Saturday, December 31, 2005

Blogger Breakfast

Blogger Breakfast

Ok -- does anybody know a good place to eat in Philly at 7:30 in the morning? I've made backup plans -- reserved for 10 somewhere (you'll have to check in with me or Ralph Luker or Rebecca for details), but it would be nice to find a place that also lets us see something of Philly. So far, I think we've got around 6 people who say they're coming -- I need to know soon if the reservation needs bumping up!

Cheers, and Happy New Year!

Friday, December 30, 2005

All I wanted for Christmas

All I wanted for Christmas ...

... is a longer break! Can I just say that it is insane to have just barely two weeks between terms? And just over a week in March. When do I get to breathe? When, more importantly, do I get to research and write? OK -- so I'm teaching at a junior college. All I teach is surveys, 200-levels if I'm lucky. So why would I put myself through this? Why would anyone? Few, if any, of my colleagues do more than read. If they go to conferences, they're on assessment (which I have to admit, I kinda love when done well) and things pedagogical. Yes, folks, this is ADM's semi-annual whinge about the forced and false dichotomy between teaching and research.

This break, I needed to get a whole bunch of stuff done. Ok -- so some personal stuff happened that was more than a little distracting. My parents are divorcing (a shocker) and my grandfather died (not so much, but still ...). But with just over two weeks to put together new syllabi to reflect my How to do college manifesto, prep for an interview at the big conference (please, I need a job!), read a book and review it, get through a three volume set of sources in Latin with handy editorial comments in German, etc., and try to work on the other big conference stuff,I don't feel nearly ready. OK, well, the syllabi are mostly done. The book to be reviewed is mostly done and I may actually have the review drafted this weekend, which means it will almost be on time. I have not prepped for the interview -- in fact, I need to find my old evals to bring -- Argh! and I need to make nice CV copies for the meat market, just in case.

I know that, if I were hired tenure-track, even with a heavy teaching load like the one I have now, things would get easier. I'd have the preps down a bit more, because I wouldn't be changing texts or term lengths every bloody year. I'm really lucky where I am, because there is a lot of support for people who want to write. That's not the norm in many CCs. But sometimes I get discouraged, because the reactions among my colleagues are pretty much of two kinds -- people who think it's neat, and wish they had time to do more, but have families or have just got out of the habit, and people who look at me like I've grown horns. I'm deathly afraid that my wanting to keep up, and write at the almost the same rate that I would at a small 4-year with a heavy teaching load (which is not small potatoes, but not what one needs for tenure at a research uni or small college with delusions of grandeur) is going to make my colleagues think I shouldn't teach with them. The truth is, if all I teach are the same three courses nine times a year, I will burn out. My teaching will become stale. I will not stop caring, but I will do what I see many of my colleagues doing -- recycling pre-packaged lectures and tests, giving out scripts for the students to take film notes ... If I do not push myself, if I don't make sure I have a reason to push myself, I might become a Bad Teacher. And no, I really don't see myself writing scripts or giving worksheets. I teach college, after all. That would be like giving scan-tron exams. Anathema, I say! I must do both, or I will not do well at either!

But seriously, I do worry about maintaining a balance for myself, and keeping up the right image. My chair knows I have two interviews so far, one at a 4-year, one at a larger school. I think I could do really well at either place, and I think I have a lot to offer them. I also think I have a lot to offer at my present school, and there are lots of reasons I'd be happy if they offered me a job. I just worry about how to convince the 4-years that I'm scholarly enough, while making sure that my current colleagues don't see me as someone looking for a stop-gap. If I keep getting the kind of support I've had so far, it's a really good gig and I'd be happy taking it. But there are trade-offs. There always are. I just hope they can be minimized. And it would be a hell of a lot easier to minimize them if we had longer breaks!

Right -- back to work. Syllabi must be finished by tomorrow. Then I can go to the library!

Tuesday, December 27, 2005

Well, Shoot.

Well, Shoot

Christmas was a mixed bag -- mostly good, and I felt very loved, having been taken in by a friend and her family. A little bad -- announcements of a divorce in the family and an expected death which was mostly a blessing. But really, mostly good.

