Monday, July 27, 2009

Ah, the rejection......musings and mutterings on the field

So this past week I've received news from 2 places that I will not be working at those places. Well, more than 2, but those 2 are academic jobs I wanted, rather than mundane jobs I need. And yes, the distinction is a purposeful one and I mean it.

Both were very gracious in their rejections of my candidacy. One I was close. I was their second choice and I was told in the end what made the difference is that the candidate who was awarded the position had a teaching award from prestigious university whereas I just have good recommendations and good student reviews. The other I was not even a serious contender for. But the letter writer compared the current situation with his/her own job search 20 years ago and advised those of us receiving the letter to soldier on (my words), the field needed us (author's words).

I tend to agree. The field does need us. Humanities generally, but especially Classics and now Medieval Studies are beleaguered. Classics departments are disappearing and have been for some time. And we all know that lines for Medievalists have been disappearing too: no, not just in the recent economic downturn. Where 25 years ago a department may have 2 or even 3 medievalists, it now has one if any. My own former department, as I've remarked before, is getting rid of medieval studies, leaving the surveys to the Renaissance people who give you Beowulf and Chaucer and that's the extent of medieval literature.

This makes it hard to find a job in one's field. Duh. And oddly, it happens at a time when popular culture interest in things Classical and Medieval is thriving! History Channel, The Learning Channel (TLC), Syfy, Comedy Central, movies, plays, novels and popular history on these subjects garner a great deal of interest not to mention Ren faires and reenactments. Ok, so yes, I've commented on this before both here and over at Modern Medieval, so no need to rehash it.

But I bring it up here again. The field does need us. We do great work. We love to teach. We don't mind the service requirements and sometimes find ourselves enjoying them. The field needs our perspective, our fresh and eager perspectives, and our energy and excitement and ideas. Sadly, the field won't be getting what it needs. The field isn't big enough and is shrinking. There isn't room for everyone, not even in subfields, who wants to practice their field. That leaves the field as a whole more anemic. And it leaves the jobless mouldering in adjunctville, a level of hell that is reserved for those who don't deserve it their only sin being not being the lucky one who got the job. Being an adjunct slowly and ever so surely for most erodes all those qualities that they could have offered the field leaving them only the ability to teach introductory courses and the disapproval of their colleagues. In a recent Chronicle of Higher Ed article, one full-timer mused that adjuncts should *NOT* be hired to TT slots when a fresh graduate student just coming out fits the bill. The reason you might ask? Because according to this out of touch full-timers, adjuncts don't teach full time. No, adjuncts don't teach full time--they just typically teach twice to three times as many courses in a given academic year than their full time counterparts, for 1/3 of the pay, no benefits, and not knowing semester to semester if they have a job. It means that other than freeing up full timers to conduct their research, adjuncts don't get to contribute to the field much. They have no time: travelling and teaching 4-8 courses per semester at several institutions leaves little time to make contributions.

This leaves the path of the independent scholar. But such a person to be successful as an independent scholar frankly needs some level of financial security. This means that the scholar's spouse earns a tidy packet so that the scholar may be underemployed and be able to pursue scholarship; or the scholar has to have wealth in the family or perviously earned wealth; or to be able to work in an environment such as an academic institution or parts of the govt that allow for both some level of financial security and access to the materials with which to carry on scholarship. Still, the lion's share of the scholar's time in the latter situation is spent on the duties of the job, not on scholarship, and so time must be stolen from other areas of life. Speaking as one who tried to do this for some years, it is difficult at best to accomplish anything meaningful and productive in a timely fashion. Not impossible, but one must be driven to it.

So let's get down to brass tacks. I appreciate being let down easy. It is so much better than the cold, personality deprived, letter that just says "So Sorry, best of luck!" or worse, no communication at all. But in the end, its still a rejection, meaning those of us receiving that letter continue to face the realities of wanting, even needing, to contribute to the field we love, but the field we love, while acknowledging its need of us with one hand, shoves us out of the room with the other. In the end, it means that both parties, the field as a whole, and the rejected, will have significant unfilled needs, leaving both much worse off.

