My qualifications

In case any of Ganching’s readers wonder where I get the authority to pronounce on dirty words in Chaucer, I have taught 47 classes titled “Chaucer,” at undergraduate, master’s, and Ph.D. seminar levels, plus two independent studies on his works. I have read everything Chaucer ever wrote, usually more than once, usually more than four times (it’s true that once was enough for the Treatise on the Astrolabe). Although I consider myself a scholar of medieval romance, I have published on Chaucer pedagogy.

When I counted up the 47 sections, in the process of compiling my promotion application, I was so horrified that work stopped on the application for several days while I processed the realization. There was even one year when all I taught was Chaucer: five courses. I had repressed that. Possibly the powers that be were trying to minimize my preps at that point, because I was applying for tenure? Except I think that I had just applied . . . maybe it was supposed to be a reward after getting the application in? I don’t actually like teaching multiple sections of anything. I’d rather have all different classes, so I don’t have to keep sections in sync, or try to remember whether I’ve done the medieval demographics lecture in this class or not, or whether I’m repeating myself in one section and never saying something important to the other one. So that was a vile, vile year.

Despite the existence of books like Chaucer’s Bawdy and people like Carissa Harris who study rude drawings in Chaucer manuscripts, Chaucer is far more given to innuendo than to open obscenity. His rudest word is probable swyve, a word I’m fond of, but whose register seems to be roughly like that of screw in modern English. He does use shete (shit) on occasion, as well. When it comes to female genitalia, he prefers French belle chose, pretty thing, and queynte, with all its available puns (quenched, quaint). I recall (but am too lazy to look up) a discussion by some august critic (Larry Benson? John Fleming?) that considered translating the famous phrase from the Miller’s Tale as “he caught her by the elegant.” I believe this possibility was then dismissed, but I quite like it, and think it goes nicely with “belle chose,” the Wife of Bath’s choice for what it is men want of her.

Traybake’s assertions, however, make me wonder if there is a translation into modern English that uses ruder words than Chaucer did, or if it’s just that some students are so shocked to see any non-latinate reference to genitalia in Great Literature that they remember such references as cruder than they are. Students can be funny critters. They sometimes try to shock me by asking questions about words like queynte, and then they get the full philological lecture, with dictionary displays and etymology, which ought to bore them into quiescence. But usually it makes them decide I’m unexpectedly cool.

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Filling time

Between extreme heat, and trouble sleeping, and an unhappy gut, I feel like today ought to have been cancelled. It’s one of those non-days, the blanks at the start or end of a month (see the last paragraph here), not a work day, not a holiday, a not-happening day.

I spent six hours reading very old blog posts: Another Damned Medievalist, Medieval Woman, Ancrene Wiseass, New Kid On The Hallway, from c.2004-2006. I guess that’s my “screen time,” not TV. I found some “four things” memes that made me laugh. One of the problems with memes is that they usually go on for too long; what’s funny for a few lines gets tedious when there are 20 or 30 different things you’re supposed to answer.

So here’s my answer to just one: the names of four crushes. David, Eric, Scott, David. Pretty much what you’d expect for a straight woman of my age! I mean, who didn’t know half a dozen Davids?

Jet lag season

I’m not even traveling this summer, and yet I am jet-lagged. I had a bad time sleeping this week, until Friday night I was up till 2:00 and slept till 10:00 yesterday. I expected that it would take days to work back to my real time zone from this virtual Hawaii*. Instead, I was wiped out by sunset, went to bed at 9:30, and woke up before 4:00 a.m. I tried valiantly to go back to sleep till 5:00, and then got up.

Does my body think that summer is the season of international travel and so, one way or another, we’re going to have sleep disturbances?