The return home? Not so good. I have in my e-mail two student requests for re-evaluation of grades. These are the kind of requests that kill me. I believe in the mission of community colleges to provide a truly college-level education to those for whom it might otherwise be impossible. I also really believe in federal and state financial aid packages. I am happy for every bit of tax money that goes to them. So here's the problem, oh internets -- an ethical one for which I'd appreciate your opinion. So you know, I cannot really see doing anything for these students.

The problem, in a nutshell, is that, if I don't raise these students' grades -- and by a tenth of a percentage point in each case, I think, they will lose their financial aid for the next term -- I'm not sure how this works -- it seems to me that the one grade I give must fit into an average? I should ask Financial aid and counseling, I suppose.

But -- Student One was almost always late. S/he almost never took notes in class and never (or not that I could tell) prepared for discussion. Never turned in discussion notes when I checked them. All the written assignments were pretty much a C- average. Class participation was 30% of the grade -- s/he was there almost every day, but as I said, no discussion, always late. But the student really does want to do well, and has signed up for another of my classes next term. Other faculty know this student, and there is a general feeling s/he just needs more help in how to do college.

Student Two was really good, all through class. Incredibly bright, prepared (or faked well) all of class discussion, had a grade in the low 90s. Except. The paper was plagiarised. Student asked about the zero on the paper, and I pointed out that it had something to do with uncited passages taken verbatim from a couple of web sites. Student Two did not protest my assessment or claim innocence. What s/he did do was send a note saying that we both knew the grade was not indicative of the work the student was capable of, whatever the reason for that final grade. Could I please raise the grade by that tenth of a point?

Well, shoot. It seems to me that these two students must not have done all that well in their other classes if the grades they earned from me are enough to tip the balance. And one was dishonest. I don't want to see these people lose their aid, but you know, it's never really bothered me before. And if I understand correctly the GPA thing (and since I used to worry about my own, I pretty much think I get the whole GPA thing), Student Two really must have done badly in another class (perhaps also dishonesty??) to be teetering on the edge of losing his/her funding.

Part of me wants to help -- especially Student One. But part of me also says that I didn't give them these grades; they really did earn them. And one of the lessons of college is that you have to do the work. I wonder if I'd feel better about this kind of thing if I had tenure. It seems to me that, in this case, figuring grades mathematically and sticking to those figures means that I cannot allow myself to make decisions based on my own sentiments or wonder about whether either of these students is deserving. Oh internets, shall I take refuge in the rules??

Update: Student One is safe, if s/he brings his/her grades up this term. I will be working with him/her on "how to do college." Student Two's GPA disaster has little to do with what s/he earned in my course. I'm sticking to my guns and feeling stupid for almost having fallen for the sob story. Thanks to everyone who helped out with an opinion. It's nice to have a reality check sometimes.

Saturday, December 24, 2005

Happy Christmas, Happy Chanukah

Happy Christmas, Happy Chanukah

Well, folks, providing the upset stomach I woke up with goes away, I'm off to a friends' family's place for Christmas. Hope you all have a nice one!

Wednesday, December 21, 2005

AHA Blogger Meet-up

AHA Blogger Meet-up

So far, the best time for many of us looks to be breakfast on Saturday. Does anyone know the area well enough to suggest a place? Also, if you are interested in coming, please comment or e-mail so that we can get reservations. I'm still trying to put together my own plans -- one invite for Saturday night and lunch on Friday are booked ... I'll probably be doing a scrounge through appropriate receptions, as well. Last year in Seattle, there was an awful lot of really good food that was up for grabs ;-) Hey -- I'm on a budget!

So -- the ungodly hour of 7:30 on Saturday, so that people going to the blogging talk can get there.

Monday, December 19, 2005

Interesting and good news

Interesting and Good News

So, the good news is I've been chosen to interview for a second position. This one a state U. I'm very excited about it. It is a teaching-heavy position, but one where I think there will be enough pressure to push myself to really excel. But now I feel constrained. So much for details. There would be more, but ...