I don't know what the answers are. The author of the letter I mentioned I think was trying to address the problem, encouraging us to keep the faith, so to speak. Saying that we should keep going, a spot will open up, the field will welcome us, the field needed us. I hope that the author is right; I didn't get that job, but maybe there's another ahead that I will. Not only do I need the field, but I'm needed. Though in the end, all there is is hope that it will get better. So thanks for the oddest and kindest rejection letter I've ever received. I hope you're right, Author, I hope you're right. For all of us.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

Medieval Literature I Didn't Know IV.a Bibliography

To follow up my post about Codex Boernerianus and its fascinating contents, I offer the following bibliography, hopefully it will help.

On the manuscript itself:

The Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts has images of the manuscript from a facsimile made I believe in 1909.

The SLUB Dresden Digitale Bibliothek has some new images of it.

The rather excellent Encyclopedia of New Testament Textual Criticism has a description and brief discussion.

The 1909 facsimile is: # Alexander Reichardt, Der Codex Boernerianus. Der Briefe des Apostels Paulus, Verlag von Karl W. Hiersemann, Leipzig 1909.

Then check:

Philip W. Comfort, Encountering the Manuscripts: An Introduction to New Testament Paleography and Textual Criticism, Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2005.

Bruce M. Metzger, Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1981.

David Trobisch apparently has a project going on with respect to the mss.


Turning now to the Irish poem I mentioned and away from NT textual criticism, there isn't much, but here's what I've found:

Whitley Stoke's 1872 Goidelica is online at Google Books

This text whose accuracy I can not verify gives a somewhat different translation to the poem.

Irish writers John Millington Synge and Yeats apparently wrote poems inspired by this one and both are talked about a little in Declan Kiberd, The Irish Writer and the World, Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005, p. 74-77

That's about it, surprisingly. The poem, or a translation thereof, appears in a lot of places, online, in books, in journal articles, but as far as critical work on it, that doesn't seem to exist.

Even less is made of the commentary on Matthew which other than mentions in description of the manuscript's contents, I've found nothing in print. I was informed when I asked if anyone knew of any work on the text that a student in Germany was working on it. I emailed the student and asked if he intended to publish, or would like an opportunity to publish anything on the text in Heroic Age, etc, but I never received a response after his initial email.

So there it is. I hope that's somewhat helpful.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Just some Stuff

I mentioned a week or so ago the passing of Martin Hengel. Here is a moving tribute to him.

And Gospel.Net, not a site I'd really known before, has translations and images of a lot of extra canonical gospels. In some cases, they simply have links to other sites; in other cases they have English translations, and in a few cases they have links to images of the papyri/manuscripts! So if you're interested in the production, texts, and understanding of non-canonical gospels as I am, this is a good site to visit.

I have also to report that another of my intellectual influences has recently passed away. Graham N. Stanton reportedly passed away this past week. He personally was very helpful and encouraging when I was considering the start of the E-Matthew site.

Finally, for today, I've been doing some reading prepatory to writing abstracts for the Archeology section of OEN. I've been reading a part of the report on Flixborough which has been fascinating and way over my head. (I'll post more about this when I write it up for OEN) [and I hope to get one of the team to talk about it in HA] *BUT* that said, I reading a section that talks about the remains of animals almost certainly used as food. Among these are interestingly dolphin and whale. Now, I couldn't help but think of my Within poem, wherein the whale that has swallowed the eponymous hero washes ashore near Rochester and the people come out to fillet some whale steaks and whale kabobs. Anyway, Flixborough is on the Humber estuary, so not far from the coast, but not on the coast. And the remains of the dolphins and whale show that only partial animals were sent to the town, only those parts richest in meat and oil. This means that someone else was harvesting the beasties and butchering them elsewhere and then shipping them to Flixborough and probably other places. Now that's interesting! Wonder how it was done! More interestingly, I wonder if I can find medieval recipes for dolphins and whales.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

