Sunday, April 24, 2011

And So It Goes...

Among the things that prevented me from blogging for almost six months was an overdue paper I've mentioned here before on Cynewulf's Christ II and his list of "gifts" the ascended Lord gives to humanity. I spent a great deal of time between Sept. and March 1 on rewriting and completing a draft of this beast. In the end it clocked in at 38 pages. I was supposed to write 20 tops. So I had to spend about a month cutting it down to size: in the end it still ended up at just over 23 with the footnotes added. It is now in the hands of the editors, and I'm awaiting their comments to revise. But I thought I would share the unedited version with whomever wants to read it. It falls into 3 parts: a bit about our approach which I've shared before, the Ascension imagery that Cynewulf makes use of that isn't just stuff from Gregory's sermon (the usually cited source for much in the poem) but rather an image that is Biblical, Patristic, Germanic, and Greco-Roman. And then a discussion that the gifts are following a pattern of sapientia et fortitudo. There's a bit of everything: cultural history, text criticism, linguistics, some Latin, a smidge of Greek, chunks of Old English, some source criticism, and a tiny bit of theory (that was axed in the submitted version). Interested readers can find it here. And if interested, a reader may post comments here or at Google Docs, and commentary is welcome.

In other news, another project keeping me busy is Heroic Age Issue 14 is now complete and out, a fact I don't think I mentioned here.

Saturday, April 16, 2011

A Small Tolkienish/Old English thang

By way of quick posts, I mused on this elsewhere, so forgive the repeat. I and my OE students this semester were translating the Finnsburh Fragment. In that fragmentary poem the Beasts of Battle motif is mentioned and the wolf there is called "greyhame." As is well known, the beasts of battle are both harbingers of battle as well as who's left when the thing is done, carrion creatures.

I don't know why it didn't strike me previously, but in Tolkien's The Lord of the Rings, one of the names of Gandalf among the oh-so-Germanic (Anglo-Saxon even) Rohirrim is Gandalf Greyhame. Another that he is called among the people of the horse is Lathspell, bad news (something of an irony with the Christological typography going on with Gandalf). Anyway, it suddenly struck me that "greyhame" might be more than just describing Gandalf's color of cloak, but also his nature as "lathspell." That is, like the grey hued wolf, beast of battle, harbinger of war, feeder on the dead and living, Gandalf's role in the legendarium has often been as harbinger of war, beast of battle in that way, and often depending on the living and according to his critics, metaphorically feeding on the dead and living alike. So, is Tolkien having another little linguistic joke on us? T'would see so. As far as I can tell this is the first time he is called "Greyhame":

Gandalf!" Eomer exclaimed. "Gandalf Greyhame is known in the Mark: but his name, I warn you, is no longer a password to the king's favour. He has been a guest in the land many times in the memory of men, coming as he will, after a season, or after many years. He is ever the herald of strange events: a bringer of evil, some now say."

Note that the name is given in the context of Gandalf being "the herald of strange events", even a bringer of evil! And certainly Gandalf's physical description might lend one to think of the beasts of battle too, with popping up unexpectedly in stealth, his beak nose, etc.

Interesting, no?

Thursday, April 14, 2011

Srong Verb?

It has been a long time. I have rather missed blogging. But this first year as a tenure track professor has eaten up a lot of time with course prep, personal development plans, finding out who is who and what is what, battles over budget, saving the job, plus traveling to see my fav wife yet in the city I used to live in, and once in a while some actual scholarship. Truth be told though, I have really missed blogging. Hopefully over the summer I'll be able to be a little more consistent about setting things down.

There are so many things I could post about, but I shall restrict myself to one that came across my desk by accident.

Every once in awhile I'm able to take a minute and read some blogs myself. One of those I follow is Wil Wheaton of Star Trek, Stand by Me, and most importantly Woot Stock. He's also an author these days, and while I've not read any of his books, I've heard readings from his books and have liked what I've heard. When I retire and have time to actually read again, I plan to read his material. Anyway, in a recent post, Wheaton used the colloquial verb that hasn't yet made it into the OED, "wing", as in "to wing it". When his wife asked him about whether he had followed a recipe for black bean soup or whether he was winging it, he responded that he had wung it.

That got me to thinking a bit. We do have a verb "wing", as in to have wings, or to behave as if giving wings (he winged the ball at me) in which case as can be seen the verb form follows the typical modern pattern of past tense in -ed. But this other "wing" as in "wing it", similar to "on the fly" to improvise. I'm told that this comes from the 19th century theater, where an actor would be called on to hurriedly prepare the role and learn his lines "in the wings" and be prompted from the wings....hence wing it.

Now quite apart from the "proper form" or what have you, I'm interested that a young American professional opted for the strong verb form on analogy with ring, rang, rung, sing, sang, sung, wring, wrang, wrung, and so on rather than the modern pattern of neologisms, tweet, tweeted, have tweeted (or have tweeten?), ping, pinged, have pinged. Is there hope yet for the invention of more strong verb forms in modern English? One can only hope.....