The Week (and a half) in Review: April 21-29, 2014

Okay, here it is, the final glimpse into the final week of my final term of coursework as a doctoral student. I will say that, although at the time I was “in the weeds” as we used to say when I waited tables, looking back from the safe distance of a month or so I can now acknowledge the truth of “finishing coursework”: it’s a big deal, it really is–but it’s also a very anticlimactic moment. Once you hand in that last paper you will ever write for a grade in a course that is going on your transcript, you’re…. well, you’re done. (And I suspect that it’s even less climactic nowadays, with the advent of emailing your final essay to your prof as an attachment rather than handing it in in person. When I am working with senior undergrads and graduate students, I think that I will always demand that they make an appointment to come in and hand over their last essays to me in person, so they can have that tangible moment of closure.) And, that’s it–just like that, no more coursework. The fantastic Barbra Streisand song, “A Quiet Thing” comes to mind:

(I’m sure this song will come to mind again when we get to ABD, and when we get to the degree…….) The thing is, often you’re the only one so deeply invested in your work that this becomes a HUGE MOMENT <insert booming echo sound effect here>. And even when you, yourself, aren’t 100% sure you’ll make it through the coursework, even though they watch you struggle and strain to finish up, everyone else just expects that it is going to happen along the road to your degree. So, when you do finally hit this particular milestone, you are delighted, enchanted, thrilled with your intellectual prowess–but everyone else is just glad you’re now free to hang out and take your turn doing the dishes again (don’t tell them about the hermit life that is studying for comps just yet…..)

Please, when you get there, take the time to celebrate in some way. Throw a small dinner party, go to a movie you haven’t managed to get around to seeing yet because you’ve been in coursework, buy a completely non-academic book to read, buy a pair of fabulous shoes, hike to the top of a mountain and YAWP! at the top of your lungs looking out over the world, have a Dr. Who marathon, or just crack open a bottle of inexpensive champagne or a favorite beer or a wonderful tea–but do something to mark this, and every, major milestone you reach. Celebrate your accomplishments. Academics are notorious for not giving themselves enough credit. YOU FINISHED COURSEWORK! Even though it may seem as though “everybody” does it, the simple fact is that according to the U.S. Census Bureau statistics for 2013, 11.5% of the entire United States population currently earns a Master’s or professional degree– and 1.68% of the entire United States population goes on to complete a doctorate. An earlier study from 2007 done by the Council of Graduate Schools shows that most of the people who don’t finish their doctoral degree requirements drop out in the first few years of the program. (Incidentally, there is no shame involved in making the choice to leave Graduate School before finishing a degree, and it does not make you a lesser being or in any way reflect upon your intelligence and work ethic–in fact, isn’t the ability to critically evaluate your experiences and re-position yourself accordingly to achieve the greatest likelihood of personal happiness and success the hallmark of human intelligence? If you aren’t happy or thriving and don’t want to be there, if it’s genuinely affecting your life in bad ways, then DO quit, and find what does make you happy! Graduate school really is not for everyone, people who don’t undertake it at all or who don’t finish it once undertaken are not failures, and we would do well to remember that, all of us. However–for those who do genuinely want to be doing this, there is also no reason to neglect to celebrate the moment when you do finish coursework since, as I have already shown, it’s not something easily accomplished. You worked hard. Acknowledge it!)

I celebrated by watching “Frozen” with my family and letting everyone who offered to buy me congratulatory drinks at the conference I attended the week after classes ended. And then, I got right back to work–which I will advise you to do in another post.

So– without further ado—the Last Week of Coursework:

Reading for Classes/ Independent Studies:

“Robin Hood and the Monk” and “Robin Hood and the Potter” from Robin Hood and Other Outlaw Tales, ed. Knight & Olgren (TEAMS)

Antha Cotten-Spreckelmeyer, “Robin Hood: Outlaw or Exile?” from British Outlaws of Literature and History, Essays on Medieval and Early Modern Figures from Robin Hood to Twm Shon Catty, ed. Alexander Kaufman (McFarland, 2011).