DiGlossia in Anglo-Saxon England

As regular passers-by know, I'm interested somewhat avidly in the Adventus period. One of the issues of that period has been what happened to the Celtic speakers so that few Celtic words became part of Old English. The old model of course was that the English came in and pushed the Celts west to Wales and Cornwall, north into Scotland, and off the island to Brittany. That view has been undergoing something of a revision in recent years, sped by the genetic studies of earlier this millenium, but still there is a lack of clarity on the issue of language borrowing and contact. I've written about some of this previously here and here.

So, I finally got around to doing some reading. Believe it or not, I have made inroads into the pile of books and articles that have stacked up since coming to Chicago to finish the ol' PhD and dissertation and all that. An article that was on that pile and is now in the "file" pile is "Diglossia in Anglo-Saxon England, or What Was Spoken Old English like?" by Hildegard Tristram in Studia Anglica Posnaniensia 40 (2004): 87-110. The article essentially argues that the differences between Middle English and Old English are due to the main population of Anglo-Saxon England being "between two languages" to steal a book title (just not the two languages of the that book).

1) Written Old English was likely kept relatively unchanged over the long period of 550 years of the period by deliberate efforts. Dialectal variations are remarkably few; there is very little grammatical change in the structure of the language. It isn't until the reign of Henry I that evidence of such change begins to appear.

2) The earliest Middle English texts show great typological change, grammatically and phonologically. "With apparent suddenness appeared the drift away from syntheticity to analycity."

The paper addresses the over all explanation of this sudden and accelerated movement in the 12th century. Tristram proposes four possible scenarios to explain this.

A) Punctuated Equilibrium Model proposed by Robert M. W. Dixon The Rise and Fall of Languages. Cambridge: Cambridge Univ. Press, 1997. Just like in evolution, this model says that the rate of change in the evolution of languages. A language may change slowly over time and then be subject to radical typological changes caused by a number of factors. There are a number of unanswered problems with this view.

B) A traditional explanation that says that the reduction of unstressed vowels was caused by strong stress accents on the first syllable in Old English words. This led over time to the loss of inflectional endings. (In contrast Tristram notes that German with the same type of stress pattern did not undergo the same type of erosion of the inflectional endings, and notes the same pattern in Old Norse, and even in modern Icelandic.)

C) This explanation says that many endings in OE were simply redundant, and so lost any meaning, and were discarded. Tristram again points to other languages in the Germanic group where the same conditions apply, but the same results did not occur.

D) Language contact with Old Norse caused the change, creating a "creole" situation as the languages were fused. However, Tristram rightly notes, ON and OE were close enough that with minimal effort the two linguistic groups could understand each other. Far more interesting to me and in my mind far more important is that the earliest Northumbrian poems we have from the eighth century already shows signs of "inflectional attrition." (I love that term!)

Tristram naturally has a different explanation. First to be noted is that the areas that deviated the most from what had become in 10th, 11th, 12th centuries "Standard Written Old English" in terms of the inflectional endings were Northumbria and the South and South West(though the degree of deviation is much different in each area). These are areas btw in which the Celtic peoples seemed to have maintained a longer period of influence culturally and linguistically. It is in the SW for example that the "periphrastic-Do" construction arose and periphrastic verbal aspect.

Tristram bases her conclusions on a number of factors, most importantly the recent genetic results showing that in large areas of England the British population remained unchanged except for their political affiliation to Anglo-Saxon overlords rather than the Romans. These Brits depending on where they lived in the island spoke British Latin and Brittonic or solely Brittonic at the time of the Adventus Saxonum. The areas where Brittonic was strongest and British Latin least strong are those areas in which we see the earliest and most sweeping change in Old English, including loss of inflectional morphology. Under the Anglo-Saxons, they likely maintained their native language, in some areas 7-8 generations before making a complete shift to only Old English.

