>Things are making me cranky today, despite the glorious spring holiday weekend Sunday that we’re having. And everything that’s making me cranky is doing so because I’m a medievalist. It’s making me wish I’d been a modernist after all (once upon a time that’s what I thought I wanted to do).
First, there’s this article skewering the Medieval Congress at K’zoo, which Dr. Nokes has posted about and partly criticized, rightly. It’s probably better that he do so than I, since as you can see from my comments there, the thing gets my hackles up in all sorts of ways that don’t bother him.
But as if that weren’t enough, I also had a colleague forward the article to me, assuming that I’d *share* her viewpoint — he thought I’d be one of the people, like the writer, tsk-tsking the use of cultural studies and the papers on excrement. (Clearly he hasn’t even looked at my CV — not even when I was up for tenure??? — and also doesn’t know my love of fart jokes.) And he thought the article was a fair and sympathetic assessment! (As if he’d know. He’s never been to the Congress — he’s an Americanist!) It reminds me of how my dad used to always send me clippings of conservative critiques of all the leftists in academia and tell me to be careful or I wouldn’t get a job. Apparently, my colleague, like my dad, thinks I’m a conservative. My dad thinks so for complex psychological reasons I don’t have time to get into (he also thinks I’m still a practicing Catholic and a virgin, and he doesn’t know I live with Bullock). But I think my colleague keeps assuming that I’m a political conservative because, I guess, I study the Middle Ages. Why? Why assume that? Can someone fill me in here? [Edited to add: it’s the act of assuming that bugs me most. I’m sure said colleague would be annoyed if someone assumed he was a liberal just because he’s an English professor. When smart people assume, it annoys me.]
And *then* I get another e-mail, this time sent to a large list, from another colleague (apparently my colleagues have no lives and spend holiday weekends writing e-mails) in which he attached a letter to an editor defending what we do in the liberal arts. OK, nothing to get cranky about, right? Except that in a moment of misplaced, annoying cutesiness, he referred to scholars at RBU who teach “Olde English.” Ack! OLD-E ENGLISH! I do NOT teach Old-E fraking English. Way to denigrate what I do into some cutesy Ren Fest attraction. Not to mention the fact that it’s not even grammatically correct in Old or even Middle English. But that’s besides the point, since who would give a class title for a serious class in an American university in anything but modern English? Argh! Bullock managed to alleviate my annoyance a little bit though, when he told me I should write to my colleague and tell him to “go to the shoppe and buy a clue.” Hee-hee.
But seriously all of this is making me tired of being a medievalist at the moment. I’ll recover, I’m sure, but for once it would be nice not to specialize in a period that gets so abused and misunderstood. I should go commiserate with Victoria — Victorianist are probably second to medievalists in their impatience with the (ab)use of their period by the general public. And I know Will, our Shakespearean, gets sick of Shakespeare being used as a weapon in various fights about the humanities. And if I studied early American, I’d likely get sick of the abuse of the term “puritanical.” *Is* there a period of English or American literature that’s free from popular misunderstandings?