19 February 2009

Showing up

Browsing around the blogosphere, it seems like a lot of us are doing other things lately. I keep thinking I'll post when I finish the essay I've been working on since, oh, I don't want to think about it. I am so close to done, so close, but not there yet. Today I added 746 words (some moved from an earlier draft), and did a batch of editing, and figured out why I need all these details about analogues, which means that tomorrow I'll have to re-shape the section about the analogues, and I will still be this-close-to-done.

The thing that actually is done is course descriptions for the fall. I made them sound all cheery and breezy, which probably violates some truth-in-advertising regulation. Here's a more truthful version:

Abandon hope, all ye who enter here. We will read Chaucer in Middle English, which a few nerds will enjoy, but it will make most of you curse the day your professor was born. You will endure the professor reading to you in Middle English, Old French, and Latin, all of which will sound like gobbledygook to you, and you will not be able to hear the rhythms she keeps telling you to listen for. Oh, and she shows off by singing to you, as if you'd ever want to hear the beginning of the General Prologue set to the tune of "The First Nowell." You will be appalled to discover how difficult it is to write a one-page paper that actually says something intelligent about a text (your returned papers will look like this: "In this paper I shall argue that despite Chaucer's attempts to pacify the Church, he nevertheless shows the Pardoner as a snake. This shows that the Pardoner is evel SP. . . HOW DOES HE DO THIS?"). Even if you read translations so you know what's going on, there will be translation exams that check your understanding of Middle English, as if the prof didn't trust you, and at least one reading for which there is no modern translation so you'll have to try to figure out the weird spelling after all (and that reading won't even be Chaucer, which is like totally cheating on the prof's part, since the class is called "Chaucer"). This class is completely irrelevant to the real world and the professor will not care about your feelings about the text, the Middle Ages, or anything else. She only ever cares about the words on the page and how to make sense of them.

(At least, this is how I imagine the class looks to some people who have been through it. My dear students: it's true, I care passionately about the words, their meanings, their etymologies, their sounds, their rhythms, and the poetry these elements create. If you can learn to appreciate any part of Chaucer's poetry, I'll be very happy.)


Dr. Rural said...

I would like to take that course!

Dame Eleanor Hull said...

Come on down, Dr. Rural! You can be my agent provocateur.