The Making of a Medievalist (or rather an Anglo-Saxonist)

I am frequently asked—I think more often than most English professors—why it is that I ended up doing what I do. There’s something about being an Anglo-Saxonist just freakish enough to require explanation. Or maybe it’s my palpable lack of a beard, which, as I have noted before on this blog, is practically a requirement of membership in the field. In any case, I have been thinking a lot recently…

“Authors we’re a little in love with,” or “Why John Donne is my homeboy.”

It’s that week I’ve been waiting for all semester. What, the mythical time when I have finished all my reading for class and my grading, and still have hours leftover for guiltless gardening? No, it’s John Donne week in History of Brit Lit. Could life get any better? Which brings me to the purpose of my post. Admit it, some authors you just have a little bit of a crush…

It’s English, but not as we know it

At some point in every semester, I give my students a really difficult assignment that I am not sure they are capable of completing. I’ve been to assessment workshops, and I know that when you issue an assignment, you are supposed to have a clear vision of what you will receive in return—visualize a butterfly, I think the metaphor was, and if you can’t, don’t complain when you get beetles…

“The Likelihood of Feeling Lonely Scale”

In response to Tim’s last post, one person mentioned the phenomenon of “celebrity scholars,” and how they, alone among English professors, are able to finance lavish and jet-setting lifestyles. Although surely not all celebrity scholars are bad (I’m afraid that I can’t say here that some of my best friends are celebrity scholars), I have taken a class with one and it involved neither a syllabus nor the learning of…

Further further adventures in myth-busting

Following Laura and Desiree’s discussion of myths associated with creative writers and English majors, it falls to me to discuss fables about that mythical beast, the English professor. I suppose that it is fitting for me to tackle this topic, since one of these myths involves the spurious authority that simply being English gives you as an English professor. Although there are lots of people in England who aren’t remotely…

21 days of Christmas, B and Bs, and Crime Queens

21 days, 147 hours of light, 357 hours of darkness, 5 adults, 1 bathroom, 6 pounds of Quality Street, 1 large box of Cadbury’s éclairs, 1 box of Maltesers, 1 box of Ferrero Roche, 2 orders fish and chips, 3 roast dinners, 1 entire island covered in snow, and 72 hours of traveling later, I survived Christmas in England. Where was I? Torquay, Devon. A place perhaps best known as…

Proof that novels about clergymen and spinsters can be good

Much as I hate to plaster my post over Tim’s diverting discussion of academic bureaucracy, it is time for me to report back on another “Neglected Classic,” which this time is F.M. Mayor’s The Rector’s Daughter. I had never heard of F.M. Mayor. Not that this necessarily means much, since twentieth-century literature was a blind spot of my undergraduate degree in English. In 1991, which is when I started the…

Not the “Neglectedest” Classic

As promised in my last post, I am making my way (very slowly) through the nominations for “neglected classic” made by ten contemporary authors for the radio 4 program Open Book. This past two weeks I read The Snow Goose, by Paul Gallico, and Samuel Johnson’s This History of Rasselas Prince of Abissinia. I will only have room here to address The Snow Goose—it’s just that kind of book, and…

Hurrah and All That for Radio Four

Before I begin I should make it clear that this post is not about to turn into one of those “isn’t everything about England great” rants. Lots of things about England aren’t great—like overcrowded roads, telephone boxes that smell of urine, Christmas cake, and the tiny sizes that deodorants come in (ok, those tiny deodorants are really quite cute). But something to be duly celebrated about England is BBC Radio…

Words we use thinking we know what they mean when in fact they mean something quite different

Apologies for the long title, which is almost a post in itself. I wish there were a word (and there probably is) for the linguistic category I want to discuss: those words that we use thinking we know what they mean only to find out, sometimes after many years and multiple degrees, that they mean something quite different. I am not referring here to malapropisms: comedic confusion of one, generally…