rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
Two things that have improved what's shaping up to be a deeply frustrating day:

Via [livejournal.com profile] cursor_mundi, the Random Academic Sentence Page. Here are the results of my most recent click.

Pootwattle the Virtual Academic(TM) says:

The (re)invention of the anesthesia of forgetting gestures toward the representational validity of the public sphere.

Smedley Smedley the Virtual Critic(TM) responds:

Pootwattle's wide-ranging study of the relationship between the (re)invention of the anesthesia of forgetting and the representational validity of the public sphere narrowly avoids withdrawal into conscious unreadability.


Via [livejournal.com profile] moireach at [livejournal.com profile] greatpoets: B. H. Fairchild, "The Deer".

Amid the note cards and long, yellow legal pads, the late
nineteenth-century journals containing poems by Swinburne or
Rossetti or Lionel Johnson, the Yeats edition of Blake with its
faded green cover and beveled edges, I and the other readers in
the British Library began to feel an odd presence. We lifted our
eyes in unison to observe the two small deer that had entered
the room so quietly, so very discreetly, the music of their
entering suspended above us, inaudible, but there, truly, as the
deer were there...


Edit: One more link you should all read: [livejournal.com profile] sotto_voice writes about Maine's No on 1 Campaign.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
[livejournal.com profile] villainny just posted her favorite poem, reminding me that poetry is just what I need on this dispiriting sleepless night. To be fair, I haven't tried to sleep yet. But I'm anxious about the state of academia and the state of the world, and I'm not relaxed enough to want to try.

I couldn't choose one favorite poem, so instead I provide links:

Marilyn Hacker - Rune of the Finland Woman
Marianne Moore - Sojourn in the Whale
Theodore Roethke - Once More, the Round

And last, from one of the darkest (and, occasionally, most unnecessarily gory) poems I know, a passage I find somehow hopeful:

Galway Kinnell, The Book of Nightmares (1971), VII.4.

And you yourself,
some impossible Tuesday
in the year Two Thousand and Nine, will walk out
among the black stones
of the field, in the rain,

and the stones saying
over their one word, ci-gicirct, ci-gicirct, ci-gicirct,

and the raindrops
hitting you on the fontanel
over and over, and you standing there
unable to let them in.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
The Rules

1. Leave me a comment.
2. I respond by asking you five questions. You will answer them, because you like talking about yourself.
3. You then update your LJ with the answers to the questions.
4. Include this explanation and an offer to interview someone else in the post.
5. When others comment asking to be interviewed, you will ask them five questions.

Questions, courtesy of [livejournal.com profile] misslucyjane:

1) Thwap me if I've asked you this before, but what's the story behind your username?

Rymenhild (also spelled Rimenhild, Rimenild, Reymyld and Rigmel), princess of Westernesse, is the love interest in the late thirteenth- and early fourteenth-century Middle English verse romance King Horn. She courts her young man, rather than vice versa, but then she makes up for the initial awesomeness by staying at home for fourteen years while Horn goes off to fight Saracens. I'm not all that fond of the character, but I do like her name. I also like the fact that I can shorten the name to Rym, which is a Middle English word for verse or poem. (Its cognate in modern English is "rhyme".)

2) I am full of admiration and wonderment at medievalists. Why did you decide to focus on this period?

I never really decided to become a medievalist -- it just happened. I suppose I started out as a ten-year-old fangirl reading Susan Cooper, JRR Tolkien and everything I could find that mentioned King Arthur. I wanted to know what inspired these writers, so I started looking for the source texts. After eight or ten years of enthusiastic reading, when it came time for me to choose my specialty within English literature, I really didn't have to think very hard.

3) One of my favorite lines in Possession is something along the lines of "We love what survives our education." Is there any work you feel you love despite having studied it for years?

Oh, that's a good question. After sixteen years, two undergraduate seminars (one as a student, one as the instructor) and a senior thesis, I'm still passionately in love with Arthurian literature. (I tried listing the individual Arthurian works I love, but it's really too long of a list for me to post here. Ask me later!) King Horn and several other deeply odd Middle English romances have also survived my obsessions well.

4) What is "bibliosexuality"? (And does it involve stroking bookbindings? Library porn?)

I believe I first discovered the word in [livejournal.com profile] gramarye1971's userinfo and traced it back to [livejournal.com profile] foreverdirt's tongue not-that-far-in-cheek coming-out post. In any case, I adore books as things. I especially adore old books. Nothing makes me happier than sitting in an archival library with a seven-hundred-year-old codex smelling of vellum and leather, and, um, petting the corners of pages very gently when the librarians aren't looking. Not that I do that.. Anyway, I suppose I could just describe myself as a bibliophiliac, but the word "bibliosexual" is more fun.