*See also: https://www.xkcd.com/448/

My favorite breakfast

Heat some olive oil over low-medium heat in a small frying pan and wilt a handful of spinach in it. On top of the spinach, spread 1/2 to 3.4 of a cup of cooked rice (if it’s cold, zap it in the microwave first). Season with salt, pepper, and any herbs you feel like, such as oregano. Make two little hollows in the rice and break an egg into each one. Cover and cook till the eggs are at the desired stage of firmness or runniness. Serves one, but it can easily scale up for more people. I like it with ketchup. Salsa would be good, too.

Gardening Hunger Games

I swear that the people who used to own this house got their garden inspiration from The Hunger Games: plant half a dozen species known for spreading aggressively, then sit back and watch them all fight for dominance.

I am so tired of trying to keep all these plants under some kind of control.

Perhaps I will make oregano pesto with some of the oregano that is trying to take over the front yard. It’s in the mint family, so of course it spreads like mad. At least it smells nice, and it’s not bellflower: two points in its favor.

Odds and ends

I cherish the fond illusion that I file/recycle/toss paperwork every 3-6 months, but the evidence suggests otherwise. Very otherwise. However, today I have tackled stacks of paper. As usually happens when things pile up for long enough, I have been able to recycle large quantities, including early drafts of two essays for which I have now corrected proofs, print-outs of conference papers given three and four years ago, and receipts associated with those conferences.

Still on my desk:

*a program from a conference four years ago, in a place I particularly enjoyed;

*instructions for my phone. which I seem to have got on quite well without;

*a two-year pocket calendar for 2014-2015;

*a postcard from Hull;

*a paper written by a graduate student for a course I taught, which I think I kept because in theory I am on the student’s dissertation committee (in practice, I don’t think the student has submitted any work yet);

*receipts from this year’s stay in Kalamazoo;

*a stack of references to things I mean to read for scholarly purposes;

*a set of newspaper clippings referring to books I have thought of reading for pleasure, along the lines of Val McDermid’s Northanger Abbey and Her Brilliant Career;

*a handout from a paper at this year’s K’zoo with my notes connecting the paper to one I’m thinking of writing;

*a check re-order form;

*an important piece of paper I should have put in my safe deposit box four years ago but which at this point is probably irrelevant;

*a chapter draft with marginal comments from discussion with my writing group;

*the label with which to return printer ink cartridges for recycling;

*a certificate, in Spanish and English, testifying to my having given a paper at a conference in a Spanish-speaking country.

Snapshot of my desk/life.

 

Roxy

Back to the Dinny Gordon universe, I really don’t believe in the canonical outcome for Dinny’s sister Roxy.

In the early books, Roxy loves boys and clothes and dating around. When she goes to college, she meets a man named George Bean, from Wyoming. They fall in love, she visits and spends the summer working on a dude ranch, George takes her hiking and skiing, she starts learning to ride. His plan is to become a ranch boss. In DG, Senior, Roxy and George get engaged, somewhat to the surprise of the Gordon family. But Roxy is calm and happy and convinced that this is what she wants.

Here’s my take on it: the marriage does take place, because Roxy is, in her way, just as stubborn as Dinny. Also, having been a girly-girl, she enjoys the feeling of competence she gets from learning that she can ride and ski and do things she never tried before. However, after a couple of years isolated on a Wyoming ranch, she is increasingly unhappy. George takes her on a vacation to Los Angeles, intending just to give her a break and cheer her up. On a movie studio tour, she’s the lucky winner of a screen test. It’s really a promotional gimmick, but in this case, the camera loves Roxy, and the test leads to a small role in a movie. In turn, the movie role leads to regular work in commercials and, finally, to a recurring role on a soap opera.

At first, George tries to be a good sport and support Roxy, since she supported him. He moves to L.A. with her, and looks for work in local agribusiness. But orange groves and Wyoming ranches are not the same thing. One of Roxy’s new friends is a girl who starred in every high school play back in South Dakota, and left for Hollywood the day after graduation. Things have not worked out so well for her as she hoped, and she’s homesick. Life as a ranch boss’s wife sounds really good to her.