Some of you may have noticed that I've installed sitemeter. On the one hand, it's really neat to see that I have visitors from all over the world. On the other, I'm not exactly thrilled that some of my newer visitors are coming via the Chronicle of Higher Education jobs website. Yep -- the CHE has a list of academic blogs. This is the same place that gave Ivan Tribble a whole lot of space to tell us how blogging was going to keep us from getting jobs. I don't think that's really irony, except in the Alannis way, but it's interesting in a right hand-left hand way. And now, I can also see that there are people who read my blog who log on from big universities and small. People whose identities I can guess because they are at little colleges with distinctive names I recognize from some of the same listservs that I subscribe to. I feel distinctly uncomfortable.

So if you think you know who I am, I'm going to ask you a favor. Just keep it to yourself, unless you are very positive that 'outing' me will help me to get a job. I'm happy to say I'm not embarrassed by anything I've written on my blog. I think I've written some good things that reflect my views on history and on teaching, and through my blog, I've made connections that have allowed me the chance to present, got me a position doing something that will count as service to the profession and name-recognition for wherever I'm employed, and generally kept my head in the game. I've gained colleagues in ways contingent faculty usually can't, and I'm very lucky. I hope the blog makes me look like someone you'd like as a colleague. But forgive me if I'm still a little scared.

Oh -- and if you are the person who got here by googling "Gandhi + contribution + world + history"? It sounds like you're a student. Try the library. Look up Gandhi in the catalog. Go to the bibliography in a book on Gandhi and see what other books you can find that address your question. For free, you might also search for Gandhi's impact, or civil diobedience or somesuch thing. But pretty much, you might want to start at the library and the databases there.

Sunday, December 18, 2005

Two questions

Two questions

Question the first: Are there already plans for a blogger meet-up at AHA? Same rules as last year, I'm thinking -- pseudonymous types who don't wish to be outed get their privacy respected. Rebecca suggested breakfast before the Cliopatria awards. That could work, although it means being much more organized about packing. Please e-mail or put comments below if you're interested.

Question the second: There's been some roundabout talk here and there for the past year or so on either having a medieval blog or a work group blog. I honestly don't have time for the former, unless it's also the latter, but I don't know that everybody wants their works-in-progress up to review. I also want this to be a group of people who know each other, but that can be expanded on the agreement of the group. So I'm sorry if it sounds like a private club, but I think it's the only way to protect the pseudo/anonymity of the members. Again, post below or e-mail and I will set it up and send details. It will be at a site that can be locked down from public viewing.

Friday, December 16, 2005

Teaching Carnival IV

Teaching Carnival IV

... was up at New Kid's, but typepad seems to have gone wonky. You can access it here, via bloglines.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

How to do College

How to do College

technorati tag:

I wanted to jump into this conversation between Manorama, Dr. Crazy, et al. last month, but I was busy and I really wanted to finish my first term at new college before I put in my oar. One of the things I've noticed this term, one of the things I like best about new college, is the student population. It's pretty diverse in terms of race, age and background. I have a lot of very young students who dual-enrolled as high-school seniors after having been home-schooled for 10 years or so. I have other dual-enrolled students, working students, single mothers, ex-military, immigrants, refugees, returning students -- and even some traditional students. The college is in a 'burb of regional Big City. Some of my students have never been there, although it's only 15 miles away and many of them have come from farming communities 60 or 70 miles away to enroll at new college. At least half of them come from the same sort of income background that I do, far fewer from families like mine where expectations were decidedly oriented on college education in preparation for a decent income and job security.*

It struck me when reading the series of posts that for many of us, we really are teaching "us" in some fundamental ways, but not in others. As I've learned more and more about my blogging colleagues, I've learned that a lot of us come from non-traditional backgrounds. I've also seen that we sometimes lose touch with those backgrounds as we move farther into our academic lives. That's to be expected. It's a different world and we have changed to fit it. In turn, academe has changed us and our expectations. I don't mean this in a bad way, but it is true that graduate education, even when it provides us with excellent training as teachers, happens at research institutions. The majority of the students we teach as graduate students are those who were good enough to get in the door. The door is not the same one my students come through. The law mandates that our door remain open to all. But even in those other institutions -- Big State, Small Private, Ivy, whatever -- we also are not teaching "us." We professor-types were the ones who were engaged, interested, and focused on doing well. Most of our students are not planning on being academics (generally a good idea, in terms of the job market).