5) Define yourself in five words or less.

Far too good at procrastinating. :D?
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
I will not be adding my own equivalent of soup rings to any medieval manuscripts: no one would let me rest a coffee cup on Morgan M690, nor would anyone allow me to do what one earlier owner of the book did--take out a pencil and draw large, full-folio portrait heads on the flyleafs. One worships at the altar of the manuscript; one does not doodle on it.

~Siân Echard, "House Arrest: Modern Archives, Medieval Manuscripts." Journal of Medieval and Early Modern Studies 30:2 (2000), 189.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
If you do not want to find out about some of the distressing events in this book, you may wish to avoid this review. )

ETA: As usual, Amazon provides us with reviews that entirely miss the point. One reviewer, writing about the series as a whole, complains, This series is well, pretty undescribable. It's hard to say whether they are excelltent [sic], or just garbage, but I guess it would depend on who was to read them. I strongly suggest these books for the younger readers, it's really not for older teens. The rambling of the author can get a bit old, but you also learn a lot of interesting words (and frankly loads of useless information) from them. Some of the books may seem pointless, maybe they are, but they're for kids, so if you're a young adult or an adult reading them, remember that.

Dear reviewer,

The interesting words, "useless" information, and layers of subtext and backstory which you call "rambling" are the best and most important parts of the Series of Unfortunate Events. The surface plots are merely window dressing, to use a term referring both to adornments that make windows look pretty and curtains that keep undesirable villains from peeking into one's house and spying on one's sugar bowl usage patterns.

Sincerely,
Rymenhild
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
We who are medievalists learn that knowledge is impermanent. Manuscripts get lost or misplaced or torn apart to make binding for later manuscripts. Parchment smears and ink fades. Politically dangerous documents get hidden or destroyed. Books are flammable. Libraries can burn. MS Cotton Vitellius A.xv (the Beowulf manuscript) was damaged in the 1731 Cotton library fire, and we are lucky that it survives at all. The Rupertsberg manuscript of Hildegard of Bingen's Scivias, priceless because of its spectacular, unconventional illuminations and its possible connection to Hildegard herself, survived for about 750 years before it vanished in 1945 Dresden. (Fortunately, two copies, one a black-and-white photographic version and one a hand-drawn color copy, were made in the twentieth century.)

There is no way even to guess how much literary evidence has disappeared over the centuries. As scholars, we become accustomed to the fact that some of the documents we would most have liked to study are gone. We get used to the holes in our knowledge. We train ourselves to ask questions that dodge the unpleasant gaps in the historical record. We try not to care.

A summer's worth of photographs of mine only exist now because I gave a copy away to a friend. I deleted the pictures from my camera after I copied them on to my hard drive. My hard drive is no more. Digitized data is more fragile than paper or parchment; it can vanish in months or years rather than centuries. Librarians today are still learning how to preserve computerized documents. Huge quantities of knowledge will cease to exist in the world before the librarians know how to make their information last.

I expect this essay will disappear. In a day you will only be able to find it by setting your friendspage to ?skip=40. In a month it will be available in the memories of my journal and nowhere else. In a year, or five, or ten, LiveJournal will be gone altogether. These things happen.

A professor said today that she had been studying in a research library in New Orleans a few months ago. It's quite possible that my professor's notes are all that remain of the documents she was reading. She doesn't know yet.

Knowledge is impermanent. I know that very well.

It still hurts me to be reminded.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
If you feel, for instance, that well-read people are less likely to be evil, and a world full of people sitting quietly with good books in their hands is preferable to a world filled with schisms and sirens and other noisy and troublesome things, then every time you enter a library you might say to yourself, "The world is quiet here," as a sort of pledge proclaiming reading to be the greater good.

~Lemony Snicket, The Slippery Slope

Other members of the greater LJ community* have spoken better than I could about how horribly bathetic (a word which here means "ludicrously anticlimactic, and also stupid") today's bombings were. Yet another group of terrorists decided to cause chaos in London -- and they weren't even talented enough to get more than one person hurt! Is terror being farmed out to amateurs these days? I have to say I find incompetent terrorists even more frightening than the ones who know what they're doing. Who knows what a few idiots with a few bombs can do? I don't know and I really don't want to find out.