The divorce is amicable, and George and his new wife are very happy back in the mountains. Things keep going well for Roxy, as outlined above. She has the sense not to date the obvious Hollywood types. Her second husband owns a Mexican restaurant, and his hobby is ballroom dancing and Latin dance, at which Roxy is terrific.

Years after she divorced George, Roxy confesses to Dinny that George was the first man with whom she achieved orgasm, and for a time she confused sexual satisfaction with true love. She had much more in common with her second husband, and the sex was even better. Their marriage was successful in every way, and now, in 2018, their little bungalow is worth millions. Roxy is planning to sell it soon and move to a very comfortable retirement community, near her grandchildren.

That Neighbor

For awhile now, it’s been apparent that the people to one side of us were getting ready to sell their house. I’m a little slow . . . they have actually done so.

So when a couple of days ago I went over and bawled out a young man for parking a moving van in the alley, blocking our garage (also a hazard because it blocks emergency vehicles, should one need to come through), that wasn’t the old guy’s son, that was a new young man I’ve never seen before, who was moving in, not the old people moving out.

( I’m not very good at facial recognition. The two men are about the same age, have similar coloring, and appear in the same house: of course I’m going to confuse them.)

This morning I was out early, mowing the lawn (push mower, so not very noisy). It’s going to be hot; I couldn’t sleep; might as well attack some brainless task that needs doing, while it’s cool-ish. But I was (am) pretty brain-dead because I slept terribly last night. Someone across the fence said “Hello, I’m S!” The groggy Dame stared groggily until poor S said, “What’s your name?”

Stilted conversation ensued. She said she hoped they weren’t too obnoxious about the moving vans. I am not sure what I said. They just moved from the city. I said we plan to move soon, ourselves. “Where to?” Further in [direction]. Subtext: don’t waste your time on us, we won’t be here, try the people on your other side, who are more your age anyway. More bright conversation from S, with minimal reaction from me. Maybe she thought she’d met a fellow morning person. I mean, I am a morning person. I just don’t want to talk to anyone before 10:00. Mornings are for being quiet in.

Later, when some caffeine had hit my brain, I realized how very badly I’m coming across to the new neighbors. Maybe I’m setting them up for pleasant relations with the new people, since I’m sure they’ll now be glad to see the last of us.

Better grumpy from the start, I think, than our own experience with the neighbor on the other side. She welcomed us warmly,  with home-baked banana bread, making me think she’d be lovely. Then she spent the next several years calling the town hall to complain about our bird feeders.

Sometime in the next few days or weeks I will no doubt lecture S and/or her husband about bishop’s weed and creeping bellflower. Just to solidify my reputation as the crazy bitch next door.

Slightly brain-dead

Yesterday I turned in my application for promotion, along with a crate (literally) of supporting evidence. Sir John asked a few times why I kept referring to “the crate.” That is what my department calls it; each applicant gets a plastic storage crate in which to assemble paper copies of everything: publications, syllaboi, sample assignments, and so on. It will take at least four months to get through the next stages, possibly longer depending on how many cases the college level has to look at and whether any of them are controversial. The rubber-stamping stages will drag out the process for another six months or so.

But you know my motto: any excuse is a good excuse for champagne. Some members of my writing group accompanied me for a celebratory glass of wine yesterday (the only place open in mid-afternoon didn’t have anything sparkly on the menu). I’ll crack a bottle every time I hear anything. Last night, however, my main celebration involved a novel in the bathtub: Marina Endicott’s The Little Shadows, about three Canadian sisters in vaudeville in the 1910s. It’s divided up into short scenes of 2-3 pages that make it fatally easy to read just a little more . . . and just a little more . . . I enjoyed it. I wouldn’t say it’s an all-time favorite, but it was fun. I got the recommendation from ClothesInBooks, whose author seems to have similar tastes to mine, both in books and in interest in clothes.

In short, I stayed up far too late and got up at almost my usual time this morning, so I’m a little tired. I plan to do nothing much today (some housework, gym, gardening, more reading). Tomorrow will be time enough to get back to work.