Tuesday, May 31, 2016

The Long Journey Begins!


Map of Medieval Briton.
I think I am not alone when I speak of that unease in the pit of your stomach-- that sensation before embarking on a grand crusade; it is a nervousness, or perhaps a feeling of inadequacy, the fuzzy feeling that you will either come home an academic hero or drown in the moors of mediocrity.

You, my dedicated reader, surely know what I am muttering about: you've been through high school, perhaps even completed an undergraduate degree or above. You remember the struggle of learning, however half-heatedly it may or may not have been, of rote memorization of a foreign tongue; German, Spanish, French, maybe Latin, Mandarin Chinese or Japanese... the tears, frustrations, and lows of despair, especially after the moment when you earned a failing grade on a test you funneled an actual modicum of effort in an attempt to conquer!

Personally, this has never worked for me, even during my brief stint when attempting to learn Mandarin.


So, what I am about yo rant to you about will be well trodden territory: I have begun labor on teaching myself Anglo-Saxon, the ancient tongue of early Medieval Briton.

Well met, fellow traveler!

But, I have only just begun; you see, though I have started on the path toward fluency in the Anglo-Saxon-- Old English-- tongue, I do not yet have the violent pulsations of an angst ridden adolescent running through my veins (that will come later, if at all). Why? Because I am excited.

Not me. But, maybe someday, if I study enough and you replace 'teen' with 'academic.'


Tonight marks the beginning of a path of research which I have chosen. Medieval literature, society, culture, Old English (and its accompanying linguistics)... is all something I have selected for myself.

Previously, you see, I was studying Victorian literature. Although I still possess a lot of love for the period, it was a literary period that I had, more or less, simply fallen-- really tripped-- into studying; as I was taking classes which fulfilled specific course requirements, and as I inadvertently wrote high quality papers for those classes which later would be used for symposium presentations, I waded deeper and deeper into a artistic pool that I felt only tenuously tethered. Some months ago, though, I gained a spark of interest for Medieval society as part of me felt that I could accomplish more in this fascinating lacuna than in the heavily contested field of Victorian studies. Hence my present situation.

A comic illustration of the effect that Victorian literature can have on students. (Image copyright to original author and illustrator)


Launching me forward toward this triumphant new drawn (how lordly and poetic!) is two texts. Neither is the end all text which will provide mastery in a the field, nor are the texts particularly challenging for people with prior knowledge of the subject, but for a beginner like me, I feel they are sound places to tally forth.

The first book is John Blair's The Anglo-Saxon Age: A Very Short Introduction (2000). The second is Mark Atherton's Teach Yourself: Complete Old English (2010).

While the former focuses on providing an overview of Anglo-Saxon society and the history surrounding such a society and culture, the latter is purely focused on language acquisition (though, it does provide some culture insights into how the example texts' production was influenced). Since I have only just begun using each tool, I am pleased with the authors' voice and style, how it is used in their stated goals of content comprehension.

So, to wrap up before I start to meander, though I am only going to be able to devote maybe a couple of hours a day to these studies, I intend on perusing this course of study for years to come. Inch by metaphorical inch, I hope to glean some higher truths about the field. Someday, maybe, I will be able to contribute something lasting. But, until then, I will just be pleased with finally initiating that journey of a thousand miles. It starts with just a single step, after all.

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