Because our students aren't "us" we cannot expect them to behave as we did. Because
my students have needs I never had (and some I did), I have to change the way I each in order to do my job, which I see as teaching History at the same level and with the same content and standards as when I teach at a posh private university. My students, most of whom do want to transfer to a U., need to be able to hack it when they get there.

The one thing this term has taught me, more than any other, is that, in order to do my job well, I have to teach something more than History. I have to teach "college." Hell, that's not true. I have to teach "school." I'm more sure of this today that I was yesterday. I got my evaluations. One comment I particularly loved. The student claimed that I was rare because I treated the class as college students and expected them to behave that way. The rest? Pretty typical. Complaints about the work load, praise for my being there and taking as much time as they needed to help them. Just doing my job, ma'am.

So how do we teach college? Well, here's what I've learned this term and am planning for next.

  1. The Syllabus: Not only do I need to go over the syllabus, but I need to explain its purpose. Due dates, grading policy, etc., are all there. We'll also be going over all of the assessment materials I place on Blackboard -- especially those I use for essay assignments.

  2. Reading Assignments: I need to explain the assignments and that students should take notes and re-read after we cover things in class to reinforce what we've done. Moreover, I need to explain more about the primary source readings. I have a very punitive policy on prepping readings, but low expectations of what the prep should be. Students are given a series of basic questions that they should try to answer before class -- kind of document, date, author, audience, three examples of evidence from the doc. I will occasionally ask people who have not done the prep to leave and come back prepared the next class. It is harsh and intimidating.

    I've always explained that not being prepared makes for a bad class and is disrespectful of me and, more importantly, one's classmates. This year, I've realized that I also need to say, "if the class doesn't do prep work, discussion takes too long, and I cannot spend the time I'd like helping you to tie it all together. I also need to collect these notes and mark them. It's absurd. This is college. They need it.

  3. The Library: I am used to spending one day of the term in the library, where one of my colleagues there introduces the students to the databases, the differences between scholarly and non-scholarly sources, etc. It isn't enough. I need to take them over and show them where the books are. I need to get them to work in small groups to identify how we cite things and how that citation style (Chicago, thanks!) adds to one's reading of the article or book. This has to come out of class time, because we can't coordinate work and kid schedules.

  4. Study/Attendance habits: "It's college! we don't have to come to class!" Well, no. But you won't do well in my class if you don't show up. I have to take the time to remind students to pull out pen and paper and take notes. I have to go through my own notes and add extra connections and reinforcement and circle words I once thought common, e.g., cyclical, or monarch, and make sure I stop and ask, "can anyone explain what I mean by 'monarch'? Good. Rule or government by one person. Yep, usually a king or ...? Queen? What other kinds of rule can
    you think of? Good! You should be writing these things down ...." For those of you who think I'm talking down to my students, I'm not. They don't know these things. They can't read the textbook (one of the complaints about our book was that the hard vocabulary words weren't bolded) or understand my lectures unless I do this. I think I'm going to suggest they set aside a page in their notebooks (which I will not be correcting -- this is not high school) to keep all the new terms and their definitions. The up-side to this, by the way, is that, when I give them terms in Latin, Greek, German, and French, the students are less resistant to having
    to learn them.

  5. Writing: This term, I had to spend three or four class sessions per class picking up bruised egos and helping students understand why they got abysmal grades on the midterm. By the way, the midterm carries a relatively low weight, but an F still looks like an F -- and students leave. This is bad for them and bad for me. Next term, I will be building some of that time into class. And I'll be trying to head off the worst of the problem writing, i.e., the inability to take an essay question and turn it into a defensible thesis paragraph. I will be taking class time to teach them how to take a test. I will give them an assignment, round about week three, that has them turn an essay question into an answer and outline for an essay.

    I'm beating my head against the desk as I say this, because I am trying to cover everything from the Ancient Near East to the Black Death. But it has to be done. If they can't write a sensible essay, they can't get through my class, let alone get a college degree. And I'll be pulling out the new and improved grading matrices I use for essays so that we can look at them while going over their efforts. Otherwise, I have a sneaking suspicion that most of the materials I make available don't get a glance. And I'll be taking more time with the documents and our discussion, making even more explicit the connection between how a Historian finds
    evidence in documents and how that evidence points to a question and/or answers it.

