from 2001, which really marks the beginning of a reorientation within literary studies away from subjectivity and “the human” as central to a consideration of what comes to be thought of as a network of agencies, distributed among animate and inanimate objects (the first of these including humans, among others) alike. Wednesday we will build on this with the Preface to Jane Bennett’s 2010 book, Vibrant Matter, which we’ll be reading the first half of over the next few weeks. To supplement that, especially Bennett’s discussion of Bruno Latour and actants (see p. viii of her preface), I’ve also assigned an online resource, “What is Actor-Network Theory,” which is a series of quotes collected and posted by a professor at UC Denver). These should help give you some sense of the range of ways that these ideas are being thought about and used throughout the Humanities and Social Sciences, especially.
This is likely to be the first encounter some of you have had with theory, literary or otherwise. Be prepared not to feel always on stable ground as you read. Develop ways to allow yourself to have only a sense of things, as you read, rather than a solid understanding of every part of a paragraph, every paragraph in a section. When Brown is talking about Soviet political philosophy, for instance, you may need to accept that you won’t really “get” that part but that you won’t need to, in order to follow sufficiently his argument overall. Also bear in mind that the last 6 pages of the PDF of Brown’s article are images. The essay itself ends on p. 16.
Do think about what a “more distributive agency” might be (Bennett ix). Look up words like “conative” and “monism” online (both used by Bennett) for further clarification, if you need it. Please remember that your job here is not to come to class with a complete and confident understanding of all of the materials. Instead, come prepared with observations and with questions, with curiosity and with confusion. Just take some time before class to note what these are, so they can be addressed directly in our conversation. Remember, too, that such questions are an excellent topic for blog posts. Do them before class, so we can discuss them IN class rather than only in the comments on the blog itself. But please don’t post “what does X mean?” types of questions that can be answered by a quick google search. Do that yourself, and then based on what you discover there, craft a more specific question to bring to class, and to post to the blog if you’d like.
We will also, on both Monday and Wednesday, continue our engagement with the Middle English Exercises, this time looking in more depth at Grammar on Monday and Pronunciation (get ready!) on Wednesday.
The other big news is our FIRST After-Party, scheduled for after class on Wednesday. We’ll talk on Monday in class about where we might head, and you’ll recall that I was bragging last week that I had some money to spend, so you shouldn’t at all hesitate to join us because of financial circumstances.