This resulted in Brittonicisms entering Old English, but becoming exhibited in the written language in the early Middle English period. In the North: invariable case and gender inflection of nouns, pronouns, and adjectives just like in Brittonic; invariable article, and fixed word order both features of Brittonic. In the SW early Middle English, there is the previously mentioned rise of periphrastic aspect like Middle Welsh and the periphrastic DO in a variety of uses all matched in Middle Welsh. There are other features that appear later in Middle English that are shared with Brittonic or Middle Welsh. Tristram points to one example of this: clefting. She notes that clefting appears in OE in the late West Saxon Gospels, but only more commonly in ME in the 13th century. It already appears in Old Irish and Old Welsh.

Finally, Tristram outlines "levels" of Old English: the written language which was somewhat artificial, the language of the elites, the ruling class, and the "low" level, the language of the common person in Anglo-Saxon England. Middle English's differences from Old English are to be explained largely by the third level coming into the foreground after the removal of the Anglo-Saxon elite, post-11th century invasions. Thus, the elite control of the written language was lost, and the elites were gone to be replaced by a new elite, but this elite spoke and then wrote the language that had been that of the "common man" in Anglo-Saxon England.

Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Codex Sinaiticus: Late Antiquitism?

As most are aware by now, Codex Sinaiticus is online now. Since it's been in the news frequently the last couple of weeks, enough to crash the servers once news was released, there have been many reports on it in the media. Dan Wallace of Dallas Theological Seminary, and far more interesting and important to me, of the Center for the Study of New Testament Manuscripts (CSNTM) has collated various incorrect statements by the media about the manuscript on his blog. And he corrects them; it does make for interesting reading.

Wallace does make one, well mistake isn't the right word, but nor is oversight or exaggeration. Well, gentle readers, you decide what it is. But Wallace states toward the beginning of his post that "Sinaiticus contains the oldest complete New Testament in the world; the next oldest is half a millennium younger." Well, not quite.....

Even if we emphasize, as I have above, the word complete...meaning there are no missing pieces as in Codex Vaticanus or Alexandrinus etc... there is a manuscript containing the whole New Testament that is vitally important and that is younger than Sinaiticus, but is not 500 years younger. Sinaiticus is dated to the "fourth century", sometimes to the middle part of that century, c. 350. The manuscript of which I speak came into being no later than 716. Codex Amiatinus from Wearmouth-Jarrow is complete, important even for helping to establish the Greek text of the autograph of NT documents (even if not as important as Sinaiticus and Vaticanus in that regard), and is 300-350 years younger than Sinaiticus, produced on the other side of the Roman Empire from Amiatinus.

The problem is that Amiatinus is a Latin manuscript. While yet important and consulted in NT criticism, other language versions by and large do take a back seat to Greek copies in NT textual criticism. Still, it would have been more accurate for Wallace to say that Sinaiticus is oldest complete copy of the NT in Greek and the next oldest in Greek is half a millenium younger. But such is predominance of Greek in the field that such specification among the experts is unnecessary. And that's fine, though interesting, and I thought I'd take opportunity to raise the Medievalist flag once more, and draw attention to Amiatinus and Bede and Monkwearmouth-Jarrow.

Speaking of which, we use the term Medievalist to describe, well, medievalists, and Medievalism to talk about the use and application of things medieval in modern media of all kinds. So what do we call Late Antiquity scholars and the use and application of thing Late Antique in modern media of all kinds? For the former, I originally thought of Late Antiquarians, but for the associations of "antiquarian." So how about Late Antiquitian? And for the -ism, Late Antiquitism(s)? Since the field now properly comes out and stands between Classical, Classicism, Classicizing etc, and (early)Medieval, Medievalism, Medievalizing (ok, I haven't actually seen that last one) I thought the field might need its own set of descriptor terms. Wonder if they'll catch on?

