The Week In Review, February 17-23, 2014

Reading for Classes/ Independent Studies:

Jeremy Griffiths and Derek Pearsall, eds. Book Production and Publishing in England, 1375-1475, Introduction, ch. 4, 8-9, and 11-13

Lesley Smith & Jane H.M. Taylor, eds. Women, the Book, and the Worldly: essays by Goodman, Willard, Beer, Jambeck & Summit

Denise Baker, trans. “Privity of the Passion” in Cultures of Piety, ed. Bartlett & Bestul

Selections from Nicholas Love’s Mirror of the Blessed Christ (ed. Sargent)

Watson, “Censorship and Cultural Change in Late Medieval England: Vernacular” in Speculum 70 (1995): 822-64

Pearl and Cleanness, by the Gawain-poet

Henryson, “The Testament of Cresseid” and “Amis and Amiloun”

Jeffrey Richards, “Lepers” in Sex, Dissidence, and Damnation: Minority Groups in the Middle Ages (London & New York, 1991)

Anne Marie D’Arcy, “‘Into the kirk wald not hir self present’: Leprosy, Blasphemy & Heresy in Henryson’s The Testament of Cresseid.”


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.

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


Drafted the critical rationale for my primary comps reading list and finalized my personal statement for a service scholarship I am applying for and, sadly, that is all I wrote this week. Much of my normal writing time was eaten away at by makeup meetings and traffic jams (Seriously. I’m not even joking. I spent hours in standstill traffic. There was an accident on the road I take to work EVERY MORNING last week. Is Mercury in retrograde or something?!)


English 101 –  On Tuesday, we went over the guidelines for conducting individual student conferences, which I’m holding next week, and they turned in their final drafts for their first essays and wrote reflections on them; on Thursday, we did group reading activities and think-pair-share work on the readings for the week, focusing heavily on James Porter’s “Intertextuality and the Discourse Community” and James Paul Gee’s “Literacy, Discourse and Linguistics (Introduction). I have so far graded 8 of 19 essays in preparation for individual conferences next week (guess what I’ll be doing this evening….!)

English 104 – On Tuesday, we completed an abridged version of the Chaucer translation activity I wrote about for a forthcoming issue of SMART: Studies in Medieval and Renaissance Teaching. In this exercise, they translate several lines of Middle English into modern, then the modern to text speak, then exchange these text speak translations and re-create the modern translation, finally hunting down the original passage based on these last modern translations. The more I read through their product, the more impressed I am with their work. These are truly sophisticated solutions to some tricky translation and linguistic issues, and performed entirely by instinct by Intro to Literature students– non-majors –who have by their own admission and with only a handful of exceptions never read Chaucer, and never read Middle English. Yet, they were able in class, working together in small groups and in a much briefer time frame than I normally offer, to eke out reasonably decent 10-line translations from Middle to Modern English, and then to navigate the jump from that to text speak; then negotiated a different group’s text speak passage back to modern English, which the whole class finally used (via Elmo) to located the original Middle English passage based on the second group’s translation. They did it all in one class session, they nailed it, and the text speak translations are WONDERFUL. Each group resolved the problem of changing over from narrative poetry to messaging style a little differently. We unpacked those solutions, and they now have a huge arsenal of ways to navigate unfamiliar texts to work with. Such a win activity! On Thursday, we began our unit on short stories and had a brief reading quiz.


At a TA Advisory Council meeting on Wednesday morning, I spearheaded a presentation providing an overview of the textbooks the Textbook Adoption Committee — for which I was the chair — has selected for new TAs to choose from next year. From November through January, we reviewed and critiqued over 50 rhet/comp textbooks towards this end.

On Thursday, I attended and helped to oversee the GSA general assembly in my capacity as the Vice-President of Finance.

I also edited 4 more sections of Lenses and worked on the list of requirements for our interns.

Professionalization Activity

On Wednesday afternoon I attended the English Graduate Student Association-hosted workshop on “Preparing for a future in teaching.”

Nurturing my Self:

I managed to squeeze in three outdoor runs this week in just beautiful weather! I also attended the Women’s Academic Support meeting on Friday evening. These are monthly, informal gatherings hosted by various members of the faculty, at which we discuss issues related to women in academia. This week’s subject was “confidence”. I so enjoy these gatherings — they are fun, informative, and empowering, and give me so much to think and reflect on as I learn how to navigate the world of academia. We are so fortunate to have supportive faculty to work with!


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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