Crystal Kirgiss, “Popular Devotion and Prosperity Gospels in Early Robin Hood Tales” from British Outlaws of Literature and History, Essays on Medieval and Early Modern Figures from Robin Hood to Twm Shon Catty, ed. Alexander Kaufman (McFarland, 2011).

Barbara Hanawalt, “Ballads & Bandits: Fourteenth Century Outlaws and the Robin Hood Poems” from Robin Hood, An Anthology of Scholarship and Criticism, ed. Stephen Knight (D.S. Brewer, 1999)

From The Uses of Manuscripts in Literary Studies, ed. Charlotte Cook Morse, Penelope Doob & Marjory Woods (Studies in Medieval Culture 31, 1992): Martin Irvine, “‘Bothe Text and Gloss’: Manuscript Form, the Textuality of Commentary, and Chaucer’s Dream Poems” pp. 81-120; Christopher Baswell, “Talking Back to the Text: Marginal Voices in Medieval Secular Literature” pp. 121-160; Josepheine Koster-Tarvers, “‘Thys ys my mystrys boke’: English Women as Readers and Writers in Late Medieval England” pp. 305-328.

Mary C. Erler, Women, Reading, and Piety in Late Medieval England. (Cambridge UP, 2002)

Elizabeth L. Einstein, The Printing Press as an Agent of Change (Cambridge UP, 1979), pp. 3-43 (chapter one)

The Showings of Julian of Norwich, ed. Denise N. Baker (W.W. Norton, 2005)

Denise Nowaleski Baker, Julian of Norwich’s Showings: From Vision to Book (Princeton UP, 1994)


Finishing up my essay on Emare:

Ashton, Gail. “Her Father’s Daughter: the Realignment of Father-Daughter Kinship in Three Romance Tales.” The Chaucer Review, Vol. 34, no. 4 (2000), pp. 416-427. JSTOR. 20/12/2013. Web.

Greenfield, Stanley B. Hero and Exile. London and Ronceverte: The Hambledon Press, 1989. Print.

Grettir’s Saga. Trans. Denton Fox & Hermann Pàlsson. Toronto: Toronto UP, 1974. Print.

Laskaya, Anne. “The Rhetoric of Incest in the Middle English Emaré.” Violence against Women in Medieval Texts. Anna Roberts, Ed. Gainesville: Florida UP, 1998. Pp. 97-114. Print.

Laskaya, Anne and Salisbury, Eve. The Middle English Breton Lays. Anne Laskaya and Eve Salisbury, eds. Kalamazoo: TEAMS, 2001. Print.

Njal’s Saga. Trans. Robert Cook. New York: Penguin Books, 2001. Print/

“Wanderer”. Old and Middle English c. 890-c. 1400, An Anthology. Second Edition. Elaine Treharne, Ed. Malden: Blackwell Publishing, 2004. Pp. 42-47. Print.

Finishing up my essay on feast imagery in mystic and devotional texts:

Love, Nicholas. The Mirror of the Blessed Life of Jesus Christ. Ed. Michael G. Sargent. New York: Garland Publishing, 1992. Print.

Hilton, Walter. The Scale of Perfection. Ed. And Trans. John P.H. Clark and Rosemary Dorward. New York: Paulist Press, 1991. Print.

The Showings of Julian of Norwich, ed. Denise N. Baker (W.W. Norton, 2005).

Middle-English Versions of Partonope of Blois. Ed. A. Trampe Bödtker. EETS ES 109. London: Early English Text Society, 1912. Print.

Newman, Barbara. “What Did It Mean To Say ‘I Saw’? The Clash Between Theory and Practice in Medieval Visionary Culture. Speculum 80 (2005): pp. 1-43. JSTOR. 10 March 2014. Web.

Finishing up my essay on images of women in Books of Hours:

Heures de Margeurite d’Orléans. Facsimile edition with introduction and notes by Eberhard König. Paris: Les Editions du Cerf, 1991. Print.

Hours of Catherine of Clèves. Facsimile edition with introduction and notes by John Plummer. New York: George Braziller Company, 1966. Print.

