Applications, Composition, Malory

January 6, 2007 at 6:30 pm (malory, reading notes, teaching)

I got all my grad school applications in, finally. I’m on a number of little e-groups dedicated to the application process, such as “review_my_sop” and “applyingtograd,” and many people, now that they’ve licked their stamps and pinned all their little Delivery Confirmation Receipts to the walls, are apparently gnawing their fingernails to the quick and calling departments obsessively to make sure that last LOR came through. I find myself with absolutely no energy left over to do any of that. In fact, by the time I was licking the stamps for the last two packets, I realized I didn’t want to attend those particular schools anyway (one is geographically undesirable despite having a good reputation for medieval studies, and one has a lousy reputation for medieval studies — in fact has no Med Studies program but only a couple of faculty members with “interests in” medieval literature — but is pretty close to home and was essentially my only real “safety” school.) I don’t want to go there. It’s kind of amazing that it took the incredibly time-consuming process of applying there for me to realize that — would I had done so before I had spent all the money on GRE score reports and transcripts. In an alternate universe, I’d have applied to GWU instead, but I found out about its new program too late in the apps process, it’s DC and ugh, and it’s light on the Anglo-Saxon (I keep trying to tell myself I don’t, in fact, want to be an Anglo-Saxonist, but I’m not entirely certain it’s working).

So, I’m not obsessing — that was one more hurdle to clear, one more item on the list of things to do that got scratched off. I will now be represented by stacks of paper in front of an admissions committee, and there’s not a damned thing I can do differently now.

Classes start Monday — I have three months to finish my thesis and defend, two days to figure out how the heck to teach Comp 102 for the first time or at least how to fake the first week (flying via seat of pants, anyone?), and a bunch of bill-juggling to do while I wait for financial aid to disburse.

I am done with my MA coursework, but I’m taking another class in addition to thesis hours anyway, and I’m excited about it. My very first medieval literature class, back in 1990/1991, was “Modern Arthurian Legend.” So my last class in my MA program will be “Malory and the Arthurian Tradition.” I like the sort of bookending, and I’ve always wanted to take another crack at Lancelot, Arthur, and Gawain in “The Death of Arthur.” It’s a heartbreaking story, the most tragic moment in Le Morte Darthur in my opinion, and it’s not because of the love triangle of Arthur, Guinevere, and Lancelot, Hollywood be damned. It’s a heartbreaking story because of the love triangle between Arthur, Gawain, and Lancelot, and because of the final implosion of the tensions between the homosocial ideals of knighthood and honor and the pain of politics, bad advice, and the intricacies of the kinship and blood-feud systems and the intrinsic uncertainties and discomforts present in a patriarchal system in which paternity and even blood kinship cannot always be known (though there does seem to be an underlying “blood will always out” theme in terms of nobility). It’s a heartbreaking story because the characters who love each other so much are ultimately doomed. And aren’t those the best?

Lancelot/Guinevere/Arthur stories are good, but they’re not the meat of Malory or his sources, pardon the entendre. When Arthur holds a dying Gawain in his arms and cries, saying now he has lost the two people that gave him most happiness in life — well, I teared up a little. While that most certainly makes me a sap and a particularly strange brand of geek, I still maintain that this stuff is better than The Mists of Avalon any day.



  1. rhetoricallyspeaking said,

    Oh do I remember those feelings! I was in the exact spot you’re in just last year. If you still need a good seat-of-the-pants lesson for the first week, you might want to try discussing the breakdown of a good essay. I did this last year with my students–we talked about effective intros, conclusions and thesis statements; what makes a good argument and how to address counterarguments. That gave me time to get the rest of the lessons together and still look collected.

    Good luck!

  2. kdegruy said,

    I have a syllabus and we’re busting straight into “how to write a summary” before we get into the actual argumentation stuff — I spent a few minutes today trying to convince them that writing in their book, or at least taking readings notes, was a good idea — but I have never read any of this stuff before either and frankly don’t know how to teach anybody how to write a summary. It’s weird — it’s not something I was ever exactly taught either, explicitly. But I guess a lot of English folks don’t ever take the freshman-level comp classes that end up being the first classes they teach 🙂

    I’ll add your blog to my teaching blog’s roll; I really like the sounds of what you’re doing with that course and I’d like to check in sometimes and see how that works. I don’t even know where I’ll be living next semester, never mind what if anything I’ll be teaching, but I am really excited by the ideas behind what you’re doing there with writing and blogging.

    Thanks for the comment!

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