In a comment to her most recent entry, [livejournal.com profile] greythistle spoke of the "awkward dusty reassurance" (a wonderfully apropos phrase) of Duke Humfrey's Library, the Bodleian, Oxford. As some of you may remember, I was in Duke Humfrey's on the morning of July 7. It's a quiet place, a safe place, smelling of parchment and decaying book bindings. I can't really imagine a better shelter from violence and stupidity than a seat among the bookshelves and the diamond-paned windows. Hence, new icon.

---

In other news, I am currently occupied in removing twenty years of possessions from the bedroom formerly known as mine in my family home. Beginning tomorrow, when my grandparents move into this bedroom, the house will contain three generations of adults. I don't actually know whether we can deal with this much familial closeness without beginning a civil war. Fortunately, I go back to California in a month.

To [livejournal.com profile] flintknappy and other people to whom I owe visits -- a thousand apologies for not getting back to you. The truth is that I don't actually know when I can come out to see you. The amount of already-scheduled time in the next month is rather daunting, really. We'll work something out.

---

*EDIT: The greater blogging community, that is. The Yorkshire Ranter is particularly good here. (Link from Making Light.)

EDIT 2: Also linked from Making Light is a rather Hawthornian essay on the Devil and Rick Santorum. I especially recommend it to [livejournal.com profile] fleurdelis28, [livejournal.com profile] navelofwine and [livejournal.com profile] muchabstracted, but really, it's hilarious and everyone should read it.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
Duke Humfrey's Library, a huge cavernous ancient room in the Bodleian Library in Oxford, is quiet today. It's a normal kind of quiet, full of the soft sounds of parchment pages gently turned and of film clicking in the microfilm readers. Every so often the librarians test the alarm system, as they've been doing once every few hours since yesterday morning.

That's why I had to leave just now. There was too much ordinary silence. I had to get out and hear the noises of the street. I had to read what people were saying today, this hour, this minute, instead of staring at a 1983 microfilm of an early fourteenth-century document.

Really, things are normal in Oxford. Students and tourists wander the streets as usual. The people staring at the computer screens here in the cafe look grim and wan or red-eyed, but that's the only real sign that something's wrong.

The radio in the Internet cafe just played a remix of a Mediaeval Baebes song that always seemed strange and wistful to me. It felt rather appropriate.

I have wist, sin i couthe meen,
That children hath by candle light
The shadewe catchen they ne might,
For no lines that they couthe lay.
This shadewe i may likne aright
To this world and yesterday.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
Who just got to spend a day transcribing a Latin song about a prior and an abbot getting completely drunk and puking all over the flowers? I did!

Man, I love my job.

Libraries like the one I visited today do give me a chance to practice some of my more unusual hobbies, like staring at other people's books. A woman behind me was looking at a lovely one with huge full-page full-color fifteenth-century heraldic signs. I didn't have a chance to gawk at that one very long, though, because then I noticed a man about my age who was looking back and forth between the manuscript on foam pads on his desk and two modern printed copies of The Book of Margery Kempe. Fortunately I managed to contain my fangirl enthusiasm. The reading room was just not the place for it.

London's lovely, even if much warmer than advertised. I spent last night hanging out with the delightful [livejournal.com profile] gramarye1971. We discussed late twentieth-century Welsh politics, obscure pieces of paper, gratuitous foxes and the joys of geekery. Gramarye, by the way, as I was walking back from the station last night, I happened to pass the Quaker building. The Quaker building has iron gates. The pattern on the iron gates is a circle, quartered by a cross. I was scared.

Also, in the three years since I last stayed in this dormitory, it acquired Ethernet access. (In 2001 it had dialup, and one paid by the minute and through the nose.) The Ethernet access is working. This makes me happy.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
I have been neglectful about updating lately, and I may be even more neglectful in the near future. I'll be off to England on Monday morning, at which point I'll...probably fall off the face of the planet, or at least the face of this continent. Have a wonderful month, everyone. If there's anything you think I need to know, make sure to post it here or email it to me, as I probably won't be able to follow LJ during my trip.

Meanwhile, [livejournal.com profile] shati asked her readers to tell her about the stories that most resonate with them. I had a number of ideas, but I would say the narrative that I come back to the most often is the story of the fall of Arthur. The night before the battle with Mordred at Camlann, King Arthur dreams of the turning wheel of fortune. Fortune will take him and his kingdom down. Any dreams of the perfect Logres will be infinitely deferred. The grail is gone in any case, and Excalibur must return to the Lake, and all that can remain is the story and the memory.

Tell me about your favorite stories.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
I forgot this poem. I forgot that I loved it.

[livejournal.com profile] navelofwine, do you remember?

