Sunday, September 26, 2010

The Two Headed, Fire-Breathing Dragon and other Magical Creatures

Now that my scrolls of intent have been sent off for review by my most revered and toughest professor from Undergraduate Knight Training, I can now apply myself to the extremely risky task of tacking the Two Headed, Fire Breathing Dragon (i.e. Ye Olde Writing Sample). This Fire Breathing Dragon does not seem to have a vulnerable spot in its gonads like other dragons*. In fact, it appears to be armor plated all around, which personally makes me want to hide in a very small ball, and read Get Fuzzy comics (Bucky Katt is officially my new hero) instead of actually picking up my sword and tackling the beast (yes. I am the first to admit to being a coward. Not a particularly Knightly trait, but it keeps me alive).

My writing sample focuses on issues of chivalry in Sir Gawain and the Green Knight. It was supposed to be based on an undergrad close reading paper I wrote a very long time ago, but recent reading (Maurice Keen's Chivalry, specifically) has turned my original idea upside down, and now my fire-breathing dragon is turning somersaults all around me and making me very dizzy. Originally I thought that the precepts of Chivalry were revoked, that Gawain failed. Seems that now, I think that the chivalric tradition was upheld perfectly and it's not Gawain that's necessarily flawed, but chivalry itself**. Also, an article I read about the connection between the collapse of the Templar order and SGGK has actually ended up linking this particular area of research to my overall theme - the Matter of Britain and the Crusades. So basically, now I have to write the entire thing from scratch. Which means that the dragon, formerly having only one head (aptly named Revision), has grown an additional head (aptly named Original Scholarship). My one and only head is swimming.

Monday, September 20, 2010

Illuminating Brilliantly, or Those Jousting Monkeys just won't behave!

This has been a great week for a would-be-knight such as myself, overall. Most importantly, a paper of mine (yet to be written) has been accepted for presentation at the International Congress for Medieval Studies at Kalamazoo, Western Michigan, which is quite A Feather in My Cap (and perhaps will cause those Senior Knights of the Adcomm Round Tables to Sit Up and Take Notice of my application scrolls). Placing all freaking-out emotions aside (of which there are many), this is possibly the best thing that has ever happened to me. I feel like an actual scholar, despite my deficiency in Holy Grails and Questing experience.

Spamalot! (with Clay Aiken, sans Jousting Monkeys.).
The Scroll of Intent, however, is not progressing quite as well. It is, in my humble opinion, effete crappe (pardon my Occitan*), and although my friend Melissa says it's a fairly solid scroll, I feel petulant. I don't want it to be solid. Solid isn't an adjective you describe your first pick. It's that back-up pick, the one you take if your first pick isn't available (so you comfort yourself by saying - "oh, it's a solid option, I really shouldn't complain"). I don't want my scroll to be solid. I want those jousting monkeys to jump out of the page in their brilliance, to give the impression that they are actually singing and dancing and performing Spamalot! That's not solid work - that's extraordinary work. That's brilliant work. Now that there is actual substance to back up my claims of being a brilliant scholar worth the five to six year fellowship + meat pie & new horse stipend provided by the Orders of Knights, my Scroll of Intent should reflect that.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Return of the Jousting Monkeys - Revising the Statement of Purpose

Surprisingly, I actually spent a few hours revising my Scroll of Intent this past weekend (my new laptop is the best thing since the invention of sliced bread, and has also been blessed by various saints, I'm sure, and I can now revise and write from the comfort of my couch, while also browsing the vast array of information on the web, due to wireless internet access), basing my revisions on comments I've received from two excellent virtual friends (thanks Amy and Melissa!). It's harder than I thought it would be. Although the second draft has now been sent off for additional review and comments, this is still possibly the hardest piece of writing I've ever had to produce. A foul two-headed Giant, indeed. And I'm no Arthur (or even a bumbling Sir Bedevere).

Arthur and the Giant of St. Michael's Mons
The first draft came fairly easily, when I wrote it a few weeks ago. Obviously, it's waaaay too long, but it flowed, without too much restriction or structure. After reading commentary, revisions did not go quite as smoothly. Although I have decided to stick with the initial quote I began with, as it can connect to just about every aspect of my research interests, I keep trying to make sure that everything ties together perfectly, flawlessly, as one unit. It's hard. It's especially hard keeping it to the 500 word requirement. I feel like I could fill up double that amount with what I want to say and what I feel is utterly important and necessary to show my scholarly potential (and thus, get the Senior Knights at the Holy Order of Yale (or if not Yale, a different order in my list) to immediately accept me to their Queste program with a nice fat stipend for the occasional meat pie, a new horse (to keep my Palfrey Mare company so she stops trying to buck me off her back like we're in a rodeo or something), and brand new armor. Did I mention being knighted by a Yale [or another Order] Senior Knight is included in the deal?).