Master of Mary of Burgundy: A Book of Hours for Engelbert of Nassau. Facsimile edition with introduction and legends by J.J.G. Alexander. New York: George Braziller Publishers,1970. Print.

Scott-Stokes, Charity, trans. Women’s Books of Hours in Medieval England: Selected Texts. Suffolk: D.S. Brewer, 2006. Print.

Smith, Kathryn A. Art, Identity, and Devotion in Fourteenth-Century England: Three Women and their Books of Hours. London: The British Library, 2003. Print.

The Très Riches Heures of Jean, Duke of Berry. Facsimile edition with introduction and legend by Jean Lognon and Raymond Cazelles. New York: George Braziller Publishers, 1989. Print.

Reading toward my conference presentation on Melusine:

Donald Maddox & Sara Sturm-Maddox, Melusine of Lusignan: Founding Fiction in Late Medieval France (Georgia UP, 1996)

Jean D’Arras, Melusine: Or the Noble History of Lusignan ((Penn State UP, 2012)

Clier-Colombani, Francoise, La Fee Melusine au Moyen Age: Images, Mythes, Symboles. Paris: Leopard d’Or, 1991.

Markale, Jean. Melusine, Ou, l’Androgyne. Paris: Editions Retz, 1983.


Completed my essay, “Feasts of Faith: The Imagery of the Feast in Medieval Works of Devotion and Mysticism” at 4,062 words.

Completed my essay, “Reading Female:The Representation of the Female Form in Four Late Medieval Books of Hours” at 5,929 words.

Completed my essay, “Acts of Exile, Acts of Hospitality: Situating Emaré and the Constance Group in the English Literary Exile Tradition” at 6,130 words.

Drafted four pages of my conference paper on Melusine


English 101 – Tuesday continued our individual conferences; Thursday, they presented their portfolios and talked a little about their experiences as developing writers over the course of the term. Always a wonderful moment, watching how proud they are of the document they have produced!

English 104 – On Tuesday we completed our discussion of FullMetal Alchemist, with student-led discussions and a final wrap up tying the graphic novel in to the alchemical literary tradition we have been studying all term. thursday was devoted to exam review, which they knocked out of the park. The following Friday they completed their final exams, and overall I was extremely pleased with the results. This was a GREAT class to teach, and I’m definitely going to trot it out again in the future!


Completed and turned in the final full draft of Lenses. What a relief! Can’t wait to see the proofs…. and of course, the final product!

Thursday was a longish, final GSA meeting of the year, with elections and the announcement of the newly-initiated research travel grants we are offering beginning this summer. I was honored to be re-elected to my position as Vice-President of Finance. That vote of confidence from your peers means something, you know?

Professional Development Activities:

I received an award for innovative assessment practices tied to the syllabus I developed for the Freshman Seminar I’ll be teaching in the Fall (Timeless and Transnational: The Global King Arthur Tradition in Literature) and attended the awards ceremony where I was presented with that award.

I attended a Graduate Studies Committee meeting where recent graduates from our program talked about the job market and the strategies they used and were using to obtain positions at universities, community colleges, and similar. I’m still a few years out–but I think the more you educated yourself on these matters from the beginning, the better off you will be in the long run. If your department or program offers such activities, I strongly encourage you to take advantage of them early on, rather than waiting. It might not apply to you *yet*, but it does apply to you. It was helpful to read through job application letters and see how they were structuring their CVs–even for those of us not yet going on the market, such things are helpful for grant and fellowship applications as well!

Nurturing my Self:

I ran three times, did some yoga, and consumed several homemade taco salads over the course of the week heading into the finish line. When I handed in my final essay, as I already mentioned, I went home and crashed with pizza and “Frozen.” Then I slept for ten straight hours and woke up…. well, more ready to go with more work than I otherwise would have been. As you will learn–we do NOT get summers off (or shouldn’t take them off)! But, we should definitely take a weekend here and there, or even a whole week once in a while, just to remind ourselves that we are still human beings.



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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