  6. I anticipate no changes in my grading. I do anticipate requiring students who get marks of 70% or lower to discuss them with me in person or via e-mail.

  7. I anticipate no changes in content, although I may divide some reading assignments between groups. I'll also be giving a few more questions out further in advance for some of the longer readings. It's a college-level class. I'm not going to lower the bar. I'm just going to make sure they get to use a springboard and have some padding there to catch them.

Damn. Sounds like a lot of work. More work than it was when I taught at Grad U or Local Private. But here's the thing. Among these students are some of the brightest people I've taught. They have asked really sophisticated questions for college freshmen and sophomores, questions that belie their lack of skills. They are articulate and they want to do well. They work insane hours, and sometimes I have to wake them up. They drag their butts to class after being up all night with sick kids (or sometimes hung over). And sometimes they complain. Well, they complain a lot. Too much reading, too much to learn ... don't I get that their lives are hard?? And, without saying too much of what I think about college funding, etc., I
remind them that they are tax payers and so are their parents, and that being aware of how education is funded is important. I tell them that a college degree is based on standards created when people got to go to college as their only 'job' and the standards haven't changed because they student profile has. I tell them the difference between a U. and a CC is that I'm here to help carry them, if they are willing to work with me. I sometimes tell them about the great market nearby that sells veg at half the price of the supermarkets because they sell the stuff that doesn't fit into the holes in the nice cardboard apple boxes. And I tell them, yep. It's hard. But I did it. How? Jaws drop as I tell them about pouring beer for drunken frat boys and carrying five classes while working 40 hours a week at $4 an hour at a movie theatre. This often floors them, because I think they think 'we' are different. Maybe because we've forgotten that we aren't teaching us??

*Single-parent, civil-service family with three kids. Here's where I mention that I'm the only person in my generation with an advanced degree. One sister has a BS, the other graduated high school, went to work for the government, and now makes about $80k a year and will be able to retire with a nice pension in 10 years. Cousins also did not go to college ...

And by the way, I just wrote almost 2000 words in a sitting. Please remind me of this when I start whingeing about not being able to write the book review I have to finish early next week and the paper I need to get hopping on!

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

Happy News

Happy News

Haven't been around as much lately, but since grades are now turned in, I'll be blogging something in the next day or so that I hope will be included at the next Teaching Carnival at New Kid's.

I'll also be posting my thoughts on the Narnia movie.

In other news, life goes on. This term was one of major adjustments for those of you who are keeping up. I've been really lucky in having a very good friend in Professor Kinsey and her family, who invited me for Thanksgiving and again for Christmas. Dunno about the latter, yet -- turns out that X is spending Christmas with his new gf and her family at their beach house an airplane trip away, so I need to make sure the kid has plans before I make any of my own.

I love the place I'm teaching, and will be applying for the TT job there when it's advertised. The only part that I don't like is daily classes, but they seem willing to experiment with scheduling, so that's good.

Today's big news is that I have been shortlisted for a Small Liberal Arts College in the midwest. Initial interviews to happen after the holidays. Still hoping for an interview at SLAC in the south, and still filling out apps and affirmative action forms for the rest ;-)

Wish me luck!

Saturday, December 10, 2005

On Lewis and Pullman

On Lewis and Pullman

I'm supposed to go see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe tonight. I'm sure I'll blog about it (hiding the spoilers, natch!) behind a cut.

I've read the Alison Lurie and Polly Toynbee write-ups about the film in The Grauniad, and now there's this, in the Chronicle of Higher Education.

But I'd like it if someone would explain to me why we are supposed to buy into the "either Christian allegory OR rousing fantasy tale for everyone" and "you can like Pullman or Lewis, but not both" dichotomies.

I loved Narnia as a child. I'm looking forward to the film. I would probably still love the books today, although in a different way, because I read more critically. There did come a time when I liked Lewis' space trilogy more. Hell, I really love Charles Williams' novels. That they are allegory neither bothers nor offends me. They are what they are.

Pullman is also allegory, to a certain extent. His Dark Materials (I'm not talking about the Sally Lockhart books, which I think are pretty great, too) is certainly didactic. I think he oversimplifies many things about religion, class, and magic to make his points in a way so unsubtle as to be borderline offensive. And I think they are great books and would give them to any child old enough to handle the scary bits. I have friends who are practising Christians who also like Pullman.