Marianne Moore, 'Sojourn in the Whale' )
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
A few fascinating discussions on LJ today

[livejournal.com profile] delamancha considers Discordia, the fear and darkness that inhabits life, and why we have a responsibility to deny it and affirm our love for existence. Listen:

It's everyday life, though, where the most important battles are fought, and the good word is carried to the masses via story of all kinds. It's why story is so important. It's why I'm doing what I'm doing, and why I'm studying what I'm studying. And when I tell people I'm a Unitarian Universalist and explain what that means, and they say, "No, what do you believe, in your heart of hearts?" --

If this makes sense, I guess you could put me down as a member of the First Church of Anti-Discordia.


Thank you, [livejournal.com profile] delamancha.

Various fans seem to have acquired snippets from Daniel Handler's original suggested screenplay for the Series of Unfortunate Events movie. I avoided seeing the Jim Carrey version, in fear of disapppointment, but I must say that if the movie were anything like Handler's screenplay, I would have no fear for it at all.

What's that thing Einstein said? )

***

The next friend I promised to praise was [livejournal.com profile] prosewitch. I can't believe it took me so long to announce her general brilliance here, but let me make up for the omission now. The day I met [livejournal.com profile] prosewitch, almost a year ago in a mutual friend's dorm room, we began to talk about young adult fiction and folklore, belly dancing and singer-songwriters, Internet culture and fanfic. We talked for two hours straight, completely ignoring the mutual friend, who was completely lost. We've had many fantastic discussions since then. [livejournal.com profile] prosewitch is a rigorous academic, a folklore scholar whose approach to the data will change her entire field in the next twenty years. She makes heavenly biscotti and is an excellent dancer. [livejournal.com profile] prosewitch is a beautiful, brilliant person and I'm privileged to be her friend.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
When feeding my Lemony Snicket obsession again yesterday, I noticed that one of the torn letters closing The Grim Grotto mentioned a place called the Galway Kennel. The Galway Kennel. If I had not known, from an offhand mention of Franz Wright, that Daniel Handler likes his modern-day poetry both obscure and sublime, I might possibly have fainted when I caught the reference. Galway Kinnell's Book of Nightmares is the single volume of poetry I love above all others. Once I read it aloud with [livejournal.com profile] muchabstracted, one summer day in northern Pennsylvania, in a parking lot off of the Appalachian Trail, accompanied by an African drum and the guest appearance of church bells, somewhere far off. Even without the drum and bells, the book sings; you should all listen to it.

The full text of The Book of Nightmares is available on the Web here.

--

Some links:

T is for Titus, whose victims were breaded.
[livejournal.com profile] angevin2 has Shakespeared (What? "Spear" is a verb) the Gashlycrumb Tinies.

Also, [livejournal.com profile] muchabstracted would probably be interested to know that [livejournal.com profile] ellen_kushner has an LJ, and [livejournal.com profile] prosewitch ought to see Neil Gaiman's review of Maria Tatar's new Brothers Grimm translation. [livejournal.com profile] genarti, look at how wonderful a community [livejournal.com profile] little_details is.

You people whose coolness I have promised to reveal to the world are all decidedly cool people, and I promise to tell everyone why in the next few days, but not tonight, as I want to get more work done at the moment.
rymenhild: Manuscript page from British Library MS Harley 913 (Default)
is the motto of an organization in Lemony Snicket's Unfortunate Events books.

It isn't a neutral statement of fact, this motto. It's a prophecy, or perhaps a possibility; it's a goal that the people of the organization dream of bringing about. The dream: to make the universe into a library, full of people reading beautiful words, lucid, xenial, in the thunderous silence of marble. In the world where the Baudelaire children live, quiet is rare. Libraries burn. Injustice is constant, unreason governs the universe, and there are no happy endings, ever. And yet a few dream and work, that the world may someday be quiet.

I am full of rage, today, at our country, at our world, at the choices we have made and that others have made for us. I would like to put on a silly mustache and fake glasses (to hide the real ones, of course), and slink about muttering mysterious things in codes inspired by Galway Kinnell's poetry. I would like to think that could help someone, somehow.

I don't know anything I can do that would work, that would be enough to fix this universe.

I remember, after September 11th, being sure that suddenly, the world was unified -- that one person could help another merely by expressing sympathy, that all griefs could be shared and divided and thus lessened.

I remember when I learned that I could never truly understand what another human being suffered. I remember retreating to my books and my work. I, at least, had and have a quiet place. Not everyone is so lucky.

The world is quiet here. May it be so.

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