Friday, July 10, 2009

First the Bad News, then some Good News

I'm a bit late on some of this, but here goes:

First, I found out this week that I am but a second choice for a position I had applied for and some one else will be filling the bill. Congratulations to that person whomever he or she may be.

Second, Martin Hengel died last week, Thursday I think, after a bout with cancer at age 82. Hengel was instrumental in Second Temple Judaism, Christian Origins, and early Rabbinics. He reopened the door to consideration of the shape of late Second Temple Judaism(s) as the mileau of the early Christian movement in his magisterial Judaism and Hellenism, the translation of his 1973 Judentum und Hellenismus. In that work, Hengel set the groundwork that has now become the shape of the field. Before his work, it was customary to talk about "Hellenistic Judaism" in the Diaspora, particularly at Alexandria, and "Palestinian Judaism" as differing approaches to being Jewish in the Greco-Roman world. Palestinian Judaism was largely seen as more consertive, Semitic, Temple oriented etc while Hellenistic Judaism was seen as more liberal, taking part in the larger Hellenistic culture, and concerned with merging the Torah and Greek philosophy as in the works of Philo. Hengel's work showed that it was not a question of "Hellenism vs. Resistance to Hellenism" in late Judaism, but rather "how Hellenistic was X", that is, all Second Temple Jews of whatever group in the Roman Empire were to some degree Hellenistic, even the Sadducees who oversaw the Temple and some of the early Rabbis in Palestine. Likewise, one finds conservative "Semitizing" elements in Diaspora Judaism as well. So he argued that a simple dichotomy of Diaspora vs. Palestine, Hellenistic vs. Semitizing was not a valid approach.

I read that book first in 1986, and read it through twice and have read in it many times. Masterful. If only I had the gifts to create such a work. Hengel wrote other influential works, or at least ones that questioned current assumptions such as his Acts and Earliest Christian History that to some degree bucked the trend to reading Acts purely as fiction, The Zealots is a very good book, and there are others spanning the field. It is sad to see him go.

Carin Ruff blogging at Ruff Notes notes the passing of Virginia Brown of PIMS. She too apparently has had a bout of cancer. I never knew her personally, but I do know that when I wanted to go to Toronto that she was one whom various contacts said I should get to know and be sure to take her palaeography class. Generations of PIMS and U Toronto students have done so, and her impact can be seen in their work, though she doesn't seem to have published extensively herself. She translated Boccacio's "Famous Women" and was apparently working on some Caesar Bellum Civile. Nonetheless, my condolences to all who knew her.


Update and Clarification: Carin Ruff dropped this comment in, where else, the comments and I thought it best to have it here so that others will see it:


Thanks for the link about VB. To clarify: the focus of Prof. Brown's life's work was manuscripts in Beneventan script, and her extensive publications were mainly notices of new manuscript discoveries, many published over the years in Mediaeval Studies and collected in Terra Sancti Benedicti: Studies in the Palaeography, History and Liturgy of Medieval Southern Italy. VB was one of E.A. Lowe's last assistants on CLA. It's an interesting metacomment on the intersection of our interdisciplinary profession with disciplinary databases that the products of such a monumental life's work can lie all but hidden even from other medievalists. (I mean this not as a criticism of you, but a rumination on the balkanization of our field.)


Like Intel, our Medieval Rock Stars aren't like other rock stars (Michael Jackson), but no less rock stars for all that.

But now the good news:

Friend and co-blogger (though he owns it) at Modern Medieval Matthew Gabriele appears twice, count it, twice in the latest issue of Speculum! His review of Rosamund McKitterick's Charlemagne: The Formation of a European Identity appears on pg. 753 and Matt's own book The Legend of Charlemagne in the Middle Ages: Power, Faith, and Crusade made it into the Brief Notices section. Congratulations Matt!

PostMedieval: A Journal of Medieval Cultural Studies now has a website as well as a cover design. Kudos to Eileen Joy and all involved.


If you've been just wondering what to do over the weekend, let me suggest some Altoid catapults and binder clip trebuchets. Lifehacker saves the day AGAIN!