People. We can like both. Really. Just like we can enjoy both kinds of literature: science fiction and fantasy. Or both kinds of history: Ancient and Medieval. Or both kinds of music: country and western (the music of pain)...

*ducks to avoid her early modernist friends' rapid-fire projectiles*

Update: This essay by Meghan O'Rourke at Slate is a better take, I think. I'm bothered by one thing, though. She says:
Some liberals, like the popular children's author Philip Pullman, therefore dismiss him out of hand [...]

What exactly does she mean by 'liberal', I wonder? Is there any way that the adjective really fits?

Thursday, December 08, 2005

Cultural Fusion

Cultural Fusion

Well, despite my telling the class repeatedly that the many historians of Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages (or the midevil period, according to some students) consider the present usages of the words 'German,' 'tribe,' 'Barbarian,' and 'migration' to be problematic, the textbook won again. In an attempt to compromise, I say we all consider using the word 'Gerbarian.' What do you think?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

End of Term Quizzage

End of Term Quizzage

You Have a Phlegmatic Temperament

Mild mannered and laid back, you take life at a slow pace.

You are very consistent - both in emotions and actions.

You tend to absorb setbacks easily. You are cool and collected.

It is difficult to offend you. You can remain composed and unemotional.

You are a great friend and lover. You don't demand much of others.

While you are quiet, you have a subtle wit that your friends know well.

At your worst, you are lazy and unwilling to work at anything.

You often get stuck in a rut, without aspirations or dreams.

You can get too dependent on others, setting yourself up for abandonment.

I would say most of that is true. I'm not exactly lazy at my worst, but am easily distracted into working really hard at things I don't necessarily have to do, avoiding the things I don't want to do. Everything gets done, though, if I owe it to someone. Not sure about the quiet, though, except in a physical sense. Even then, people comment on my laugh (in a good way!)

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Carnivalesque 11

Carnivalesque 11

I'd like to start off this carnival with a short comment on the blogging medievalists out there. This academic term seems to have taken its toll on most of the ones I know. I've had to extend my reach to find new and different medievalists blogging about things medieval, because lots of us seem to be blogging more about teaching the Middle Ages. And because it's the end of term for many of us, and I know that many readers are coming to take quick breaks between periods of frantic marking (I've got thirty 10-page papers to mark by Monday, and finals start Tuesday; a friend is in the middle of a pile of about 400 exams!), I've decided to focus on a particularly Carnivalesque Button theme -- this is an Ancient/Medieval carnival of quirks and cheer, of short reads and, well, because I am today's mistress of misrule -- the carnival of Stuff I Like! I hope you like it, too!*

I don't have HBO. And I'm also not in the UK. This means that I have not had a chance to see the HBO series, Rome. This has made it difficult for me to answer my uncle's weekly questions about the accuracy of the series. Fortunately, I'm now off the hook. Glaukôpidos offers commentary on the whole series, as well as her own take on its accuracy. And while she's right about it not being a documentary, and a series purely for the purpose of entertainment, Tony Keen at Memorabilia Antonina has a slightly different outlook. The series really has a few folks riled. Alterior at Fascinating History, which deals with some incredibly interesting topics, is also not impressed. I'm looking forward to the series on DVD in a slightly squeamish way. Love Ciaran Hinds, the star, but just hate it when stories that are intrinsically interesting get turned into 'tales of sex and intrigue' because people think it sells better. Really. I ask you. How is it that directors think the rise and fall of C. Julius Caesar, not to mention the entire career of Octavian, need to be padded with probably false licentious detail? The political intrigue and the personalities were not enough? Sheesh!

But if you must have sex and crime in the Ancient World, then perhaps it would be good to remember the case of Phyrne. Laura at Clews reminds us of the details.

Looking for something slightly more academic, but still a bit quirky? How about the treatment of depression in Rome? Michael at Laudator Temporis Acti gives us the beginning of an explanation and Michael at Curculio clarifies it.

Not so into bad TV or ancient shock therapy? Feeling a bit guilty that you haven't been keeping up? Well, Phil Harland at Religions of the Ancient Mediterranean brings us up to date on the Megiddo Mosaics. I've linked to my favorite post -- the one with the pictures -- but all of the posts are very interesting.

