Well, it's been a busy three months. Since July, I've written two more chapters: a completely new one on Pearl, and a revision of an older paper on Wynnere and Wastoure. Both were more of a slog than I'd expected them to be, though for different reasons. Pearl kept feeling wrong, for some reason, despite that fact that I was connecting ideology, religion, and utopia pretty well, and despite having Bowers' The Politics of Pearl as an encyclopedic, if not always coherently argued, guide. I even managed to come up with a coherent thesis for the entire dissertation: Allegory and dream-vision can open up utopic spaces to provide new places in traditional discourse where theories of social change can be articulated. Not only do I have an approach for the unwritten parts of the dissertation, but I also have a guide for revising what I've done so far—just as soon as I get some of those older chapters back from my committee.
The Wynnere and Wastoure chapter, on the other hand, was tough because I had an older document that needed a lot of elaboration. After cutting away the theory—most of which is now or will be in the dissertation's theory chapter—I had gone from 19 pages to nine. The argument in the older paper was a little scanty and primitive, too. By the end, I had moved from the argument that "Wynnere is a future the poet endorses" to suggesting that Wynnere and Wastoure is pointing its readers toward a more modern idea of the commodity (goods possessing both use-value and exchange-value). I'm not entirely sure it does, but at least I've read more Marx. And, thanks to JGB, Slavoj Žižek.
Because writing the last two chapters has been a headache, I'm taking the week off from the dissertation. With any luck, I can approach my next topic, Piers Plowman, with a new freshness, or at least without looking like Chris Farley after a ten-minute rant on "Weekend Update."
Aside from the dissertation, I've started the soul-devouring process of the job search. Right now I have seventeen prospects, some of the better than others: a few tenure-track medievalist positions, a couple of lecturer posts, and one or two postdocs. My hope is to get a job that, if it is not an actual tenure-track professorship, would at least allow me time to publish and lick the dissertation into shape sicut ursa ad infantes suas. Thankfully, most of them aren't due until the end of the month, so during this week off, I'm going to write my cover letters and ensure my CV's accurate.
In other professional news, I'm going to Kalamazoo in the spring, under the aegis of Exemplaria (if I'm allowed to say that yet). This means I've got to boil down my theory chapter into a twenty-minute, coherent talk that will minimize the number of objects thrown at my person. Around the same time, I was also asked to contribute to the new edition of Approaches to Teaching the Canterbury Tales. Also a thing needing writing, but also a thing not due until next year. The CV grows slowly, but it grows.
Finally, this last week I've been teaching my lead-in to Beowulf, which I've called "monsters and ennui." I began with a lecture that stressed the highly Christian context of the poem and the culture. The second day was a discussion of "The Ruin," "The Wanderer," and "Dream of the Rood," deliberatly in that order, on the theory that we could trace an appropriation of "pagan grimness" into a "program of Christian allegory." (I recognize that these ideas might be problematic to any genuine Anglo-Saxonists who read this blog—hence the scare quotes—as such, any guidance on how to better approach this topic would be much appreciated.) Friday, for sheer fun, was The Letter of Alexander to Aristotle and The Wonders of the East, both Orchard's translations; I asked them to consider both of them as context for Beowulf, whether directly—if a medieval reader read this anthology scarred cover to charred cover—or ideologically—as I think the poet probably did. Teaching was fun, not in the least because I could teach my world lit class with some degree of confidence for a damn change. This week was also fun because three of the people writing letters of recommendation for me were observing me teach—one every day. I think I did okay.
So, that's the past three months. That, and nearly defeating zombies in Last Night on Earth, and watching a lot of television via Netflix (The Wire is way more awesome than I had first believed), and the usual level of graduate social drinking.