The Week in Review 1/24/2014

Here’s what I was up to this week in GradLand…….

Reading for Classes/ Independent Studies:

Raymond Clemens & Timothy Graham, Introduction to Manuscript Studies (Cornell UP, 2007) pp. 67-132

Liz Herbert McAvoy and Diane Watt, The History of British Women’s Writing, 700-1500, vol. 1 (Introduction; chs. 2, 6, 10-13)

Carole Meale, Women and Literature in Britain, 1150-1500 (Introduction; chs. 2, 6 & 7)

Brown, Medieval English Literature and Culture, 1350-1500 (essays by Jones & Baker)

Southern, The Magic of the Middle Ages, ch. 5 (“From Epic to Romance”)

Savage & Watson, eds. Anchoritic Spirituality (“Introduction”); Ancrene Wisse through Part 6; Wooing Group

Shepherd, ed. Ancrene Wisse pp. xxx-lxxiii and section 7

Millet, ed. Holy Maidenhood & Soul’s Ward

The Prose Brut, first 4 pages of the Albion prologue

Tamar Drukker, “Thirty Three Murderous Sisters: A Pre-Trojan Foundation Myth in the ME Prose Brut Chronicle” in Review of English Studies, vol. 54 no. 216 (Sept., 2003) pp. 449-463.

“Introduction” Those Monstrous Middle Ages, ed. Bettine Bildhauer & Robert Mills

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, “Monster Culture: Seven Theses” (Monster Theory, ed. JJC, pp. 3-25.)


Joel T. Rosenthal, Understanding Primary Medieval Sources: Using Historical Sources to Discover Medieval Europe (Routledge, 2012) — I’m (still) about halfway through it, reading as background for approaches to using primary texts and artifacts in my research.

Simon Eliot & Jonathan Rose, A Companion to the History of the Book (Blackwell, 2007) pp. 33-54, read in support of building my knowledge of this subject area towards comps and future teaching.

Jill M. Hebert, Morgan le Fay, Shapeshifter (Noew York: Palgrave-Macmillan, 2013), consulted towards completing revisions on my Episodic Arthur essay.


4.5 hours , 6 pages of revision on the “Episodic Arthur” essay due February 1.

I HATE revision. It’s. So. Hard. Brutally hard. But, of course, very necessary.

1 hour, draft letter outlining my service history in support of an application for a scholarship.

(Apply for EVERYTHING for which you remotely qualify, people. The worst thing that can happen is you won’t win the award/grant/scholarship/competition/fellowship. But every application you complete is another chance to practice — and eventually, hopefully, master — a skill you will need to hone for the rest of your career. You don’t apply for everything because you think you are better than everyone else and therefore going to win it all. You apply for everything because it’s part of your job. And no, that is not only true for grad students in the sciences. Humanities folks have to apply for grant funding and fellowships, too.)


English 101 – This week, we worked on using the rhetorical triangle and appeals to conduct brief rhetorical analyses of the readings for the week. We also discussed Sherman Alexie’s “Superman and Me” and used it as a jumping off point for thinking about intersections between reading and language. I modeled a rhetorical analysis of Brent Staples’s “Black Men in Public Spaces” for the class, which we then unpacked further by extending it into a discussion of the students’ own experiences in “changing the vibe of a room just by walking into it” and being automatically sized up and labeled before someone gets to know them based on race, age, gender, & etc. Some really insightful work from the students on this activity. We also conducted some prewriting towards their first essay drafts.

English 104 – We had a brief, 5-question reading quiz and then finished up our discussion of Shakespeare’s The Tempest, and they did a fantastic job looking at the different transformations of character in the final act in conjunction with our overarching theme of literary alchemy. Then, we turned to Ben Johnson’s “The Alchemyst”. We conducted a 3-2-1 activity, in which the students worked in groups to come up with 3 similarities between Shakespeare’s play and Jonson’s; 2 differences between them, and one question they have about Jonson’s play. They then reported their results aloud, and I recorded them on the board, using this as an entry point to begin the class discussion on “The Alchemyst”. This activity gives the students ownership of class discussion and of the text to some degree, so we aren’t just relying solely on what I think they should have noticed as a topic of class discussion. I like to see what they are noticing and thinking about, and to help them learn to construct meaning through their own observations of the text. This seems to be a particularly sharp class – they picked up on some great points, such as that Shakespeare’s “Tempest” is set distant from England in order to accommodate Prospero’s magical powers, while Jonson’s “Alchemyst” is set in England (London, specifically) because there is no “real” magic; it’s a satire, and a city comedy, and intentionally pokes fun at the inhabitants of London. I’m impressed… I admit that I was concerned that no one would do the reading, but it is clear from their remarks and the passages they pulled to support them that at least a good number of them are reading enough to contribute meaningfully to discussion!


I attended the job talk for a candidate for a position in our department, and spent some time talking with him and giving him my perspective on the graduate program.

I held a brief meeting of the Textbook Adoption Committee in advance of our presentation of textbook choices for English 101 at next week’s advisory board meeting.

I met with my co-editor to go over our process for working with the interns and finalizing our advisory board best practices manual, and sent the main chapters of our textbook edition out for review. I also emailed our interns to set up an orientation meeting with them early next week.

Nurturing my Self:

I mindlessly watched — and thoroughly enjoyed — two episodes of “Buffy, the Vampire Slayer” while stretching and using free weights on Monday night. On Wednesday,  I spent ten minutes just lying on the ground, legs pulled up in frog position, arms over my head, breathing – and boy, did it feel good. This morning I ran intervals on the treadmill for 50 minutes, because it was 10 degrees outside and no way was I going for a proper run in those temperatures. This afternoon, I took a nap. And last night, I made gluten-free brownies. Because, brownies.


About Melissa Ridley Elmes

Professor and writer; Unrepentant nerd; chaotic good. Author of Arthurian Things: A Collection of Poems. PhD, MFA. She/hers. Views my own.
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