One Thousand Years


In my classes I am responsible for covering about a thousand years of literature in the British Isles. That encompasses Anglo-Saxon (AKA Old English), Middle English, Irish, Welsh, Scots and even French and Old Norse because they were all there [I forgot Latin]. But like so many of the people in my field, there’s a heavy dominance of English texts because, well, English department.

When you have to pick highlights in a thousand years of literature (all the while envying colleagues who have to choose texts from a few decades) it’s always hard choices. I’m going to broaden the scope in keeping with my renewed dedication to show the plurality of Medieval Britain. That includes teaching the Public Medievalist series on Race, Racism and the Middle Ages as well as my usual ‘You have been lied to!’ kick off for every medieval class.

I’ve also kicked off a new project that I’m really excited about: a Medieval Scots text The Taill of Rauf Coilyear. You can read it online. Obviously the Scots angle is important for me 😉 but it’s a very interesting adventure tale with a collier at the center (hence the image above which was the only one I could find quickly of a medieval charcoal maker). Many things to research. And obviously part of the reason this tale resonated with me is my love for Russell Hoban’s Riddley Walker.

Everything connects. At least in my head it does.

In putting together materials for an application this month, I realised just how many things that ought to have been sent out haven’t been. You think I’m prolific? You should see all the stuff that’s not been published. Yet, in some cases. Trying to amend some of that neglect. I blame the glacial pace of academic publishing. But truthfully, fiction requires less research. The time I’ve spent hunting things down! And waiting for interlibrary loans, too. But I’m excited about Rauf. And having put together my CV again, I do have a sense of accomplishment. It never feels like enough but I can say I have a body of work.