Charcoal Burners, Black Sails & Magic

Uskglass Charcoal Burner

Admittedly I’ve not left the house since I got here, but don’t let my indolence fool you! I am ready to rise to the opportunity and sure enough, I will be. Thanks to Cailleach’s Herbarium mentioning it on Facebook, I got on the waitlist and now have ticket in hand to attend ‘The Supernatural in Early Modern Scotland’ this Friday. A workshop at The Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities, University of Edinburgh, it looks to be a fascinating day (see the whole list of speakers here).

So many interests colliding in useful ways! It’s great to have the feeling you’re in the right place at the right time.

And speaking of collisions: the above illustration is of course the lovely Charles Vess. It’s for the last story in Susanna Clarke’s collection The Ladies of Grace Adieu. In my usual way I had hoarded the last few stories last summer, thinking when I read them there would be no more of her writing to read as she has nothing else out at present (yes, that’s how my brain works). I didn’t know the interest I would develop in charcoal burners in the meantime! So it was the first thing I read when I got back here. A delightful tale with saints (including Brigit), Uskglass and of course the titular charcoal burner.

Total collision count: dissertation subjects, two forthcoming conference papers, and the new all-consuming medieval project, Rauf Coilyear. I’m teaching Rauf in the upper division medieval class this fall. I love it when a plan comes together.

Meanwhile I am playing dolls with Miss C and catching up on Black Sails with my sweetie. Life is good.

Film for a Friday: Sweet Charity

Screen Shot 2017-05-12 at 11.45.58.png

I just needed some Fosse to get me motivated on finishing grading. Some great stuff but no time to enjoy it all — but I have some really sharp students (of course!). Once all this is done and graduation over, I’ll be updating more frequently. And having a little fun, laughs, and good times.

Occult Art & the Language of Birds

Yes, I am going to write up the Occult Humanities conference when I get a moment, but apparently today is not that day. So here are some of the paintings in the Language of Birds exhibit at NYU’s 80WSE gallery that really knocked me out. There was so much more!

carrington nigromante.jpg

Leonora Carrington’s El Nigromante [The Necromancer]

16_leonor_fini_le_carrefour_d_hecate

Leonor Fini’s Le Carrefour d’hecate

02_alison_blickle_new_keys

Alison Blickle’s New Keys

17_juanita_guccione_three_women_and_three_owls

Juanita Guccione’s Three Women and Three Owls

See a bunch of the artworks here.

Transmission Will Resume

It’s the inevitable ‘catch up after a conference’ hereabouts. MUCH to share, much to mull over, much to write of course, mad plans and ideas popping. And really, if you can get to it go to the exhibit. Here’s a photo teaser from the weekend that seems apropos.

occupied

The Great Grey Beast

thiefusp3‘The great grey beast February had eaten Harvey Swick alive. Here he was, buried in the belly of that smothering month, wondering if he would ever find his way out through the cold coils that lay between here and Easter. He didn’t think much of his chances…’

It’s rare that those words do not pop into my mind when February begins. Clive Barker’s hero in The Thief of Always is bored in school and desperately longs for excitement. I’m rather the opposite at present. I’ve been so busy I long for boredom and quiet but it’s not on the horizon.

This weekend I got two complicated grant applications done; one sent off, the other will be today once I look it over again. I’m contemplating a third. Next weekend I’m off down to the city for a fab conference with an amazing art exhibition attached to it — and staying with a friend so excitement abounds.

I’m trying hard to remember my Happy No Year declaration as exciting calls for stories and papers come my way. So many opportunities! But I must remember I have neither the time nor the funds for all the shiny shiny things. No, you can say it, Kate. No.

I’m glad to see February in a way. September and January both seem like the longest cruelest months. Transitions between my two lands, return to teaching, meetings, forms, etc. all add up to a hectic time which makes the month seem even longer. So hello February, hail Brigit. Have you put away your Yuletide decorations?

CEREMONY UPON CANDLEMAS EVE

by Robert Herrick (1591-1674)

DOWN with the rosemary, and so
Down with the bays and misletoe ;
Down with the holly, ivy, all,
Wherewith ye dress’d the Christmas Hall :
That so the superstitious find
No one least branch there left behind :
For look, how many leaves there be
Neglected, there (maids, trust to me)
So many goblins you shall see.

2015-09-12 07.06.08

When Worlds Collide

21canons_yeoman2b

Our brains like to label things and categorise them neatly. We can ‘unsee’ things we’ve seen if they don’t fit our categories. But we vary in how much we do this: at one end of the spectrum is the rigid labeling that leads to racism and xenophobia, at the other end lies an inability to learn because everything is seen as unique.

I’m not sure where that leaves me: I do categorise and label things but I seem nigh on incapable of making categories that others can see but make perfect sense to me. Things collide in my head in odd ways. It took me some years to understand that. And it’s okay, it works for me. Well, apart from the tendency for other people to look at me with arched eyebrows and narrowed eyes.

Example: somehow Chaucer’s Canon’s Yeoman’s Tale and Maurer’s The Big Con collided in my head and so I’ll be giving a paper at the International Medieval Congress in Leeds next summer on alchemy called ‘Chaucer and the Art of the Grift’ which should be fun.

Here’s the precis:

‘Of all the grifters, the confidence man is the aristocrat’, David Maurer wrote in his linguistic study _The Big Con_. Chaucer’s _Canon’s Yeoman’s  Tale_ offers a narrative of crime. As in his fabliaux there’s a delight in the spinning of the yarn even  while he deplores the deception. Nonetheless, I will argue that Chaucer reveals a grifter’s appreciation for the aristocratic con because he recognises it shares the same engine as his poetry: the power of a good story.

Am I having fun researching into the world of grifters and con artists? Yes, I am. I’ve always had a fascination with that art, probably at least since my brothers and I saw Harry in Your Pocket and spent the next few weeks perfecting our technique (only on each other, I should clarify). Of course there’s also the glory of The Sting, which sprang from Maurer’s study directly. Just something in the air in 1973, eh? It was the year that Watergate broke (though it took much longer to unravel…)

A New Hat

Mad HatterActually a couple of them: first I want to announce the new Digital Humanities Initiative at the College of Saint Rose, for which I got approval from the Dean this week and hastily mocked up a website (social media sites to come). In contrast to the dominant narrative of the arts & humanities as ‘luxuries’ we will endeavour to show their absolute necessity in the 21st century.

At least employers seem to grasp that fact! I seem to have got a few people willing to jump aboard the train, so we will chug away from the platform.

Also we have a brand new AAUP chapter to better facilitate our participation in the ongoing process of retrenchment at the college. Seems all that freewheeling spending that took place while I was away has had some serious repercussions — and will continue to do so.

So yes, busier than ever — the madness continues.