1. Cider. There is a sweet spot, a perfect level of tipsiness, which is just right for consuming Middle English literature. I’m currently slightly over it, which is why the blog-posting instead of the studying.
2. The Chaucer Studio. There is no way to overstate the benefits of aural comprehension for picking up middle English. Words that look funny sound familiar. Some benefits can be gained by reading aloud to yourself, as I did with the Book of the Duchess last year. Vast benefits can be garnered if you have a resource like USyd’s Middle English Reading Group to hand.1 The Chaucer Studio (a co-operative effort between the University of Adelaide and Brigham Young) takes that one step further, with dramatic readings of assorted medieval texts. Lolo, who Knows People at Adelaide, ordered us all copies of their recording of SGGK, and I have to say, it’s the best twenty dollars I’ve spent this year. It turns what was hours of glossary-flipping into an hour’s read-a-long-book session (sadly, without the BING, PLEASE TURN THE PAGE messages of childhood). And I swear I understand more of it at the end: the aural experience reinforces verbal echoes and parallels. It’s much easier to notice, say, the repeated exclamation ‘Thou art not Gawain!’ if you have an aural memory of it the first time around.
If you’re a hardened Middle English Scholar, the recordings mightn’t do much for your comprehension (although you might enjoy them anyway). But next time you’re teaching an intro or intermediate Middle English class, consider setting or making available a recording- every student in Lolo’s class this year considers the CD a worthwhile investment, so it’s not just my quirk.
3. Not sitting at your desk. Does anyone else get really sore elbows from extended study?
1. Do other unis have Reading Groups like this? Old English Reading Group has been the third best thing to happen to me since I came to uni (the first and second being Awesome and JP, although not in that chronological order). Academically, it’s great for forcing you to retain vocab, and exposing you to texts outside of your range of study. More than that, though, with the range of people, from undergrads to retired lecturers and including members of admin staff and the occaisonal ring-in from the Real World, it creates a real community of scholarship which transcends academic rank. OERG has been crucial in my personal shift from Student Focused On Immediate Marks to Apprentice Academic. And it means I have the Venerable Emeritus, Source Of All English Language Wisdom, to help me with my homework at random.