And utterly unrelated to anything medieval or scholarly, but Eureka returns this evening with a new season AND I've hooked the Spouse so I don't have to wrestle with her for the remote.

Also, test your knowledge of current events at McSweeney's Star Wars or Iran quiz.

Monday, July 06, 2009

Medieval Literature I Didn't Know IV: Codex Boernerianus

Returning to the series at last, I'd like to introduce you to Codex Boernerianus. Now the two of you reading this might be thinking, "Hey, that's not "literature", its a manuscript. Swain, you ruminate you, you're stretching the meaning of literature here." And you wouldn't be wrong to say so. But this codex is of interest for several literary reasons.

Boernerianus is a ninth century diglot (well, as we'll see a diglot plus) manuscript probably from St. Gall. For the most part, its contents are the Letters of Paul from the New Testament, though there are lacunae, present in the manuscript's exemplar. The Greek text of the NT is the main text with the Latin text written interlinearly, and is much smaller in size. The Greek text is fairly unique in many ways and belongs to the "Western" text type. Other interesting features are the attempts at word and clause separation,clauses often marked at the beginning with a simple punctus. The Latin text has multiple Insular features, though quite cramped in the interlinear space. Boernerianus is connected to the gospel manuscript Codex Sangallensis, also a Greek/Latin diglot and to another codex containing the letters of Paul, Codex Augiensis.

Anyway, my purpose here isn't to talk about the New Testament text. There are two quite different pieces of literature that interest me. The first is that in the back of this manuscript is a brief commentary on the gospel of Matthew that to date NO ONE has published anything on. I was alerted by email a while back that there is a student in Europe working on it, but I emailed back to inquire if said student wished to do something about the text for Heroic Age or if he would at least alert me when his work was finished. I was met with silence. So should it ever happen that I find myself in a stable job in academia and some time on my hands, I fully intend on offering a diplomatic edition and translation of it. Unless someone publishes one first.

The second literary work I wish to talk about has had some work done on it and some may even recognize the piece from anthologies and such. On folio 23 verso an Old Irish poem is written in the bottom margin. The letter forms bear some similarity to the Latin letter forms suggesting that the scribe is responsible for both. However, I have read that the scribe both was and was not an Irish or native Irish speaker. I haven't reviewed the evidence in detail myself, though so far as I know Old Irish was not a taught language on the continent in the ninth century, and one wonders why a scribe at St. Gall's would write this poem with its message in Old Irish if that were not his native tongue. For a future post, I hope to talk about the provenance of several Old Irish pieces in Latin manuscripts and by then I hope to know more about the details of the debate as to whether this scribe was a native Old Irish speaker. At any rate, here's an English translation of the poem:

To come to Rome, to come to Rome,
Much of trouble, little of profit,
The thing thou seekest here,
If thou bring not with thee, thou
findest not.

Great folly, great madness,
Great ruin of sense, great insanity,
Since thou has set out for death,
That thou shouldest be in disobedience
to the Son of Mary.

Taken from: B. M. Metzger, Manuscripts of the Greek Bible: An Introduction to Palaeography, Oxford University Press, Oxford 1981, p. 104. He's getting it from somewhere else too, but I've forgotten where and can't find my copy at the moment to check.

Folio 23 verso contains I Corinthians 2:9-3:3. The verse *MIGHT* be connected loosely to the passage in that the passage speaks of having received the "spirit of Christ" rather than the spirit of the world. But there is nothing explicit to tie them together. One might speculate that the poet had but recently returned from a pilgrimage to Rome and was disappointed by what he found there. I know only the barest outlines of what was going on at Rome during the ninth century, but considering how much difficulty the popes were having with the senatorial families and Byzantine politics and Frankish politics etc, that might give a monk in search of spiritual things pause. I think others probably can fill in that picture better than I at the moment, but I'll see what I can dig up for a follow-up post on the piece.