The Week in Review, 2/2/2014

Reading for Classes/ Independent Studies:

Opening Up Middle English Manuscripts (Kerby-Fulton): Preface, Ch. 1 sections II-IV, ch. 2, ch. 3, ch. 6

Gendering the Master Narrative, eds. Erler & Kowaleski, Introduction & chs. 3 & 4

Women and Power in the Middle Ages: Introduction, Groag Bell essay, Hanawalt essay, Ferrante essay, and Hansen essay

“St. Katherine” (Titus MS and those by Bokenham and Capgrave)

Winstead, Virgin Martyrs: Legends of Sainthood in Late Medieval England

Cooper, The English Romance in Time (“Man of Law” and “Second Nun’s Tale” sections)

“St. Cecilia” in the Legenda Aurea & Bokenham; “Prioress’s Tale” from Chaucer’s CT as miracle of the Virgin

Sherry Reames, “The Cecilia Legend as Chaucer Inherited It and Retold It (Speculum 55, 1980) pp 38-57.

Gerald of Wales, History & Topography of Ireland, pp. 23-92

Asa Simon Mittman, “The Other Close at Hand…” in Monstrous Middle Ages

Jeffrey Jerome Cohen, “Hybrids, Monsters and Borderlands”


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) which I’m reading in support of building my knowledge of this subject area towards comps, my dissertation, and future teaching purposes.

Malory’s Morte Darthur, Shepherd’s Norton Critical edition, consulted for citation verifications for essay revisions

Jonathan Nicholls, The Matter of Courtesy: Medieval Courtesy Books and the Gawain-Poet (D.S. Brewer, 1985). Reading towards my dissertation topic.

George Semenza, Graduate Study for the Twenty-First Century (Palgrave Macmillan, 2005) — Concise, precise, and essential overview of the humanities graduate student experience, read for my personal edification. The more you know……


I spent 12 hours writing this week — all devoted to revisions for the “Episodic Arthur” essay. In the end, I am more or less happy with what I ended up with. I still feel uncertain about the final third of the essay, mainly because I didn’t like it the first time around (and neither did my editors) so I essentially rewrote it entirely this week, with the result that I’m not 100% sure it’s what it needs to be yet — although it’s definitely closer to the mark than the first draft! But, I got it out to my editors on the due date — which is a courtesy that I must stress that as graduate students, you must seek always to adhere to. Established professors may get by with turning things in “whenever they get to them”, but as someone working towards building an academic career, would you rather be known as “the one who always meets her deadlines” or “that guy who never gets things in on time?” Remember that whereas for you, it’s great to have a publication or two on your CV going onto the job market, for some others working on a collective project that publication might HAVE to happen by a certain time in order to meet tenure requirements — and when you are running late, you hold everyone else up. What kind of writer do you think editors are going to turn to when they need material in your area of expertise — the one who’s brilliant but never meets a deadline, or the one who is solid and can be depended upon to churn things out when they’re due? Start cultivating that ethos now: reliable, dependable, deadline-meeter.


English 101 –  On Tuesday, we went over the assignment sheet for essay one and did some preliminary writing activities designed to get them actively thinking about this first major assignment; and then we had a multiliteracies center orientation on Thursday — this is when I take my class to the Writing and Speaking Center for a pre-scheduled class session, during which students who work in the center talk to them about the services it provides and how they can make use of them. Some professors feel this is a waste of class time, and that their students can always do this on their own, and this is a valid mode of thinking that speaks to a desire to see students develop their own coping mechanisms and take initiative towards establishing independent study habits. I believe that when I use class time to take them over there for orientation, it sends them the message that I think this is important and valuable enough a service to spend that class time on. Inevitably, each term I have students in my English 101 classes who (at least claim) never to have even heard of the Writing Center before this orientation, and inevitably I have at least a few who subsequently take advantage of it to improve their essays. For me, showing the students the resources available to them is part of my work as the instructor of an introductory writing class.

English 104 – On Tuesday, we had our first student-led discussion, and he knocked it out of the park — he was prepared, he was enthusiastic, and he grabbed the dry erase marker and started teaching, y’all. It was a beautiful thing. We were still working with Ben Jonson’s “Alchemyst” which he conceived as a scientific experiment, asking the students to consider that if the characters were variables in a scientific experiment, who would serve as the “control”, who the “dependent variable” and who the “independent variable”, and why, and what a reading like that might do to our understanding of the characters and their relationships with one another — which, considering the play’s pseudo-scientific subject matter, is pretty brilliant thinking for a non-English major. He took a lot of initiative in soliciting student responses to his questions, and really did a fantastic job. High bar for the rest of the term — but how fantastic for me as the instructor that I have managed to inspire my students to jump feet-first into the pool that way. Thursday was the introductory lecture for poetry terms. I am really looking forward to seeing what they do with poetry, when they’ve done such a fantastic job with drama these past three weeks!


I attended two further job talks for a candidate for a position in our department, and spent two hours processing graduate student travel reimbursement applications in my capacity as the Graduate Student Association Vice President of Finance. There would also have been a Lenses advisory meeting and a Provost’s Advisory Committee meeting, but both were canceled due to weather.

Nurturing my Self:

The girls and I all had snow days this week, so we art journaled and had hot cocoa and watched “Frozen” and generally enjoyed ourselves and the unexpected down time. I ran for 50 minutes on the treadmill on Monday and again for 2.2 miles this morning, walked 1.5 miles stopping every 1/8th of a mile for some calisthenic activity such as jumping jacks, butt kicks, and skipping, and did some weight-training and stretching on Friday.

If you haven’t skipped as an adult, I HIGHLY recommend the skipping. It was F-U-N. I skipped to Katy Perry’s “Wide Awake” — which, if you are at all curious, is actually pretty much a perfect skipping song.


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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