If you've been keeping up with things here at Blogenspiel, you'll know that those of us who focus on Late Antiquity and the Early Middle Ages are constantly concerned with the use of words like "Germans" and "Barbarians" and "Migrations." Athena at Rites of Passage goes even further back in time to really confuse the issue by updating us on Ancient DNA and the First Europeans. Turns out it's not just the "German" thing that boils medievalist blood: In Bad History Childeric expounds on misapprehensions about the Celts and Pagan Festivals. Just a quick step away from misapprehension is misappropriation. Let's all say, one more time, America is not the new Rome.

I mentioned above that many of the medievalists have been posting more about teaching medieval than about things medieval in and of themselves. Since I am the mistress of this carnival, I thought I'd add my own notes to the pile.

Normally in the first part of the survey I teach the Song of Roland as a sort of capstone. I use the Glyn Burgess translation, as it's accessible and affordable. Why Roland, when there are so many other chansons de geste? My students will have already read many documents pertaining to the problematically named Germanic peoples at Paul Halsall's Internet Medieval Sourcebook. Through those documents, they will have become somewhat familiar with inheritance; social status; justice and conflict resolution in terms of compensation and wergeld, feud, and ordeal; the importance of public ritual in non-literate societies; and any number of other things they've teased from the documents. They will also have read a series of documents on Islam and on Muslim/Christian interactions from varying viewpoints over time. Because I am cruel and the 8th Amendment does not apply in my classroom, they will have read Einhard. Finally, they will have read documents pertaining to the Crusades. In this context, Roland seems the perfect reading to leave them with. It is in some ways the medieval equivalent of the modern mass appeal historical movie. The students have a familiarity with many of the details in the story, as well as a greater temporal context for those details. They can (or should be able to) note anachronisms and the misappropriation of history for a popular audience. Whether that misappropriation is intentional is a matter for discussion, one that can often lead to a fruitful idea of what history is and how it is often a combination of traditions passed on and deliberate construction. I hope it helps them to remember there are differences between 'historical' and 'history.'

Not sure? Here's an Alternate History Fridays take on the story of William Tell -- it might be
argued that this story is neither! For yet another take on the misappropriation of history, Carl Pyrdum at Got Medieval lets us in on how to act like a knight -- not!

This is a topic that's been on literary minds lately as well. Gillian Polack offers us a couple of opinions, the first brought on by yet another discussion of the ius primae noctis, and the second on trying for the authentic in the fantasy novel. Speaking of fantasy (and since I'm the hostess, we shall speak of it), Michael Drout reminds us of Tolkein's own historical and philological roots. Still unconvinced about the crossover? That's all right, because Scott Nokes has some comments on the history of Tolkein snobbery.

It's possible that some people might not like the inclusion of Tolkein-y things in the carnival on the grounds that Philology isn't History. Well, for us Ancient/Medieval types, who have to do lots of our work in languages dead, Michael Drout again provides assistance: King Alfred's Grammar Really Works!. This might come of use to Ancarett, who's been teaching things Anglo-Saxon and Latin. Think I'm kidding about the languages? Pecia provides a wonderful look at the kinds of manuscripts medievalists get to work with. It's actually just a brilliant resource all round. And if you're a medievalist, you should be able to cope with the fact that it's in French! Speaking of French-language sites, you might also want to know that Blitztoire has moved and been re-born as Médiévizmes. French not your best language? Archaeo-News-Blog might be more to your tastes -- it's in German! OK, it's also in English.

Speaking of tastes, I thought it might be nice to leave you with a couple of posts on food, one ancient, and one medieval. First, an ancient recipe for pork with truffles from Homo Edax. Then, in what is probably the only medieval history (and not historical) post in this entire carnival, owlfish tells us about how watermills affected the use of spelt in our diets.

Think it's all over? It almost is. But since it's the holidays and all, and reindeer are pretty non-denominational, I give you Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer in Latin!

Thanks for coming. Next time, it'll be longer. I promise.

*By the way, this carnival would not have been possible without the generosity of Alun at archaeoastronomy and Laura at Clews, who both sent me suggestions above and beyond the call of duty.