The Week In Review, September 28-October 4, 2015


“Clari’s Saga,” in Riddarasögur volume 5, ed. Bjarni Vilhjalmsson , checked against Dennis Kearney’s 1990 unpublished edition and translation because while I am loving it, Old Norse is still a very new language acquisition for me.

“Introduction,” A Companion to John Gower, ed. Sian Echard

“John Gower’s Transformation of the Tale of Constance From Nicholas Trevet’s Of the Noble Lady Constance,” a graduate seminar critical study edited by Pete Beidler for the International Gower Society webpages:

Skimming for theoretical models in Violence and the Writing of History in the Medieval Francophone World, eds. Noah Guynn and Zrinka Stahuljak; scanned PDFs of the essays by Andrew Cowell, Matthew Fisher, Leah Shopkow, Zrinka Stahuljak, Rosalind Brown-Grant, David Rollo, and Simon Gaunt as potentially useful down the road in thinking through violence and writing. in medieval historical texts.

Total time spent in research this week: 9 hours


Completed the Gower section of my chapter on women and feasts; began introductory remarks for the Clari’s Saga section (the final section of chapter three!)

Total time spent on dissertation writing this week: 5 hours


College Writing I: This week, in lieu of meeting formally in class, my Writing I students had their first of two rounds of individual conferences with me. We meet one-on-one for fifteen minutes over the course of the week (okay, okay, twenty or twenty-five minutes; I’m always going over and running a bit behind because I want to make sure they’re feeling confident going forward). During this first round of conferences, I ask them how they feel about the class and about whether or not they see themselves improving as writers, and then we go over their graded first essay together, with me pointing out the things I noticed that were especially effective rhetorical moves and the things that could benefit from a different approach or revision going forward (they have to revise once more beyond the graded draft for their final portfolio in the class.) Many former students name this as the most useful and helpful activity we do in the course, because they get the chance to really focus just on their writing and how they can work to improve it. I enjoy these conferences, but I admit that they also wear me out. I came home Friday and went to bed at 4:45 p.m., not to awaken again until 9:00 a.m. Saturday!

Literature and the Arts: More Robin Hood! This week they read the Geste of Robyn Hode, and we watched clips from several of the various television adaptations of the legend (and his random appearances in shows ranging from Dr. Who and Star Trek, The Next Generation to the WB’s Charmed!) Because it’s a general ed credit, we have a lot of people in there from a variety of backgrounds which, as I mentioned before, makes for fascinating class discussions. This week for instance, one of the students leading discussion asked what the class thought of the fact that Robin Hood wears bright colors in Sherwood Forest instead of camoflaging himself to hide from the Sheriff and his men. There were solid responses–“he’s brave and doesn’t care if they see him”, “he’s confident”, “he’s flaunting the sumptuary laws” (a history major! They’re always helpful for context!) Then, out of nowhere: “Well, this may be completely off-base, but I’m a scientist, and to me Robin Hood exhibits the three characteristics of a poisonous creature–he’s brightly colored, he’s out in the open and not hiding, and he smells bad.” (we watched a clip from the 1991 Costner film last week where Marian informs Robin that he stinks). This charmed me. I pointed out the many ways he could be poisonous–to the Sheriff and his men, to the current political climate in England both within the narrative and in the society that produced the narrative, and was able to pull in the Dreamer’s comments about Robin Hood in William Langland’s Piers Plowman as context for his claim. And this kind of unexpected and fantastic connection between seemingly-unrelated matters is precisely why I thoroughly enjoy teaching the general ed classes just as much as I do the upper-division courses for majors.

Total time spent on teaching this week (including essay grading): 16 hours


This week’s service consisted of sitting GSA office hours and responding to email, and giving an invited presentation to the English Teaching Assistant Advisory Council on how I teach for the Portfolio Critical Rationales in College Writing I.

Total time spent on service this week: 4 hours

Other Scholarly Activity

Editing: I published a blog post and sent out a first round of Twitter and Facebook notices for the #AskaDHMedievalist initiative that Hortulus is running as a social media event (for the next two weeks, participants can ask any question about the intersections between Digital Humanities and medieval studies, and we have a pair of digital humanities medievalists who are going to answer those questions for a special feature in the Fall issue of the Journal.) I also got into contact with our assistant editors to check on the reader’s reports for the articles under review.

Conference activity: I registered for the Southeastern Medieval Association Conference and for the MLA conference and applied for funding for MLA. I also completed and submitted the session organizer’s form for the Hortulus-sponsored session at the International Medieval Congress at Kalamazoo next May.

I read through the job postings (which, alas, did not take long, as there were no new medieval postings this week), wrote a letter nominating a professor for a teaching excellence award, and spent several hours (yet again!) revising the paragraph about my dissertation for my job letter, based on another round of feedback from my generous readers. I think I am getting it much closer to what I want it to be. I also think I’m close to the point where I need to just leave it alone and declare “good enough.” The hours I’m spending on this paragraph about my dissertation are beginning to interfere with the hours I have to spend working on the dissertation, itself, and I think we are rapidly approaching the diminishing returns point.

Total time spent on Other Scholarly Activity this week: 8 hours

Nurturing My Self

One thing that individual student conferences force you to do is to ease up in other areas, because there are not enough hours in the day, so although I was exhausted after so many one-on-one conferences, I actually spent less time across the board on working activities than I generally do. The extra time went to sleeping, mostly, but I did also manage to get a run and a workout at Planet Fitness in as well. Unfortunately, round two of the cold I thought I’d bested made things generally uncomfortable all week, and (since I received my first paycheck in five months–as a TA I am paid from September 30-April 30) my car promptly broke down, which was wildly stressful.

Public Service Announcement: Grad Students with cars, keep at least 1/3 of a tank of gas in your car at all times, or you will end up having to replace the fuel pump and it is Not Cheap.

Today, I’m off for a quick morning workout and then we’re off to see a lovely couple get married this afternoon; then of course tonight I am unavailable for comment, as I’ll be catching up on this week’s Dr. Who.


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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