Monday, June 29, 2009

The Return of Anglo-Saxon Aloud: The Prose

Turns out that I miss recording and re-recording and re-re-recording bits of Old English every morning. So I am back to posting daily podcasts of Old English at Anglo-Saxon Aloud.

I had originally planned on starting with the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle, and I'm sure I will eventually do that text, but I ended up deciding to go with the Homilies of Wulfstan. I am going to work through these in order, using Dorothy Bethurum's edition.

The first post, Wulstan homily Ib "De Anticristo" (I'm skipping the Latin homilies, as no one wants to hear me read Latin), is up here

Friday, June 19, 2009

Google Books: Actually Useful

I've been finishing up my revised edition of Tolkien's Beowulf and the Critics and have cleaning up the section where I identify of all the "voices" in Tolkien's "Babel of Voices," where he presents the history of Beowulf criticism.

In doing all the necessary but tedious i-dotting and t-crossing, I've found Google Books to be remarkably helpful for nineteenth-century Beowulf scholarship. They have full text of a lot of important but hard-to-find books (hard to find because Interlibrary Loan isn't often willing to send books published in 1840), and the interface and mark-up is much better than I remember it being.

I'm still not a fan of Google Scholar, which seems incredibly random in its selection of material, but Google Books seems to be not only a copyright grab but also a useful resource.

Friday, June 12, 2009

Another Boynton Forgery!
Editorial Hypercorrection in the "Cavort" Recension of But Not the Hippopotamus

Earlier this year I announced the blockbuster news that Hippos Go Berserk by Sandra Boynton was likely a forgery by a later author who was attempting to imitate Boynton the Great. I can now show that the forger of Hippos Go Berserk, or Pseudo-Boynton, was at work elsewhere as well.

I recently purchased a copy of But Not the Hippopotamus at the Blue Bunny bookstore in Dedham, Mass. In this copy I found the following opening lines:

A Hog and Frog
cavort in a bog.
But not the Hippopotamus.

Something did not seem right, so I consulted my personal copy of But Not the Hippopotamus. Sure enough, the opening lines are:

A Hog and a Frog
do a dance in a bog.
But not the Hippopotamus.

This variation, "cavort" for "do a dance" is an editorial hyper-correction, probably based on an attempt to force Boynton the Great's artistically flawless meter into a straightjacket of perfect regularity.

Note that in the original version, "do a dance" is a straightforward anapest. I scan the lines as:

a HOG and a FROG (iamb plus anapest)
do a DANCE in a BOG (two anapests)

Pseudo-Boynton forces both lines to be iambs followed by anapests, but examination of the rest of the poem shows that Boynton only once uses the 2 / 3 pattern in the line:

a HARE and a BEAR (iamb anapest)
have BEEN to a FAIR (iamb anapest)

In the other two stanzas we see:

are TRYing on HATS


toGETHer have JUICE

These two parallels, "are TRYing" and "toGETHer" are amphibrachs, also three-syllable feet. So there is no need to assume that the iamb in the fourth stanza needs to be followed slavishly by forcing a two-syllable foot ("cavort") into the first stanza.

From this analysis of the forgery, we can conclude that Pseudo-Boynton is a highly trained scholar, but one for whom Boynton's brilliant verse is not a native idiom. We can also note that as well as lacking Boynton the Great's attention to detail (in that Pseudo-Boynton forgets to deal with the six distressed hippos who have never left in his/her version of Hippos Go Berserk), Pseudo-Boynton has a predilection for hippos. Scholars should thus re-examine the Boynton corpus to determine which other texts may have been interfered with by Pseudo-Boynton, looking for editorial hypercorrection, subtle contradictions, and hippos.

And the "Cavort" Recension of But Not the Hippopotamus must be athetized from the corpus.

Monday, June 08, 2009

"Clash of the Gods" on the History Channel

UPDATE: More stuff here.

Back in December and January I did some work for the series that is going to be on the History Channel. Today they sent me the tentative air dates (and a nice basket of English muffins!):

Clash of the Gods
Airing on The History Channel at 10:00pm

Zeus 8/3
Hercules 8/10
Odyssey(1) 8/17
Odyssey(2) 8/24
Hades 8/31
Medusa 9/7
Thor 9/14
Lord of the Rings 9/21
Minotaur 9/28
Beowulf 10/5

I am in the Thor, The Lord of the Rings and Beowulf episodes.

I'm hoping that they did what they said they would do in the Thor episode, and that my narration of "Thor and Hymir Go Fishing" includes a cgi Thor fighting a cgi Midgard Serpent.

Friday, June 05, 2009

Time-wasting and Productivity

I'm somewhat hopeful that the dead silence here and at Anglo-Saxon Aloud is coming to an end. I'm slowly but steadily extricating myself from the gigantic backlog of work and deadlines caused by:

1) the economic crisis causing me to have to spend inordinate amounts of time with spreadsheets, budgets, etc. as well having to reshuffle and reschedule the department's course offerings three times;

2) the unexpected good news that I need to do a new edition of Beowulf and the Critics;

3) my ill-considered decision to assistant-coach two different youth baseball teams (although this is incredibly fun, and I will do it again next year, it has been a huge un-budgeted time-committment);

Before those three things happened I was already scheduled to the hilt, but I would have made all the deadlines, etc. Once number 1 hit, I pretty much had to run as fast as I could to stay in place.

So having finally worked out from under most of my administrative responsibilities (annual reviews, etc.), in the past couple weeks I was able to turn my attention to real work, and it's amazing what you can get accomplished when you have a break from 40-75 emails per day, paperwork and meetings (Oh, how I hate meetings).

In a little more than two weeks I was able to:

Turn my paper from the Bergen conference into a real essay for a forthcoming book. The essay is “‘I am Large, I contain Multitudes’: The Medieval Author in Memetic Terms.”

Do revisions and complete proofing of the course book for the latest course from Recorded Books, The Anglo-Saxon World, which should be out very soon.

Finish identifying all of the "voices" in Tolkien's "Babel of Voices" in "Beowulf: The Monsters and the Critics."

Write the first large article to come out of our lexomics research: "Lexomic Methods for Analyzing Relationships Among Old English Poems." (it still needs some revisions, but I think we will ship it off to a journal at the end of next week).

Although a couple of those things were "finish," that was a lot of work to get done in a little more than two weeks when I also wrote three annual evaluations. But it as basically easy, because my time wasn't being fragmented by useless meetings and incessant email. Think of how productive we could be if we could find ways to skip all that crap.

Thus you should not expect to see me writing reports or going to meetings. I am now on a crap-skipping crusade.