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Englysshe hoe Ich luvve thee... (or, why medieval literature?)

Medieval Book from Cluny
Once I've somehow gotten past the labyrinthine question of "why on earth would you want a holy grail?" the next question is usually "you want to get a holy grail in WHAT????" (if you have any visualization skills, imagine shocked and befuddled expression, including protruding eyes, raised eyebrows, and the general impression that the speaker is desperately trying to remember the name of a good psychiatrist so I can be committed to the nearest mental "rest" facility poste haste).

Sunday, September 5, 2010

The Million Dollar Question: The Chicken or the Egg (or Why a Queste for a Holy Grail, anyway?)

The Chicken or the Egg? (rather, the Cock or the Hen in this case...)

Procrastinating writing the second draft of my SOP is a highly productive endeavor. It provides me with ample time to add continual posts that help me avoid actually sitting down and illuminating my text properly (i.e. perhaps find new essential quote so it starts with a Genesis-like-bang - after all, who can top "In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth"? especially if we ignore the second sentence...).

As an expert procrastinator* (revision 2 of SOP has now officially been postponed to this upcoming weekend, after which I am sure I will postpone it again to Yom Kippur, when I will supposedly have no distractions, and complete peace and quiet. My laptop has arrived, but my wireless home network is not operational yet, which is as good as an excuse as any to not do work this upcoming long weekend), I have decided to address the all important question that is asked of every PhD applicant around the world, when they proudly announce their plans of pursuing the Sangraal: "Why on earth are you going to do that?" It appears that the majority of the population, be they educated or not, think that we are completely and utterly insane, whether we are planning on questing after a Holy Grail in Political Science, String Theory (i.e. Physics) or in something as utterly impractical as Medieval literature.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Illuminating the Text with Jousting Monkeys (or more accurately, how to write your Statement of Purpose without losing your mind completely)

Ok, so it's a Jousting Monkey King (and not quite medieval, but who cares?)

I finished the first draft of my Manuscript Illumination (hereafter known as "that awful SOP that should be eternally burned in the Dante'esque fires of the ninth circle of Hell"), and am stalling, procrastinating, and trying to distract myself completely from beginning work on the second draft*. My beloved Palfrey Mare, has of course, been quite helpful in this endeavor, by supplying me with external distractions that provided me with the perfect excuse to not sit down and actually illuminate (even if it's only monkeys). The first distraction was a nice long bout of the 'flu (with medieval proportions of self-pity i.e. "I have a fever so will not go out and tend to my crops, and be damned the Earl-of-Somewhere-or-Another*** for his high tithes!!!"). The second distraction was the delayed "special express courier" (whom I think misunderstood his own job title) who has been inexplicably delayed in furnishing me with my brand new laptop (without which, of course, I refuse to perform revisions, since my old computer is just not good enough for the job****).

The current and third distraction (which should actually be non-distracting, since it's at least an academic distraction) is daydreaming about the International Congress of Medieval Studies in Kalamazoo that I might be attending (and presenting a paper in) in May 2011. Very exciting stuff. My first conference, first paper presentation (obviously, I'm not counting the two hour talk I gave on the evolution of the Arthurian Legend - including slide show and Monty Python quotes - in FantasyCon, Tel Aviv, in 2007, since I doubt that there was an actual medieval scholar in the audience), so all thoughts of continuing to illuminate my SOP have gone down the (medieval) drain. (Question, were there drains in medieval architecture? Authorities say yes.)

Monday, August 30, 2010

Back in the Saddle

My Palfrey mare doesn't like me very much, and has been throwing me off her back for the past ten years (especially every time I considered a life-changing event which could, possibly, lead me back to school for graduate studies). Last November, however, after being fired from yet another pointless administrative soul-sucking job in the modern world of bio-tech, I decided to take my Palfrey mare in hand, and settle myself firmly as the driver and leader of our tragicomic sketch routine.

Preparing to take my Palfrey mare in hand

Obviously, the first round of driving the mare didn't quite work out as I'd hoped, and no acceptances to graduate programs arrived via the electronic ether (nor by courier post). It was, of course, lack of preparation and practice that was the main reason. It had been a looooong time since I'd even sat on the saddle, let alone gave my Palfrey mare free rein to canter (not to mention gallop). Obviously, my lancing and jousting abilities were extremely rusty. For example, I had actually forgotten how to write in academic language. However, in uncharacteristic determination, I decided to try applying again for Fall 2011. And here I am now, after an additional uncharacteristic (and unprecedented) decision that perhaps by sharing these experiences of taming my wild mare and learning to ride again, and having to be answerable to an audience of readers (well, hopefully. It is possible that I'm writing to the void and that no one will ever read these little insignificant posts), I will increase my chances of acceptance to a glorious queste and a circle of chivalrous knights filled with academic prowess, all seeking the Saangraal of academia - a Ph.D.